Law school diversity statements seem simple enough at first glance, but crafting a unique essay that doesn’t simply regurgitate elements of your law school personal statement is harder than you may expect. Diversity statements demand concise but sophisticated introspection, and this tension can make drafting and editing feel dizzying. Don’t worry though—with some basic guidelines and a few examples to consult, you can easily craft a standout diversity statement that perfectly complements and enhances the rest of your law school application.


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The Law School Diversity Statement vs Personal Statement

Understanding the ultra-specific purpose of the law school diversity statement is the first and most important step in beginning your drafts, and no one really knows these tiny differences except for law school admissions consulting professionals. And you are in luck! We are sharing these details with you today!

At first glance, it’s hard to figure out how to avoid redundancy with the personal statement. After all, answering the question of who you are is central to both essays, and since a big part of that is showing both the social and personal forces that have shaped you, it may seem difficult to determine what information goes where.

Fortunately, there are some significant structural differences that can help you organize your thoughts. At the outset, it’s important to understand that the diversity statement, with some exceptions, is almost always constructed in response to a specific prompt and is usually considered as a law school optional essay. Conversely, the personal statement is almost never constrained to a specific question, and rather asks you to explain who you are in a broad sense.

The law school diversity statement is therefore a counterpart to the personal statement, and serves as a deeper, more detailed explanation of how you understand yourself in relation to the world. Think of the personal statement as more heavily focused on your intrinsic understanding of yourself—your motivations and the experiences that illustrate them—and the diversity statement as more focused on extrinsic/external or contextual factors. It’s still about you, but it needs to show an understanding of your place(s) in the world.

Working on your law school personal statement too? Check out our video for some helpful tips:

Additionally, many schools emphasize the importance of narrative in the personal statement. The University of Washington, for instance, encourages applicants to “tell an interesting, informative, and personal story” in 700-1400 words. In contrast, their guidelines for the diversity statement ask students to “tell us about how you grew up” in a much smaller space of 300-350 words. In essence, the diversity statement in nearly all cases simply doesn’t provide you the room to structure a thorough narrative the way the personal statement does. You still need to tell a vivid story and focus on the “show, don’t tell” strategy, just as a student writing a medical school diversity secondary essay would, but the spatial limitation means you should be very selective about the experiences you choose to talk about.

An important question remains before getting into the specifics of writing the diversity statement: should you write one?

When and When Not to Write a Law School Diversity Statement

It’s important to note right away that “diversity” and “adversity” are not synonyms. Many students fall into the trap of considering diversity in wholly negative terms, or that their diversity must have been the target of some sort of difficulty or bias in order to be worth discussing. This is often the case, of course, but diversity essays are often not so specific. Law schools want to understand how your uniqueness has shaped you and your relationship to the people and social structures around you. Even more importantly, they want to see what this allows you to bring to the school and your cohort of students if admitted. The uniqueness of your perspective and sense of self does not need to be the result of staggering adversity in order to warrant a diversity essay, unless explicitly stated otherwise in the essay prompt.So, what qualifies as diversity? There are some traditional categories of identity and experience that are commonly discussed in diversity statements, such as these:

Keep in mind that these are just examples of diversity topics you can cover in your diversity essay – you are encouraged to explore a variety of diversity elements that made you who you are.

It’s crucial to be able to talk about the ways in which these identifiers or characteristics posed experiences of difference or uniqueness at various points in your life, as well as how these experiences would shape your performance as a law student. Again, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve been the target of overt bias or discrimination, although if that’s the case you absolutely should discuss it. What matters most is that these qualities allow you to contribute a unique voice to your chosen program.

On the other hand, there are ways in which these characteristics can be hard to mine, so to speak. You need to be able to discuss the ways in which the particularities of your identity make you stand out from other applicants, how they’ve influenced your pursuit of a law degree, and how they can make a positive impact both at the institutional level and in the lives of your fellow students. As Harvard Law School notes, “Think carefully about whether and how you use this optional component. There are times when an application is actually weakened by an optional statement due to a lack of cohesion or relevance to the rest of the file.”

