Institutions of higher learning want to recognize diversity and support students from diverse backgrounds and experiences, making college diversity essay examples more relevant than ever. Your will make a big difference in your application, and looking at expertly written essays will help you immensely.
We at BeMo believe that everybody deserves a fair and equal shot at higher education, which is why it is important to us to make sure that persons from underrepresented backgrounds aren’t being left behind.
To that end, we are going to show several examples of diversity essays, with prompts selected from different educational institutions, in addition to giving you general and a section on how to approach diversity essays specifically.
These essay prompts are taken from various schools as well as the Common App*, and each one will deal with a different kind of diversity. Some of these prompts remark directly on diversity, while others are simply open, or hint at a connection.
*The Common Application is a centralized system used by many schools to streamline the application process.
Prompt: “Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.”
Word limit: 250-650 words. Aim for about 500 words.
The labels that I bear are hung from me like branches on a tree: disruptive, energetic, creative, loud, fun, easily distracted, clever, a space cadet, a problem … and that tree has roots called ADHD. The diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder made a lot of sense when it was handed down. I was diagnosed later than other children, probably owing to my sex, which is female; people with ADHD who are female often present in different ways from our male counterparts and are just as often missed by psychiatrists.
Over the years, these labels served as either a badge or a bludgeon, keeping me from certain activities, ruining friendships, or becoming elements of my character that I love about myself and have brought me closer to people I care about. Every trait is a double-edged sword.
The years that brought me to where I am now have been strange and uneven. I had a happy childhood, even if I was a “handful” for my parents. As I grew and grew in awareness of how I could be a problem, I developed anxiety over behavior I simply couldn’t control. With the diagnosis, I received relief, and yet, soon I was thinking of myself as broken, and I quickly attributed every setback to my neurological condition.
I owe much to my ADHD. I have found my paintbrushes to be superb catalysts for the cornucopia of ideas in my mind. I have always known how to have a great time, and my boundless energy has contributed to winning several medals while playing basketball.
My ADHD owes much to me, too. I have received several cards in basketball because I got “agitated.” My grades throughout elementary school – before I had good coping mechanisms and medications – look like yo-yos. Of course, I also have social troubles that I lay at the feet of my brain being wrong.
I have a wrong brain. I am wrong-brained. Imagine carrying that around as a child or as a teenager. I had to.
Only recently did I change my wrong-mind to a right-mind. The way I did it was simple: I stopped thinking of myself as having a brain that was wrong. I have a brain that is different. It supplies me with hurdles and the ability to leap over those hurdles. Sometimes I need extra help, but who doesn’t in one way or another?
These days, I don’t even like to think of my ADHD as a “neurological condition,” because I just want to feel like it’s a part of me, and of course, it is.
I have recently been volunteering at a mental health resource center, trying to spread that worldview. I believe that it is important to help people with different minds. Part of how we need to do that is by normalizing being abnormal. We are all strange and different. My version of difference happens to be in my mind, and it has a label. So, let’s all be kind and generous to each other and our wonderful, divergent differences.
Prompt: “Harvard has long recognized the importance of student body diversity of all kinds. We welcome you to write about distinctive aspects of your background, personal development or the intellectual interests you might bring to your Harvard classmates.”
Word limit: This particular prompt from Harvard is not given a word limit, but we recommend you aim for about 600 words.
Every morning I ride through the park on my bicycle, past a group of yoga practitioners who are connecting with nature in their trendy yoga pants. They're being taught by a tranquil-faced twenty-something with an asymmetrical haircut and a smart phone playing nature sounds. Saying “Namaste,” before rushing home to take the kids to school, they’ll probably buy flavored macchiatos on the way.
I’m not offended, although as a Hindu I have every right to be; I just think that they are probably missing the point of something very profound and important to me. I was taught yoga by my grandfather, who I always thought looked one hundred years old, no matter what he really was.
He would get me up at dawn, and I would complain, but doing the poses did awaken me, stretch my limbs, and move me into a more centered place. Most importantly, he taught me to hold on to that centered place for the rest of the day, to make sure that I carried my yoga with me.
I did carry it with me, too, past shops selling incense and yoga mats, past music stores with baby boomer rock stars who played sitar as a fad, and past a thousand other places that reminded me that my culture was a commodity, my religion a self-help rubber stamp. Lately, it has been my bicycle ride through the park taking me past this yoga group, who I don’t want to disparage too much, because maybe some of them are taking it seriously, but it doesn’t look that way, and it really doesn’t feel that way.
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My grandfather died earlier this year. Perhaps he really was a centenarian – I’m still not sure. He lived his life full of focus and determination, carrying his yoga with him all day until the moment he died. “Just on my way to the next life,” he told me, “So keep up with the yoga, or else I will hear about it when I get back!”
