Calendar Organization

Dental school is prime time to get organized and learn to manage time between class, lab, and personal relationships – I don’t think students survive without some resemblance of a schedule or understanding of what they’re supposed to be doing and when. Eventually, you’ll make the transition from didactic student to student clinician, but even then, lack of organization is grounds for a total mess in clinic!

At CU, we elect class secretaries that are responsible for creating a master class iCal, a link that is shared amongst the members of the class. As a new DS2, I’m quickly learning that my 8 am-5 pm days of lecture are arduous and draining, but having a good idea of what my day looks like in advance absolutely aids in planning in workouts, grocery shopping, etc.

I put everything in my calendar. I type out to-do lists and plan my days to a T – therefore, I know exactly where I’m supposed to be at all times, certainly a type A trait that I retain. I have found it to be lessen my stress significantly if I can simply type out what needs to be done and tier my priorities throughout the day. My calendar (see below) is color-coded for School, Exams, Home, Etc., and I’ve since trained myself to “scan” my calendar to get an idea of the day’s work and errands. You definitely don’t need to organize yourself in the same way I did, this is just what works for me.

Even before dental school, I always gravitated toward iCal as my main planner of choice. I personally like the interface and color coding options, but that’s not saying that other programs (i.e. Google Calendar or Outlook Calendar) cannot perform the same tasks. iCal works for me since I concurrently use my iPhone, Macbook Air, and iPad Pro and can sync everything across the three platforms without issue. I also love that iCal allows you to attach PDF, Word docs, etc. to particular events, so if I get a schedule of an event, I take a screenshot and attach it to the calendar event, saving me the time of having to type everything out separately.

However, I’ve since been recommended multiple times to begin transitioning to a paper planner for patient care and clinic experiences. Physically penciling in your patients in a hard-copy planner helps practitioners keep their many patients and respective procedures straight and in one piece. Additionally, a paper planner can follow you into clinic, where often times, your iPhone or iPad cannot.

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What my calendar looks like next week. Not too bad, actually!

I see my first perio patient on October 31st (Halloween! The holiday that keeps us dentists in business!) and the lead-up to that very first patient interaction is driving many of us DS2s to get our act together. T-Clinic with Drs. Delapp, Wilson, and Mediavilla is reigniting the spark for dentistry, something that might have waned in our time since getting our CU acceptance and completing the mostly-didactic DS1 year.

When you’re a DS1 (and I guess a DS2), all you can really think about whilst sitting through hours of lecture is the prospect of clinic and getting to know your patients. A few classmates and I have tried getting into clinic to assist our DS3 and DS4 friends, sometimes with the expense of lecture and the type of stress encountered as an upperclassman is totally different than that of a beginning dental student. Patient cancellations, grouchy patients, and failed lab projects are abound. Watching our older peers frantically call patients, leaving pleading voicemails to get bodies in chairs is certainly a novel experience, but one that we’ll all be forced into soon enough!

I first learned of Lilac Paper through an Instagram giveaway they did back when I first started dental school. Their characters and dental-focus drove several of my classmates (and myself!) to purchase adorable planners and badge reels for our shiny new student IDs. I’m all for supporting small businesses, and I’m even more thrilled to support Lilac Paper, which was started by two dental students, FOR us dental students. Rachel and Charlene have designed every piece and are both incredibly involved with their company, in spite of now being fully practicing dental graduates!

I have so much respect for Rachel and Charlene’s company and their work and am thrilled that they have agreed to sponsor my blog and Colorado ASDA predental – use coupon code COLORADOASDA (until October 12th, 2017) for 10% off your Lilac Paper purchase. Any purchases over $50 on their online shop will receive free shipping within the USA.

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Their planners are fully personalized with your name, degree, and cover design of choice. They’re all made-to-order and include 12 months available for all of your future DDS plans. Yet, my favorite part about Lilac Paper’s planners (and what’s finally convincing me to try my hand at paper planners) are the stickers and dental notes woven throughout the planner – it’s the little details that count!



Currently, they’re running a Kickstarter campaign to bring Princess Prophy (um, only my favorite Lilac Paper character) to life as a plush children’s toy. Point of detail appreciation: Princess Prophy even has a little money pocket on her back to prepare for that tooth fairy loot. They’re over halfway to reaching their goal of $7,000 with 20 days to go. If their Kickstarter goal is reached, you’ll receive your selected tiered gift by mid-November, perfect for the holidays. Princess Prophy is truly the cutest gift for any predental, dental hygienist, student, etc. – I really hope you’ll consider sponsoring them!



*This post is sponsored by Lilac Paper, but all opinions expressed in this blog post are my own

~ Colleen

Follow us on Instagram @carpedentumblog

Contact Colleen


Interview Day & Potential Questions

Congratulations! You’ve made it so far. All of the hard work is nearly behind you, the dental school interview is my favorite part of the entire application because I talk just like how I write and I write a lot. In the words of one of my dental school classmates, Dilan, “I knew if I got an interview I could talk my way into the school. Imma talker.”

