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

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