Approaching diversity secondary essays for medical school can be tough when you don’t know what diversity you can share to the world. Diversity isn’t just about being underrepresented or coming from a marginalized group, but you may not know where to start with this medical school secondary essay prompt. In this blog I'll share how to approach the diversity secondary essay, what to write about, how to figure out what sort of diversity you can share, how to relate your diversity to medical school, and more. 

>>Want us to help you get accepted? Schedule a free initial consultation here <<

Article Contents
12 min read

Diversity Secondary Essay: What Exactly is "Diversity?" How Important Is Writing a Diversity Secondary Essay? Writing a Successful Diversity Secondary Essay Examples of Diversity Essay Prompts Sample Diversity Secondary Essays FAQs

Diversity Secondary Essay: What Exactly is "Diversity?"

Diversity does not necessarily (or exclusively) refer to religious, ethnic, cultural, or linguistic minorities. Yes, such applicants would indeed be diverse and would contribute to the diversity of a school or program, but everyone has their own form of diversity, even if it doesn’t appear straightforward. Discussing your diverse attributes can be difficult, especially when not knowing what makes you diverse.

For me, part of my diversity stemmed from my Mexican heritage, being fluent in Spanish, being the first in my family to pursue college/medicine and being a collegiate athlete. 

However, there are any number of other identities and designators you might apply to yourself that act as distinguishing features in your medical school secondary essay. If you’re a returning student, a parent, served in the military, or a non-traditional applicant, those are diverse attributes.

Additionally, if you have had experiences with helping people who come from underrepresented or marginalized groups, that can certainly count as having diverse experiences. 

Let’s see some more examples of diversity:

  1. You’re someone with a disability or unique health challenges
  2. You’re the first person in your family to pursue higher education
  3. You come from a lower socioeconomic background
  4. You’re from a rural area
  5. You’re multilingual (either by choice or by necessity)

In short, “diversity” isn’t just some kind of PC buzzword. Seeking reflections on diversity, along with diverse candidates, is a genuine effort on the part of institutions to bring a variety of voices into the intellectual arena of academia. The more kinds of voices we have in our institutions, the more robust, nuanced, and intersectional that education becomes. 

You can be a member of the “majority” culture, linguistic group, religion, etc., and still have experiences that differentiate you from others.

To expand this view, let’s start by looking at Stanford Medical School’s secondary essay prompt on diversity:

From a slightly different perspective, if you feel that you are from a background that is already heavily represented in the area you want to study, that doesn’t mean that you don’t manifest diversity in any number of other ways. Think about the landmark moments in your life: events, achievements, or challenges that shaped how you think about the world and about yourself. No one has lived exactly those events, experiences, or challenges in precisely the same way as you. Think about your values and priorities and the reasons behind them. No one holds exactly these same values and priorities for the same reasons as you.

The point here is that everyone has something – some set of qualities, perspectives, and experiences – that makes them who they are. This can be the focus of your diversity essay.

Want more tips and secondary essay examples? Watch this video!

How Important Is Writing a Diversity Secondary Essay?

1. To show that your values align with the school’s

The first and most important reason why you should consider a diversity secondary essay a requirement, even when it’s listed as optional, is because it’s an opportunity to show that your values align with theirs. For instance, notice the explicit mention of diversity in Yale Medical School’s mission statement:        

“Yale School of Medicine educates and nurtures creative leaders in medicine and science, promoting curiosity and critical inquiry in an inclusive environment enriched by diversity. We advance discovery and innovation fostered by partnerships across the University, our local community, and the world. We care for patients with compassion and commit to improving the health of all people.”

Most medical schools make diversity an integral part of their mission and growth plans. If you can elicit your definition of diversity and what it means to you, you’re showing the admissions committee that you have the potential to be a valuable contributor to the school’s culture and community.

2. You can show personality

Medical schools know that people are more than just their stats. That’s why secondary essays, resumes, and personal statements are part of the application process. Medical schools want to get to know the person behind the application because qualitative traits tell a story about who you are as a person. Diversity essays are an opportunity to introduce yourself on a more intimate level; you can explain where you came from, or how a formative experience shaped you as a prospective medical school student. Don’t underestimate the explanatory power of the diversity secondary essay; use it to show the admissions committee that you’re a resilient, prepared candidate.

3. You might have some explaining to do

Sometimes, diversity secondary essay prompts are more open-ended; in other words, they don’t explicitly mention diversity. Rather, they might ask the applicant to mention anything else they might like the admissions committee to know regarding academic records, or if there’s an important aspect of their background they think the committee should consider. You might think that your circumstances are extraneous; on the contrary, you can use the diversity essay to explain gaps in your academic background, interesting or influential experiences, or to simply give the committee a better view of who you are. If you look at your application holistically and identify valuable information you think is missing, take the opportunity to rectify those gaps in the body of this prompt.