It’s hard to live as a good, practicing Hindu, because there are a lot of distractions, and the culture around me isn’t exactly helping me stay focused. My grandfather’s practice does help with that somewhat. But it’s hard because when I don’t feel commodified, I feel ignored, or glossed over; I cannot tell you the number of times that people first assume I’m a Muslim, then learn that I am a Hindu, and ask me what the difference is.
In those moments, I am angry, especially when I am asked such things by people who I thought knew me better – friends and acquaintances. In those moments, I hold to what I have been taught, and I calmly explain the differences. My yoga helps.
I want to share that with more people – the practice of yoga, yes, but more so the notion of keeping that state of being going throughout the day. I talk to my friends and acquaintances about it. Every time I do, I hold on to my grandfather a little bit more and a little bit longer. I think he might have been reincarnated as a cricket, to watch over me, like in Pinocchio.
Every morning, I rise to practice yoga before the bike ride, and I get ready for the day. Thanks to my grandfather’s philosophy, and my undiluted culture, I can hold on to that readiness for as long as I need.
Prompt: “In 20XX, we faced a national reckoning on racial injustice in America - a reckoning that continues today. Discuss how this has affected you, what you have learned, or how you have been inspired to be a change agent around this important issue.”
Word limit: 400 words, max.
I’m angry and I’m tired of pretending otherwise. There have been too many riots, too many marches, too many people shouting into uncaring ears when Black people get treated the way we do. How many dead fathers, sons, mothers, and daughters have to move from the front page of the news to the bottom of the social media feed before we get recognized and listened to. I just want to be heard. I have given up on the idea of waking up in a world where I am not afraid, angry, and weary. Maybe that world is for my grandkids, or my great-grandkids, but not me.
My mother and my father, my aunts and uncles, they were all very active in the protests – often at the front of the line – and they did not come through unscathed. They had bruises and blood spilt, they had broken bones. I know they will return to that battlefield, to protest peacefully until they cannot maintain that rank any longer. From these noble people I received my sense of righteous anger. But I also got good advice on how to use it well.
They know that protests are one thing, but action is another, and my mind has been geared toward law school for some time now, because I wanted to bring about the major changes that are needed for our society to move on. So, in addition to protests, I have been taking pre-law courses, and I have acquired a part-time job in the law firm where my uncle works, and while it is a small, office job, I get to spend a lot of time with my uncle learning about how to bring positive change by fighting big and little battles. Of course, he is also showing me how to fight those battles.
Anger alone isn’t going to settle anything, which is why I believe in making a better world with my actions and rhetoric. But I am still frustrated and furious, and while I am trying to find a hopeful place to get to, I’ll repeat that I don’t think we’ll see the better world I want. Maybe our grandkids, but not us. Hold on to that, get angry, and join me in pushing forward for them.
Prompt: “At Princeton, we value diverse perspectives and the ability to have respectful dialogue about difficult issues. Share a time when you had a conversation with a person or a group of people about a difficult topic. What insight did you gain, and how would you incorporate that knowledge into your thinking in the future?”
Word limit: 250 words
Coming out was harder than I thought it would be. In the months previous, when I knew that I was gay, and when I knew that I wanted to tell my family, I was worried about their reactions. I hoped that they would be supportive, and I suspected that they would be, but it wasn’t just the event that was difficult, it was the next day and the day after that.
One conversation would have been painful but quick, like the proverbial bandage being ripped off. But this was interminable and killing me with kindness. My parents asked little questions or made showy gestures about caring in the days that followed, and the experience wound up lasting several months.
The insight I gained is that we think of life in terms of gateposts and events, but all things take time, and most have a build-up and cool-down surrounding them. Expecting to have something momentous take place in one afternoon was naïve.
Moving forward, I understand that the real problem was thinking of this as an event at all, and it’s not, it’s just who I am, which means I carry it around with me and I have no other recourse. I believe this will serve me well, because it will help me have ongoing conversations instead of quick talks that I wrap up and put away.
That’s better; my life is not a series of tough moments, it is ongoing.
The main thing to do with a diversity essay is to remain focused. First, focus on your subject, and keep in mind that the subject isn’t actually “diversity.” That sounds weird, but remember that this is always about you and the institution you’re applying to. They want to hear about your life, your experiences, and how you connect with their program.
To that end, make sure that you talk about your experiences beyond a general push for diversity. Of course, it’s easy to get behind ideas that are inclusive, but you have a central purpose here.
The second focus is to keep yourself on target with what kind of diversity you’re talking about. You can bring in multiple ways you fit the description of “diverse,” but your essay may be a fairly short one, so focus on one central theme or idea.
There are many different ways that you can be diverse or have a worldview that fits these prompts. Diversity is often thought of in terms of race, sexuality, and gender, but it could also mean neurodivergence, living with a disability, sex, religion, or nationality. With most prompts, diversity could be anything that sets you apart, such as growing up in unusual circumstances. Perhaps you moved a lot as a child, grew up on a military base, or were raised in the foster care system. Before assuming that diversity essays don’t apply to you, check the exact wording of the prompt and really contemplate your background.