It probably makes you laugh now, but in recent years I’ve found that so many pre-health students discount the interview, overemphasizing every aspect of the application except for it. In my time as a Colorado College Admission Office, I’ve had the opportunity to interview hundreds of prospective students, learning about their life experiences, talents, and passion for learning. The vast majority of students that I interviewed were certainly academically qualified for CC, but it was that extra shine, be it from their commitment to community, intense drive for their extracurricular, and ultimately, their ability to articulate it, that made me advocate for that student in my write up and during deliberation meetings.

Yes, I recognize that selective undergraduate admissions is a world of difference from dental school admissions, but the same key pillars hold very true. The interview is a chance to back up your talk and walk – in person.

Interview Day Etiquette

  • Arrive early to the interview – at least 30-60 minutes early prior to your call time in ideal; this will afford you time to collect your thoughts and gather your nerves to present your best self
  • Act professionally at all times – I wrote about this briefly in my other interview blog post; there are spies everywhere! Parking attendants, student tour guides, and desk assistants will have their eyes on your behavior and your treatment of them; it should really go without saying that you should lend respect to everyone regardless
  • Wear appropriate interview attire – interview attire is strictly business, not business casual and most certainly nothing you’d wear casually; you will likely be interviewing with many older, well-respected doctors and the last thing you want is someone judging your appearance; you will be judged enough
  • Be honest in every answer you give during the interview – embarrassing to be caught in a lie at this point
  • Be as confident and natural as possible – be the professional, polished version of yourself
  • Thank them for their time when the interview is completed
  • Follow up with a “thank you” note – grab their business card or contact information on their way out (nothing fancy, please don’t send a gift)

Common Interview Questions

  • Why did you choose dentistry?
  • Why do you want to attend our school?
  • What is one thing you want us to know about you?
  • Do you have any questions for us? – always have a question or two
  • What would you do if you saw your classmate cheating on an exam? (ethical question)
  • What are your thoughts on the Affordable Care Act versus the Better Care Reconciliation Act? (current issues in healthcare, tread lightly and don’t get political)
  • What is the most difficult thing you’ve done in life? (overcoming challenges)

Curveball Questions

  • What is the name of our Dean?
  • If you were a tooth, which tooth would you be and why?
  • Name all of the dental specialties.
  • Why would you use an amalgam restoration over a composite restoration? (confirms you’ve been actively shadowing)
  • What else should I ask you?

Student Doctor Network

Most of the time, I tell predentals to avoid Student Doctor Network at all costs! Anyone can put anything on the internet and it’s a near surefire way to convince yourself that you’ll never be a dentist. I do recommend SDN for one thing: interview feedback. For each individual dental school, applicants that have interviewed there will provide example questions, give you a heads up on odd questions, and give you a brief synopsis of what the interview day looks like (aww but it ruins the surprise). Knowing what you might be asked ahead of time can help you practice your responses, which is helpful, but applicants can also fall into the trap of sounding canned and fake.

Last word: Befriend your fellow applicants interviewing that day. These students may very well become your fellow classmates, should you be accepted to the school and matriculate. Above all, offer them the utmost courtesy and genuinely get to know them – after all, even if you aren’t classmates one day, you will be dental colleagues in some way.

~ Colleen

*This post is sponsored by Colorado ASDA

Follow us on Instagram @carpedentumblog

Contact Colleen

Introduction to the Interview

I remember when I received my first interview invite – it was actually to CU. The then-Dental Admissions Committee Coordinator, Barbara called me while I was ankle deep cleaning up a Magic Bullet blender accident. Suddenly my green smoothie misfortune didn’t seem so bad.

There are 3 emotional stages to the interview invite:

Stage 1: Pure elation – You can’t believe it! It’s finally happening! They like you, they really do!

Stage 2: Sudden stress – Oh sh*t. They like you on paper, you’re praying they do in real life.

Stage 3: Collection – After you’ve had some time to cool off and gather your nerves, realize that the interview is important, but theoretically, should be one of the easiest aspects of the admission process. If you’re who you say you are on paper, you should have no issues confirming that in person.

Interview Timeline

Upon submitting your AADSAS application (early, I hope), you can typically wait at least a month for your designated dental schools to receive and review your application. Admission committees extend interviews to select applications after reviewing primary and/or secondary applications (yes, secondary applications must be submitted in a timely manner, if applicable). Interview invitations are sent out between August-March of your particular cycle. You pay for your own travel and hotel for each location. (This means if you applied broadly, you might be forking over lotsa ca$h to pay for your food, Airbnb, rental car, etc.)