Writing a Successful Diversity Secondary Essay

Step 1: Explore Your Own Diversity

My approach to diversity secondary essays was ensuring that I included examples of experiences and my own personal diverse attributes that most strongly related to medicine. I went through my running document that contained all of my experiences and chose the ones that would show off my understanding of people who come from diverse backgrounds.

You likely had to assemble your list of experiences for the AMCAS work and activities, which would have required you to think about your experiences, qualities, and overall trajectory as a student and as a person. Similarly, if you're applying to med school through TMDSAS, you would have had to brainstorm for the TMDSAS personal characteristics essay. Returning to that and thinking through what you wrote through a slightly different lens is a great way of gathering some ideas about what sets you and your life story apart from others. For more ideas, you can always read some medical school secondary essay examples that can inspire your own.

Step 2: Reflect on Your Experiences With Others

Choosing the right experience can also be a bit of a challenge when discussing diversity. The two different forms of diversity to think through are personal perspectives, as well as personal experiences. When brainstorming personal experiences, think of your familial heritage, socioeconomic status, and whether you are a first-generation student.

For me personally, I come from a Mexican home where my parents were immigrants. Being new to this country, we were under the poverty line for most of my childhood. Additionally, I am a first-generation student in both college and medical school. For experiences, think through any volunteer work you may have done working with different populations of people, experiences in extracurriculars such as athletics, any other languages you may know, or prior work/career experiences. Personally, I worked in a free clinic, have volunteered in Haiti to serve, was a college athlete, worked as a professor prior to medical school, and am fluent in Spanish.

By discussing diverse experiences and interactions, I was able to show that I would be able to become an empathetic and understanding physician when interacting with different groups of patients. As a physician, being able to understand the backgrounds of different people groups will allow you to provide the best care for all, which is what medical schools want to see when choosing different candidates. After all, cultural competency is an important AAMC core competency for medical school applicants!

Consider these questions to help you start thinking about how diversity manifests in your life:

  1. Have you done volunteer work that allowed you to work with or for people from a different background than yourself?
  2. Have you traveled to places or taken up service opportunities that let you see other ways of life different from your own?
  3. Have you connected in meaningful ways with someone who challenged you to think from a new perspective?
  4. Do you have family, friends, or loved ones who have shown you other ways to think and be? If you have, and if you can articulate such experiences, then this may be something to reflect on as part of your diversity essay. 

Step 3: Show, Don’t Tell (With a Twist)

Diversity allows us to connect with others and become better people for it. Sharing your diverse experiences with schools allows them to see your inclusivity and recognize that you will be a physician that cares for people, regardless of their walk of life.

Diversity in medical school is important as you will come across a multitude of different people groups. Being able to express that you have had experiences with diverse groups of people/your own diversity, you can demonstrate that you will be able to connect with patients of different backgrounds and provide quality care. To show this, you will want to describe your experience, relating it to how you will come across specific people groups in medical school and beyond, and how the specific experience has prepared you to be a caring and compassionate medical student and physician. Since many medical schools have clinical partnerships with county hospitals or free clinics, having experiences like these will further convince the admissions committee that you would be ready for a career in medicine. 

Examples of Diversity Essay Prompts

The diversity essay prompts you receive from different schools may vary; that is, the wording of the prompts and what they ask for will be specific to the school. It’s a good idea to read a few examples, so that you know what to expect. While the gist of what you should include in each prompt won’t vary all that much for each school, you might choose to alter the structure or order of content for different prompts.

Here are a few examples of diversity secondary essay prompts:

Sample Diversity Secondary Essays

Diversity Secondary Essay Sample #1

Prompt: “Diversity comes in many forms. How do you think you might contribute to the diversity of the class?” (1500 characters)

I am extremely fortunate to have a strong connection to my roots. Spending time in Italy throughout my life has allowed me to see how the ideology of this culture differs from that of the United States.

Italian society is often marred by the stereotype that its citizens are lazy or not willing to work. I believe that if people look through an objective lens, they will see a society that derives its happiness less from material objects and more from love and companionship. There is a monumental emphasis placed on the health and wellbeing of others. There is always time for a family meal, a coffee with a friend, or an evening walk to clear one’s mind. Growing up, my family always made sure everyone had enough to eat and someone to talk to. I believe in this philosophy and view the health care field as an opportunity to help others live a full and fruitful life pursuing their own happiness. My culture, upbringing, and life experiences have fostered my desire to pursue medicine and my holistic approach to life.

Throughout my life, health care professionals have consistently given my loved ones the ability to live autonomously and be present in my life. It is a service and a gift that they have given me and a gift I wish to spend my life giving to others. I will bring these elements of empathy and holistic care to not only as a training physician, but as a fellow classmate who is there for others through the rigors of medical school. (1,449 characters)

Diversity Secondary Essay Sample #2

Prompt: “The Larner College of Medicine at the University of Vermont recognizes that diversity extends beyond chosen and unchosen identities and encompasses the entirety of an individual’s experiences. Reflect on a time you learned something from someone or a group of people who are unlike yourself.”

