Ace your Dental School Interview

On average, only 30-40% of students interviewed will be accepted at a dental school. In essence, this means you can look great on paper, but you must also perform exceedingly well during your interview to secure one of the highly coveted seats in the entering D1 class. These seats are becoming more and more competitive, as the number of dental school applicants increases each year.

Your dental school interview is the last step in the admissions process. All of your hard work boils down to this one day! Luckily, it is possible to have average grades and an average DAT score, yet gain admission based on a strong interview performance. On the other hand, it is possible to have stellar grades and a stellar DAT score, yet be denied admission based on a poor interview performance. Undoubtedly, your interview is the most critical component of the admissions process. 

I interviewed at Loma Linda, UCLA, UCSF, UMB, and USC…and, fortunately, was accepted to them all! I have also successfully coached dental school applicants with a 100% acceptance rate. Here are my top 3 tips to ace your dental school interview!

1. Understand the REAL Purpose of an Interview

If you have received an invitation to interview, the admissions committee is ALREADY impressed with your academic record! An interview is NOT the time to tout your grades! Instead, interviewers are looking for two things: (1) Can you get along well with classmates?, and (2) Can you communicate effectively with patients? In other words, the interview is all about your social skills! If possible, allow your interview to develop into an organic conversation (you don’t need to be ALL business). Lastly, NEVER interrupt the interviewer (I realize this can be difficult with virtual interviews, but err on the side of brief silent pauses)!

2. Prepare Deliberate Answers

While you don’t want to sound overly-rehearsed or robotic, you SHOULD have a general idea of how you will answer questions. You can expect interview questions that are loosely based upon broad themes: communication, community service, ethics, diversity, leadership, manual dexterity, teamwork, time management, strengths/weaknesses, and so on. For each broad theme, select one personal experience you would like to highlight and be prepared to explain how that personal experience will contribute to your dental school success. To organize your thoughts, I suggest using the chart format below:

Broad ThemePersonal ExperienceDental School Benefit
CommunicationStarbucks BaristaI can diplomatically respond to angry patients.
Community ServiceTutored Inner City YouthI can practice dentistry with a genuine desire to serve others. *BONUS: I am interested in pediatric dentistry, and have already begun working with children!
DiversityTravel AbroadI can build relationships with diverse classmates and patients. *BONUS: I can communicate with patients who speak another language! (This is HUGE)!
TeamworkSports TeamI can work well with classmates in a collaborative learning environment.

3. “Why our school?”

You should absolutely be prepared to answer the question, “Why are you interested, specifically, in OUR school?” I was asked this question in every single interview! A strong answer to this question will require research. Try to find someone who already attends the school by reaching out to Facebook friends (or, friends of friends). You may wish to answer this question by emphasizing the school’s unique clerkship programs, externship sites, technology (such as digital scanners, CAD-CAM, or guided implant surgery), specific student groups and/or community service opportunities.

Do you have any tips for interviewees? Comment below!


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