Month: October 2016

Interview: Asking Questions

The interview is a very important step in the application process. Just think of it this way: if you are invited to an interview this means that you are good enough for their school, or at least on paper you are. The admissions committee wants to see if you are all that you say you are on paper. More than likely you wrote a good personal statement, presented yourself well throughout the application, and not to mention your statistics were where they needed to be. However, the question remains: Can you present yourself well in person?

Another important aspect of the interview is asking questions. The admissions committee wants to see that you are genuinely interested in being admitted into the right dental school for you. They want to see that you have researched the school and have taken the time to figure out what is important for you to know about their school. With this said, it takes time and effort to ask good solid questions. Trust me, you don’t want to be the person caught with their pants around their ankle when the interviewer says “Why don’t you go read our website and find out about our school?” or “Why don’t you read the handout we just went over?”. Now that could be embarrassing.

I created a summary outline of things to think about when asking questions.

  • Avoid asking questions that can be found on the school’s website. This means that you are going to need to go to the school’s website and read as much as you can before the interview. Find out about the schools curriculum, the mission statement, and whatever else you can find.
  • Don’t ask questions that have been answered in the presentation. I suggest making a list of questions before the interview. These questions can include anything that is not located on the website. If you talked with a current student you can create questions based on your conversation. Have this list handy for the presentation and cross out any question that is answered. At this point, you can create follow-up questions to ask the presenter, the tour guide, or your interviewer. This will help you stay awake during the presentations and show that you are attentive to what is being said.
  • Ask questions that help you to know if the school is right for you! This is going to take even more effort on your part because you need to know what you want out of a dental school. You may want to know what types of aides that they provide for students in order to help them excel .
Asking the right questions can be difficult. You do not want to ask questions just to ask questions. However, when you do ask questions you want it to be well thought out. Questions that require the person on the other end (interviewer or presenter) to repeatedly say that they don’t understand what you are trying to ask them, is not a good way of leaving a good impression on them.
Below I have come up with a list of possible questions that you may want to ask during your interview. For some school’s these questions may be totally appropriate while other schools may provide the information on their website or during the presentation.
  1. What types of thing does the school do in order to keep students involved in community service?
  2. When does clinical experience begin? How soon is patient contact?
  3. What types of clinical experience will I have as a first-year dental student?
  4. When do students generally take boards?
  5. Is there time set aside for students to study for the boards?
  6. How do students get patients for their clinic?
  7. Does the school schedule patients for you or are the students responsible for finding and scheduling their own patients?
  8. One of the goals of Specific Dental School is to attract qualified professors. What does the school do to get the professors they do and how will they continue to draw such professors to the schools?
  9. As a professor/faculty member what aspects of this school made you want to teach/work here? If there is something you would change about the school what would it be?
There are a lot more questions that you can ask. These are examples, and by no means are they perfect examples, but they are here to try and get you to think outside the box. Feel free to comment and add any questions that you have come up with.

Potential Interview Questions for Dental School

Whether you have one interview or seven interviews it is important to be prepared for each one. Each school has slightly different interviewing styles and favors certain types of questions, whether that be ethical, critical thinking, or “get to know you” questions. While preparing for your interviews take the time to go to the school’s website and read the information given about the school. You do not want to be “caught with your pants down” when you ask a question to one of the faculty and they say “why don’t you go read our website?”. In the same instance, one of your interviewers may ask a question that is easily answerable if you do a little research about the school. If for nothing else, being prepared will put your mind at ease and make the interview that much less stressful!

There are a few things that you need to be able to do well at the interview in order to be successful. Some of these include, but are not limited to:

  • Present yourself with a professional appearance
  • Be courteous/professional 
    • Be on time
    • Use please and thank you
    • Use correct title (Mr., Mrs., Ms, Dr. etc…)
    • Avoid yawning/sleeping during presentations
    • Avoid removing yourself from a presentation (unless medical emergency). Time is generally given for bathroom breaks or go before you get there!
    • Do not interrupt others while they are speaking
    • The list goes on…
  • Ask genuine questions (“Interview: Asking Questions”)
    •  Don’t ask questions that have been answered in the presentations
      • Create a list of questions before the interview and check them off as the presentations are given.
    • Avoid asking questions that can be found on the school’s website
    • Ask questions that help you to know if the school is right for you!
  • Be prepared to answer questions
    • Be aware of time when answering questions
      • Give a 2-4 minute answer on detailed questions such as tell me about yourself or why this school? The interviewer will prompt you if they want more than what you have given them.
      • 1-word or 1-sentence answers usually we are inadequate to answer questions effectively
    • You do not have to answer immediately!
      • Don’t rush into answering a question immediately.
      • If you are not prepared for the question use a small amount of time to think and formulate a response (5-30 seconds should be plenty).
    • Practice answering questions
      • Create a list of common questions and formulate answers to these questions (list is presented below)
      • Be sure to practice answering the questions out loud! Find a spouse, sibling, friend, pet or mirror to practice answering the questions to. This will help you to answer the questions smoothly and with confidence
      • There may be some questions that you want to have “canned” or in other words memorized. However, practice answering these questions in a way that it does not appear to be a memorized answer. The interviewer wants to know that you are human!

