Learning how to write your own essays can be done through instruction, style guides, or by reading (Texas Medical and Dental Schools Application Service) essay examples and seeing what a great essay looks like. Learning from example is useful because it shows the practical application of all those tips and hints that you have already studied and read.
This article takes the TMDSAS prompts and shows you an example essay for each so that you can better create your own essay with confidence.
Please note that the character limits for these essay include spaces.
Please note: although we have made every effort to provide the most accurate information, admissions information changes frequently. Therefore, we encourage you to verify these details with the official university admissions office. You are responsible for your own results. BeMo does not endorse nor affiliate with any official universities, colleges, or test administrators and vice versa. If you see an error here, please notify us with the updated information, and we’ll send you a FREE copy of a BeMo ebook of your choosing! You can receive our Ultimate Guide to Med School Admissions, our Ultimate Guide to MMI Prep, our Ultimate Guide to Medical School Personal Statements & Secondary Essays or our Ultimate Guide to CASPer Prep! Please email us at content [at] bemoacademicconsulting.com with any corrections, and we’ll arrange to send you your free ebook upon confirming the information.
The personal essay asks you to explain your motivation to seek a career in dentistry. You are asked to discuss your philosophy of the dental profession and indicate your goals relevant to the profession.
This essay has a 5,000 character limit
“We’re going to be late!” my mother calls out, but I won’t rush the artistry that is going on right now, flossing my teeth, which is to me one of the most essential aspects of going out anywhere. My meticulousness at the task is legendary in our family, and my mother is almost laughing, even if she is a little exasperated.
There is something about teeth that has always fascinated me, these tiny, little bones that we use all the time. We need them to talk, to eat, and to smile. They are the most sociable bones in our bodies, particularly for that last bit: the smile.
I knew it was an unusual goal to be a dentist; most kids grow up wanting to be firefighters or cowboys or just doing whatever their parents did. I have always been a bit off-the-beaten-track, however, and my chosen career path is no exception. I do question it, I do think about what makes me want to be a dentist, and for me it comes down to three major aspects: the underappreciated value of the teeth in healthcare, the social power of teeth – strange as that may sound – and an interest in working to make people’s lives better.
Teeth are a major element of healthcare. Oral hygiene isn’t thought about often, I think perhaps because it is mundane. You care for your teeth multiple times a day, so it becomes habit, routine, or just something you do, but the impact on health is huge. As for the social power of teeth, our smiles say so much, and we need our teeth to talk. Interacting with people without teeth would be immensely difficult.
But the main thing I want to focus on is in how I can make somebody’s life a little bit better. Many people express anxiety about going to the dentist, but I think with a little personal touch, I can help with that. I can present a dentist’s office that alleviates that stress and lets people enjoy their checkups more.
The first time I think I knew I wanted to be a dentist was sitting in the chair, having a cavity filled. It was my first cavity, and I was very, very nervous and upset. Our dentist, Dr. Paul, as we called him, took a little extra time with me to show me his own fillings, and made me laugh by telling a joke I no longer remember. I felt safe and cared for, even though Dr. Paul also had to do a lot of drilling.
I also, in retrospect, appreciated Dr. Paul’s refusal to lie to me. Even at that young age, I don’t remember ever hearing him say that it “doesn’t hurt too much,” or that I’d just feel “a little pinch,” when the freezing needle went in. A lot of dentists trivialize the discomfort, but I believe that acknowledging it is far better.
Dr. Paul’s personal touch helped me to make it through a couple of otherwise unpleasant experiences, albeit necessary ones. I have always appreciated that, and I hope someday to put in that extra effort for patients of my own.
Check out these tips for writing a TMDSAS personal statement:
The personal essay asks you to explain your motivation to seek a career in medicine. You are asked to include the value of your experiences that prepare you to be a physician.
This essay has a 5,000 character limit
I counted backwards from one-hundred, and hoped I’d wake up again. There is an eternity spent in the night amnesia, between losing consciousness and regaining it. Although you aren’t aware of this eternity, but you are trapped in limbo.
My appendix had become a liability, and so I was going to be put under anaesthesia while they removed it. They refer to these things as “routine surgeries,” but I knew that no surgery is without risk, and that there is always a chance of not waking up. Was I afraid? No, I was fascinated. I had started to read up about anaesthesia, and what could have been a routine surgery turned out to catalyze me into reading more and more about medicine.
It really is the science of medicine that fascinates me the most. I have always enjoyed the lab, and one of my favorite teachers was Mr. Szalinski, who was my biology lab teacher, and who coupled a dry wit with an informative and fascinating teaching style. He seemed as interested to spark curiosity within us as he was interested in teaching us. In fact, I’m not sure he would draw a distinction between the two.
