How to Prepare for a Dental School Interview: The Definitive Guide

October 13, 2023


Reviewed by:

Luke Hartstein

Former Admissions Committee Member, NYU Grossman School of Medicine

Reviewed: 10/13/23

Congratulations! You have been invited to interview for dental school. Your countless hours of preparation and hard work have paid off. 

This is the final hurdle to get accepted into dental school, so there is a lot of pressure to do well. Well, look no further. This guide will teach you how to prepare for a dental school interview. Here’s what you need to do.

how to prepare for a dental school interview

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Learn About the School

Research the dental school prior to the interview. You may have done this when you were looking at which school to apply to, but this time your research is on a larger scale. You want to research their mission statement, acceptance rates, accomplishments, and specific information about the dental program. There are a few important reasons for conducting this research:

You Know What the Interviewers Look for in Candidates

Dental schools often have mission statements and criteria listed for prospective students. These indicate the type of students they seek and what they expect to see in their candidates. So, research the dental school’s core values and curriculum to give you a better idea of what interviewers want to see in their applicants.

For example, the “About” section on the University of Alabama, Birmingham School of Dentistry website provides information about the institution, including its values, mission, and information about the seven academic departments. Their goal is to lead oral health locally and globally. 

You Can Include This Information in Your Answers

Incorporating your research into your interview responses can increase your chances of admission. This will exemplify how your ambitions align with the school’s values and why you are an ideal fit for its program. Additionally, speaking about a school’s values is an excellent way to explain how you will thrive in their program. 

Your Research Will Impress Your Interviewer 

When you include your research in your interview answers, your interviewer will see you have done your research and taken the time to understand what their school stands for. This will demonstrate you are a serious candidate and understand how their school will help you become a dentist. 

You Won’t Ask Googleable Questions

When the interviewers ask if you have questions for them, you want to ask them questions you can’t find with a simple online search. Researching the dental school ahead of time prevents you from asking weak questions, such as “What is the estimated tuition at this school?” 

Asking a question like this will only convey that you have not prepared for the interview and are not taking this process seriously. Researching the dental school ahead of time helps structure serious questions that only interviewers can answer, not Google.

Understand the Interview Process

There are different formats in which your interview can be conducted, and each one requires different standards of which you should be aware. Remember, dental school interviews can be conducted in person or virtually, so be sure to find this out before the big day.  

Traditional Interview 

Some dental schools still use the traditional interview style as part of their selection processes, such as one-on-one and panel formats. The one-on-one format involves the interviewee being asked questions by a single interviewer. Multiple interviewers conduct panel interviews. 

Traditional interview styles are centered more around questions rather than tasks. This format becomes more of a conversation between you and the interviewers rather than being asked questions back-to-back. 

You also have more time to answer each question, as opposed to the Multiple Mini Interview (MMI) format. Traditional interviews can last anywhere from 30 minutes to a few hours; this does vary from school to school, so be prepared to spend most of your day at the interview.

Multiple Mini Interview 

The MMI format is another format used for dental school interviews. MMIs are broken down into shorter interviews, and you may be asked questions or scenarios to which you must respond. 

Unlike traditional interviews, MMIs give you a short amount of time to prepare your response to the question or scenario presented. Most dental schools have adapted to the MMI format for dental school interviews. MMIs take roughly two hours total to complete, with each interview “station” lasting 10 minutes. 

Group Interview 

While not as common, some schools conduct group interviews. Applicants are brought together and asked to answer the same question or scenario in front of one another. 

This is probably the most competitive format because you compete against other interviewees in the same room, and their responses may intimidate you. However, interviewers conduct the group interview format to understand better who stands out in the crowd as their ideal candidate.

Attend Mock Interviews

Attending mock interviews is a great way to practice for your dental school interview for a few key reasons:

Experts with Extensive Training in the Dental School Admissions Process Interview You 

Specialists conduct mock interviews to give you an idea of what to expect for the real interview. They know what to expect because they have been in your position at one point in time, so their questions are similar to those you might come across during your dental school interview. Therefore, these interviews are as close to the real interview as you can get.

They Provide Constructive Criticism

Mock interviews provide you with a chance to identify and correct your weaknesses. Let’s say you feel reasonably confident in your interview abilities. Still, after the mock interview, the interviewer states that you struggled to convey yourself clearly and failed to answer some of the questions asked thoroughly. 

