Got accepted to Penn, UCSF, NYU, Nova, UMich, Maryland, UF
A terrified girl with a swollen upper lip trudges into the endodontic clinic. She needs an emergency retreat of her root canal due to a poor previous obturation. As the needle pierces her gums, childhood memories of getting root canals without anesthesia flood her body with even greater pain and fear. Her student dentist wipes away her tears and holds her hand tighter. “The worst part is over,” remarks the soothing voice of the resident as she puts away the syringe. She is amazed by how fast the pain goes away. This girl was me three years ago, and it was this moment that I first envisioned dentistry as my career.[MZ1]
I was born and raised Uyghur, a Turkic ethnic minority in Central Asia. Growing up in a mixture of Turkish, Middle-Eastern, and Asian cultures helped me appreciate cultural diversity and collaborative environments later in life. Shortly after my high school graduation, I made the biggest decision of my life: to pursue an undergraduate degree in the United States, where I would be able to blossom in a free academic environment. I packed my ambitious heart and dreams into a suitcase and headed for the U.S.
Being away from home for the first time, I was thrilled to explore the world on my own. Determined to overcome the language barrier, I took every possible opportunity to practice my English skills while attending a language institute. Within six months, I passed the placement test and started taking college-level courses. Small victories like this strengthened my determination, and prepared me to overcome future obstacles that I faced while pursuing undergraduate studies and finding my career path.
Dealing with frequent illnesses as a child led me to spend a lot of time in the care of others. Nurses, doctors, and dentists became my heroes, and I dreamed of being like them one day. In order to gain more experience in the healthcare field while pursuing my bachelor’s degree in Microbiology, I became a Certified Nursing Assistant and began working in an assisted-living facility caring for residents with Alzheimer’s disease. The bonds I built with these kind people and their families helped me realize how much I love caring for others and making positive impacts on their lives.[MZ3]
Around the same time, I became a patient at the University of Florida College of Dentistry team clinics. A long history of poor dental care led me to undergo an extensive amount of dental work at the clinic. This is where I first met Magda, my student dentist from the root canal story. As soon as I expressed my interest in the healthcare field, Magda enthusiastically began explaining dental procedures to me, teaching me to recognize dental instruments and even how to interpret x-rays. Her proficient skills, professionalism, and concerns for patients truly inspired me to further explore dentistry as my prospective profession.
I subsequently started shadowing at the team clinic, which enabled me to gain a closer look at dentistry. From various types of periodontal therapies, restorations, and extractions – every procedure I assisted with, pumped my body full of adrenaline. I fell in love with how much creativity is utilized in dentistry and relished every bit of patient interaction.
The knowledge from the team clinic further inspired me to pursue a community-based dental experience. I began to shadow Dr. XXXX, a general dentist at ABC Dental Clinic. ABC is a community for people with developmental disabilities. Volunteering at the clinic has been the most eye-opening and rewarding experience I have had in my limited exposure to dentistry. Most of the patients are not verbally responsive and are very challenging to work with. Despite these obstacles, Dr. Garvey’s patience and empathy makes everything possible. His unwavering commitment to serve the underserved population is inspiring me to become a dentist like him. From there, I started working at the UFCD Pediatric Dental Clinic as a dental assistant.[MZ4]
Luckily, I never had
to return to the endodontic clinic again as a patient, but my unflinching
determination in pursuing a dental career has only grown stronger since. Utilizing both
creativity and discipline in caring for patients, serving the
underserved, and relieving
pain is what I have found
I love doing the most. If that can become a lifelong career, then I am confident
that dentistry is, absolutely, my future vocation. Even better, I will be the first Uyghur
dentist in the U.S., now wouldn’t that be something?[MZ5]
Got accepted to Midwestern University (IL) (Re-applicant with a 2.9 GPA and 19 DAT; Got 5 interviews)
My grandfather made me fall in love with the quote: “Use your smile to change the world, don’t let the world change your smile.” I grew up without my parents, and faced adversity and bullying throughout my childhood. It took a toll on my confidence, made me shy, and discouraged me from smiling. Whenever I feel discouraged, my grandfather’s words always comfort me and push me toward my goals. Last year, I found it incredibly painful to deal with his passing after he battled nasal cavity cancer for eight years. He persevered through harsh medical treatments and never stopped smiling in front of me. Even after his dentures stopped fitting him, he would still smile. He gradually lost his appetite and without dentures, he became nutrient deficient since he could not consume the range of food that he needed. This was when I learned about the importance of dentures and their impact on a person’s health. Watching how strong he was, I yearned to make him a perfect set of dentures as a special gift one day. My ambition was to watch my grandfather enjoy a wide variety of food and to see his old smile again. Since then, I began to see the power behind my grandfather’s smile. His smile speaks for the positivity, courage, and strength that taught me to embrace obstacles and challenges because they will help me thrive as an independent and a mature adult. Although I lost my grandfather, the pain of losing him strengthened my character and pushed me to pursue my dream to become a successful dentist. [MZ6]
