Writing your Personal Statement

An easy way to start is by pretending that someone were to ask you to write an essay based on the prompt: Tell me about yourself and why you want and deserve to be a dentist.

How you decide to then write your personal statement and revise is no different than any writing process, except that every person has a different process...whatever your process is...start it.

For example, I started out by listing things I wanted to mention in my essay. It was a long list and included things like: my years of work as a ceramist, the day I broke my tooth and had to make an emergency dental appointment after not having seen a dentist since the last time I broke that tooth years earlier, My experiences with SDSU, my experiences with PDS, and a whole lot more. I pared down the list to just the necessary things and wrote a statement that was 3 times too long...so I continued to cut, change and rework and eventually got to the point I needed. I changed the intro a couple times, I decided what seemed unessential, etc.

But that's not everyone's process. I used to be an English teacher, and I actual taught composition for several years and one of my favorite things to tell students was that You can't fix nothing...so write something, even if it is scatterbrained and completely off the point, at least then you have a starting point to change and fix things and 99% time students would write something that resembled what it needed to be to give a starting point...only about 1% of the time would I get something so weird that it was like...uh...let's start over, like I asked them to write about Catcher in the Rye and they turned in an essay with nothing but numbers and plus signs.

So starting is the best way to start.

as for what to put...the most encompassing summary I ever heard was from Craig Yarborough about what a personal statement should have:

3 Parts

A part that about you as a person

A part that about why you want to be a dentist

A part that about what makes you a valuable addition to the school and to the field...as in, what will you bring to dental school X and the field of dentistry that make it worth the schools while to accept you.

Now, you can take the literal stance and actually write these three sections using a bunch of I statement and in this order with topic sentences and all, or you can find interesting ways to interweave via stories and tales about you as a person all three of these components into one concise and intelligently designed essay...either way, it's a one in a million chance (well, maybe more like one in a thousand) that your essay will either be so miraculously entertaining and perfect that the school will accept you despite all your horrific grades and DAT scores and arrest records or that your essay will somehow be so bad that the school will care enough to let your statement prevent you from getting into their school for an interview despite great DAT scores, Good Grades, and wonderful volunteer and leadership experiences in various fields...

Personal statements need to be done and done well...but they rarely make or break any applicants.”

-- Jeff

SDSU Pre-Dental, now attending University of the Pacific School of Dentistry

Your personal statement should address why you want to go to dental school, and how a dental degree contributes to your personal and professional goals.

(In other words, why Dentistry? Why You?)

The Statement is limited to approximately 1 page single spaced, which corresponds to a maximum of 4500 characters, including spaces.

a. Why you want to be a dentist?

b. Describe your experiences that led you to decide this career.

c. Describe how these experiences relate to your strengths and weaknesses

d. Why will you be a great dentist? What makes you suitable for the field?

How to Write it, from a Dental Student:

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Complete First Draft by March 15th

I started with a blank sheet of printer paper, wrote “Why Dentistry” on the top, and started brainstorming pros and cons. The first few minutes were the hardest, then after I stopped censoring my thoughts, they were flying from my pen. In a matter of mere minutes, I had filled the page. After that, I made complete sentences out of each bullet-point as I typed them out sequentially on the computer. With a little rearranging and a few clarifying sentences, I had my first draft written. THAT was what I had been dreading for months? My advice is to just start writing, and edit later.

• Revise Statement, many, many times.

A careless spelling error can discredit a whole personal statement. My statement went through 25 extensive drafts, and 3 complete re-writes. It started out almost 8 pages, but with thoughtful editing, it ended up about 100 characters less than the limit. The Statement is limited to approximately 1 page single spaced, which corresponds to a maximum of 4500 characters, including spaces.

• I recommend purchasing a book with sample graduate application essays in order to get a feel for the style of personal statement prose.

A book that I found helpful was:

“Essays that will get you into Medical School”


UCSD’s Professional School Personal Statement Guide


Additional Personal Statements and Advice from DMDstudent.com


How to write a personal statement: