The Dental School Interview
As part of the admissions process, applicants who are seriously being considered for admission are invited to the dental school for an interview. The interview provides a chance for the admissions committee to assess factors they cannot see from your GPA and DAT scores. The interview is used to assess your interpersonal and communication skills, and how you would conduct yourself with patients.
Interviewing applicants requires a significant investment of time and money on the part of dental schools. They would not make this investment if they did not consider the interview to be critical in determining how prepared you are for dental school and a career in dentistry. Therefore you should prepare carefully for this crucial component of the admissions process.
In order to prepare for interviews, you should review your personal statement and all of the experiences outlined in your application that have helped you prepare for dental school and a career in dentistry. You should be prepared to discuss your interests and experiences in detail with your interviewers. You should also be prepared for specific questions regarding the level of manual dexterity you have attained to prepare for the practical challenges of learning to perform dental procedures.
Think about your best features as an applicant, and how you would like to present these features to your interviewers if the opportunity arises. It is also helpful to put yourself in the position of a member of the admissions committee, and honestly ask yourself what potential areas of weakness might cause a committee member to have doubts or reservations about you as an applicant. Then try to think of ways that you could counteract these concerns, in order to put your best qualities forward.
You should practice responding to interview questions with a friend or alone (a list of questions for interviews may be obtained in the HPPLC office). Often interviews begin with a very open-ended question, such as "Tell me about yourself," or "Why do you want to become a dentist?" Such open-ended questions allow you to set the stage for the interview. You should be prepared for such questions and think about the main points you would like to stress in your responses. It often helps to practice responding to typical questions until you can do so comfortably, without sounding like a tape recorder. Often, if you can get through the initial questions smoothly, the rest of the interview goes much more easily.
However, you should also be prepared to respond to unpredictable, probing, or controversial questions. You may be asked situational ethics questions, in which you may be presented with a difficult scenario involving a patient, and asked how you would resolve it. Often interviewers seek to ask you questions that will allow them to see how you can think on your feet. Although you cannot predict all the questions you may be asked, one key to handling difficult, complex questions is to slow down, take your time, and try to break the problem that is being presented to you into components. If you are presented with a complex scenario involving a patient, it is often helpful to talk about all the steps you would take in resolving the problem. Although your interviewers may not always agree with your opinion on a particular topic, they will always give you credit for being able to analyze a complex situation, look at a problem from different points of view, and demonstrate your awareness of the complex legal and ethical environment in which you will operate as a healthcare provider.
You should also prepare to ask questions about the school and its curriculum during your interview. You should review the school's website and any available publications so that you can ask intelligent, informed questions about their programs. Coming prepared with thoughtful questions will help you connect with your interviewers. Remember that the interview does not only give the school the opportunity to learn about you, but for you to learn about them. The best interviews often turn into conversations, real exchanges of ideas and information, between you and your interviewers. If you can focus, relax, and engage with your interviewers in a meaningful discussion you will have a much better chance of a successful interview.
If you are an Indiana University predental student preparing for the interview process you should plan to attend one of the HPPLC-sponsored Interview Skills Workshops. Watch for periodic announcements on the HPPLC predental email list or consult the HPPLC events calendar.