Purpose of the Interview

The interview allows admission committees perform all of the following:

  • Determine how well the applicant communicates verbally – in dentistry, communication is the pillar on which we build all patient-doctor relationships
  • See if the applicant is a good “fit” for the school – many schools have certain values and characteristics they are seeking in students, this is a part of your school research
  • Learn more about the character of the applicant – the applicant might mask your psychopathic qualities, but you cannot hide behind the interview!
  • Look for long-term motivation for the career
  • Assess the applicant’s ability to listen and relate
  • See how the applicant “thinks on their feet” – you make fast decisions all the time in healthcare, inevitably you’ll get an interview question that throws you off course, navigate your response accordingly

But it goes two ways, the interview allows the applicant to evaluate the following:

  • See if the school is a good fit for the applicant – you must play an active role in the dental school match process, select a school that fits best with your goals and values of your career
  • Learn more about the program – when is NBDE part I taken? How many students apply and match into residency? What do dental students at this school do for fun? What organizations are available?
  • Learn more about the campus and surrounding area – scope out a potential place to live for the next four years
  • Get questions answered – self explanatory
  • Talk to current students –  IMPORTANT! I’ll discuss more on this below, but on interview day, EVERYONE IS A SPY. I don’t mean this in any negative way, but from the moment you step onto a campus, you are being watched. Many students serve as moles and will report back on your behavior and demeanor to the admission committees.

The Interview

Interviews come in a few different flavors. An open-file interview is a situation in which the interviewer, often a faculty member, professor, or other admission committee member will read your entire application prior to meeting you. Pro: if you have good stats, you have already fell in this interviewer’s favor. Con: if you have bad stats, you may have some explaining to do with their specific questions regarding your performance history.

A closed-file interview is a situation in which the interviewers only review your personal statement and secondary application, or perhaps nothing at all. Pro: you can sell yourself regardless of your good/bad statistics. Con: you cannot rely on your good stats to open the interview and carry conversation.

The majority of the interviews that I partook in were open-file, in fact, the interviewers had very much read my application and highlighted certain aspects of it, even parts that I didn’t find to be compelling. My only closed-file interview was a brief interview with a student.

After establishing whether an interview is open- or closed-file, interviews can be held in one of four ways. The most classic interview is a one-on-one or two-on-one interview in which you are asked a multitude or series of questions about yourself and your application. Often, these sorts of interviews are the most conversational and laid back.

Some schools hold panel-format interviews, in which three of more interviewers will ask you questions, either down a line or at random. Often, you are seated across the table from the interviewers, making for a potentially intimidating conversation.

Other schools hold group interviews, which consist of one or two interviewers asking a group of applicants (often at least 3 or 4 applicants) the same question, allowing them to take turns answering. Group interviews can be difficult, as it can be hard to relate your experiences to those of the applicants with you – group interviews require applicants to strike a delicate balance between assertiveness and compassion for their fellow applicants.

Finally, a few schools have made the transition to the multiple mini interview, the MMI. MMIs are common in the medical school admission realm. During an MMI, the applicant will be given or read a prompt, often times a question. The applicant will then be asked to enter a room or begin a conversation with an interviewer, answering the question or addressing the situation presented within a set amount of time.

How to Prepare 

  • Know all parts of your application – be able to explain bad grades/scores and anything on the application that might mar your qualifications for school
  • Practice – undergraduate institutions will often have career services that offer mock interviews, ask your pre-health advisor at your school’s career center for help
  • Be able to verbally articulate your motivation for choosing dentistry – this need not be a condensed version of your personal statement, use this as an opportunity to produce an innovative, impactful reason for why you want to be a dentist, or even just a dental student at their school
  • Be able to discuss the shadowing experiences you had and what you learned – there’s a difference between actively learning and passively sitting in an operatory corner whilst shadowing
  • Know current events in dentistry and be able to discuss them – I hear the ADA just approved a new board exam to be administered in year 2020, but what’s that?
  • Be able to update them on what you have been doing since you submitted your application – even after you’ve eSubmitted your AADSAS, the work doesn’t end, continue shadowing and gaining valuable experience
  • Plan diligently – plan your travel and book accommodations accordingly (this costs $$$$), Google to learn about the area; recognize that most interviews are an all-day event

A post detailing interview day etiquette and potential questions will be coming shortly. Thank you for reading!

~ Colleen

*This post is sponsored by Colorado ASDA

Follow us on Instagram @carpedentumblog

Contact Colleen

Dental-Related Professional Experience – Initiating Contact

People enter the career of dentistry for a multitude of reasons – some of your future classmates in school will come from dental dynasties of two generations of dentists and others will follow more non-traditional routes. Some of your classmates might have certain career-related advantages over you – maybe they were hygienists or even former MDs.

Yet everyone’s pre-dental years consisted of hours of shadowing or assisting licensed dentists or providers. Gaining dental professional experience is crucial in the dental school application, in fact, just as controllable as your personal statement. Your resume of professional experience is evidence of your hard work and dedication to dentistry as a craft and not just a career, which is what your good statistics suggest.

