How to prepare for a dental school interview is a concern of every dental school hopeful. After investing so much of your time and effort in completing your application and studying for the DAT, you’re no longer asking yourself, “why do you want to be a dentist?”. But you have one more crucial step to pass – the interview – and you know that it’s important to prepare for your interviews well in advance. Getting a letter inviting you to an interview at one of your top schools is a turning point in the application process to be celebrated. It means the admissions committee is impressed by your application and excited to meet you in person, so how can you make the most of this opportunity? Read this article to learn how.
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What Is the Purpose of a Dental School Interview?
Interviews allow admissions committees to learn more about you, your background, your dental school application experiences, and your interest in dentistry while also more thoroughly evaluating your application. To determine how you might behave as a dental professional, the committee will also assess your interpersonal and communication skills. To gauge your understanding of the challenges and difficulties involved in providing health care, interviewers will ask you ethics-related dental school interview questions. You will also have the chance to ask questions during your interviews to confirm that the school is a good fit for you.
Of course, given the competitiveness of dental schools, as shown by dental school acceptance rates, your main objective is to convince the interviewers that you deserve to be admitted.
When to Prepare for a Dental School Interview
If you took the advice of the ADEA and applied early (submitted your application in June, July, or August), you might be pleasantly surprised by an invitation to interview sooner than you expected. As with every aspect of the application process, getting ready well ahead of time will ensure that you are well prepared and feel confident. In fact, early submission increases your chances of being considered for an interview. Because many institutions have rolling admissions policies, applying as early as possible in the application cycle means your candidacy will be considered well before the incoming class is full.
The first step in preparing for your interview is to engage in each step of the application process with intention; that is, to be very familiar with every aspect of your application, to reflect on key issues in dentistry, to research and know the schools you have selected in detail, and to consider any questions you want to ask the interviewers.
Watch this video for expert answers to 5 dental school interview questions you must know:
Don’t Rush It
Importantly, you must not rush your interview prep. If you feel caught out, aren’t sure how to proceed, or simply want to maximize your chances of success, it’s worth considering working with a dental school advisor. A professional can help you with every step of the application process, from advising you on what to highlight among your dental school extracurriculars to recommending what to include in your dental school personal statement.
When it comes to interview prep, dental school admissions consulting services are even more valuable, as you will be faced with a range of interview types, depending on the school, and knowing how to deal with them will boost your knowledge and confidence. Crucially, interview simulations in the form of mock medical school interviews will teach you strategies for answering any type of question and managing anxiety.
Dress the Part
Note that part of preparing also involves looking presentable, so some time before your interview you will need to purchase an appropriate interview outfit if you do not have one already. The attire will be much the same as what to wear to a medical school interview. You would dress professionally whether you are participating in an in-person interview or a video interview.
Plan for Expenses
Don’t forget about other aspects of the interview process that you might need to line up as well: you’ll need a budget for interview fees and travel expenses, and you may not know in advance exactly how much this will add up to, as it will depend on the schools that invite you. Be sure to check whether schools on your list charge a fee or require that you visit the campus and base your estimated budget on the maximum amount you will need if every one of those schools reached out for an interview.
What to Expect from a Dental School Interview
Taking the time to understand the interview purpose and process and to anticipate the questions that may be asked is the next major step in how to prepare for your dental school interview. The more you know, the better you can leverage that knowledge to improve your performance and clinch that coveted spot at your preferred school.
Who Are the Interviewers?
Most dental school interviewers will be faculty members who have elected to take part in the admissions process. Many schools also ask alumni or current dental students to participate; they may act as interviewers as well, or they may be present to answer your questions about the school, lead a campus tour, contribute their perspective on admissions decisions, and so on. Occasionally, interviews will include other school officials, such as admissions staff or student or minority affairs representatives.
How Is the Interview Set Up?
The structure of your interview can vary widely based on the school; hence, the importance of strategizing for each type of interview and its format. As noted above, you may need to participate in interviews either in person or online. Rest assured that the content of the interview and how it unfolds will not be different simply because it is in a virtual or live format. However, you will want to ensure you are ready for both types by having a reliable computer system in the former case and a well-thought-out travel agenda in the latter case.