Many essays ask about your experiences with diversity, so you might have a friend or relative who fits one or more of these categories; if you have a personal connection and experience with that person, you can speak to that in an essay.
Exploring your diversity, or your experiences with diversity, is the key to success in writing your own diversity essay. Dig deep and share your genuine experiences. The operative word here is “genuine”: do not, under any circumstances, fake this essay. Any falsehood in an application is unacceptable, and co-opting another underrepresented group’s diversity is disrespectful. There is enough room in most prompts to account for your particular branch of diversity without pretending to be someone else.
Want to review more advice for college essays? Take a look at this video:
Of course, your approach to , whether specific to the diversity prompts or not, remains the same: open with your “hook,” the line that snares any reader, ideally even ones who aren’t on the admissions committee. If you open well, you grab your reader’s attention and bring them along for the ride.
After that, follow basic essay structure, including a body to explore your ideas and a conclusion to wrap up.
One way to polish your essay is to make sure that your paragraphs transition nicely into one another – pay extra attention to the flow of your material. Another elite polish tip is to mirror your opening line with your closing, at least in terms of fulfilling the promise of whatever your opening line spoke of.
Inclusion is of maximal importance. Get yourself recognized at your top-choice school with our tips and . By working with these prompts, and within the application streams for underrepresented students, you are giving yourself the agency to move forward into a more diverse future.
1. If I’m not from an underrepresented background, should I write these essays?
Everything depends on the individual school’s prompt. If the prompt is mandatory, you write the essay, even if you only have an outsider’s connection. Many schools have optional diversity essays, or reserve them for students from certain backgrounds. In those cases, only write the essay if you feel it is appropriate for you to do so. This might change based on the wording of the prompt. Some prompts invite students with “connections” to diverse communities to respond, which means that you might not be a member of an underrepresented community, but you could be a supporter, activist, or close friend or family member of those communities. Still other prompts cast a wide net for potential types of diversity, which means you might fit into one based on your experiences, even if you don’t immediately think of yourself as fitting in.
If the essay prompt applies to you, or if it is mandatory, write the essay.
2. If I choose not to reply to the essay, will this hurt my chances of entry?
Not necessarily. Obviously, if the essay is optional and does not apply to you, your chances remain the same. However, many institutions have programs for underrepresented students, and benefitting from them may depend on writing a diversity statement. In other words, it’s required. In general, we recommend that you take every opportunity offered to make your application stand out, and producing a thoughtful diversity statement or optional essay is an effective way to do that.
3. What qualifies me as “diverse” or “underrepresented”?
As listed above, there are many possibilities. Race, gender, sexuality, nationality, religion, and sex are some of the categories you might fit into which apply to these essays. If you don’t fit into those categories, you might still be considered diverse based on any experience which sets you apart and gives you a unique background, life, or circumstance, which means that most diversity prompts have a very wide net.
4. I want to write about my sexuality, gender, or neurodivergency, but I’m not “out”; are these essays confidential?
Essays are typically only seen by admissions committees. If the institution wants to use your essay as an example essay, they would need to ask you first. Sharing your essay would require permission.
If you are particularly worried, contact your school and ask about their confidentiality policies, or specifically ask that they do not disclose your essay’s contents.
Try not to worry; these programs are set up for people like you, and the administrations are understanding and sympathetic to your situation. They certainly do not want to hurt you.
5. Do I have to speak to a positive experience of my diversity?
You just have to share your authentic connection with diversity. If you have negative emotions or experiences tied to that aspect of yourself, of course you are allowed to share them. Speaking to the frustration, anger, anxiety, and other debilitating emotions around racial violence, for example, is not off the table. You highlight yourself, your diversity, and your connection to the school – that’s it. Don’t feel like you need to hide your personal experiences to play nice or seem “positive.”
6. Do all schools have a diversity essay?
No, some do not. Most have essays geared toward your background generally, which can often provide an opportunity to talk about your diversity, but it would not be required. Keep in mind that more general background essays, like personal statements or the near-ubiquitous, “Why this school?” essays, will need more focus on academics or career goals. Diversity essays can be more focused on your own personal experiences.
7. Do I have to get personal?
All admissions essays are personal to some degree. Diversity essays will touch on the essence of yourself, so they will be more personal than a lot of others. Getting personal will also help to show the admissions committee who you really are and why you really need to attend their institution.
8. If my school does not have a diversity essay, can I still write one, and should I?
Most of the time, yes. Many prompts are open-ended and would allow you to bring that aspect of yourself forward - in your personal statement, for instance. Some application processes, such as the Common or Coalition Applications, have a prompt that allows you to select your own topic.
Definitely write a diversity essay if you believe that is the best way to show your unique individuality and how you will add to the fabric of the school to which you are applying.