Assessing the pipeline: Perceived barriers to applying to dental school among pipeline program alumni

Lorel E. Burns, Cheryline Pezzullo, Rose J. Amable, Lenny Mayorga, Eugenia E. Mejia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose/Objectives: The aim of this study was to increase the understanding of perceived barriers to applying to dental school experienced by underrepresented minority (URM), pipeline program alumni. Methods: A qualitative study of alumni of New York University College of Dentistry pipeline programs, aimed at increasing the number of URM and low-income students in the dental profession, was conducted in 2020. Focus groups were convened to examine perceived barriers to applying to dental school and identified through a combination inductive and deductive thematic analysis. Results: Twenty-three pipeline program alumni, ranging in age from 18 to 30 years old, participated in focus groups held between January and April 2020. All students identified as underrepresented minorities and 78% were first generation college students. Fifteen (65%) of the participants had not yet applied to dental school. Eight participants (35%) had applied to dental school, 3 (13%) were currently enrolled in dental school, and 5 (22%) were matriculating into dental school in Fall 2020. The following themes emerged as the most prominent challenges to applying to dental school: pre-health advisors (e.g., lack of knowledge about the pre-dental process and discouragement), and the cost of the application process (e.g., application fees, DAT and DAT preparation course costs, and interview costs). Conclusion: Through pre-dental pipeline programs, participants have access to informational resources and mentorship; however, despite participation in these programs, perceived barriers are still prevalent. Identification of the alumni's perceived barriers offer targeted areas where increased intervention may be helpful to reduce challenges and strengthen the pipeline.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)157-165
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of dental education
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2021


  • admissions/selection
  • education
  • minority recruitment
  • predental
  • under-represented minority students

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • General Dentistry


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