To best prepare, it’s essential to check each school’s website or contact them to find out how the interview will be structured. Don’t wait for your invitation, even if the school will confirm the requirements at that time; there is much you can do to prepare before then.
For more information on the specific requirements of virtual dental school interviews, you can review the ADEA AADSAS Virtual Dental Schools Dos and Don’ts pamphlet, which provides handy tips in an easy-to-read format on important elements to consider before, during, and after your dental school interview.
How Long is a Dental School Interview?
The interview duration does vary depending on the school and type of interview, but you can count on a minimum of 30 minutes for traditional interviews and longer than this for multiple mini-interviews (MMIs), or combined interview types that might include more than one activity, such as an interview plus Q&A with current students. Again, if you are faced with an unconventional structure and don’t know exactly what is required of you in each part, reach out to the school for clarification; you do yourself a disservice by presenting for a day on campus with only a vague sense of what to expect.
Dental School Interview Types
Open File vs Closed File
Dental school interviews use one of two approaches to manage the interview process.
In an open file interview, evaluators will have been given access to your AADSAS dental school application and supplemental applications before meeting you. Therefore, you can expect that they will want to go into greater detail on aspects of your application and may have more of a sense of your background because they will have the application open in front of them. Even in an open file interview, interviewers might not have seen your DAT score or transcripts, however; this is to discourage any bias that might arise from having this information.
In a closed file interview, interviewers will not have seen your application and will need you to give them a thorough introduction to your experiences and interests. Occasionally, an interview might be officially “open file,” but the evaluator(s) will choose not to view it, so the conversation will proceed as it would in a closed file interview.
In all cases, it is best to come prepared as you would for a closed file interview, equipped with all the information you wish to convey and ready to answer any questions you are asked.
In general, you can expect to encounter four main types of dental school interview, and you should know how to prepare for each type:
Often referred to as the “one-on-one” interview, this type of interview is between one evaluator and one candidate and usually lasts about 30 minutes. With an average interview response being 3 minutes, or less, you should be able to answer several questions – anywhere from 5 to 9 or more, depending on how long it takes to respond to each one and whether the interviewer asks any follow-up questions.
In this type of interview, a panel of two or three evaluators questions one candidate. As previously noted, panels might include alumni, current dental students, school officials, admissions staff, and/or student or minority affairs representatives. In a panel, it’s possible that not all participants will have seen your file. Panel interviews last from 30 minutes to one hour.
Multiple Mini-Interview (MMI)
As the name suggests, in multiple mini-interviews, candidates rotate between stations of evaluators every 7–10 minutes. They are asked different questions at each station, of various types, for example, scenario questions or MMI policy-type questions, and may be required to participate in multiple mini-interview action stations, among others. Evaluators may also ask individual candidates follow-up questions.
In this type of interview, one applicant may be interviewed by several individuals, or one evaluator may interview multiple applicants.
You might be invited to an in-person or virtual interview, such a video interview or Kira Talent interview, depending on the options provided by the school.
* Essays: Note that certain schools may request that you write an essay as part of the interview, based on a prompt provided at the time of the interview.
Questions That May Be Asked in Your Dental School Interview
The American Dental Education Association (ADEA) lists the following questions that are likely to be asked in a dental school interview:
- Tell me about yourself.
- Why do you want to be a dentist?
- What are your strengths? What would you like to improve on?
- What research, volunteer, or leadership experiences have you had?
- Where do you see yourself in 5 or 10 years?
- Why this dental school?
- Who is the most influential person (people) in your life?
- Describe a time when had to make an ethical decision. How did you deal with it?
- How would you interact with someone who has a serious, possibly contagious, disease?
- Tell us about your experiences shadowing or observing in a dental environment. What did you like or dislike most?
How to prepare for a dental school interview involves formulating an answer for each of these 10 questions in advance. You’ll need to be able to discuss your background, interests, strengths, and any other attributes that might not stand out in your application when answering personal questions, such as “tell me about yourself.” For ethical questions, you can study MMI ethical questions and answers to get a good idea of what’s expected from you. For questions about the school, you should show that you have researched the mission, vision, values, program, curriculum, and any other aspects of the dental school that prompted you to apply. Importantly, you will want to demonstrate how these qualities align with your own.
