Questions to ask your students

From time to time, you will encounter students who might be considered “challenging” to advise. Maybe the student is set on pursuing dentistry but doesn’t have a strong science GPA. Maybe a student is blindsided by one career option and is unwilling to consider options that might better fit his or her personality and ultimate career goals. Whatever the situation, knowing what to say to help guide students will be critical.

The following are some questions to ask your students to help them better identify their ideal career match—whether it be dentistry or another health profession.

Help your students... 

Know more about the profession of dentistry:

  • What are the pros and cons of being a dentist?
  • In your opinion, what makes dentistry different from other health professions?
  • What did you learn about dentistry from your experience shadowing a dentist?

Recognize if dentistry is the right fit for them:

  • Why do you want to be a dentist?
  • If you are not accepted to dental school, what other career options would you consider?
  • Do you solve problems by weighing alternative solutions?
  • Are you willing to do work that may expose you to disease and infection?
  • Are you willing to keep up-to-date with new procedures and techniques?
  • Are you ready to devote the time and commitment to becoming a dentist?

Evaluate family support:

  • Do you have the support of your family for pursuing a career in dentistry?
  • What kind of support do you need?

Identify potential obstacles to success:

  • What did you do about any “bumps” you’ve had so far in your academic career, and what did you learn from them?
  • How have you handled challenges that you’ve had to face?

Assess their ability to finance a dental education:

  • Are you eligible for financial aid?
  • How are you paying for this education?
  • Who is helping?

Ask the right questions of the practitioner during their shadowing experiences:

  • If you had to choose a career in dentistry again, would you?
  • What makes you excited about going to work every day?
  • What changes do you think we will see in the profession in the future?

Identify shadowing opportunities:

  • Did you reach out to your family dentist or any specialty dentists to see if you could shadow them?
  • Did you look at the alumni list at the career center to see if there are dentists near campus or near your home?
  • Have you looked for community clinics in your area that provide low-cost dental care, as often these sites need volunteers to help at the clinic?

Develop manual dexterity:

  • Have you taken any art courses that might help you learn about three- dimensional perspective, symmetry, etc.?
  • Have you taken any studio art courses to help you develop manual dexterity?
  • Have you ever played a musical instrument? How can you further develop that skill?
  • Are there any crafts you enjoy such as jewelry making, model airplanes, etc.?

Match their academic interests with their professional goals:

  • Which classes are you enjoying the most and why?
  • How are your prerequisite classes coming along?
  • What courses do you find personally relevant to your future career plans?

Familiarize themselves with issues in the field:

  • What kinds of ethical dilemmas do you think dentists may face in their practice?
  • How do you think the ACA is impacting the delivery of dental services?
  • Where and with whom have you done your shadowing and how have these experiences been different from each other?
  • Where have you looked for information about topical issues in the dental profession? What have you learned from your investigations?