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Addressing a Lack of Research Experience (Secondary Application)

Updated: Jan 21, 2021

If you did not participate in undergraduate research, there will most likely come a point in time when you will be asked to explain your lack of research experience, either on your supplementary applications or during your interview.

A written prompt will usually look something like this: "If you have done any research, please describe your role and include the name of your faculty sponsor and the duration of your research experience."

Do not SKIP this part and leave it blank, even if you possess no formal research experience.

A good way to address this prompt is to simply acknowledge your lack of formal experience, but then explain what you have learned about the field of research from your own "informal" lab experience.

To provide you with an example, I'll attach the response I used for my own application:


Here are a few guiding questions for you to formulate your own unique response:

1. What do you know about research based on your experiences in the classroom?

2. Tell me about a memorable lab-based project you worked on. What did you learn?

3. What research-based techniques/technologies have you used in the past?

4. Why do you think research is important/relevant in the context of dentistry?

5. What do you admire about those in the field of research?

Quite frankly, I was initially uncertain about my chances of getting accepted by "research-intensive" schools like UCSF,UCLA, and especially HSDM. In hindsight, formal research experience is highly valuable and advantageous for any applicant, but it is in no way necessary for dental school acceptance, as long as you display an understanding of what research is and why it is highly relevant to dentistry.


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