Dental School Interview Questions: Part 1

This is one of the most common questions I get from pre-dental students: what are they going to ask me in the interview? I can’t promise everything, but here are some common ones that I got across many of my interviews. They would be a good starting point to practice and to get you thinking about how you can best tell your story.

These are the top three that I would almost guarantee you are going to be asked.

  1. "Tell me about yourself."

This one is probably the most fun. It seems incredibly simple, right? Wrong. There are a million ways you can answer which actually makes it quite revealing about yourself... in a good or bad way. 

They say that the first time you meet someone, they will tell you who they are in less than 30 min. This is kind of how I see this prompt, but think more like “in less than 2 minutes.” And you should definitely not spend more than 2 minutes answering this.

The way I interpreted this is actually: “Tell about the things most important to you and which could help summarize your identity in about a minute.” I am very close with my family and have been influenced by where I am from so I started something like, “I am from a small town in ______, and my dad was a _______ and my mom was a ______. My younger sister is my best friend and she studies ____________. I was always really involved with _______ in school, and after I finished studying ______ in undergrad at __________, I decided to do _________. In that time, I became interested in switching career paths and I shadowed a dentist and never looked back! Tell me about yourself and your journey to dentistry.”

Of course, my response will look a little different than yours. And I left out identifiers (@internetcreeps). 

Ask yourself: what is important to me? What and who made me who I am? Don’t be afraid to throw in some (appropriate!) humor. (“Mom made me swear to never become an art teacher!”...True story.)

If you are really struggling with this one, then write out your whole life story. Then challenge yourself to condense it to less than 10 sentences. That could be a good place to start.

  1. "Why dentistry?"

You will almost 100% get this question. Aaaannnnddd if you read my posts on how to write your personal statement, you should already be very prepared to answer this question. (Because the whole point of your personal statement is to answer this question.)

Because of this, I want to emphasize that you should not merely memorize your personal statement and recite it. Keep your story straight, but do NOT give a rehearsed speech. It should be very conversational, and genuine. 

I think this is a good point to emphasize that you cannot make assumptions about what your interviewer has read from your application and what they haven’t. It’s very possible that your interviewer has already read it and is ready to get into the weeds on the unique hobby you wrote about. It’s also very possible that they barely read your name on the paperwork someone shoved into their hands 15 min before your interview. If they don’t give you any indication that they are familiar with your application by posing specific questions to you, you should assess the situation and respond accordingly. Do not assume they prepared for the interview as much as you did.

  1. "Why not medical school?"

You like science. You are a people-person. You are good with your hands. You want to help people. Great! 

So why aren’t you applying to medical school and becoming a physician?

I think this one catches people off guard. You have all of the qualifiers to be anything else, so why dentistry? (*cough* personal statement *cough*)

There must be something that crossed your mind of why you chose dentistry over medicine. What are those reasons for you? 

I spoke about how I was late to the game and changing careers, that I was ready to get the skills and get to work. I also spoke about how I am interested in small business, and becoming a practice owner--something that most physicians do not do anymore for a lot of financial and political reasons. I spoke about how I don’t want to be owned by an insurance company or a hospital. I appreciate that thanks to organized dentistry (organizations like the American Dental Association which advocate for dentistry as a profession, look it up), dentists can still dictate how they practice and choose to treat patients. That I still want my one-on-one time with patients.

Perhaps I got a little political with these sentiments, and that was taking a risk. But it was my truth. If you present valid reasons, that are patient-first and community-centered, I don’t think any dentist will blame you. (And I haven’t met one that hated organized dentistry.)

These should be a good place to get started. Stay tuned for part 2!