Those sparks caught flame within me, and my curiosity led me all over the lab. My favorite assignment was an experiment regarding bacteria and antibiotics. Mr. Szalinski told us about gram positive and gram negative bacteria and presented us with a question, “Do antibiotics interact differently with gram positive and gram negative bacteria, or not?”
From that point on, we were practically on our own, with Mr. Szalinski guiding us as we needed, but allowing our own curious minds to drive us forward, through the next days of laboratory work as we studied our bacteria and antibody samples. My research led me to read up on scientific papers, including on the resistance of gram-negative bacteria to anti-bacterial agents.
That lab was crucial for me, because something “clicked” in my mind, and I thought of science more than ever as an ongoing process of discovery instead of just a subject in school that I was learning about. This wasn’t a thing with answers, it was a series of questions. In other words, I could make a difference here.
One aspect of lab work that I have come to appreciate over the years is that of lab partnerships. Most people focus solely on the science, and indeed, often have a mental image of laboratory people as being reclusive and asocial, but I have found the opposite to be true. I have had many friendships sparked in the lab, and camaraderie is strong there.
Being part of a team is rewarding and valuable to me. It’s friendships outside of the work that are fun, but while performing experiments, it’s also crucial to have other people there. Who can work alone? You can’t bounce ideas off of yourself. You can’t ask yourself a question and expect an answer without needing a diagnosis.
There is also safety in numbers. I’d have been in much bigger trouble if it weren’t for lab partners. I tripped carrying a tray of chemicals once, and they splashed on me. My lab partner kept her cool, however, and had me cleaned up and safe in record time.
The lab community gives me a group of people with whom I can struggle against problems and celebrate solutions – and yes, that was a chemistry pun. It would have gotten a huge laugh at the lab.
I have also been part of a team while volunteering with blood drives. I’m mostly the guy who’s handing out snacks and juice at the end of it all, but I feel like I’m a part of something, nonetheless. It’s important to remember, no matter who you are in a team, that you rely on all team members. It can be easy to forget this, and consider certain team members more valuable – and maybe that’s true – the snack guy isn’t as important as the nurses, for example – but I know to always be appreciative of anybody who is working with me. They could be a volunteer or a professional, an integral role or a side-liner, but I know that they are all contributing towards a greater good, and putting others’ needs before their own.
So, that is who I am: curious, an investigator, and somebody who wants to make a difference in the world and on a team.
And, in case you are curious, I did wake up from the anesthetic just fine.
The personal essay asks you to describe opportunities and challenges (veterinary-related and non-veterinary-related) you have experienced and how these have helped to prepare you to enter the veterinary profession.
This essay has a 5,000 character limit
My childhood was never better than when I was old enough to take my younger sister, Phoebe, to the zoo. She loved the zoo, loved animals, and her infectious personality made taking her a delight. She couldn’t spend enough time there, whether she was making faces at monkeys, trying to roar at lions, or watching penguins sliding on their bellies into the water.
Her happiness was palpable, and for that reason alone I would have spent all day with her there. The zoo was fun for me, too, though, because I’m planning to spend some time there after learning to be a veterinarian.
However, before I spent time with Phoebe, who is almost seven years younger than I am, I spent time with Elsie, who was a dog of indiscernible origin – a mutt as reliable as your best friend, and who was as patient with me as a saint. I was a rough-and-tumble child, and Elsie often got the brunt of that.
I remember practically riding that dog, at least when I was very, very little, and she put up with basically anything that I would throw at her. It’s rare to have a connection like I had with Elsie. In fact, I don’t think I had another until Phoebe got old enough to horse around with, and then her smile would cheer me up immensely. I needed cheering up, too.
Elsie and Phoebe never met. It didn’t seem like Elsie was all that old when she got the first tumor. Our vet removed it just fine, but warned us that it was likely the first of many. He was right, and over the next couple of years, I couldn’t be as physical with Elsie, because she was slowing down.
I was angry. I couldn’t accept what my parents told me needed to happen. I was six. How could I? On the day, I wouldn’t let her go. I was in the room at the time, and my parents were worried about my being there, but there was our vet, Dr. Gladstone, and she asked me if I was ready. I kept saying no, and she said that we’d wait a little bit more, then, but explained to me why it had to be done.
I don’t think I fully grasped it, but when she explained, I felt a little better. The weird part is that her explanation was all technical – about pain receptors and nervous systems – or as technical as a kid could understand. But something about that kind of explanation made me understand a little better why we couldn’t leave with Elsie.