In my freshman year of college, I roomed with an international student named Jorge who had immigrated from Guatemala to attend X University. We had a lot in common, despite our differences, and helped each other a lot in this transitional time in our lives. However hard adjusting to college life was for me as a first-generation citizen, I saw how much harder it was for him to transition to a new country and breach cultural barriers, while also acclimatizing to the responsibility and workload of a college student.

Instead of accepting the fact that our backgrounds rendered us incompatible, I decided to educate myself on his culture. I began reading about the political unrest in Guatemala, I found Latin Hip-Hop we could listen to, and I worked to develop my Spanish to try to make him feel at home. We grew very close and I learned a lot from being his roommate. Seeing his work ethic and commitment to building a life for himself inspired me to pursue my own goals with the same vigor. He looked at the opportunity to study in the United States as a privilege and didn’t take the chance to pursue his education for granted. We were roommates throughout college and in that time, I learned a lot culturally from him as well. Through our friendship, I spent time with his family and within the Latin community at X University and came to incorporate many aspects of his culture into my own life. I learned a lot about letting the people in my life know they are loved and taking the time in my day for simple pleasures like a good meal with friends. In return, I introduced him to my friends in the LGBTQ+ community on campus, where he forged more new friendships and found acceptance. I am very thankful for my friendship with Jorge and for the growth fostered by our friendship.

My experience with Jorge has made me particularly excited about the Larner College of Medicine, which I see as an institution invested in producing physicians who are culturally adept and equipped to treat all members of a patient population. The Larner College of Medicine’s commitment to improving health care for the LGBTQ+ population and investing in the wellbeing of its community speaks volumes about what this program values. My undergraduate and my own personal experiences as a first-generation citizen in this country have demonstrated for me how continuing to learn from others who are different is imperative, and how an enriching life comes from an open mind. (427 words)

Diversity Secondary Essay Sample #3

Prompt: “Without limiting the discussion to your own identity, please describe how you envision contributing to the core values of diversity and inclusion at our School of Medicine, and in the medical profession.” (1500 characters)

During my junior year of college, I participated in a workshop on unconscious bias in healthcare, offered by my volunteer work at a community health clinic. I learned and observed firsthand the disparities in the quality of care provided to patients of color, from misdiagnoses to downright dismissals. These experiences illuminated the pervasive nature of unconscious biases and their detrimental effects on patients who were not getting appropriate care.

I envision hosting workshops focused on recognizing and mitigating unconscious bias in medicine. These workshops would foster a deeper understanding of how these biases influence patient care and to provide practical strategies for addressing them. By creating a comprehensive workshop series, I aim to cultivate an environment where my peers are better equipped to deliver equitable and compassionate care to all patients, regardless of their background.

Furthermore, I will advocate for the integration of unconscious bias training into the medical school curriculum, ensuring that every student is equipped with the knowledge and tools to provide equitable care.

As a future physician, I am committed to being a vocal advocate for diversity and inclusion within the medical profession. I aim to influence positive change by setting an example for others to follow and by promoting these values. My goal is to contribute to a more equitable healthcare system that serves all patients with dignity and respect, regardless of their background. (1,497 characters)


1. What is the secret to writing a strong diversity secondary essay?

The secret is understanding that diversity is universal. The definition is much broader than most traditionally think it is; for instance, having a diverse perspective qualifies just as much as other common diversity signifiers, like racial or ethnic background.

2. Are diversity secondary essays mandatory?

Not all schools make the diversity secondary essay mandatory. However, even when it’s optional, you are encouraged to reflect on your experiences and what you can contribute to the school’s culture and mission. Diversity is important, but so is taking every opportunity to use your qualities to your advantage and stand out from the crowd.

3. How do I avoid telling instead of showing?

Telling means you’ve simply stated a fact about yourself. For example, you might say you’re a “compassionate” person. To show that this is true, you need to use an experience that evinces this quality.

4. How can I start brainstorming what to write?

It’s best if you reflect on your experiences with others. Interaction and connection are the two cornerstones of diversity. For example, maybe you collaborated with a diverse group of people in a music band and this was a challenging but emboldening experience.

5. What does diversity not mean?

Diversity isn’t about what makes us separate from other people. On the contrary, part of it defines our role in society and in large or small interdependent groups.

6. What are the most important facets of diversity?

Diversity is about breaking convention; the definition is never fixed; everyone has diverse experiences; and diversity, in the final analysis, is what makes you “you.”

7. Are all diversity essay prompts the same?

No, each school’s diversity essay prompt will most likely be different. Read each prompt thoroughly and be sure to address each component of the prompt, including character or word count.

8. How can I avoid sounding self-righteous?

It’s impossible to sound self-righteous if you’re being authentic. Pick out relevant experiences and show the admissions committee that you can demonstrate your moral convictions through action.

To your success,

Your friends at BeMo

BeMo Academic Consulting

Want more free tips? Subscribe to our channels for more free and useful content!




Apple Podcasts