Our ASDA chapter at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston recently hosted 40 predental students from South Carolina and Georgia, representing over a dozen universities, in our most successful predental day yet. What made this year’s event so successful was not the list of activities, but rather the set of principles our team stood on. While there is never a true formula to success, but we would like to share these principles to help other chapters when planning events for predental students.
1. Make connections. All of my classmates can describe who they remember from their time as a predental student during predental day, and it’s because those dental students made their time purposeful. Make connection your vision.
By making personal connections, hearing the stories of predental students and encouraging them in their application process, we create a lasting impression and support and motivate them. Sometimes it is OK for the schedule to go off track if it means every person leaves with a meaningful connection. We prefer that over an event that was perfect on paper but lacked connecting with our future colleagues. Facts are in pamphlets, but connections are face-to-face.
2. This is not the “dental student show.” Because we have been learning so many things, we can get carried away when someone asks a question and starts rambling about things that are over a predental student’s head. Our predental day included waxing an incisor and a crown prep on a molar, but our team was not allowed to use the overly technical terms when explaining how to do it. Dental jargon might overwhelm a predental student. The goal is to inspire students to love dentistry, not show off how much you know. Language is a powerful tool. Use it to engage, not impress.
3. Listen well. People do not care how much you know until they know how much you care. Listen to the predental students’ stories. Ask questions about movies they like, vacations they have taken or what they are dreaming about. Talk about things that have nothing to do with dentistry and build a friendship first. The chance to give predental tips and advice will come as the day goes on. Always watch your body language and facial expressions as well. Be approachable and receptive to any questions a student might want to ask you, and make sure to encourage shyer students to ask questions.
4. Over-plan the day. Our team believes that if we plan well, we can be more flexible. If we over-plan, then we get to make up the day as we go along. Does the day have a lot of momentum? Let’s switch it up on the fly and keep the energy going! Is everyone interested in hearing more from the last speaker? We’ve got some extra slides just in case. Planning is your tool to be more flexible in the moment, not less. Adapt, tweak and spontaneously change things. You will keep yourself from scrambling. It will seem professional, and the day will be more customized to everyone there.
These principles are not impossible to achieve. Our predental day was high-energy and packed with activities: Chick-fil-A for breakfast, three presentations from our favorite professors, suturing, a full tour of the school, mock interviews, a catered lunch and an afternoon in sim lab doing wax-ups. Hundreds of photos, endless compliments and no one wanted to leave when the day was over! We love our ASDA predental team and every predental student we have met so far, and we’re thrilled that some get to be our classmates in a few short months.
~Jansen Nash, South Carolina ’21