Strange thing: even now I have a hard time writing out that Elsie died.
Dr. Gladstone helped me understand that when I was six, and she didn’t make a move until I said I was ready. She let me take my time.
I was really broken up about that, but got a little distracted when Phoebe came along, and I’ve never forgotten Elsie, but my sister has been a wonderful part of my life, too. Of course, all the more wonderful when she discovered her love of animals as well.
So, all of that time at the zoo, and my memories of Elsie and Dr. Gladstone led me to pursue veterinary sciences.
I got a job working at the zoo. It seemed a natural enough fit for me, and it let me get a discount to take Phoebe, which was good, because it can be quite a drain on the pocketbook to go to the zoo all the time.
Most of the job was grunt work, mucking and cleaning cages, feeding animals, and that kind of thing, but sometimes I got to help with demonstrations, which was a lot of fun. Kids come to see parrots, monkeys, or snakes being handled by experienced professionals, and I’d help get people seated and make sure everybody was safe. Sometimes my parents would bring Phoebe to see those demonstrations, too, and that was extra fun.
For a time, I thought that early childhood education was for me, as I do love working with kids. But the more I thought it over, the more Elsie kept coming up into my mind, again and again, and I realized I was carrying around this sadness for her that wasn’t going away. I felt that there had to be a way to save her, or at least to give her a better life or a slightly longer one. Maybe I’m wrong about that, but I hope not.
My aims as a veterinarian are to be able to do that: to focus on long-term health for animals, whether at the zoo or somebody’s childhood friend. Once I knew that was where I wanted to be, I threw myself all-in.
This meant a shift in my classwork. Since I’d been learning towards education, I had been taking courses in that direction, and had to jettison a lot of those foundations to focus more on hard sciences. I’ve always enjoyed biology, but chemistry has been a bit more of a struggle. My guidance counsellor was a bit perplexed at the rapid shift, and I think was worried I was just going through some phase of grief over my long-lost dog. That has not been the case, and I have turned my academic studies towards what I know to be my passion and calling: getting a long, healthy life to as many animals as I can.
Looking for more help with your TMDSAS application? Check out this video:
Learning from others is enhanced in educational settings that include individuals from diverse backgrounds and experiences. Please describe your personal characteristics (background, talents, skills, etc.) or experiences that would add to the educational experience of others.
This essay has a 2,500 character limit
It seemed complicated at the time, but not that complicated looking back on it. My brother came out as trans last year, and it caused major rifts in my family. I live with him now; we both moved out as a direct result of those events, and we are still trying to move past the whole experience.
I never considered myself to be somebody particularly unique. We are all unique, in our own ways, of course, but that just solidified my knowledge of my normalcy. I was good at some things – I've always been a keen student – and poor at others, like my perpetual ineptitude at playing sports that involve running. Basically, I was a middle-class kid growing up in a typical house in Houston.
My brother has more courage than I think I ever will. I’m not sure I’d have the strength to do what he did. But his strength has inspired me, and I have taken a lot away from the past year.
First, I have had my eyes opened to the intense complexities of medicine as it relates to persons with gender dysphoria. This phenomenon is one that has received so little attention from the medical sciences, and we clearly do not understand it in the slightest. I have been reading up on as many academic papers and medical studies as I can find regarding the physical realities of what it means to transition one’s sex. This is a complex procedure, with long health ramifications, many of which we are still ignorant or ill-informed of.
Second, I have been made aware of the intense nuances that come with the territory of the psychological aspects of healthcare. The brain chemistry alone is something my brother struggles with on a day-to-day basis, let alone the emotional support he needs. Some of this is primary – it comes from his own physiology and condition, but some is from outside – the judgement and rejection he feels.
Third, I think more holistically about medicine now. Before, I was more concerned with aspects and facets, now I see more of a big picture. Healthcare was something that happened in a hospital, or maybe with pills at home, but that’s all behind me. I know now that healthcare extends into support networks and finances. How can you adequately care for your health without rent, or without friends?
Finally, I appreciate now that I should remain humble, and always be questioning my own values and assumptions. Who knows what blind spots I might discover tomorrow? I must keep an open mind and move forward, with love and compassion, to help all patients in all ways that I can.
Briefly discuss any unique circumstances or life experiences that are relevant to your application, which have not previously been presented.
This essay has a 2,500 character limit
*This essay is required, not optional, for veterinary applicants
I know what it’s like to get stabbed. Traumatic experiences aren’t something that everybody goes through, particularly ones that are violent. Mercifully, we live in an era when such things are not as common as they once were – although they still happen far too often.
