College Apps: How to Write the “Diversity” Supplemental Essay

6 mins read

Reader Question: “My daughter is tearing her hair out trying to figure out what to write for the diversity essay. Multiple schools are asking her to write how she will contribute to the campus’ diversity. But she is a pretty average kid! No multicultural family or unique identities she identifies with… How should we approach this without sounding dull or uninspired?”

Writing the diversity college admissions essay can be one of the most challenging supplemental essays. Unlike other prompts that are straightforward and ask about our goals, interests, or passions, this one is about your ‘identity’ and how you will contribute to making the school community more diverse.

It’s a vague and difficult prompt! Let’s firstly understand why many schools ask this question.

Why do schools ask about diversity?

Colleges often ask applicants to write a diversity essay because they value a diverse student body and believe that it enriches the educational experience for all students. A diverse student body can bring a range of perspectives, experiences, and backgrounds to the classroom, which can foster a more dynamic and inclusive learning environment.

Moreover, colleges recognize that diversity is not just limited to race and ethnicity. It can also refer to diversity of thought, socioeconomic status, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, religion, ability, and more. A diverse student body can therefore help to create a more well-rounded and holistic learning experience.

In addition, colleges are aware that diversity can be a key factor in attracting top talent and preparing students for success in a globalized world. A diverse student body can help students develop important skills such as communication, critical thinking, and problem-solving, which are essential for success in today’s diverse and interconnected world.

Overall, a diverse student body can help to create a more inclusive and dynamic learning environment that prepares students for success in today’s diverse world. That is why colleges often ask applicants to write a diversity essay as part of the admissions process.

How should we approach the diversity essay?

This essay gives you the opportunity to showcase your unique experiences, perspectives, and identities, and how they have shaped your personal and academic journey.

Here are some tips to help you write a successful diversity essay:

  1. Start by brainstorming: Take some time to think about your personal and cultural background, and how it has impacted your life. Consider any challenges or obstacles you have faced, and how you have overcome them. Also, think about any unique experiences or perspectives you can bring to the school’s community. Don’t assume that “diversity” only refers to race or social class. You can think instead about a community you belong to, a perspective you bring, a unique interest you have, or life experiences you’ve been through.

    Here’s an example of how U Penn highlighted this student’s contribution to their campus’ diversity. His story doesn’t just end with an explanation of how he’s different than the average student at Penn; it explains how he “wants to help fellow Wharton students find their communities and successfully transition to college the way he did. That’s why he is the co-chair of the Wharton cohorts and an RA in one of the College Houses on the Quad.”

    Take this approach for your essay too. What is something about your identity, perspective, or experiences that you can share with others and the entire campus? How will that benefit them or open them up to a new perspective?

  2. Choose a specific topic: Once you have a list of ideas, choose one specific topic to focus on in your essay. This could be a specific cultural tradition, a personal experience, or a social issue that is important to you.

  3. Show, don’t tell: Instead of simply stating that you are diverse or have faced challenges, provide specific examples to illustrate your points. Use anecdotes and personal stories to bring your essay to life and make it more engaging.

  4. Reflect on your experiences: In addition to describing your experiences, take some time to reflect on what you have learned and how you have grown as a result. This will help you showcase your personal growth and maturity.

  5. Proofread and edit: Before you submit your essay, make sure to proofread for spelling and grammar errors. It’s also a good idea to have someone else read over your essay to get another perspective.

By following these tips, you can write a compelling diversity college admissions essay that showcases your unique experiences and identities, and how they have shaped your personal and academic journey.

Andrea Bernal

Admissions consultant for California high schools for 15 years. Currently advisor and educational material specialist at IVY'D College Prep.

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