• Ruhee Jaffer

ACCEPTED! The Ultimate Dental School Interview Prep

The interview is your time to shine, and the first real face-to-face interaction you have with you and your future-potential dental school. How can you score yourself an acceptance letter?


Dental School Interview Prep Tips

It seems like just yesterday I was applying to dental school. I have been through dozens of interviews to date, and easily the most stressful of all were my dental school interviews.

Let’s be real, if you are anything like me, for as much as I love to talk, interviews are still not my thing. Literally, the thought of it provokes this little deep-pitted knot in my belly (that doesn’t feel like indigestion) and my palms get that clammy cold unsettling sweat. So needless to say - prepare prepare prepare and then prepare some more. You earned yourself an interview which means that you have conquered half the battle. Your personal statement was on point, your GPA and DAT have been accepted and you look great on paper.

  • Concisely be able to answer the quintessential question “tell me about yourself.” Personally I love this question, and you should too because this is your time to tell YOUR story. Do not talk about dentistry in this answer, do not talk about your education, GPA, DAT or anything the AADSAS application answered. My biggest piece of advice is to be genuine, vulnerable and honest. Tell your story about what makes you unique, what you value, what has shaped you into the person you are today. If you can answer this you can pretty much answer any other question that’s thrown at you. 📖 Write your answer down on paper. 📖Say it out loud. 📖Practice out loud to yourself, your dog, your siblings, parents, significant others etc and get their feedback so you can iterate and make it the perfect representation of you. Continue to practice so it feels comfortable, even if it takes you a hundred times.

Here are a few quick pointers to help you formulate the perfect response that is genuinely true to you.

  1. What has shaped you the most in your life?

  2. Have there been any experiences that changed your trajectory?

  3. Who are the most important people to you?

  4. Other than dentistry, what other hobbies do you have?

  5. What is your passion project... now some of my classmates were nationally renowned athletes, swimmers, musicians, sculptors, engineers and a whole lot more. This made them super interesting seriously

  • Second, be able to answer the question “why dentistry” and please do not say “I love teeth” or “I love helping people”. Alright I say this, because I have heard it. It sounds like a very cliche, unrehearsed and cookie cutter response. Think more about what specifically drew you to the field. Was there a specific childhood event? Do you have a mentor you always admired? As a hygienist I personally wanted to pursue dentistry to increase my scope of practice, to continue being a patient advocate. I explained my non-profit organization the Meno Project, and spoke about how being a dentist would increase my impact on the lives of the many orphans I have worked with. I spoke specifically about community engagement and WHY I chose dentistry as the avenue to pursue this goal.

  • BE NICE to everyone! Seriously Dentistry is a highly collegiate profession. So we honestly want people who are nice to other people. I mean please be nice to everyone (not fakely but really) including the janitors. Don't dismiss the other interviewees because believe me when simlab comes around you will be PEERS and you will be relying on each other. Toss the idea of each man for himself out the door because from here on out you are part of one big beautiful dental family. Be friendly with the current dental students, there is nothing like having mentorship from someone who just survived the journey you are embarking on.

RESEARCH the dental school. Understand how you would fit into this school. What makes you a good fit and better yet since you will be here for FOUR years, what resources do they provide that makes them a great school for you. How can you become a successful dental student? What interests do you have that fit into the overall philosophy of the school.
  • What I really mean by research the dental school is... Understand what differentiates the school. How important is community engagement to you? How important is research? What kind of curriculum is it... some dental schools integrate the first two years with medical/nursing/other health professional curricula. Is it a problem based learning curriculum? Do you learn better with lectures? Is the school a pass/fail school? Do you get exposed to different specialties? How do the rotations work? What is the interprofessional education like? What is the student-faculty ratio. Believe it or not, all these things will enable you to form a better understanding of what will work for you.