If this was the actual interview, this could result in your dental school application not being accepted. But because you found this information out about your interview abilities, you have a chance to improve prior to the big day. 

They Reduce the Stress of a Dental School Interview

Practice makes perfect, and it helps you mentally. By attending mock interviews, you have a better idea of what to expect for your real interview. You are given tips and feedback on how you can excel during your actual interview, thereby relieving a great deal of anxiety and stress. 

You Are More Confident

When you study for an exam, you feel more prepared and confident that you will pass your test. Likewise, when you attend mock interviews, you have a better idea of what to expect during your dental school interview and are more prepared for it. 

When you are more prepared, you feel more confident that you will be successful. Mock interviews give you the confidence boost you need to walk into that interview with the intent to get accepted into dental school. 


Have an Understanding of Dentistry as a Profession

Interviewers want to know if you can handle the difficulties involved with becoming a dentist. There is rigorous coursework and hours of training to prepare you for the profession. Therefore, you want to have a thorough understanding of dentistry as a profession and convey to admissions committees that you can meet their standards. 

You want to prove that you can handle the challenges that come with the profession and include evidence to back up your claim. This allows you to demonstrate your knowledge about being a dentist and how you embody the qualities dental schools seek in their candidates.

For example, talk about your research on the dental profession and your understanding of its commitment. Then, have examples of times when you demonstrated your abilities and how they relate to your dentistry understanding. 

You will most likely be asked why you wish to pursue dentistry, and you cannot answer, “Because I want to help people.” You have to provide more information to the interviewers to convey that you are ideal for dental school. Be ready to clearly and confidently state why you want to become a dentist. Be sure to touch upon the following:

  1. Why you want to pursue dentistry
  2. The rigorous program and your dedication to it
  3. How current trends in dentistry affect your desire to become a dentist
  4. Your compassion and enthusiasm

Be Prepared to Speak About You

Interviewers will ask about you to gain a better sense of who you are as a person, so be prepared to talk about yourself. Many interviews begin with, “Tell me about yourself.” This is your chance to start your dental school interview off on the right note. A few topics to cover when speaking about yourself include:

  • Your prospective specialty. Describe the area you wish to specialize in, if you have one, or what area is of interest. You can also describe two or three characteristics about yourself to give yourself an easy transition into this topic. 

  • How your academics and extracurriculars have prepared you for dental school. Talk about any academic achievements or extracurricular activities that matter to you or have had an impact on you; this shows interviewers what you can bring to dental school. Discuss how you have managed a work-life balance, as this will indicate that you can handle the challenges of dental school.

  • Why you believe you are a good fit for their institution. No matter how you talk about yourself, you always want to conclude with why you feel you are a good fit for dental school. Connect what you know about the school to your personality and goals; show how they align to prove you are an excellent fit for dental school. 

Dental School Interview Questions and Answers

A great way to prepare for your interview is to research dental school interview questions and answers. These prepare you for the questions that may come up and allow you to craft compelling responses to complex questions. Let’s analyze several dental school interview questions and answers

Tell Me About Yourself

Answering "Tell Me About Yourself" for a dental school interview can be challenging for many. The question is vague and it can be challenging to find direction. Ultimately, dental school interviewers ask the question "Tell Me About Yourself" to learn more about you.

Start by introducing yourself. Share your interests and highlight your relevant experience and qualities that would make you a great dental school candidate. The best way to do this is by talking about experiences that have allowed you to demonstrate your strengths and how they have influenced your choice to pursue dentistry.

Finally, end your answer by expressing your enthusiasm for the field of dentistry and how you want to contribute to the dental profession. Remember to keep your answer concise and avoid going in circles.

Why Have You Chosen Dentistry as A Career?

The question above is a variant of the “why dentistry?” interview question. This question is extremely common and often the first question you’ll be asked. So, you should have an idea of what to say! 

The key to answering this question is self-reflection; take the time to understand why you want to go to dental school. Perhaps you are passionate about helping others or want to make dental care more affordable for impoverished families. Whatever your reasons, be honest and authentic in your response. 

So You Like Helping Others… Why Not Become A Social Worker?

This is a tricky question, as it is designed to test how passionate you are about becoming a dentist. You should avoid going down the “I like to help others” route. While this may be true, it is a generic answer, and one admissions officer will have heard it hundreds of times. Instead, make your answer unique. 

