Writing a "Unique" Personal Statement You Are Proud Of
Updated: May 20, 2022
*Before I begin this post, I'd like to take a moment to thank Mr. Larry Greer, a writing specialist at UC Davis, who not only helped transform my personal statement, but also inspired me to think about the art of writing in a new light. My dental school acceptances would not have been possible without Larry's support.
This is the AADSAS Prompt:
"Your Personal Statement should address why you desire to pursue a dental education and how a dental degree contributes to your personal and professional goals. Max: 4,500 characters including spaces"
Notice this is a two part question. The admissions committee wants to know: (1) why do you gravitate towards dentistry, and (2) how will you fulfill your life mission through dentistry?
When you first try to answer the first question, you will probably say something along the lines of:
I love working with my hands.
I love helping people.
I love working with new technology.
I'm passionate about biology.
I want to make a difference.
I was inspired by Dr. X, DDS/DMD.
Although any of the above answers may be your genuine response, these answers are so commonly used that you may come across as insincere. After all, anyone can make these claims. The simplest solution is to make your essay as personal as possible.
In the early drafts of my personal statement, I wrote I wanted to be a dentist because I enjoyed helping people, loved working with my hands, and wished to build relationships with people. I then proceeded to write about the various internships/experiences as a way to justify my prior response.
When I presented my draft to Mr. Greer, he read every word out loud. As I was listening to my own words, my gut told me my writing was cliche and unimpressive. When he finished reading, he first complimented my style of writing, and then asked me: "But tell me what REALLY makes you interested in dentistry?" "Why does living this way (helping people, building relationships, creating art) matter so much to you?" He encouraged me to stay away from the conventional, safe answers. He looked me in the eyes, and I remember looking away.
I wasn't used to being confronted about why I REALLY wanted to do dentistry. I was at a loss of words and can recall the sensation of a single bead of sweat running down the nape of my neck (although, in my defense, this was a hot summer day in the city of Davis). I asked if I could go home to formulate a response. He allowed me to do just that. I promised myself I would think about the question unceasingly until I discover its answer. And I did.
After rounds of introspection, I came to realize that my Buddhist upbringing and "beliefs" have always guided my actions. My closest friends know I am a life-long vegetarian and I attend temple every Saturday night. My interest in Buddhism helps explain my gravitation towards "helping others" and "easing suffering." Becoming an ethical health professional is important to me because it is congruent with my Buddhist philosophy of "living morally." I started playing the piano as a young child because it was my way of seeking "harmony". Ultimately, I discovered that the harmony I really wanted to achieve in life is through the harmonious relationships I can build with other people! In essence, Mr. Greer helped me identify a single theme (balance and harmony) I could use to tie-in all my experiences as a pre-dental student.
I've attached my own final draft (as well as Jenny's) down below in hopes that you understand what I am saying:
Wilson's PS above, Jenny's PS below
Let's pretend your current answer to "Why Dentistry?" is that you are also passionate about helping people. You've shown this through volunteering hours, shadowing multiple specialists, staying involved in multiple school organizations, and/or doing research. Great!
But why are you passionate about helping people? Why is it important to you to live like this? Why were you naturally drawn to the extracurricular activities you chose to participate in? Ultimately, why do you think dentistry is the right fit for you?
Create a theme explaining your motivations at a fundamental level and connect all your experiences and goals to it. This is what creates a relatable, yet powerful essay. Once you are able to create this backbone for your personal statement, you will find it easier to address why dentistry is your ideal vehicle towards fulfilling your professional and personal goals.
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