  • In line with the point above, please ask questions and make sure you have a good pros/cons list on the day you leave. And please write it down on the day of your interview because after a few interviews you kind of lose track of everything. When you are making your final decision you will want to make a very informed decision.

  • SPECIALTIES! This is a big big big one. Now a very crucial piece of advice is DO NOT go into your dental school interview saying "I want to be an orthodontist [or insert any of the other 10 specialties]." While you may very well already know you want to specialize, the truth is dental school with teach you a lot about yourself. See, I was that person that initially thought I wanted to be a periodontist, but the truth is i LOVE the esthetic, restorative aspect of dentistry. I also love pediatric dentistry, my heart is all about public health and I spent quite a bit of time in FQHC's and community clinics, and I learnt so much more about myself thru dental school. Every specialist must have a good handle on general dentistry. So, your goal right now should be to be a GREAT general dentist and go into dental school with that mindset. I feel that my dental school experience was so fulfilling because I was extremely open to every aspect of dentistry from public health to anesthesia, and everything in between.

  • Your body language speaks volumes about you. So make eye contact when you are speaking with people. Don't keep your arms crossed. Look approachable aka, store your RBF in your YSL crossbody locked in your car before you walk on the dental school grounds. Be more conscious about fidgety and distracting behaviors like twirling your hair, biting your nails, cracking your knuckles, shaking all over the place... and the list goes on

  • Sleep the night before. Seriously. You do not want to be dopey and not-alert during the interview. Be your best self, and the most rested version of your best self.

  • Eat before your interview. The worst thing is being hungry with a bear-kind-of-growl thundering through the room. In my case I just become hangry, and no one wants to deal with a cranky uncaffeinated Ruhee. So, keep a protein bar on hand, and bananas maybe whatever is your thing.

  • What to pack for your interview day... Alright, you do not need a big backpack and your camping tent in it. I have actually seen this a few times, its kind of uncomfortable being the person dodging an oversized backpack. Take a notepad, and a pen (a padfolio works fine). Write down the names of the people who interview you. Write down anything else important. Turn your cell phone off. I literally have heard phones go off in interviews, and I am personally squirming and embarrassed for the person who's phone is ringing. Please don't let this be you. So if you can honestly bear the separation anxiety of being without your phone please don't take pack it in your bag. You can take a lipstick for touch up (but please dont be the girl removing her compact and applying it). Try not to wear uncomfortable shoes, because its going to be an awfully long day if you are hobbing around in uncomfy shoes. Take a toothbrush and toothpaste if you would like to freshen up after lunch.

  • After the interview, I think a nice touch is to send a thank you letter or email to the people who interviewed you. Now each school is different. I have been to interviews where I was interviewed by dental students. I have been to interviews where the faculty conducted the interviews. I have been to interviews where the admission staff have interviewed me. Whatever the case is, close the loop. A concise short email something like this... "Dear XYZ, I recently interviewed at [xxx] for a position in the upcoming class of 2023. Thank you for the opportunity to interview with you. I learned [xyz] (this is the personal part of what happened in the interview), and I liked [xyz]. I feel that the values of the school align with my personal vision and therefore I will make a a great candidate and will contribute well to the student body of XYZ university. Sincerely Your Name." If you do plan on sending a thank you email/card, kindly do it in a timely fashion. There are tons of interviews being conducted you don't want this to linger too long. I would say send an email within 24 hours, or send via snail mail also postmarked within 24 hours.

  • Be on time. There is nothing quite like being late to the interview. If you get the opportunity please visit the campus grounds the day before to have an idea of where you will be coming. I interviewed in tons of city-schools where traffic was a beast I didn't enjoy battling.

  • Go on SDN and try to understand the format of the interviews. Some of them have a random writing assignment component. Therefore you need to be alert and aware for the prompt. The last thing you want is to be caught off guard. Some interviews have team building activities. Some schools are group interviews, and some are individual. Basically the point I am trying to make is be prepared as much as possible there are definitely resources out there. Goodluck!

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