Diversity Statements – Four Questions to Help You Brainstorm

By Elizabeth LaScala PhD

Diversity statements are an increasingly common requirement on graduate and professional school applications. They are one of the many strategies that schools are using to be more inclusive in their application processes, ensuring they are promoting diversity in their student body and demonstrating their acceptance of diversity. While this is a noble goal, it can be stressful for applicants to know what to say. For some of you, talking about diversity might be easy. For others, it is often much harder. Here are four questions to ask yourself when brainstorming your diversity statement.

Examples of Diversity Prompts:

“How does equity, diversity, and social justice shape an issue in counseling psychology that is of interest to you?” (Marriage Family Therapy)

“How have your life experiences and educational background informed your understanding of the barriers facing groups that are underrepresented in higher education?” (Physician Assistant)

“How do you see yourself contributing to diversity in your profession after you earn your medical degree?” (Medical College)

“Where are you on your journey of engaging with or fighting for social justice?” (PhD in Sociology)

“Please write an essay on how you would enhance diversity at our school.” (MS Computer Science)

1) What exactly is diversity?

It’s easy to get stuck on a single definition of diversity. But diversity is, in a word, diverse. Sure, it includes traditional personal types of diversity, like race, ethnicity, age, gender, and sexual orientation. But it also goes well beyond these personal attributes to include cognitive ability, physical ability, mental health, neurodiversity, cultural background, citizenship status, veteran status, adversity and socioeconomic barriers among many other categories. Make a list of things using these categories as a jumping off point, going beyond as needed, to comprehensively consider how you might add to the diversity of the school or program of your choice. Go beyond the list you develop to write about how the category specifically applies to you.

2) How have I supported, advocated for or otherwise helped others who are diverse?

While this is important for all applicants to consider, it is particularly important for people who have low measurable personal diversity. Instead of making something up or claiming hardship when you have largely experienced privilege, acknowledge your position of privilege, and talk about how you have used your advantages in life to promote diversity. Colleges are interested in knowing that applicants accept others who are dissimilar to themselves and advocate for those who may have less chance to advocate for themselves due to systemic racism and other biases prevalent in our society.

3) How does a cause I am passionate about relate to diversity?

This is a helpful question for applicants to ask themselves if their service projects or other endeavors do not clearly align with promoting diversity. If this is the case, think about how your acts of service could be used to promote diversity goals. For example, you may not think that climate change and environmental causes are obviously aligned with diversity. However, climate change disproportionately effects minority groups and environmental justice is a current issue of importance. Deeper reflection and some targeted research can help you make connections between causes you care about and how they may promote or at least relate to diversity.

4) What actions will I take going forward?

Diversity statements should not just state who you are and what you have done, but also what you will continue to do. Do some research into the service and other types of programs offered by the school you plan on attending or local community-based organizations that have similar missions. Explain how you will continue promoting equity, diversity, and social justice during your degree by getting involved.

Drafting your diversity statement: After brainstorming, pick one, at most two clear themes that ring truest, fit the prompt and/or your intended degree, and/or fit the university’s definition of diversity. If you are unique in many ways, it may still be easier to explain one or two aspects of your diversity in detail instead of spending the usually short word count describing your many attributes.
 

Examples of Diversity Prompts:

“How does equity, diversity, and social justice shape an issue in counseling psychology that is of interest to you?” (Marriage Family Therapy)

“How have your life experiences and educational background informed your understanding of the barriers facing groups that are underrepresented in higher education?” (Physician Assistant)

“How do you see yourself contributing to diversity in your profession after you earn your medical degree?” (Medical College)

“Where are you on your journey of engaging with or fighting for social justice?” (PhD in Sociology)

“Please write an essay on how you would enhance diversity at our school.” (MS Computer Science)

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