If you can, try to convey your passion through a personal story. Perhaps you had serious dental issues as a child, or your community didn’t have access to affordable dental care. Or maybe your dentist was a role model growing up. 

These are only vague examples of what you can say. But ensure your responses are genuine; admissions officers can tell if you’re being inauthentic, which can seriously harm your chances of admission. 

Where Do You See Yourself in 10 Years?

The aim of a “where do you see yourself” question is to uncover if you’ve thought about the future and set yourself goals. Your answer should clearly convey these goals and, ideally, explain how you will achieve them. 

If you can, outline a rough self-development plan that charts how you will achieve your goals. The best responses will include specific and detailed elements of your chosen school’s program that align with your goals. 

For example, perhaps you who applied to the UPenn School of Veterinary Medicine and are interested in the intersection of environment, human, and animal health. In that case, you could highlight how getting involved with its recent Agriculture@PennVet research initiative could help you support local farmers and agricultural organizations in the future. 

What Do You Think Will Be The Most Challenging Part of Your Dental Training and Career?

The answer to this question will vary between applicants. Your answer should convey that you have done your research, know what challenges you will face, and suggest ways to overcome them. The last point is important here, as offering actionable insights will show you are serious about pursuing a career in dentistry. 

Tell Me About Your Clinical Volunteering/Shadowing Experiences. 

Your volunteering and shadowing experiences are important because they give you insight into what dentistry is like. So, when you reflect on them, be enthusiastic. Your response to this question should highlight several things: 

  1. What you learned from your experiences 
  2. How you will apply these lessons in the future 
  3. How your perception of dentistry has changed (if it has) 

What Differentiates You From the Rest of the Applicants?

Your dental school interview answers should illustrate your unique perspectives and experiences. If they’re generic, it can negatively impact your candidacy. Several things that can differentiate you from other candidates include:

  • Impactful volunteer work or clinical experiences 
  • Personal stories of overcoming challenges 
  • Uncommon skills like knowing sign language
  • Additional qualifications like a diploma, certification, or advanced degree
  • A dedication to personal and professional development 

With these guidelines on how to best answer dental school interview questions, you should be able to prepare for your dental school interview with more ease!

Questions to Ask During a Dental School Interview

Asking questions during your dental school interview is a great way to stand out from the crowd. By asking specific and detailed questions, you demonstrate your interest in the institution and its program. 

Your questions should be insightful; they are too simplistic if your interviewer can answer them with quick Google searches. To help you identify select the right questions, we’ve listed several good dental school interview questions to ask your interviewer

  • What is your school’s culture like?
  • Are there opportunities to acquire research funding?
  • Does your institution use the latest technology?
  • Does your dental school offer community volunteering opportunities? 
  • What resources do you provide to assist students who are struggling academically? 
  • What do you wish you had known going into dental school?
  • How does your dental school prepare its students for the challenges of a career in dentistry?

Remember to do research on the institution you're interviewing with. It's important to ask questions that genuinely pique your curiosity during your dental school interview. It shows that you are invested and truly care about the process!

Dress Right for the Interview

Whether your interview is conducted in person or virtually, you want to dress correctly for the part. If a dental school provides you with a dress code for the interview, follow it. If not, wear professional business attire rather than business casual. Take a look at the following image comparing the difference between business professional and business casual:   

Blazers and tailored clothing are a general business professional outfit for both men and women. Notice how the attire fits and is an appropriate length. You don’t want to wear anything so tight that the button may pop any second, nor do you want your clothes to be so big that you are swimming in them. 

Men and women should wear neutral colors, nothing too bright or flashy. For example, women should not wear a sequin top beneath a blazer. Instead, a solid button-up exudes professionalism. Here are a few other things men and women must know when dressing for a dental school interview:

Always have:

  • Neatly trimmed or manicured nails
  • Polished, conservative shoes
  • Professional hairstyle
  • Little to no jewelry on
  • Shirt tucked in

Do not:

  • Show tattoos
  • Wear heavy perfume or cologne
  • Have excessive piercings visible
  • Show too much skin
  • Have neon or brightly-colored hair
  • Wear brightly-colored clothing

How you present yourself during your dental school interview can make a difference to how you're perceived regardless of how you answer your questions. So dressing in a clean-cut and professional manner will ultimately help you succeed during the process.

