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The Diversity Essay

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Most institutions of higher education celebrate diversity. What does this word mean to you? And what role will diversity play in your undergraduate life? 

The diversity essay can take many different forms, but at the core of this type of supplemental essay is one important question: How do you engage with people whose lived experiences differ from yours? 

Whatever your background, we suggest you focus largely on your own personal growth or address a social issue that matters to you. Colleges want to know about your life beyond the classroom and how you will contribute to diversity, equity, and inclusion on their campus. 

If the prompt is more community-oriented, first focus on a community that means something to you, and the diversity narrative will fall into place. No matter your starting point, be sure to tell a clear story with a beginning, middle, and end. It might be tempting to pen a vivid description of your Irish dance troupe’s show-stopping performances and leave it at that, but the point of an essay like this is to tell a story about you and your personal growth.

Some Examples for Community-Oriented Diversity Essays:

  1. Maybe you are the president of your school’s Black Student Union, where you discuss issues affecting the black community with your peers and empower each other to take action. Perhaps you’re hoping to continue leading discussions on marginalized identities and black culture through clubs and organizations next year on campus. 
  2. Perhaps friends you made in jiu-jitsu class have introduced you to a new art form and culture, influencing your desire to pursue study abroad opportunities in college. 
  3. Maybe your Midwestern high school is incredibly homogenous and isolated, and you helped your Spanish class organize Skype chats with high school students in Guatemala.
  4. Is your family one of the only Muslim families in your small, coastal town? Is that an important part of who you are or how you grew up? 
  5. How have you been shaped by your Indian heritage? Are you glad that your parents made Hindi lessons a part of your weekend routine for years?
  6. Did you grow up in a Mormon household, only recently discovering how people outside of your tight-knit community think about relationships, gender roles, and worship?
  7. Did you join a cross-stitching club in your county? Did the elder members teach you the value in moving on from small mistakes?

If the prompt is geared more toward your experience engaging with others on topics that are important to you, think about times when you’ve taken a stand or challenged someone. How do you converse with people who have very different worldviews and perspectives? How do you show up to have the hard uncomfortable conversations, and how do you add a seat to the table for those who have been historically excluded?

Some examples for Engagement-Oriented Diversity Essays:

  1. After your friend called you out for an insensitive remark you made in passing, did you read articles to better understand his perspective? Did you apologize for offending him? How would you handle the situation differently if it happened again?
  2. When politics came up at Cousin Wyatt’s wedding last year, did you advocate for the issues that are important to you? How did you engage your relatives in a meaningful way in the midst of celebration?
  3. When confronted by counter-protesters at a march or rally, how did you respond? Would you react differently or the same next time? Why?

A word of caution (which applies to any diversity-related essay): remember that people who are different from you were not put on this earth to educate you. Push yourself to consider the value of being around people who are fundamentally different from you and what you have done to self-educate and contribute to your community.

And don’t be afraid to share your response with a trusted friend or teacher to get a fresh perspective!


Working on supplemental school-specific essays?
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Our Supplemental Essay Guide is an excellent resource.

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