Dental experience demonstrates the follow to admission committees:

  • Dedication – Maintaining a high GPA and studying for the DAT take tenacity, perseverance, and most of all, TIME. Time is the ultimate investment in your application and time spent shadowing and dental assisting will demonstrate your commitment to dental medicine. An applicant with 100+ hours of shadowing will inevitably be viewed with greater accord than someone with fewer than 20 hours. The high-hour applicant has demonstrated his/her dedication to the dental school application and dentistry as a whole. Perhaps the 20 hour applicant decided to willy-nilly apply to dental school in between their pharmacy school (not hating, just making an example) applications, just to see if he could be accepted. Dental school admission does not work this way, Deans of admission and directors will reward dedication to dentistry.
  • Networking – It can be awkward to initiate contact with a dental office when you have such tall requests for shadowing, sterilization, and assisting. When you shadow a dentist, the doctor (and assistants and hygienists!) is/are making an investment in your future at their expense. You are a guest in their office and frankly, a potential liability if you behave poorly or compromise patients. Building good connections with the office you shadow is important, as this dentist very may well write you a letter of evaluation when you actually apply. Shadowing provides you with an opportunity to network with the office and build connections that will last well into your dental career.
  • Trustworthiness – Referencing the point above that you may very well be a liability on the doctor’s office if you screw up, an uninformed shadow might violate HIPPA law or increase patient anxiety. Hopefully, you will maintain a sense of professional decorum and actively observe your attending doctor, respecting patient privacy and learning the basics of bedside manner. Professional experience demonstrates to the admission committee that you are trustworthy enough to sit chair-side with a patient and observe, or even help – the first signs of a good clinician.
  • Understanding the day-to-day job of a dentist – But most importantly, dental schools want to ensure you truly know what a dentist does on a day-to-day basis. Dental school is an expensive investment – the average price of a dental education far exceeds that of most other health professional schools. The cheapest schools, likely your resident state school, are subsidized by the government to churn out X number of dental graduates a year. Not only are you investing money and time into your dental career, but the state and federal governments are as well. Therefore, schools do not want students that are seesawing on dentistry. They want dental students that are committed to the profession with little chance of attrition. Schools want to make sure their investment in a student is sound by ensuring a student understands what dentists actually do! Finally, it gives you, the applicant, an understanding of what dentistry is firsthand, and not secondary to Instagram videos of traumatic mouth injury.

Hw do you find these experiences? During my time as a pre-dental, cold calls were my go-to. I moved to Colorado Springs for college and didn’t know any dentists or people that might recommend me. I had called up my regular dentist in Denver and though he had referred me to a few contacts in the Springs, these offices were far from my college dorm without a car.

Don’t be afraid of cold calls to the office and introducing yourself to the office manager. The office manager will often ask to call you back after consulting with the doctor, but most dentists love having shadows because they love what they do. Having a shadow offers them an opportunity to share their love for their craft with others, grooming someone to potentially take over their practice in a decade. 😉 By the time I had submitted my AADSAS application, I shadowed at six different offices: two general dentists, one periodontist, one oral surgery office, one pedo volunteer clinic, and one prosthodontist.

Below are my recommendations for cold calls:

  • Call with a purpose in mind. If your aim is to shadow this dentist for an extended period of time, perhaps over the course of a semester or even an entire year (a few hours every week), be clear with the doctor. Some doctors are more willing to entertain extended opportunities than others. If you aren’t clear and up front, many doctors will assume you only want to come in for a day or two.
  • Use professional language. Nowadays, people are just so afraid to be on the phone. Texting and email reign over basic phone calls, when really, calls are far more efficient. It should really go without saying, but begin the phone call by introducing yourself with your name and where you go to school. State that you are a pre-dental that wants to gain professional experience by way of shadowing, helping with sterilization, and perhaps assisting. Ask if the office manager if they would be willing to discuss this opportunity with the doctor and call you back later. Always thank the office manager upon close of the call.
  • Offer to bring by a resume or cover letter to the office manager. One office manager even recommended I bring a headshot so she could remember who I was. A resume or cover letter for your office will give them an idea of who you are and what your aim for shadowing or gaining experience is. It will also demonstrate your dedication and commitment, exuding professionalism and casting the best light on you. Remember, this dentist may very well be penning your letter of evaluation for AADSAS.