When I was a boy, very young, I was playing a pirate game with my siblings. We were too young to know any better, and we were playing with knives. To a five-year-old, this seems like a great way to lend verisimilitude to one’s pirate game. It isn’t. It’s just a great way to get stabbed.
My mother has never run faster than when I howled as loudly as I did, having taken a knife to the leg. I think she almost passed out – she certainly turned such a white shade that she must have been close. But, she didn’t pass out, she called 911, and got me to the hospital. Thank goodness, she knew not to take the knife out! The nurses told her she was right on that count.
Getting stabbed isn’t a crucial part of a surgeon’s training, of course, but knowing what it’s like to endure that kind of trauma gives me a unique insight into the more extreme medical cases from a patient’s perspective.
I understand the thoughts that go through the mind, the level of pain, the shock and anguish. I also understand how to cope with that kind of stress.
While we never played with knives again, my siblings and I never stopped being rowdy children, and there were plenty of other scrapes, bruises, and a couple of minor fractures, that continued to give me strange insights into medicine and my mother a near-perpetual lack of pallor. As much as anything, however, watching my mom weather the storm of my siblings and myself, constantly banging ourselves up, taught me about how to keep focused and calm, even at the worst of times.
All of this is to say, that I have a unique insight into the world of medicine. I can’t endorse it as a teaching method, but I have learned a lot. Plus, I get to start one of my stories by telling people that I know what it’s like to be stabbed.
Looking for more help with your TMDSAS optional essay? Check out this video:
DO/PhD and MD/ PhD Program Essays
#1: Explain your motivation to seek an MD/PhD or DO/PhD dual. Discuss your research interests and career goals as an applicant to a dual degree program.
This essay has a 5,000 character limit.
I am a frequently-forgotten face, drifting from shadow to shadow in the minds of the Alzheimer’s patients with whom I have been working. They remember me a lot better, though, when we play the music. Music from their childhoods, their young adult lives – music that means something to them helps keep their memory pathways open, prevents decay, and might even repair those neurons to some degree.
Music therapy has been around for some time, and proves effective over and over again – certain Mozart-listening plants notwithstanding. I worked as a research assistant to a further study on the effects of music on Alzheimer’s patients, and the results are encouraging and, dare I say, heartwarming.
Geriatric care is important to me, and with my own grandmother entering early stages of Alzheimer’s, I find myself more concerned than ever. We will all be old someday, and some of us, myself included, might have one form of dementia or another – unless we stop the clock now.
This is why, for me, becoming a physician has always been intrinsically linked to research. I cannot separate the two, and in my mind, there has always been but one path that I wanted to follow: that of the MD-PhD, which allows me to give myself over fully to both patient care and scientific engagement. These are the two faces of the medical world.
In my role as an assistant, I got to play a part in reconnecting people with their own minds. This was monumental to me. I learned how to best work with people afflicted with dementia and give them care, while at the same time, I was trained to be extremely observant of significant changes and how to mimic those outcomes.
This allowed me, in my personal life, to help my grandmother assemble some mental health music of her own.
#2: Describe your significant research. Include the name and title of your research mentor as well as your contributions to the project. List any publications that have resulted from your work.
This essay has a 5,000 character limit.
From October to January, 20XX to 20XX
My mentor was Leo Wagner, MD-PhD, University of Chicago
This research looked at fast-twitch and slow-twitch muscle fibers, and their relationship to certain muscle diseases. Recent studies have articulated a connection between the muscle fiber types, and suggest that shifting phenotypes from the fast to slow, or slow to fast, can be an effective treatment.
Our study was conducted using animal subjects under humane conditions to find if there were a relationship between treating Duchenne type muscular dystrophy and the fast or slow twitch muscle fibers.
We published one paper with the Musculoskeletal Review regarding our findings, which were, unfortunately, inconclusive, but suggested that there was, in fact a connection that could be exploited in the future to better treat Duchenne type muscular dystrophy.
We believe that a wider test sample, as well as human testing, would produce better results.
My participation in this study taught me a lot about how to properly conduct a study, how to organize a study, and about how to ensure humane methods are used on test subjects.
DDS/PhD Program Essays
#1: Explain your motivation to seek a DDS/PhD dual
This essay has a 5,000 character limit.
There is an old adage that “prevention is the best cure,” and I believe that this is particularly true in dentistry, especially because teeth do not heal themselves as readily as other body parts. A cavity cannot be re-grown, only filled, for example.
The prevalence of sugar-based and junk foods in our society has led to a wide range of healthcare problems, not the least of which are related to oral care. It’s easy to understand that eating too much sugar causes tooth decay, gum disease, and other oral health complications. But why are people eating so much sugar? What are the lifestyle factors that come into play with oral health? How can we, as a community, come together to find solutions?
