Interviewing for Dental School
When interviewing for dental school it is important to know what lies ahead. You should have an idea of what to expect at the interview. You should also practice your elevator pitch. Remember, if you can’t sell it in under 30 seconds then it needs polish.
Know what to expect
Interviews vary by school. Some schools have only a single one-on-one interview, others will have multiple. Some schools do Multiple Mini Interviews (MMI). Other schools will have students break off into groups and complete a group assignment. At least one school will ask you to answer questions into a camera. Some schools will have you meet and evaluate live patients. You may be interviewed by current students, professors, or both.
Additionally, some schools have “open file” interviews while others are “closed file”. The difference is that with open file your interviewer reviewed your application prior to your interview. In a closed file interview the interviewer knows nothing about you before you meet except for your name. Knowing which type of interview yours will be is important. You will need to highlight your accomplishments in a closed file interview because the interviewer will have nothing to follow up on. In an open file interview you need to be prepared for questions specific to your application and personal statement.
Some interviews are very short, only five or ten minutes long. Other schools may have thirty minute interviews. It can be hard to keep up a conversation for thirty minutes if you haven’t practiced key talking points. To find out more about the interview process at a particular school you should contact their admissions office.
Brush up on your application
If your school has open file interviews then I recommend reading your personal statement once over before interviewing. You may be asked specific questions about something you wrote. You should also be sure to provide any updates to the interviewer that may not be included on your application. Did you finish a required class and it hasn’t shown up on your application yet? Or maybe you were published in a science journal recently. Be sure to bring proof with you to show the interviewer.
A good salesperson believes in their product. If you don’t believe in yourself then it will show. Be confident, know why you are here, and acknowledge the interviewing school’s belief in your potential. Not just anyone gets a dental school interview. You obviously had the right stuff to get your foot in the door.
Why this school?
They may ask why you want to go to this school. What do you bring to the table and how will you fit in with other students in the program? Are you driven to succeed or more laid back? Do you plan to specialize or are you more interested in general dentistry? Is this the right school for you?
Research the school
You should also know something about their curriculum. Other important things would include knowing about research activity at the school, when they take their boards, and how students are trained in dentistry. Do students at this school start in the pre-clinic their first year, or do they wait until the second?
Give a great first impression
Be sure to dress well and arrive on time. Men and women should wear business professional attire. Grooming is also important. Remember that this is a conservative profession and some interviewers will frown upon beards or women in pants. The choice is yours obviously, but I suggest erring on the side of caution. I shaved my beard for interviews because I wasn’t taking any chances.
Depending on the school, some interviews can run all day. I suggest bringing sugarless gum or breath mints, a snack, and water. Many schools will provide food and drink, but some won’t. Don’t be caught off guard! One school I interviewed at ran seven hours without providing more than a simple snack. I wasn’t thinking clearly by the time I got to the actual one-on-one interview.
Some applicants brought leather notebooks with them. Most schools will provide you with pen and paper, but some won’t. I think that the leather notebook is classy and makes an applicant look even more organized. That said, I didn’t bring one with me and did just fine.
Practice your elevator pitch in the shower. You have 30 seconds to tell me why we should choose you over another applicant. Remember, you have your foot in the door, but you aren’t there yet. Believe in yourself, the school knows you have potential, demonstrate that you won’t let them down and do it concisely.
Understand the school’s needs
First and foremost dental schools want to be sure that you won’t quit. You have to demonstrate your commitment to dentistry. You also have to prove that you can handle the stress of professional school. Have you ever failed? Fine. How did you pick yourself back up?
Many schools are also looking to round out their class. They want people from varied backgrounds to foster a diverse culture. How will you fit into the class and what do you bring to the table that may be different?
Why do you want to be a dentist?
This question will come up a lot. Have a good answer but don’t pile on the cheese. It can be difficult to walk the line between trite and sincere; this is where practice comes in. Think about what excites you about dentistry. Do you want to help underserved communities? Do you have an entrepreneurial spirit? Maybe you just want to be your own boss.
Know something about dentistry
I’m not just talking about class IV restorations or endodontic accesses. Dentistry, like most professions, is up against many competing interests. Corporate dentistry is expanding, dentist salaries are stagnant, fewer adults are getting dental care, and many states are considering mid-level dental therapists to provide access to care. Be aware of these issues and the arguments that surround them. Some schools want to see that you are keeping abreast of the latest developments in the field.
Do a mock interview
Many college pre-health advisers will let you do a mock interview. They will ask you questions, see how you respond, and then help you with feedback. Some pre-dental clubs also have mock interviews and will sometimes bring in admissions committee members from the local dental school to help out.
Some common questions
- Why do you want to be a dentist?
- Why do you want to go to our school?
- What school is #1 on your list?
- Is there anything you would change about yourself?
- What is your biggest weakness?
- Your biggest strength?
- What obstacles have you overcome?
- Where do you see yourself in the next 5 / 10 years?
- Who are your role models?
- Would you report someone you caught cheating?
- What is the biggest challenge facing dentistry today?
- Why should we accept you over another applicant?
- Which other schools have you applied to?
- Do you have any experience with dentistry?
- Why did you apply to our school?
- Do you think it is important to practice for interviews?
- Can you explain this grade on your transcript?
- How is your hand-eye coordination?
- Are any of your family members dentists?
- What are your plans after graduation?
- How would your friends describe you?
- What is the hardest thing about dentistry?
- How do you manage stress?
- Tell me about some of your extracurricular activities.
- Tell me about a time when you were a leader.
- What makes a good dentist?
- Tell me about your family.
- Why not medicine?
- Do you have any questions for me?
- What would you like to know about our school?