There absolutely exists other options besides cold calls. Below are some additional recommendations:

  • Ask your friends or even professors at your college who their dentist is. Getting a so-called referral from the people you know is one way of introducing yourself to the dentist. If your non-pre-dental friends and professors enjoy the company of their dentist, you might like observing and learning from that practice.
  • Use your pre-dental or pre-health club – ask for recommendations. Often, fellow pre-dentals are happy to share their stash of contacts with friends – after all, there’s no reason to be competitive. Every applicant is different and collegiality should be fostered in a community in which you have common goals. Pre-health clubs (or even pre-health advisors in your college’s career center) might even have a years worth of local doctor contacts and resources for their members to utilize. It’s all about asking. Make sure you sign up for your school’s pre-dental and pre-health listservs, often, your best resources are your peers. You can even contact alumni that are currently in school.
  • Find dental-related volunteer opportunities in your state. Colorado has COMOM, short for Colorado Mission of Mercy. COMOM is a series of two days of free clinic in a different Colorado city every year. For 2017, COMOM will be held in Pueblo, CO on October 13 and 14. I highly suggest you sign up to volunteer at an event here – you’ll be absolutely blown away by the guerilla dentistry performed at such events and the tears of humility shed by patients so grateful for their dental care. Other states have similar events (often with the same Mission of Mercy name). Colorado also has KIND, or Kids in Need of Dentistry. KIND is a nonprofit organization providing affordable dental care for pediatric patients.


  • Ask your current dentist. If you are comfortable with your family dentist, why not ask for an insider’s tour of their office and get to know them beyond your own need for a class II? If you are away from home for college, shadow your home dentist when you return for a break.

Stay tuned for another post on how to make the best out of your professional experience in the dental office.

*This post is sponsored by Colorado ASDA

~ Colleen

Follow us on Instagram @carpedentumblog

Contact Colleen


Personal Statement Revision

This post is a continuation of AADSAS – Personal Statement. Writing your personal statement is rewriting it. As you progress through your pre-dental career, your experiences will change and your personal statement should absolutely reflect that.

I personally had well over ten drafts of my personal statement, though the final four or so were only minor changes to respect the character limit. My first two drafts were vastly different from one another, demonstrating that your initial pass over your first draft may very well be the most important kind of revision.

Upon completing the first draft of your personal statement, sock it away in a drawer, sit on it, whatever. Just don’t look at it or think about it. Retrieve it a few days later and read it again. Does it still achieve the goal you wished to accomplish? Are the lead, story, throughline, and fireworks delineated? Print off a copy of your first draft and begin marking it up:

First Draft Global Editing:

  • Highlight the lead, story, throughline, and fireworks in four different colors. Each of these should be carefully distinguished. Do all of these pieces fit together in the puzzle of the greater personal statement? Ask yourself the significance of each part relative to the whole.
  • Write out what you think the theme of your personal statement is.
  • Particularly, zero in on the story and the throughline, the so-called “meat” of the personal statement. Does the anecdote you’ve selected adequately address the central theme of the personal statement that you’ve just written? If not, consider re-working the anecdote and subsequent throughline.
  • Does the throughline accurately and explicitly explain the story? Does it answer the why? The throughline should directly reference the story (and therefore the theme) to be most effective.
  • Now, go back to your lead. Is your lead attention-grabbing enough? Is it a concise, clear statement? Go back to your anecdote. Does it live up to your lead?
  • Finally, address your final fireworks. Do these final light rockets highlight the best of you and leave the reader with a solid understanding of who you are?

All of the above should be considered when making the initial pass through your first draft. Here, you are reading for organization and also striking through anything that you might consider “fluff” and taking up precious character space. This is more global revision – addressing big picture things should be the goal of this sort of editing. Everything addressed in this sort of editing should be content, organization, and structure-related.

Congratulations! You now have a complete second draft of your personal statement! You’re nearly there, all of the macro work has been done, and now minor edits need to be made. With the second, third, and subsequent drafts, I recommend the line editing method, which is what most people think of when editing their writing. With line editing, you are reading your personal statement, sentence by sentence, and looking for phrases or words to replace or strike out completely. With line editing, you are also reading into your “voice,” and whether it is active or passive. Note: NEVER use passive voice, see below.

Advice for Line Editing:

  • Never use a $10 word when a 10 cent word will do.” 4500 characters really isn’t much space properly enumerate all of your valuable thoughts, so you need to use the cheapest words possible. What does this mean? Don’t use big words! As I said in my last post, save the lengthy GRE words for impressing your Tinder date. There’s no reason to use a long word that eats up precious characters when a shorter word can do the same job. In fact, the shorter word often does a far better job because it doesn’t make you sound like a try-hard because remember, dental school admission committees hate try-hards. E.g. “Clinicians play a significant role in determining the differential diagnosis of oral pathology” could be “Dentists are key players in finding causes of disease in the mouth.”
  • Keep it short and simple” aka the KISS concept. Use short, concise sentences because the same concept with lengthy words applies here: long sentences don’t impress anybody. On average, if the average length of your sentence is ten words, reader comprehension is 80%. So much for getting under the covers of your reader with your Shakespearean prowess for sonnet essays!
  • Use the Subject-Verb-Object model (S-V-O). Write (or rewrite) your sentences with this structure in mind: the subject should come first, followed by the action (verb) the subject is do-ing, and finally the object of which the subject is do-ing to. Do not delay the sentences meaning by starting with an introductory clause.
    • Do: Dental schools should encourage self-reflection to develop future professionals.” “Dental schools” is the subject, “encourage” is the verb, and “future professionals” is the object.
    • Don’t: “To develop future professionals, dental schools should encourage self-reflection.” “To develop future professionals“is an example of an introductory clause.
  • Remember, never use passive voice, which is funny advice coming from me since I often use passive voice (to be fair, it’s accidental). Active voice + active verbs = active reader.
    • Passive verbs include: is, was, were, will be, being, are, am, there is (are, were) and have has, had, having, will have, there has been.