My goals with wanting to enter the DDS/PhD dual program are to answer some of these questions, and apply them through my practice. Only if I thoroughly understand the many aspects of what causes tooth decay, can I truly begin to fight it. The objective is to slow down this decay, preventing it where possible.
I have already started looking at socio-economic factors. Research has shown that lower-income families tend to rely more on junk food, including foods with a high sugar content. They are also less likely to be able to afford proper dental care, or even some oral hygiene products that many people take for granted.
Last year, I was part of a study led by Prof. Robert Angles which surveyed lower-income neighborhoods, and asked them why they did not seek out more healthcare. Affordability was the number one reason. To thank people for the taking survey, I suggested we offer them toothbrushes, floss, and other oral care products.
Next, I want to take a look at education. It’s possible that people don’t even really know how to brush their teeth – knowledge of proper techniques may be lacking. Of course, I will also have to consider other economic strata, as well as cultural backgrounds, which may also contribute to diet and oral hygiene.
Using the information that I find out, I hope some day to have a dental practice which takes all of these elements into account to create unique healthcare plans that will work with people to ensure the best preventative cures to oral health, or lack thereof. Ironically, if I succeed, I won’t see as many patients back as often.
#2: Describe your significant research experiences, research interests, and career goals as appropriate for an applicant to the DDS/PhD dual degree program.
This essay has a 5,000 character limit.
Mark Baek-Hwang, DDS-PhD
This was a study conducted on the oral hygiene of pregnant women to discover if there were a greater need for oral care amongst pregnant women. An additional component to the study was an attempt to determine whether or not fetal health was affected by the oral health of the mother.
Our findings were that oral hygiene decreases amongst pregnant women, although a large portion of this is likely due to a lessening of oral care. There may be a greater need to ensure pregnant women prioritize oral health. Furthermore, a small subset of our sample group (approximately 10%) were unsure or misinformed about the effects that certain oral healthcare products might have on prenatal development. This can be counteracted with public awareness of the safe use of oral hygiene products during pregnancy.
There were no connections found between fetal health and the oral health of the mother. However, given that oral hygiene plays so significant a role in general health, and given that the general health of the mother is important to fetal development, there is a slight, albeit peripheral, connection.
Participation in this study was a rewarding experience, as I felt I was contributing something small, yet significant, to healthcare.
1. Can I write an essay under the character limit?
Yes, just don’t go over.
Too far under and you won’t be able to adequately respond to the question in a way that shows your talents and abilities to their fullest. As a general rule, if you are within 10-15% of the character limit, you should be fine, although less than that is certainly possible.
2. I’m not from Texas, will that be a problem?
You might, depending on the exact school, have a harder road, and you might need to gather a stronger GPA or MCAT score, but you should be able to get there. If you are an international student, consider .
3. What is TMDSAS?
The Texas Medical and Dental Schools Application Service is an application tool that streamlines your application process to Texan schools.
It is specifically designed to help citizens of Texas in their applications.
4. How many schools should I apply to?
Generally-speaking, we recommend you apply to between eight and ten schools. And, yes, there are more than ten schools that use TMDSAS, so you can theoretically apply to all of those choices through TMDSAS.
5. Should I apply just to TMDSAS schools?
You should apply to schools that suit your needs. Students thrive in schools that challenge them, but don’t overwhelm them, and which align with their values, passions, ideals, and goals. Each student’s top-choice schools will be unique to them. If you genuinely feel drawn to eight schools on the TMDSAS system, go for it.
The best advice would be not to feel obligated to apply exclusively through TMDSAS, nor to feel pressure to seek schools outside of the system. Seek your best choices.
6. What kinds of grades should I have?
19% of TMDSAS matriculants had a GPA higher than 3.90. These are competitive schools.
7. What should I emphasize in my essays?
The best things to emphasize are your unique stories and experiences, as these will speak specifically to why you are the optimal candidate.
Stories should be selected to show off your desirable traits, like leadership, perseverance, curiosity, compassion, and ethical responsibility.
Your family background, elements of diversity, and personal circumstances are all excellent things to accentuate as well.
Finally, keeping in mind that you are applying to Texan schools, through a process which emphasizes Texan applicants, if you have connections to the Lone Star State, seeding them into your essays won’t hurt.
8. How long should I take to write my essays?
If you are given a deadline, then you take that long. If you aren’t, take about two weeks.
Refine your essays carefully. Don’t settle for a first draft. Go through multiple drafts to ensure quality. Remember to double-check your spelling and grammar, and be certain that you have not exceeded the character limit.