Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Personal Statement

One of the requirements for the dental school application is a one-page personal statement. Here is the first draft I wrote this week.
(Positive) Feedback encouraged! Or any feedback actually....

Personal Statement

With a background in psychology, and several biology courses under my belt, I could present a lengthy lecture about the sympathetic nervous system’s fight-or-flight response when experiencing stress. From personal experience, however, I can tell you that some people are wired for fighting, others more prone to flight. As for me? I’m one of the latter. If I sense fear or failure, I bolt. As a child, if my Monopoly thimble was creeping up on a row of hotels and my bank account was dwindling, my parents still recall the dramatic moments of me throwing the game board onto the floor and running upstairs to cry. I never take personal failure lightly, so I flee at the first sign of it. How does this relate to dental school? Well, physics and chemistry were never my strongest subjects, and my once-flawless plan of attending dental school began to crumble before my eyes when I realized that it wasn’t going to fall into my lap. Better to feign disinterest, pretending that I never wanted to become a dentist, rather than trying and failing. So at the first sign of struggle—Chemistry 101—I decided to flee.
After taking a psychology class and stumbling upon my forte, I decided to switch my major from biology to psychology—the path of least resistance. As a psychology major, I was able to focus on pursuing a degree, and since it required somewhat less mental effort, I allowed myself to pursue numerous other endeavors. After studying abroad in Honduras, I began pouring days, weeks, and then months of time into working with Hope for Honduran Children foundation. I joined a sorority and began working with the philanthropy committee. I took classes of personal interest, such as sculpture, business, and golf. I began investing twenty hours a week to my part-time job, participating in many community outreach programs, volunteering excessively, and taking on leadership roles.
            To anyone on the outside, I was a stellar student with countless extracurriculars, but on the inside, I felt like a failure. When it came time to graduate, I had a B.A. in Psychology and a dying dream of becoming a dentist. Looking back, I felt thankful to have had numerous opportunities to study abroad, participate in community service, and achieve a top-notch liberal arts education, but I was equally disappointed that I had not kept focus on my original plan of going to dental school. Fleeing, in hindsight, had been the wrong move.  
            J.K. Rowling once said “ It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default." Working as a bank teller post-graduation, I was unfulfilled and unsatisfied with where my choices had led me. I began talking to dentists about their profession and began to explore my options. I have worked alongside dentists on medical brigades in the rural, poverty-stricken areas of Honduras, and I have also shadowed in the familiar office setting as well. I have always admired dentists’ commitment to their
patients’ health, the relationships that are formed over the years, and the professional autonomy that working in a private practice offers. Last year, I signed up for ASDA newsletters, so that I could be more informed about dentistry and gain some additional insight. Other dental options interest me as well, such as the career opportunities in research or academics. Dentistry encompasses all of my passions, so I finally decided to put up a fight.
            Leaving my full-time position at the bank, sacrificing my financial stability, and heading back to school to complete my pre-requisites for dentistry was one of the more difficult decisions of my life, yet it was also the most sensible decision I’ve ever made. With age comes wisdom, and I went back to school at UNC-Chapel Hill feeling much more goal-oriented than I did as an undergraduate at Elon. This time around, I was prepared for battle, and surprisingly, I actually enjoyed my chemistry classes. Thankfully, my previous work experiences and my academic studies have equipped me with a well-rounded perspective and a vast array of knowledge that will be invaluable to a future career in dentistry. While I once thought I was choosing the path of least resistance, I’ve come to realize that I’ve actually chosen the path of self-awareness—a much longer, more scenic route indeed. I’m finally facing my fears and following my dream. All caution to the wind.

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