Final Advice:

  • Continue to edit your personal statement prior to submitting your application. Recognize that it will never seem “perfect,” but with the right editing and revision, will help you sneak beneath the covers of your reader (I just now realized what a horrendous analogy Christian has come up with).
  • Read your personal statement(s) out loud, preferably in an obnoxious accent. The new sound will actually make your ears more acute and adept at catching errors.
  • Ask others to read your personal statement. Last time, I recommended some familiar with the dental school application like a current dental student or a pre-health advisor and someone keen on the English language like a writing center tutor or English professor. Take notes on the feedback they give you. Later, you can parse through your notes and choose what you want to incorporate and where.

Last word: You can go ahead and type out your personal statement in Microsoft Word, but prior to copy/pasting it into the AADSAS application, copy/paste the complete personal statement into TextEdit or some other sort of plain text formatted-word processor. TextEdit should come loaded on all Mac computers. This will help ensure that no symbols get wonky during the import from Word to AADSAS, which is very possible. A middleman like TextEdit should solve this problem. You can copy from TextEdit and paste into AADSAS.

That’s all for now on personal statements, it was a long two posts, but hopefully gave you direction in which to carry your thoughts.

~ Colleen

*This post is sponsored by Colorado ASDA

Follow us on Instagram @carpedentumblog

Contact Colleen

AADSAS – Personal Statement

Ok okurr this is going to be one long a$$ blog post because it’s a topic in which I feel strongly inclined, more than any other AADSAS application topic. I’m a former Writing Center tutor and have been the second set of eyes for many, many pieces of writing, including many personal statements. Writing is rewriting, and nothing written is ever officially *done*. Writing and revision are both ongoing processes.

In the wise words of Kyle L., the personal statement is the “most efficient, controllable way to improve your chances of landing an interview.” I couldn’t agree with him more. Firstly, your personal statement will not be read unless you reach the school’s minimum DAT score and GPA threshold. Your DAT score is the product of countless hours of studying and your GPA is the product of years of hard work, and none of that is to be taken lightly or glossed over. However, with thousands of dental school hopefuls applying across the country, there’s a good chance that many of them will achieve those minimum thresholds, and only the most interesting pre-dental students in the world will receive interview invites. How can you be one of the most interesting pre-dental students in the world?
1qfl03.jpgI don’t always apply for dental school but when I do, I always get an interview

For starters, you can work on making your application well-rounded and full of dental-related experience. You can excel in your extracurriculars, receive accolade for your dedication, and volunteer your time to others. All of this will fall in the Supporting Information section of the AADSAS, where you can list your shadowing and community service commitments.

But, the personal statement is efficient because it takes a lot less time to complete than your DAT and GPA and controllable because it’s a toss up what questions you’re going to get on your exam day. The personal statement is powerful.

The personal statement is a single page* (4500 characters is about one page with Times New Roman, 12-point font, one-inch margins) essay to explain your motivation for why you want to be a dentist. Your personal statement should showcase your fabulous personality (flips hair) and the human side of your application. The personal statement should reveal important traits and talents of yours to the admission committee, be that in leadership, compassion, dedication, experience, etc. It also demonstrates that you can communicate clearly through writing. (All of these goals are relevant to supplemental application questions as well, but your personal statement is still the most important.)

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Prompt: Why do you desire to pursue dental education?
“Admissions committee members are looking for motivated, academically prepared, articulate, socially conscious, and knowledgeable applicants.”
Your job? Keep it to 4,500 characters or less.

In answering this loaded question, keep several points in mind:
– Why dentistry if you want to be in healthcare? Why not medicine?
– Why dentistry if you like science? Why not pursue a research job or a PhD?
– Why dentistry if you wanna make dat ca$h money? Why not work on Wall Street?
All of the above are potential questions to address. It’s your job in the personal statement to debunk all of these, indirectly of course. Above all, your personal statement needs to highlight why you arrived at dentistry as your choice of career over many other, potentially more lucrative or appealing (in other ways) occupations. Why do you love dentistry above everything else? Your reasons should be qualifying and compelling and should allude to personal anecdotes in your life, hence a “personal” statement.