If you can do the four things listed above you WILL have a successful interview! In order to further help you to prepare, I have come up with a list of common interview questions. These questions should help get you started but I would also recommend trying to find questions that are asked at the specific school you will be interviewing at.

Potential Interview Questions

  1. Tell me about yourself.
  2. Why should we choose you? What do you bring to the incoming class?
  3. Why did you choose the school that you are interviewing at ?
  4. What are your strengths/weaknesses?
  5. Why are you interested in dentistry? Why are you a good fit for dentistry?
  6. Are you a people person? How do I know?
  7. Why did you choose to get a ___Biology___ degree?
  8. Tell me about your academic background and explain the gaps in your education. (Do not voluntarily talk about negative academic history during interview, only if they bring it up.)
  9. How do you handle constructive criticism?
  10. Talk about your shadowing/dental experiences.
  11. Can you explain the leadership positions you listed?
  12. What will you be doing in 5 or 10 years? Where do yo see yourself in 10 years?
  13. What will you do if you do not get in this year?
  14. Where does ____ fall in your dental decision (1st, 2nd, etc) and what do we need to do to entice you here over other schools?
  15. Are you organized? How is your time management?
  16. Why did you become interested in dentistry?
  17. What makes you stand out from other candidates?
  18. What do you see as some of the negative aspects of dentistry?
  19. What can you tell us about the curriculum at this school?
  20. What qualities make a good dentist?
  21. Talk to us about __(manual dexterity activities listed on application)__.
  22. How do you know you will succeed in dental school?
  23. Would you consider yourself to be “good” with your hands?
  24. Given that you have a wife and 2 kids do you think you can be successful in dental school?
  25. What do you do in your spare time?
  26. What activities do you do for fun?
  27. Why did you change your career from ____ to dentistry?
  28. If you are working in a group and someone is not doing their part, what do you do?
  29. What did you not like about your shadowing experience?
  30. Do you think that current technology is absolutely essential to practice effective dentistry?
  31. What are some current issues that exist in dentistry today?
  32. What is something you have done that shows you have compassion for others?
  33. What are your study habits like? How do you study?
  34. What is a cavity (or other things related to dentistry)?
  35. What leadership positions have you held? What did you learn from that position?
  36. If there is a weakness in your application what would you say it is?
  37. What leadership qualities do you have? Please give an example.
  38. What do you like best about dentistry?
  39. Would you offer free dental work to someone who couldn’t pay for it?
  40. What sets you apart from other dental school applicants?
  41. How many other schools have you interviewed at and which one have you liked most?
  42. How many schools did you apply to? Follow-up: Why did you decide to apply to so many schools?
  43. Why did you decide to apply so late in the cycle? (I was asked this question in one of my interviews. I applied early June but did not complete my DAT until August 28, thus making my application complete sometime early September. Let them know that I wanted to do well on the DAT the first time around so I took the time that I thought I would need)
  44. Please explain any poor grades that you received. (Don’t offer to talk about them unless they ask you.)
  45. We see that you took a ceramics class. Tell us about it.
  46. What types of books do you enjoy reading?
  47. What was the last book that you read?

These are just a handful of potential interview questions that I came across while preparing for my interviews. I will continue to add to the list as time permits. With that said, if you have additional questions that you came across on the Internet or in your interviews feel free to post them in the comments section and I will add them to the list!

By sharing additional questions everyone can be that much more prepared. Also, if you are struggling to come up with an answer feel free to voice the concern. It is not a great idea, nor ethical,  to copy someone else’s answer but I will be able to give some ideas in order get you rolling!

Writing a Personal Statement

A personal statement is an important piece of the application and can help give insight into who you are as an applicant. The admissions committee does not only look at your GPA and DAT scores, they look at whether you are well rounded and outgoing. Your personal statement is a perfect opportunity to show that you are more than just numbers; it is an opportunity to show that you are a person with many attributes and goals. An applicant’s personal statement can play a large role in whether he/she is invited for an interview and can be a point of discussion during the interview process. The following steps will aid in providing a focused, well-written personal statements.

