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How to write a Diversity supplemental essay
The right way to approach a Diversity supplement will vary based on prompts. Some schools may ask you to take a more formal, even policy-oriented approach to the question of diversity. Other prompts may simply ask you to relate a story that highlights diversity. Of the two, the second is more common, so that's what we'll focus on here.
The most challenging part of writing a diversity essay is often picking the type of diversity that you represent. As we've discussed, diversity can look like many things.
If you're having trouble thinking about how you represent diversity, try stepping away from the term. Instead ask yourself, "What's something I'm good at?"
I find this question to be helpful because, for most people, it's way easier to answer.
You might be good at comedy, or gardening, or making coffee, or political analysis, or cooking amazing soups.
Any of those five skills could be reinterpreted to answer a diversity prompt. Why? Because diversity, at its most basic level, means difference. Another way to answer the diversity prompt is to answer the question, “What makes you different from other people?”
Thinking about what you’re good at is an easy way to answer that question. What do you do well that others don’t? Almost any answer to that question will give you a solid answer to a diversity prompt. As a bonus, framing your answer to a diversity prompt around strengths will make it easy to keep your essay strength-focused.
Once you have your topic in hand, the writing process begins.
Most great diversity essays (we'll see a couple of examples later) tell a story. It might be about an experience you had with a classmate, an encounter with someone else in your life, or a broader narrative about a trend that's shaped your life.
As with most supplemental essays, I recommend outlining first and making sure that you're super clear about how your response fits the prompt. Among all types of supplemental essays, Diversity essays can be among the easiest to mess up because the essay you write doesn't actually fit the requirements of the prompt.
Here's an example of what a basic diversity essay structure might look like:
Intro: Tell a story that introduces the reader to your definition of diversity.
Middle: Introduce your definition of diversity more directly and reflect on the role it's played in your life / how it's shaped who you are as a person.
Conclusion: Answer any prompt-specific stuff directly. For example, in the UW prompt, this is where you'd talk about how you'd contribute to diversity.
The conclusion is also where you might tie in the kind of school research we talked about earlier.
As you're writing, ask yourself whether you're meeting the criteria for a good diversity essay we laid out above. Are you...
- Giving a clear definition of diversity, even if it's a bit unorthodox?
- Highlighting personal strengths through your story?
- Connecting to the school -- either through values or through specific school research?
If you're doing all three of these things, your essay should be in good shape.
Now, let’s take a look at a great diversity essay example.
Diversity Supplemental Essay Example
Example: Growing Up Rural
Columbia: A hallmark of the Columbia experience is being able to learn and thrive in an equitable and inclusive community with a wide range of perspectives. Tell us about an aspect of your own perspective, viewpoint or lived experience that is important to you, and describe how it has shaped the way you would learn from and contribute to Columbia’s diverse and collaborative community. (200 words or fewer)*
When the closest grocery store is an hour away, you learn to get creative. Applesauce replaces vegetable oil, milk gets thickened with cornstarch, and sometimes you have no choice but to omit the garlic. Such is the life of a rural kid.
Growing up on a farm, I’ve learned to take academic and community challenges in stride.((The writer provides a clear statement about where they come from and how it has shaped their worldview.)) Whereas most students can simply hop on the school bus in winter, my dad has to grade our road so the bus won’t get stuck. I spend nearly three hours each day on the bus alone, and my afternoons are filled with combining corn before I can get started on homework.
New York and my hometown are about as different as you can get. What unites them is that I belong in both.((This sentence clearly transitions between the relationship between their home town and life at Columbia.)) The corn we grow feeds thousands, but we rely on bus drivers, supply chains, and the helping hands of neighbors to keep us going. I don’t always agree with my rural family or neighbors, and I’m sure I won’t always agree with my classmates at Columbia.
But my background has made me open-minded, flexible, and adaptable, traits I would love to bring to the Columbia classroom.((The essay concludes with this sentence that explicitly answers the prompt and draws on values that align with Columbia’s.))
Interested in reading more example supplemental essays? Hop on over to our college essay examples post for some of our favorites.