You should take that note of caution with a grain of salt, however. Yes, it’s true that writing a flat or ineffective diversity essay is likely worse than not including one at all, but to reiterate a point we’ve made a few times now, a compelling narrative that captures your sense of difference and diversity is absolutely worth writing, even if the particularities don’t seem totally bombastic to you. Odds are you have something to discuss, whether it’s a big move or an unlikely extracurricular pursuit. The point is that it has impacted you and will, in turn, impact your performance in law school. 

Are you wondering which law school application components admission committees value the most?

3 Sample Law School Diversity Statements

In the prompts you encounter, it’s worth noting that many schools will offer a working definition of what they believe diversity to be. Be mindful of this when crafting your statement—that is, show that you “understand the assignment,” so to speak. In other words, always answer the prompt. Attention to detail is always important on graduate school applications, but especially so for law, which is rooted in linguistic specificity and careful constructions. Moreover, having a preexistent definition to work with can serve as a springboard for your own exploration of how your unique identity can contribute to a diverse student cohort.

Law School Diversity Statement Example 1 – Stanford

“[Describe] how your background, life and work experiences, advanced studies, extracurricular or community activities, culture, socio-economic status, sex, race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or other factors would contribute to the diversity of the entering class (and hence to your classmates’ law school educational experience)."

Despite growing up surrounded by other Inuit in Igloolik, I have been aware of the fundamental uniqueness of my people and culture for as long as I can remember. Each time I travelled inland across the light blue, glimmering channel, I was met with an ever-evolving mix of familiar and unfamiliar faces, languages, and activities. As I got older and began travelling further away from the island, the vast complexity of Canada’s cultures both fascinated me and deepened my understanding of who I was. By the time I applied to college, I had amassed a network of friends and acquaintances that included French-speakers, recent immigrants, and people from many other first peoples and nations. Among the many diverging aspects of our identities and upbringings that we discussed, one dimension that continually piqued my interest was the role of tradition and law in our individual understandings of ourselves and our cultures. I was especially intrigued by the varying definition of law and legality across cultures—the diversity of oral and written traditions, of worldviews and codified legal systems. It’s not surprising that I became deeply drawn toward the study of environmental law midway through my undergraduate years, and have only grown more immersed as I’ve completed my studies.

The complexity of diverging concepts of law and tradition in relation to environmental stewardship has been a central drive for my seeking a career in law. It’s not simply that my being Inuk is unique in itself, but that the radical uniqueness of our traditional lands compared to that of the rest of North America makes my understanding of human and environmental interaction extremely unique. The ways in which institutional land management practices and legal designations have evolved over time, specific to regions and peoples, is something to which I’m keenly attuned, and is a central gravitational pull in my scholarship both present and future. The environmental law track at Stanford Law would therefore not only allow me to continue developing my own understanding, but to share it with other students and study groups who come from significantly different cultural backgrounds and places. I of course believe having representation of first peoples in any academic program is a boon to its diversity of worldview and ideology, but I think especially so in Stanford’s environmental law program, whose faculty have played an important role in positively resolving environmental disputes between the Muwekma-Ohlone and state and federal governments. The uniqueness of these tensions in Northern communities has afforded me, what I believe, an uncommon but deeply informed perspective that can be of great benefit to the work of students and faculty alike. (438 words)

Want to review the basics of a good law school personal statement? Our video’s got you covered:

Law School Diversity Statement Example 2 – UT Austin

“An applicant may choose to describe the challenges as a first-generation college graduate; an applicant's struggle with a serious physical or mental disability; an applicant's encounter with discrimination based on race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, and/or national origin; or an applicant's limited educational opportunities due to geographical or other restrictions; or whatever the applicant believes is appropriate and relevant. The committee believes factors such as these may contribute to an applicant's academic potential and how they will enhance the richness and diversity of the learning environment.”