Personal Statement Do’s:

  • Start writing early on! Look back upon your life experience – was there a trigger that inclined you toward dentistry? Perhaps you had an avulsed tooth? A bad experience at the dentist’s office? A great one? Maybe you felt a great injustice in the world when you realized oral healthcare and the state of one’s mouth are some of the greatest indicators of socioeconomic class there is? Consider all factors and write them down. Make a word cloud, brainstorm, and put your thoughts to paper. Sitting in front of a blank Microsoft Word document is restrictive, it stifles creativity.
  • Understand your audience – admission committees will comprise established dentists and faculty of all ages, and you want your writing to be appealing across audiences, professional writing is a must (though I did make a reference to Nelly’s “Grillz” track in mine).
  • Limit the number of personal anecdotes you include to 2-4, any more and the entire personal statement becomes muddled and difficult to follow. Fewer anecdotes make your statement far more powerful and personal, providing for richer detail, quality over quantity.
  • Use an attention-grabbing lead! (See below.)
  • End the personal statement with a conclusion that reflects back to your central theme, your message in your essay. This should ultimately be why you want to be a dentist, but with the specific examples qualifying the why.
  • Have others read your personal statement. Go to your college’s writing center, consult with a trusted professor, friend, etc. A minimum two people should read your personal statement, someone with AADSAS experience (maybe a fellow pre-dental, a health professions advisor, or a current dental student) and someone with a heavy English background to evaluate your grammar, syntax, and organization.
  • Be yourself! But the professional, polished version of yourself.

Personal Statement Don’t’s:

  • Don’t fall into the “I” syndrome trap. Beginning so many of your sentences with “I” is drab and narcissistic, oxymoronic since the essay is a “personal” statement. Just trust me here, overuse of “I” indicates a lack of syntactical creativity and grasp of higher linguistic elements.
  • Don’t write an autobiography or a resume. The personal statement is just an inappropriate location for it. The school will already have the remainder of your AADSAS application. You don’t need to show off your GPA here, it and your DAT score will speak for themselves elsewhere.
  • Don’t try to impress with big vocabulary. So maybe some of you took the GRE in addition to the DAT and have your headspace filled with unnecessary words that no one ever uses in real life. Your personal statement is not the place to flex ’em. Save it to impress your Tinder date.
  • Don’t give generic statements like, “I want to be a dentist because I want to help people!” Yay! 4,000 other applicants that express their feelings far better than you do as well! Generic statements are boring, lackluster, and overall tell a reader that you haven’t actually done your research and are skating by on cliches and catch phrases. Instead, tell them why you want to help people.
  • Don’t be afraid of revision! Writing is rewriting. Nothing will ever feel complete. If you begin writing your personal statement early in your pre-dental career (as you should), don’t get married to it, or even put a ring on it. You two are only dating and that’s all. As you push further into your academic career, do not be afraid to make significant revisions to better streamline and highlight your experiences.

The following information is modified from a Powerpoint presentation Christian Piers, former ASDA National President, once delivered to my Summer Pre-Dental Academy. Christian was actually a creative writing major in undergrad and is now in his orthodontic residency at University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill.

Christian, Kyle, and I think similarly in the power of the personal statement. Christian, however, has come up with a comprehensive backbone to a personal statement that is tried and true. Hey, it got me into dental school and ever since, I’ve been passing on the same advice to pre-dental students and other pre-health students.

His ultimate goal for pre-dentals? Achieving the “under the bedcovers” moment. He asks his advisees, “Think about it. The bedcovers are what you pull over you to box out the world for the next eight hours to be alone in your own mind. You want your personal statement to follow your reader there. You want your personal statement to be so pervasive in their mind that you’re not letting them be alone with themselves.” Powerful stuff.

Christian’s structure of the application is as such:

The Lead

  • The lead should be the attention grabbing opener, the sucker punch. Prior to reading your personal statement, your reader (presumably a Dean/Director of Admission at your dental school of choice and/or a faculty member of the admission committee) may be half asleep, lulled into a slumber by stacks of AADSAS applications in which students are trying to sound smart and impress them.
  • Be short, simple, and confident with your lead. Declarative statements will do exactly as they sound, declare your presence in the reader’s mind.
  • Readers are impressed with your writing skills only when the writer isn’t straining themselves to sound impressive. This is important for the entire personal statement, but especially so here. Do not try to impress someone, especially by using long, complex first sentences. Next!

