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J Allied Health. 2003 Winter;32(4):279-84.

Increasing dental hygiene student diversity: life-performance questions as alternative admissions criteria.

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Department of Dental Hygiene, Northern Arizona University, Box 15065, Flagstaff, AZ 86011, USA.


The goal of this study was to create a race/ethnic-neutral admission process. An increase in student diversity in the Northern Arizona University Dental Hygiene Program (NAU DH) was accomplished through modification of its acceptance process. Sixty students, 22% underrepresented minority (URM), were selected using alternative criteria compared with 6.7% URM that would have been accepted using traditional criteria. For the purpose of this study, URM are defined as African American, Hispanic, Native American, or bicultural, groups that are underrepresented in dental hygiene. Six life-performance questions were added on the written application and were designed to assess the candidates' personal characteristics, including (1) leadership, (2) community service, (3) realistic self-appraisal, (4) personal support system, (5) ability to deal with racism, (6) ability to set goals and self-responsibility. Scores from the response to these questions were used as part of the total selection criteria. Data analysis revealed that white candidates scored higher than URM candidates on grade point average (GPA), science GPA, and total points, yet both groups scored the same on life-performance questions. On the basis of these findings, we conclude that alternative criteria in the acceptance process more fairly assesses candidates' qualifications and increases the diversity of the NAU DH student population. These alternative acceptance criteria may serve as a model for dental hygiene and other allied health programs.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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