You can use the list above to prepare a draft answer for each of these questions. For every answer, use bullet points to lay out the main points you intend to cover. You will rehearse your delivery, of course, but you should not memorize a script: this will make you sound stiff or robotic and will not allow you to adapt your response if you encounter a slightly different version of the question or a follow-up question that you did not anticipate. Perfect interview preparation depends on learning the content you want to present, not the exact words you will use. MMI interview prep, in the form of an MMI interview prep course or personalized sessions, such as those offered by BeMo, is a proven way to learn methods and strategies you can rely on to ace your dental school interview.
How to Prepare for a Dental School Interview in Canada
The interview process for dental schools in Canada is basically identical to the American process. Many Canadian dental schools use MMIs, but they also tend to require the CASPer online test. This test was developed to assess candidates’ non-cognitive skills, interpersonal characteristics, communication, and “soft skills,” such as empathy, ethics, problem-solving skills, and resilience, as indicators of their fit for the profession. Regardless of whether you have to answer CASPer questions, keep in mind that all dental school interviews seek to assess the same qualities and skills in a candidate.
Dental School Interview Checklist
Review this handy checklist as a reminder of the major steps to take when preparing for your dental school interview:
1. How do I become a dentist?
You’ll need to enroll in a dental school to earn your DDS or DMD. It generally takes 8 years altogether: 4 years to complete a bachelor’s degree and 4 years of dental school. Ideally, you’ll start planning for dental school before or during your undergrad because you’ll need to pass prerequisites, especially in the sciences; engage in the best dental school extracurriculars; and gain shadowing experience. Toward the end of your bachelor’s, you’ll apply to dental schools and take the DAT. Once you are accepted to and enrolled in a dental school, you’ll take classes in the biological sciences and begin clinical education through simulation. In the second half of your degree, you’ll focus on clinical work. General dentists are qualified to practice once they graduate and don’t require any additional training. Certain specialties require that you complete a one- or two-year residency.
2. What type of interview is used by dental schools?
Four different interview types are used by dental schools, depending on the school: one-on-one, panel, multiple mini-interview (MMI), and group. The one-on-one interview is the most common, but you should always check with each school to see which interview type they use so that you know what to expect and can adequately prepare. If you get invited to interviews at more than school, chances are you’ll have to be ready for more than one type of interview.
3. What are some of the most common dental school interview questions?
Many dental school interview questions resemble medical school interview questions in that they ask you to talk about yourself, explain why you want to be a dentist, discuss why you have selected a particular program or school, touch on ethical issues, and seek to understand whether you have knowledge of current issues in the field.
4. How should I prepare for a dental school interview?
You should prepare by planning for your interview fees and travel expenses well in advance, ensuring your computer system is compatible with virtual interviews, acquiring professional attire, reviewing your application, reflecting on your strengths and weaknesses, focusing on the key messages you wish to convey, thinking up questions for the evaluators, and participating in mock interviews.
5. How long are dental school interviews?
Depending on the type of interview (one-on-one, panel, MMI, or group), a dental school interview can last from about 30 minutes to one hour.
6. What do I do if I don’t know the answer to a question?
First, remain calm. It is very possible that you won’t have an answer prepared for every single question or follow-up question. This is why a good prep process is invaluable; instead of shooting in the dark, you’ll learn strategies to identify the type of question – personal, situational, ethical, policy-based, or quirky – and apply them during mock interviews. To analyze a question you are asked, you can engage these strategies and work out the most appropriate answer. You are not expected to know everything, and there is no shame in saying you don’t know, but what’s important is to attempt to answer anyways by talking your way through the question, thereby illuminating your thought process for the interviewers.
7. Which dental school has the highest acceptance rate?
In the US, the University of Mississippi School of Dentistry has the highest acceptance rate at 29.4%.
8. Is the interview process for Canadian schools different than the one for American schools?
Not really. Differences in interview types depend on the school, rather than the region, and the admissions processes in the US and Canada are quite similar.
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