Breaking nearly half the bones in my body before finishing high school was in some ways almost a benefit as a student. My being born with osteogenesis imperfecta type IV was a terrifying prospect for my parents, and it has of course regularly been an obstacle to doing a lot of normal things. But recovering from broken collarbones, femurs, and more than a dozen skull fractures, among much else, gave me a lot of time to read. In fact, reading was about all I could do most of the time, as my parents couldn’t afford typical distractions like cable or gaming systems throughout my childhood. Although I did end up watching fuzzy reruns of Night Court when my recent library haul ran out, I’d much more readily cite Mary Shelley as an inspiration to pursue law studies than Harry Anderson.

Oddly enough, though, I often felt lucky as a kid. Growing up poor with a fairly dangerous genetic disorder didn’t register as an oppressive restriction most days but rather, oddly enough, a kind of natural simplicity in my environment. It wasn’t until I got into my teenage years that I understood just how hard my parents had to work to maintain the perceptual bubble that made me feel like our situation was at least mostly normal. Once I started to really understand just how much of a toll my condition and our economic circumstances took on them, I became firmly convinced that I wanted to make sure others in similar situations would have more resources and opportunities than we did.

Disability law became a central focus of my recreational reading during my prelaw years, and I was fortunate enough to gain a significant amount of experience volunteering with X University’s specialty legal aid clinic. What this afforded me most of all was an expansion of my perspective on disability’s ubiquitous intertwinement with poverty. What had been heavily conditioned by my personal experience was now complemented by the lives and cases of dozens of others who had experienced similar—and in one case nearly identical—difficulties, and this galvanized my drive to pursue a career in law to an even greater degree.

This aspect of my life is, I believe, an incredible gift to my ability to perform as a student and to add a unique perspective to those around me. There are still some hurdles that come along with it, but I’ve gotten pretty good at remembering my glasses and avoiding bone breaks. I hope to be a source not only of both anecdotal and professional insight into disability and poverty law issues, but also an encouraging and (if I may say so) pretty well-humored presence in my cohort. I can’t imagine getting to where I am without my sense of humor, but I also can’t imagine not trying to share that in the trenches with my fellow law students throughout the arduous experience of JD work. (487 words)

Law School Diversity Statement Example 3 – Georgetown University

“Georgetown Law is proud of its strong community of students from diverse backgrounds. We encourage you to attach a brief statement to help the Admissions Committee understand the contribution your personal background would make to our community”

Entering law school at 42 is frankly terrifying. Or, it would be, had I not spent so much of the last 15 years navigating an equally volatile environment: Bornean rainforests. The basics of my time with the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation are covered in my other application materials, but what isn't clear through those details is just how tense and dangerous our rescue operations often were. The longstanding tension between agricultural concerns and animal welfare groups is something most people surmise, but the specifics of this tension are often poorly reported outside of Indonesia.

During my second year with BOSF I assisted in an operation near Kalimantan to rescue three orangutans who had hunkered down in the rubble amidst an illegal logging operation. They wouldn't move from the node of the forest they had lived in for years prior, and were under direct threat of being injured or even killed in a clearcut. Navigating the difficult and patience-testing process of extracting animals from their shattered home was one thing, but the sheer volume of armed timber company employees and their initial unwillingness to let us attempt to rescue the animals made it one of the most overwhelming days of my life. Many, even most, of the rescue operations we undertook didn't have that level of immediate, palpable tension, but this experience was sadly not totally unique, and despite my decade of work in the field I still found subsequent situations like this absolutely draining for days afterward.