The Story

  • The “personal” statement is called a *personal* statement for a good reason. It is a statement of who you are as a person. You are the sum of your life experience. Therefore, it is important to have a story in your personal statement, or at least a short one at best. Stories invite readers into your world, your life. Your goal is to be the most interesting dental school applicant they read that day.
  • Transport your reader with sensory detail and literary device. Christian advices, “Disorient them from their cluttered office and administrative duties and reorient them where YOU want them.”
    • Sensory details will invoke all five senses. If you tell your story of crippling defeat at a collegiate baseball game or your experience of witnessing a fatal car accident, consider the situations sights, smells, etc. E.g. “The broken glass crunched beneath my thin flip flops as I made my way toward the crushed Subaru.”
    • Literary devices like similes and metaphors will also help you invoke senses and feelings. E.g. “When I was seven years old I had a mouth full of stainless steel crowns that rivaled that of a modern rapper’s.”
  • Often, it’s here, in the Story section that many writers will fall prey to “healer” syndrome and write something akin to, “I want to be a dentist because I want to help people.” Again, this is the single worst sentence you could ever put pen to paper and write – though it may not be disingenuous and you may actually be a kind-hearted person, it comes across as disingenuous because so many other applicants say it too. You’re better off finding something else to say.
  • Christian did us all a favor and asked our admission office what other personal pitfall statements may exist, here they are, bottled at the source: “Don’t tell a story about your little brother who lost his tooth” and “Don’t tell a story about how you went to the orthodontist for braces as a kid and got curious about dentistry.
  • The story is the anecdotal evidence that will carry them to your throughline. The story is the HOOK.

The Throughline

  • The throughline creates context for your story. It should be written in an expository style to tell the reader your explanation.
  • Thread the reader through your personal narrative and explain the ultimate impact of the anecdote you wrote about. You can cite pertinent accomplishments here that aren’t iterated in the rest of the AADSAS.
  • Do not try to explain your entire life’s story. Be concise with the details. Provide only the most detailed accounts of the most important parts of your story.
  • All expository statements in the throughline must relate to the central theme of your personal statement.
  • Recall that the purpose of the personal statement is to get the reader to do a double-take and offer you an interview invite. It will not necessarily make a case to them as a capable dental student. That is what the rest of your application is for. “Lean, effective applications only have room for minimal overlap between the two.”

The Fireworks

  • This is where you go out with a bang. Provide your conclusion, but the fireworks are the most crucial part of creating an “Under the Covers” moment.
  • The fireworks are what the reader will remember you by, and its effectiveness will be judged by how well the reader remembers you.
  • Tie everything back to the Story and the Lead as well. Symmetry is aesthetically pleasing – there is no better way to impress dentists that are on the lookout for symmetry and perfection.
  • However, if your fireworks show falls flat and fizzles out, you may have just destroyed all you’ve built up thus far in your personal statement. The fireworks may be last, but they are the grand finale of your entire AADSAS application.

Another post will be coming on how to revise and edit your personal statement. Stay tuned for part deux.

*This post is sponsored by Colorado ASDA

~ Colleen

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Contact Colleen

Colorado ASDA Summer Pre-Dental Academy 2017

So my pre-dental-centered advice blogs are being published at a rather inopportune time, since the AADSAS application for the 2017-18 cycle opened, like last week. Oops. This isn’t entirely unfounded, though, I am mainly writing the series as a resource to withstand longer than just a single cycle and as a supplement to the Summer Pre-Dental Academy (see below).

Summer of 2014, I caught wind of a series of events University of Colorado School of Dental Medicine was holding – a Summer Pre-Dental Academy. The event was put on by a then-DS2 and now recent graduate of the school, Kyle L. Back then, the Academy was an eight-week series of lectures every Saturday and I really looked forward to flexing my chops at drilling and filling basic class I’s on #19. But being the weasel I was (and still am), I wanted to get in with current students, picking their brains on the application, the DAT, and the curriculum itself.

1517614_1454631734760783_62786714_n.jpgLook what we found in the ASDA pre-dental archives (2014). Issa me (far right)! Issa Lynn (Colorado ASDA’s Vice President-Elect second from the left)!
Photo courtesy of Ryan Gonzales (now DDS)

At that time, I hadn’t yet taken by DAT and regularly shadowing local dentists. I dabbled, here and there – the fire hadn’t been lit beneath me just yet. Kyle’s presentations, which ranged anywhere from preparation for the DAT’S PAT to dental anatomy inspired my aspirations to dentistry. I single-handedly owe it to this program in making my ultimate choice to attend the University of Colorado.

DSB101, as Kyle called it, presented me with the information I need to pen my personal statement, organize my DAT study schedule, and figure out the logistical nightmare that is AADSAS application. I am proud to call myself a product of the Colorado ASDA Summer Pre-Dental Academy and am even prouder to now help run it with my friend, Jamie M., a current DS2.

This summer, the Academy will run for four Saturdays in July (makes it easier to attend all of sessions, right?) and will cost a total of $90.67 (not-round number due to Eventbrite fees ¯\_(ツ)_/¯). Breakfast is included so even if you wind up hating dentistry because of us you’ll get four ~$22 Panera meals out of it.

Register here on Eventbrite

Check out the Facebook event and like Colorado ASDA Pre-Dental Committee on Facebook

JPG Colorado ASDA Summer Pre-Dental  Academy 2017.png

*This post is sponsored by Colorado ASDA

Follow us on Instagram @carpedentumblog

Contact Colleen

Featured image is Jordan D., former Colorado ASDA Pre-Dental Chair