During my last quarter at UC San Diego, my grandfather’s condition worsened. I constantly worried about him, as he was the only close family I had. There were times when I struggled to balance family responsibilities with academics, and I had felt mentally and physically exhausted every day. Every time I went to see him in the hospital, he told me not to worry about him and to focus on my academics. My anxiety took a toll on my grades and I realized that it helped neither my dream nor his health. Gradually, I learned to manage my time and my stress, and improved my grades later on through more coursework in post-baccalaureate program. Luckily, my aunt is capable of taking care of my grandmother now, so I can further my studies and work as a dental assistant during my free time. [MZ7]
As a dental assistant, I channeled my desire of taking care of my grandfather into taking care of patients. [MZ8] During the preparation for an implant case, I noticed a patient was clenching her fists anxiously. I offered her with a cup of water and started a conversation to ease her worries. Later, she calmed down and was ready for the procedure. She was cooperative when I took a periapical x-ray on the difficult position of tooth #15. Fortunately, the picture turned out clear and the dentist was able to see the depth of the post and the distance between her sinus. When I greeted the patient during her next visit for abutment, she said “thank you” and gave me the most heartwarming hug that I could ever ask for. Her expression of gratitude kindled my desire to serve more patients as an aspiring dentist. [MZ9]
Knowing that my grandfather lacked oral health education and had limited dental care during his lifetime, I felt a sense of duty to help those who lack access to dental care[MZ10] . I helped serve the underprivileged by volunteering at the California Dental Association Free Clinic. In particular, I remember a forty-year old Hispanic immigrant named Julio, who was also a low-income immigrant and a father of four. Majority of his teeth was decayed and in need of urgent restoration. After talking to him, I learned that his condition was the result of a lack of access to quality dental care. Due to financial constraints, he could not afford to visit a dentist for a long time. He was grateful that the Free Clinic had given him this opportunity to restore his teeth. Talking to Julio was eye opening, as it inspired me to reach out to the disadvantaged population and educate them about oral health. One day, I wish to provide equitable access to dental care to all. [MZ11]
After my grandfather’s death, I wrote a letter to
him that ended with this passage: “Thank you, Grandpa, for helping me find my
passion and for making me realize the power that genuine smiles can bring.
Although you are no longer with us, your wisdom continues to motivate me to
spread beautiful smiles and to improve the lives of others. As a tribute to
you, I am ready to dedicate myself to the career of dentistry.”[MZ12]
Got accepted to Penn, UCSF, NYU, Pitt, and Rutgers
‘Shri Ramajeyam!’ chanted the village magician back in Bangladesh, as he tried to heal my grandmother’s toothache for 40 Taka (equivalent to $0.50 in the US). The cheap hocus pocus failed and ultimately, an oral screening at a local hospital diagnosed an oral lesion in her mouth. However, it remained untreated because of my family’s limited finances. [MZ13]
These financial challenges that have continually haunted my family have helped ingrain the value of patience within the very essence of my personality. Our patience in reapplying for the Diversity Visa Lottery over and over finally paid off the 9th time, when we won. We thought our financial distress would improve, so we happily left for America. But, surprises ensued. Extreme poverty, accompanied by a sudden cut in Medicaid forced me to curtail my visits to the orthodontist, but I continued to wait, as I had always been, for a change in fortune.[MZ14]
That change came when my orthodontist halved my fee after sympathizing with my situation. This drew me to a dentist’s prerogative to demonstrate compassion. The importance of a good patient-doctor relationship stood out even more when I shadowed Dr. Pinto, an oral surgeon. During his interaction with a medically compromised patient, who was suffering from a prior iatrogenic procedure, I saw how dentists not just treat the local symptoms of pain, but also address it in a systemic way. This interactive process reminded me of my time leading mentoring program as an International Youth Scholar, in which I mentored a Somali refugee named Abdi. Being psychologically vulnerable as a result of having faced a civil war, initially, he appeared reserved. With my consisted efforts, I built rapport with him as he slowly opened up about his struggle in the refugee camp, his love for soccer, and his dream to study in the U.S. With my encouragement, he applied and received a scholarship at Syracuse University. I will never forget his smile when he gave me the news. It reaffirmed the holistic nature of a dentist’s influence on an individual’s systemic as well as psychological health. [MZ15]