Tips for the Dental School Interview

Here are some tips to help your prepare for your dental school interview:

  1. Be confident. You have made it this far, so that means the admissions committee sees potential in you. If you have practiced, you are more prepared than many of the applicants. Be confident in your abilities and skills, and you will go far.

  2. It’s OK to ask for clarification. If you are unsure what the question is, you can ask the interviewer to repeat the question or clarify what they said. Don’t try to answer a question you do not fully understand. You will find yourself babbling and not answering the question thoroughly.

  3. Don’t second-guess yourself. When asked a question, be sure to take a stance. Do not second-guess yourself. Interviewers will see this indecision and question your ability to thrive as a dentist. Be firm in your responses.

  4. Demonstrate your passion. With each response, you want to reiterate your desire to pursue dentistry and how you would be a great dentist. This will confirm their interest in you and your interest in the program at their university

  5. Arrive early. The last thing you want to do is arrive late to your dental school interview; it reflects poorly upon you. Remember — you don’t want to arrive excessively early and be left waiting while the interviewers prepare. So, plan to arrive at least 15 to 20 minutes early.

  6. Prepare your interview clothes the day before. Make sure your interview clothes are clean and fit correctly. Do not stress yourself by running around at the last minute, trying to find your interview clothes. Make sure your clothes are ironed, and if they need to be dry-cleaned, do so in advance.

Frequently Asked Questions About Dentistry Interview Preparation

To help ease your pre-interview nerves, we’ve outlined several questions and answers that cover topics including what to do if you can’t attend your interview and how to prepare for the dentistry MMI interview. 

1. Should I Know About Current Trends in Dentistry?

Yes, helps if you are keeping up-to-date on current events in dentistry. You may be asked about a trend in dentistry and your stance on it during the interview. You need to be aware of what is going on.

2. Should I Ask Questions at the End of the Interview? 

Absolutely! You want to show your interest in dental school and that you have done your research to ensure that this profession is right for you. 

Ask questions about the program, the school, and anything you feel you should know. Do not ask questions whose answers can be found on the internet, such as questions relating to tuition and the school’s mission statement.

3. What If I Can’t Make It to My Interview? 

Generally, you want to make sure you do not have to reschedule your interview, as there are a limited number of dental school interview dates. But if you must, explain why and provide the admissions committee with the dental school interview dates you are available.

4. Do I Need to Decide on My Specialty Prior to the Dental School Interview?

Most dental school admissions committees urge students to view themselves primarily as general practitioners. Many students who have decided on a specialty end up changing their minds once they enter dental school. Therefore, you do not have to know what area you wish to specialize in by the time of the interview.

5. When Should I Expect to Hear Back From Dental School After My Interview?

Dental schools interview from August to November of the admissions cycle. From December to February of the admissions cycle, dental schools inform applicants of their admission status. While this may vary depending upon the dental program, you should expect to hear back between December and January.

6. What are Some Questions That May Be Asked During a Dental School Interview?

For commonly asked dental school interview questions, check out samples from the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine. These will provide you with a general idea of what you may be asked. 

One of the trickier questions that may come up is the “What is your greatest weakness” question. While it can be daunting to answer this question, your answer can demonstrate your self-awareness and resilience. 

If you can, reflect on a failure that is relatively far in the past so you can reflect on it with a level of maturity. Crucially, choose a failure that you have remedied.

7. How Do I Prepare For a Dentistry MMI Interview? 

Unlike other interview types, MMIs give you a short amount of time to prepare your response to the scenario or question presented. So, practice reacting to scenario-based interview questions under a strict time limit.

If you’re struggling to prepare for this interview type, consider working with a dental school admissions expert who can guide you through the entire application process. 

8. Should I Send a Thank You Letter After a Dental School Interview? 

Yes! Sending a thank-you letter after your dental school interview is an excellent idea. In your letter, make sure you thank them for taking the time to speak to you and reaffirm how committed you are to the school.

Final Thoughts

Interviews are never easy, and with the pressure of a dental school interview, you want to be sure you are prepared for it. There are many factors to consider, such as the school’s expectations, what will be discussed, and how the interview is formatted. By using this guide, you will be thoroughly prepared for your dental school interview.

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