Hi everyone! I’m Talia and I’m a 1st year Dental student at Birmingham University.
Sitting down to write my personal statement seemed like the impossible task. I remember staring at the blank piece of paper wondering what words I was going to use to fill the page. Where would I start? How should it be structured? What to include?
Indeed, it can seem like a daunting task; however, with a greater understanding of the structure and layout of a personal statement, as well as giving yourself enough time you should be well on your way to writing a great personal statement!
I’ve divided the statement into 4 general sections, for each section I’ve written some questions you could ask yourself- they may help if you’re stuck or struggling to think of what to write!
So here we go…
Why do I want to be a dentist?
Tell it like a story.
Imagine you are writing a story about yourself, a very long diary entry.
Perhaps begin your statement with the reason behind your inspired curiosity. Write honestly, have you really been obsessing over teeth since you were 2 years old? Were you really born wanting to be a dentist? Be honest with yourself, it’s okay if you only really wanted to study dentistry since High School!
Ask yourself what drew you to study dentistry? What is specifically fascinating, captivating about this chosen profession? Is it the hands on, surgical dexterity involved? Is it the communication, the people-person skills, the social interaction? Or is it the psychological empowerment? The problem solving? Then put that pen to paper and start writing!
This way you will ensure you are keeping to the personal and not getting carried away by the statement. Remember this is about you- not your neighbour, not your best mate.
You may end up with a piece of writing that is way over the word limit- this is very normal!! It took me at least 10 drafts before I finally sent mine off after weeks of tweaking and cutting down. Definitely make sure you give yourself enough time to write, review and fine-tune and even pass it by a teacher- this really cannot be done last minute!
What have I done to get work and voluntary experience and what did I learn from it?
Work on that work experience.
Once you have explained what caused you to take interest in dentistry, tell your reader what you did to show your interest. Among the many things this could be, one of them is the essential work experience as well as other voluntary work placements.
It’s really great if you have a variety of experience (including the required time at a general dental practice for that university). For example, general dentistry, orthodontics and even oral surgery. I know it can be really difficult to acquire even the minimum work experience; however, try and speak to your dentist- you never know what contacts they may have and might be able to put you in touch with someone in a different field.
Reflect on what you saw, learnt, gained during work experience. You don’t need to give every detail but rather choose a few significant events where the dentist displayed character traits you have, or something occurred which only drew you to want to discover more about dentistry. Embellish these ideas explain, state why they are significant to you.
- How do I have the right skills for dentistry?
- What have I done to develop these skills (outside your academic studies)?
- Why am I the right person for their dental school?
I would argue this is one of the most important parts, this is what really makes your personal statement unique. Essentially here you are writing about you, what you love doing- your hobbies, your interests, what character traits you display by embarking on these hobbies and how they relate to dentistry. Perhaps you could also mention your academic interests here and how they encouraged your desire to study dentistry.
For this section I would begin by writing a list of all your hobbies and next to each one note down the corresponding characteristics they each display. After this, relate how these characteristics and experiences show that you have the qualities needed to be a great dentist! If you have many hobbies, try and condense the list down to a few different hobbies and experiences.
4. Summing up
End your personal statement with optimistic final words, emphasising your ambition and summarising your strengths.
- Is this really me speaking?
Get talking. Get exploring.
- Finally, get speaking to people in the year above you at school who have applied to do dentistry, dentists and dental students- they may be able to give you some useful guidance.
- Also remember to check out the university’s web page, and definitely try to attend their open day- some universities can be really specific about what they are looking for in the personal statement.
- Look at the BDA website and even the BBC for current research, and general dental news- a topic may pop up that catches you eye.
- I found that there aren’t so many directly related dental books prior to studying dentistry but there are many articles in the BDJ and BDJ for students!!
Happy writing and good luck!!
Words by Talia Harris (Dental Student at UoB)