In addition to treating individuals, I want to expand the influence of dental awareness on a community-wide scale and I began this by targeting my local Philadelphia community. I co-founded the Community Dental Disease Prevention Society aiming to reduce the prevalence of dental diseases. We conducted workshops at low-income schools in the city. Despite the initial lack of interest among students, gradually the number of workshop participants grew as they could relate the workshops to their real life experiences. Here Tagita, a first grader shared her story of waiting for a dental appointment due to her family’s financial incapacity, reiterating the inaccessibility of the dental care provision. Meanwhile, high school students expressed concerns about the increasing prevalence of dental malpractice. This made me extend our goals to educate dental providers of iatrogenic dentistry. Additionally, we also set about spreading scientifically based awareness in dispelling damaging propagandas such as those spread by the Fluoride Action Network about the harmful effects of water fluoridation. [MZ16]
Aside from my involvement with the community, I found personal gratification and further enhancement of my endurance while I was taking a sculpture course. After the caffeinated nights and clay-stained hands at the studio, looking at my first project – a clay bust of Abraham Lincoln, an unprecedented sense of pride flooded through me. Right then, I knew that in order to be fulfilled I would need manual involvement in my future profession.[MZ17]
The unique opportunity offered by dentistry to integrate my manual dexterity with my love for science further drew me in. My passion for science grew in a crowded lab-hood at my organic synthesis lab, where I endured repeated tedious phases of optimization of the reaction conditions. Ultimately, I experienced a deep sense of satisfaction as I produced newer molecules in high yield culminating in a co-authorship of a paper in Organic Letters. [MZ18]
Perseverance gained throughout my life and from my involvement in science, arts and community activism makes dentistry a perfect match for me. Be it campaigning against iatrogenic dentistry via CDDPS, or making someone like Abdi smile confidently, dentistry has allowed me to consolidate my ideals. As I continue to advocate for increased accessibility to dental care for financially disadvantaged patients, I understand that progress will be slow; for now, I vow to stay focused, stay patient.[MZ19]
[MZ1]Terrific hook. The story is engaging and vivid. She also amazingly ends the paragraph with her interest in dentistry. Perfect first paragraph.
[MZ2]Author provides sufficient background and talks about her personal journey to depict her personalities. She shows us a glimpse into her world and provides a subtle glimpse at her personalities
[MZ3]Explains what she has done during college. It falls under extra-curricular/leadership bucket. But definitely shows her career interest progression. This paragraph does not employ any vivid story, but at this point it’s not needed anymore because she already earned your trust and you’re reading this.
[MZ4]The last three paragraph provides the picture of how the author pursued her interest further. It’s a logical continuation of her journey.
[MZ5]Great concluding sentence! Super-catchy. Creates an unique identity for the author.
[MZ6]Absolutely great introduction. Author takes you into her world and tells you about her personal life. She provides a nice story to back up why she wants to be a dentist. Great introduction, although a bit too long.
The essay revolves around her grandfather and she continually ties back to this theme.
[MZ7]She explains her situation but reassures the reader that she will be able to handle the tough workload at dental school.
[MZ8]Great topic sentence brings back the theme of her grandfather.
[MZ9]Through telling us a story she provides a glimpse into her personality. From this story, we can make assumptions about what kind of dentist she will become – a compassionate, kind hearted one.
[MZ10]Again, tying back to the theme
[MZ11]This is called future pacing. She’s basically telling you her dream as a dentist.
[MZ12]Slightly unconventional ending, but worked really well for her.
[MZ13]Unique beginning, proven to be quite effective for the author. The story also hooks you right away. You feel a certain level of sympathy for the author’s family.
[MZ14]Author is using life story to focus our attention on his personality. It’s very subtle and crafty.
[MZ15]This paragraph is AMAZING because it talks not only about the things that author admires in his dentist, but he also demonstrate how he implemented those qualities into his extra-curricular activities. This is an advance concept and hard to implement, but if you can do it successfully, you have a great shot at getting into many dental schools (just like the author)
[MZ16]Tells us a STORY about his community service involvement.
[MZ17]Manual dexterity can be part of your personal statement but add it such that your essay does not lose flow. This is a strong example of how to talk about your manual dexterity.
[MZ18]Most people don’t have publication as an undergraduate; if you do, talk about it! It will 20X your chances at getting into a dental school. You should not shy away from talking about your accomplishments.
[MZ19]Great ending. Author used a catch phrase at the end. Quite cliché, but it is executed properly and makes you remember the author.