1. Recognize who your audience is

Yes, we know that we are writing to several different admissions committees. Have  you ever asked yourself who is on the admissions committee? If you answered no to this question, then now is the time to ask yourself. So, who is on an admissions committee? The admissions committee is made up of all types of faculty. These faculty members do not necessarily have to have a DDS or DMD degree nor do they have to have a science background. However, despite what their background the admission committee members know what they are looking for and they are looking for specific attributes, qualities, and uniqueness. Each admissions committee may be a little different but in general will be similar to the following list:

      • Source of motivation
      • Passion for the profession
      • Maturity
      • Compassion for others
      • Dedication to service
      • Value lifelong learning
      • Active Learner
      • Persistent
      • Resilient  (ability to overcome obstacles)
      • Accountable
      • Focused
      • Organized
      • Efficient
      • Ethical

These are just a handful of what admissions committees are looking for in a person. Do they expect you to include all of them in your letter but they do want to see that you are this type of person and this is where you come in.

2. Decide what attributes you want to be our point of focus

This is an important step in writing your personal statement. You need to decide what attributes you want to come across in your statement. If you want them to know that you are a leader, then put that down. Make a list of about 8-10 attributes and then rank them. Keep in mind that you may only be able to focus on 3-5 of these in your statement. This does not mean that the others may not be included; it just means they are not a focus.

3. Components of personal statement

Including the different components will enhance your personal statement. It will be helpful to reference these while writing. By doing so, your statement will remain consistent throughout. The following is a short list of some of the components of a personal statement.

      • Write it in the first-person
      • Keep the reader in mind
      • Relate to the audience
      • Use a theme throughout (attributes)
      • Make smooth transitions
      • Provide examples

 

4. How can you best portray the attributes you chose in your personal statement?

Before you begin writing your personal statement, one must decide how they are going to write it.  There are an unlimited number of ways that you can go.  No matter how you decide to write your statement, remember to focus on the attributes that you chose. In general, your personal statement will either be in essay form or story form. Most students include a combination of both. Some make it more story based, while others insert short stories into their essays. At this point, you will want to figure out what is going to suit you best.

5. Beginning the process of writing

Now you are ready to begin writing your personal statement. You will more than likely write several drafts and start over more than once. That is ok; everyone has to go through the same process. It will be easier to reflect and write about your attributes if you keep or kept a personal journal of your experiences. It does not have to be pages long per experience but enough details to help you recall the experience and what you learned from the experience.  Your journal can include things like mission trips, community service, hobbies, or dental related experiences. Reflect upon your experiences. Write them out if you have not already. Don’t worry whether the wording is pretty or if it is all that smooth. Just get the experience down

6. Including your attributes in your personal statement

With a few of your experience written down, it is time to add some attributes. If you wrote down an experience about a mission trip then look back to the list of ten attributes that you wrote down and see which ones best fit the story or experience. Begin rewriting the story focusing on these attributes. If on your mission trip you were a leader of some sort then you may want to focus on that. You may also be able to include teamwork or interpersonal skills in the same experience if those are attributes that you chose to focus on. It may take a few drafts of each experience to get it the way that you want. Refine the experiences and make sure that you have included your top 3-5 attributes.

7. Refining your personal statement

With your experiences polished and all of your attributes included, it is time to put together and refine your personal statement. Remember that the length of your statement is limited to about 4,500 characters. You will want to come up with an attention-grabbing introduction, along with a conclusion that ties the paper together.  Once, you’ve come up with a solid draft and feel like you can share it with others, then share it with others. Take it to the writing center at your school for grammatical errors and suggestions. In addition, have professors, dental students, pre-health advisor, and whoever else you can get your hands on read and critique it. You are not going to be able to please everyone but at least you are receiving lots of feedback. Take it for what it is worth and make the corrections that you feel necessary.

In the end, you want your personal statement to be an easy read for the admissions committee. It should also be unique, eye-catching, filled with details, and interesting. Remember they are reading hundreds and some schools even thousands of these. What sets you apart from the rest? The obvious answer is, you are not everyone else! You are unique and different, but it is up to you to show them.

The following is a list from my pre-health advisor on what you should and should not do while writing a personal statement.

Do’s

  • Understand who your audience is.
  • Give direction with a theme or thesis; the main point you want to communicate.
  • Before writing, choose what you want to discuss and the order of presenting it.
  • Start with an attention-grabbing lead.
  • Use concrete examples from YOUR life.
  • Be unique by telling them what excites, or has had an impression on you.
  • Be honest
  • End your essay with a conclusion that refers back to the lead  theme.
  • Revise and proofread many times.

Don’ts

  • Don’t include information that doesn’t support the theme or thesis.
  • Try and stay away from the “I” syndrome.
  • Don’t write an autobiography, itinerary or resume.
  • Don’t try and be a clown (gentle humor is okay)
  • Don’t be afraid to start over.
  • Don’t try and impress with unnecessary big vocabulary.
  • Don’t provide great quotes unless you really live by it and can support it with all your heart.
  • Don’t give generic statements.
  • Don’t make excuses, explain circumstances and learning.