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Last updated June 5, 2023

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Diversity Essays Are Actually Community Essays

Key Takeaway

Diversity supplemental essays are challenging to write. But why do schools include diversity prompts to begin with? Yep—to get to know who you are in a community. Think about diversity essays as community essays, and you'll be off to the races.

Diversity essays are impossible. Somehow, it seems like everybody struggles with them.

Students who feel they have no experience or right to write about diversity struggle with these essays. Then again, so do students who come from more diverse backgrounds—who have great, authentic stories to tell about engaging with (or representing) diversity.

The difficulty stems from a lack of clarity about what schools are hoping to get at with these prompts.

When you're asked to write an essay about your extracurriculars, the assignment is apparent. You're supposed to reflect on leadership or demonstrate intellectual engagement. The prompt is usually crystal clear about the direction you're supposed to take things.

Elsewhere we talk about taking a strengths-based approach to your writing. When you knw what the prompt is asking you for, it's easy to reverse engineer an authentic story that also speaks to your strengths.

But with diversity prompts, the important value is often more abstract.

I want to suggest a simple way to break through these essays and find strong responses:

Think about diversity essays as community essays.

In a community essay, a school is trying to understand who you'll be on campus. Will you be someone who builds bridges with others? Who helps others learn? Or will you be more insular and individualistic?

Schools want students who fit the former category.

So, why should you think about diversity essays as community essays? The concept of diversity is inherently social. It's a reflection, sometimes a measurement, of a community defined by differing levels of homogeneity among its members.

Most people think that diversity essays need to show grit and determination in the face of adversity. But that's not true.

A great diversity essay can also show your strength as a community member. A good diversity essay could be about something as simple as a group project — and your effort to encourage contributions from group members with different skills. Yes, that is a valid response to a prompt about an experience with diversity.

It's also a great response because it shows you're a team player who can relate well to others in a community.

Bottom line, there is almost always a good answer to a diversity prompt in a story about community.

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