Health Professions Advisor Views

Working With Health Professions Advisors Throughout Your College Years

Posted by Kristin McJunkins, M.Ed. on September 23, 2019

Many students think they don’t need to meet with health professions advisors until they’re getting ready to apply to their health care program of choice. On the contrary, it is wise to have regular meetings—I like to call them 10,000-mile maintenance checks—throughout the undergraduate years and even the postgraduate years if you’re taking some time after graduation before applying; that is, a gap year

Depending on where health professions advising is located on your campus, you will have access to advisors beginning your first year of college. For example, at Yale we have a session during orientation to provide a basic overview of resources available to students. The first semester of college is a transition for everyone and the main goal as a student is to develop effective academic strategies to not become overwhelmed with your workload. Health professions advisors, in conjunction with academic advisors, can help devise an appropriate course schedule and provide tips for when to take specific courses based on your background so you challenge yourself without overextending your capabilities. In addition, it’s important to seek out help for tutoring or academic strategies early on if you need to strengthen your study habits and time management skills so you don’t fall behind.

During your first year, it’s also suggested you not participate in too many extracurricular activities. Find two, possibly three, groups you want to join. These groups could be a continuation of something you did in high school or something new you’d like to try. First and foremost, think about the extracurricular opportunities available to you and how you want to shape your college experience over the course of the next four years. Some of these activities may be predetermined, such as if you’re a member of a sports team or musical group. These more intense commitments often require upwards of 20 hours per week, so it’s vital to establish your study habits before adding other activities outside of classes.

At the start of your sophomore year, hopefully you’ll feel established academically. Meeting with your health professions advisor is a good way to talk about your “narrative” as a future dental school applicant. Your health professions advisor will ask questions to help shape that narrative:

  • What motivates you?
  • Why are you interested in dental school?
  • How are you learning about the profession?
  • What competencies are you developing from your extracurricular activities?
  • Do you want to accomplish something specific, such as studying abroad, that takes a certain amount of planning?

Your advisor can also suggest activities based on your interests and share what other predental students on campus have done in the past. Each applicant is unique and there is no “cookie-cutter” approach to developing a successful application. As you meet with your advisor regularly, they get to know you holistically. These conversations are valuable from a mentoring perspective.

As you move into your later years of college or postgraduation, many of your conversations with your health professions advisor will revolve around preparing for the application process. The application process is a marathon, not a sprint. Thoughtful reflection is critical in preparing an application that represents your personal narrative. (There’s that word again.) Having an established relationship with your health professions advisor helps you feel comfortable talking about the myriad aspects of the application and allows the advisor to provide relevant suggestions for you because they’ve seen your trajectory over the years.

Though ADEA AADSAS® (ADEA Associated American Dental Schools Application Service) doesn’t open until mid-May each year (June for submissions), it’s helpful to start having meetings the previous fall before you submit your dental school application to discuss topics such as whom to ask for letters of recommendation, personal statement ideas and Dental Admission Test (DAT) preparation.

We live in a digital age and most questions about prerequisites and other requirements for dental school can be answered on program websites. What is not gained from only researching online is the skill of conversation. One of the best traits of dentists—in my opinion—is the connection they make with their patients and the community in which they practice. Establishing relationships with mentors in college is a wonderful way to develop active listening skills. Your health professions advisor should be at the top of your “go-to” list of mentors throughout college and beyond as you plan for your professional career.


Best of luck!

About Kristin McJunkins, M.Ed. :

Kristin McJunkins, M.Ed.

Kristin McJunkins, M.Ed.  

Director of Health Professions Advising & STEM Connect  

Yale University, Office of Career Strategy


Kristin McJunkins, M.Ed., is Director of Health Professions Advising & STEM Connect in the Yale University Office of Career Strategy. She oversees advising and counseling for undergraduates and alumni in Yale College and students in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences interested in pursuing further education in the health and medical fields and is a general advisor for STEM professions. A longtime higher education professional, Ms. McJunkins began her career handling event planning and facilities management at Widener University, where she obtained a B.S. in Business Administration and M.Ed. in Education. Transitioning to advising services at the University of Pennsylvania, she coordinated the peer/faculty advising program for 1,600 first-year undergraduates as well as managed special services for first-year students and sophomores in the College of Arts and Sciences. In 2004, Ms. McJunkins joined Johns Hopkins University as a Prehealth and Pre-Law Advisor and has worked at Yale University since 2009, serving as a Director. She is an active member of the National and Northeast Associations for Advisors in the Health Professions and the National and Eastern Associations of Colleges and Employers.