Ever since I received my first dental school acceptance in 2015, I’m always hit with the same set of questions from every prospective dental student.
- What is the admissions process for international students?
- What are dental schools looking for?
- How could I, as a candidate, stand out?
- Could you review my resume and statement of purpose?
- Is being a re-applicant bad?
- What is the interview process like?
All of these are valid questions, and most are answered in my book, Persevering- a complete guide to applications, schools and work opportunities for foreign trained dentists in the United States. This current post addresses one of the most important, yet overlooked parts of the application, the Statement of Purpose.
Having read at least half a dozen Statement of Purpose’s, every month, over the last few years, I am constantly amazed at the mistakes, many continue to make.
Several students do not revise their SOP even after getting rejected in one cycle. Here are some of those mistakes and how to correct them.
Creating a generic SOP
Unfortunately, most SOP’s sound exactly the same. They start off with a dental story. Perhaps the first time a student had a ‘life-saving’ dental procedure, saw a patient with oral cancer or gave someone ‘a new smile’, and how that ignited a passion for dentistry in them. We need to remember that the admissions committee is often looking at hundreds of applications on the same day. When every SOP starts with a similar story, after a while they get cast aside.
Having someone else write your SOP
In many countries around the world, including the United States, coaching institutes, that help applicants write out their supplemental essays, SOP’s and university applications, have gained popularity. While getting help in these areas is not a bad thing, having someone write your SOP for you in its entirety is not okay. Your SOP is your one shot in explaining to the admissions committee why they should consider interviewing you. Make it unique and about yourself. They should read it and think, ‘I need to invite this candidate to the school to learn more.’ Only you can advocate for yourself in the best possible way. Write your own SOP!
Making it unique
Even though we are all dentists, we have all lived very different lives and been through different circumstances. Some of us left dentistry for a few years to support our families, some are re applicants, others pursued masters and a PhD before dental school. Make your SOP about how committed you are to furthering your education in the United States.
While your SOP need not read like a resume, you should pick 2-3 of your biggest achievements and highlight those in your SOP.
Using phrases like, ‘I had the opportunity to lead a community clinic in..’ or ‘I am grateful to have spent 5 years as President of the Student Council..’ shows humility and reminds the reader that you have had leadership positions, or shown excellence in clinical/extra-curricular fields.
Your SOP should be a window to the future
‘What benefits will this applicant bring to the school?’ is a crucial element that every member of the admission committee is thinking of when they go through your application. Think about this carefully; what will you bring to the school as its alumnus?
What is your big fat hairy vision? How will you make your school proud? Would you, upon graduation, operate a set of dental clinics that impact the local community? Would you spend time teaching at the dental school? Mention it in your SOP.
The best SOP’s are a miniature version of the person that wrote them. A little glimpse into who they are as a person and what they might be like in an interview. Writing an SOP can take months and several modifications. It is recommended that you have several mentors and friends review it.
Your personality should come shining through the essay. Best of luck and hope this post motivates you to write and submit the best possible SOP, your future does literally depend on it!