By Leigh Reynolds
Fort Hays State University ’14
member of ASDA’s 2013-14 Predental Advisory Committee
This article is reprinted with permission from the American Student Dental Association. It originally appeared in March 2013 issue of ASDA News.
You spent years taking prerequisite courses, endless hours studying, passed the DAT, composed a personal statement and submitted your dental school application. There is one major hurdle still left between you and acceptance to dental school: the interview. After so much preparation and effort spent leading up to the interview, it’s important to bring your A-game.
While each dental school has its own method and setup for applicant interviews, there are some common ways to prepare. Familiarize yourself with the common interview questions to expect. For example: “Why do you want to be a dentist?” and “Why do you want to come to this school?” Having a solid and truthful response to these questions is important. Speaking with current dental students can help you learn more about the dental school experience and the schools.
One way to prepare is by participating in mock interviews. A predental student just completing her interviews, Kori Reinbolt, Missouri ’18, credits mock interviews for increasing her confidence. She said that interviews are where an applicant can “make or break” the admissions process and to “present yourself as a professional so that they can see you fit into their program.” Interviewers can tell when a student has prepared. Feeling comfortable with yourself in the interview room will help carry a sincere conversation and bring your application to life. Overall, the interview process is to let the interviewers get to know you on a personal and professional level.
Mock interviews can help identify and correct faults and nervous habits. Some common examples include: talking too fast, saying “um” repeatedly or a nervous tick like playing with your hair. Strengths can also be sharpened like speaking loud and clear and maintaining eye contact. Ask your mock interviewers to make you aware of any nervous habits and work to improve your communication skills.
A mock interview should be as close as possible to the real thing. Men and women should wear a professional suit and comfortable dress shoes or heels for a tour of the school. Look the part by paying attention to your personal grooming by keeping clean nails, not overdoing the makeup and a fresh haircut.
Your interviewer should be a truthful and objective professional to meet with you for a 30- to 60-minute mock interview. Start by introducing yourself with your full name and a firm handshake. Mind your manners and remain polite under pressure, as everyone you meet on interview day should be treated as your interviewer. Appropriate questions for this mock session could be: tell me about yourself, name three strengths and weaknesses, do you think you can handle the workload in dental school. Practice your answers to questions you’ll likely be asked without sounding scripted. If your interviewer is a representative from a dental school, turn the table and ask him or her a couple of questions. Remember that during a dental school interview it is also your time to see if the school is right for you. Research the school’s website for things to ask about. Better yet, talk to current dental students to see what their experience is and what they’d encourage you to consider when looking at schools.
Check with either your school’s career services department or predental club to see if they offer or would be interested in setting up a mock interview session. If not, ask a dentist, your advisor or some other qualified professional if they would feel comfortable doing a mock interview with you. Bring along a CV or a resume so that the mock interviewer can review and ask specific questions for you to expand upon your qualifications.
Some words of wisdom from Dr. Richie Bigham, assistant dean of admissions at University of Missouri, Kansas City School of Dentistry: “When a student receives an invite to interview at a dental school, realize not all students are invited, so those invited are already well-liked, and the school knows that they have worked hard to get to this point.” It is never too early to begin to prepare. Check into mock interview opportunities available to you to get ahead of the game.
For more interview tips, visit ASDA.