Your Interview Day:
After playing dress up, you will need to prepare for your interview. The best way you can get ready for an interview is to read the material the school sends you, visit their website, and remember anything that makes their program different than other schools. If you know anyone at a school by all means ask them questions and get their input.
However, nothing will truly give you more questions or ways to prepare that when you are at the school. You can expect to be asked the basic questions without fail: Why do you want to be a dentist? Why do you want to come to this school? What makes you different than other students? What do you do in your free time? Tell me about your family? Remember when you are there to relax and be yourself. As trite as this may sound, pretending to be Super-dental kid isn't going to help. Considering that they school already thinking you are a potential match for their program, you don't have to impress them anymore than they have to impress you. Some interviews are like sitting down with an older friend, others will feel like a violent interrogation!
While you're on your interview, it's always good to bring a notebook along with you. You will receive an information packet when you giving you further details about the school, cost, program etc. Although you will be given this packet, it is still a good idea to bring a notebook. During the day you will need to take notes on some of the things mentioned, and it's just good to have something with you.
So what can you expect in the interview? How is it set up?
Now each school hold interviews differently. At some schools there will be a handful of applicant interviewing on that particular day, while at others it will be a mass applicant interview. Similarly, while there may be several students interviewing, there may be several members of the admissions committee conducting interviews. Some schools have a one-to-one interview, while some others have multiple admissions committee members interview each student, and even some schools have multiple applicant with one member. Now to make interviewing even more specific, some schools will conduct interviews for all applicants at a specific time, while others are at various times of the day. In addition, some interviews are short, about 15 minutes, while others are more than an hour.
Generally, the day will already be planned for you. Some schools will actually mail you an itinerary so you know what to expect before you arrive. At most schools you will arrive between 8 and 9 am, and should be done by 2 or 3 pm. When you arrive you will be welcomed by a member of the faculty or admissions. Generally, most people will arrive early or on time. Of course, since many people will be coming from all over the country (even if you interview at a state school, you will still find students coming in from other parts of the country) a few extra minutes are given. Once you're seated, you will be welcomed and then given the introduction to the school. During this time, you will be told about the school, the program, some of the faculty and the new things that are happening at the school.
Many times, you will get several different people speaking about various topics, ranging from research and combined programs (i.e. DMD/PhD, DMD/MD etc) to pre-clinical set up and the history of the dental school. Often times this is where you will learn a great deal from, since most applicants know only what they have read in a brochure or a book. Once the introduction and overview are over, you can expect to be taken on a tour of the facilities. If you are with a large group, then you can expect to be broken into smaller groups.
After the tour, you may have lunch with some students and faculty. Depending on the school, you may use this time to talk with current students and get their insight on the program, the school, the classes, and just the general scoop. At other schools, you may have an interview with the faculty. If you haven't had an interview at this point you can expect it any time now! As mentioned before depending on the school, you may be interviewed by one or more member of the admissions committee. If you're nervous and starting to breakout in a sweat, don't worry! Everyone gets a little nervous.
When I was interviewing, I was holding my bottle of water, and my faculty interviewer came to shake my hand and introduce himself. Naturally, I quickly wiped my hand (nothing worse than feeling a cold, moist hand!) on the pant leg of my suit. My interviewer made a little joke about how he appreciated it; he's felt the nerves of students too often! However, I was nervous, and many of you may be as well.
Remember, admissions committees want to see you, get to know you and make you feel comfortable. This is the best way to know whether you are right for the school, and whether the school is right for you. Many students already think they know which school they want, and without a doubt will go there if they are accepted. Often something strange happens on the way to going to dental school; a school that you knew nothing about and just applied to from what you read/saw/heard, suddenly jumps out and impresses you, making you reconsider your top choice.
A lot of students believe that interviewing is solely the schools responsibility. This is the most apathetic approach. You may have been invited by the school, but they are also competing for you. Many schools anticipate that students will receive multiple acceptances. What can they do to attract high quality students? Interviewing the school is part of being an applicant. Remember, if you have questions you shouldn't hesitate to ask. That is the only way you will learn about the school. Perhaps there's something you heard or read that seemed out of the ordinary. This is your chance to ask, get the information before you go back. If you don't have any questions, that alright too, perhaps everything you were curious about was answered doing the interview or tour.
Now a few of you out there may think that this is only going to work for applicants who have spotless transcripts and records. Yes, those who didn't have any academic problems or anything on their permanent records will not have to worry. But those of you who have a couple of bad grades, or had an offense that got written up on your record aren't hanging on a limb. Professional schools understand that students may have encountered some difficulties, or done something that they regret doing.
Professional schools will give you a chance, and the opportunity to explain. Some of you may have applied to medical school; this may be brought up during the interview. Don't shy away from this question, be honest and show that you have made a commitment to dentistry. Similarly, if you had some bad grades don't blame it on the professor, even if was the professors fault.
Take responsibility of your actions and just be honest. Also if you have something on your record (i.e. had disciplinary action taken, or were written up for breaking a rule in the dorm) that you are worried about you can address it. Be honest, tell whoever is interviewing you that the incident occurred and you realize what happened was wrong. They want to make sure you understand, have made improvements, and moved on with your life. It's important you be straight forward and honest. If you've been called for an interview, you have demonstrated that you are a worthy applicant. However, like many students, being worried about that one C you got isn't necessary. Even if you have a few bad grades you can get into dental school and do well!
Now, some of you may have more than one C. Maybe you had a rough semester with something lower than a C, or had to withdraw from a class. Perhaps it wasn't just one class, but a semester you had to withdraw from. How can you address this concern? Besides having to list these on your primary application, you can mention this in your personal statement. You can introduce this as one of the hurdles you had to overcome. By showing that you are aware of the problem and have taken strides to rectify it, the admissions committees will take that into account.
Remember, once you've made it to an interview you are as good as every other applicant there. Some admissions committees have an open file (where they can look at your application during the interview) and other have a closed file (where they don't look at anything). Once you are at the interview, do your best to explain anything that comes up.