I think the hard-earned ability and stamina to deal with that kind of situational complexity is a key part of what makes me a unique candidate for law school. Commercial arbitration and corporate mediation pale entirely in comparison to negotiating a pause between a moving excavator and a terrified huddle of great apes, all while a dozen rifles were pointed at me. (309 words)

Conclusion

It may be initially difficult to decide whether a supplemental law school diversity statement is the right choice for you, and that’s okay! Uncertainty is a natural part of the application process, and especially when it comes to your personal statement and other essays. Start early and give yourself enough time to really contemplate the factors that have shaped you and your understanding of yourself. Mostly importantly, understand the need to stay focused and on topic throughout your diversity essay—by submitting one, you’re asking for additional time and consideration, so make sure you communicate something unique and meaningful when you write it. And remember, every application component matters when it comes to getting that coveted law school interview invite! So, before you even start prepping with law school interview questions, make sure that every single aspect of your application is perfect before you submit!

FAQ

1. Should I write a law school diversity statement?

This is a hard question to answer devoid of context, and to really decide you’ll need to take some notes and even write a first draft. However, the main things to consider are: what particularities of your identity have made your path to law school especially challenging or unique; and, will these contribute something notable or positive to your performance in the program? It’s important to remember that relevant identity characteristics aren’t necessary just ethnic or racial identity but can include nearly anything that’s made your path especially unique and challenging. Some schools want to a diversity statement if you’ve experienced significant adversity, but many schools encourage a broader discussion that doesn’t need to hinge on the problematic aspects of your identity.

2. How long should my law school diversity statement be?

As always, check your specific schools’ websites for a word count, as this does vary by institution quite a bit. However, a general range is 350-500 words.

3. Is it enough to simply describe adversity I’ve experienced based on my identity or socio-economic status?

Generally no. You’ll want to explain how this has impacted you, and ideally how you’ve overcome it to some extent. Law schools are incredibly competitive and the JD is a difficult program regardless of institution—law schools want to know you can adapt to difficult circumstances and make the best of them.

4. The adversity I’ve experienced seems dwarfed by what others I know have experienced. Should I still write a diversity statement?

Difficulty is an inherently subjective thing. What seems like a minor inconvenience to you, even compared to the experienced of your friends or acquaintances, may still very well be fertile ground for a supplemental diversity essay. The key is to not rush mapping out your essay, and to give yourself time to examine the many ways—often subtle—in which your unique identity or class has impacted you.

5. The law school to which I’m applying doesn’t say anything about supplemental essays or diversity essays on their website. Can I still include one with my application?

Possibly! If you feel strongly that your application would benefit from an additional diversity essay, and that this information somehow can’t be adequately discussed in your personal statement, then reach our to the school’s administrative body to ask if they accept supplemental essays. While not every law school explicitly invites the diversity essay, they all profess a commitment to diversity in admissions and may be open to a diversity statement if you have a really clear reason for the request.

6. How should I structure my diversity essay?

Although it’s quite a bit shorter than the personal statement and many other types of supplemental essays, the diversity essay should follow roughly the same structure as these other elements. The most important point is to get to the point quickly—within a sentence or two max, you need to make it clear why you’ve written a diversity essay and exactly what qualities/characteristics/experiences make you unique. From here, you’ll want to “show don’t tell” why this is aspect of you makes you a unique candidate. Don’t just list that you grew up on Neptune and move on, but describe the icy surface and supersonic winds that shaped your childhood. Develop these details into a discussion of how they shaped your personality and approach to life and/or law, and close with at least one or two sentences that clearly indicate why this difference is relevant to law school in particular. Keep in mind, though, that responding to the prompt’s specific wording is key. Some prompts will simply ask you to explain why you’re a unique candidate, others will ask you to more thoroughly relate this to law. You’ll want to do both to some extent, but it’s crucial to balance these two dimensions of your statement based on the specific instructions of your school.

7. What are some good topics for a diversity essay?

One of the best aspects of the diversity essay is its flexibility—the potential topics are vast and numerous. Common foci include ethnic, gender, national, and cultural identity uniqueness, but these kinds of permanent or intrinsic qualities aren’t the only options. You should also feel encouraged to explore the experiences and commitments that you feel have made you a unique person and candidate for law school. These may include long-term and short-term experiences, jobs, trips, even uncommon relationships. The only real boundary is that this discussion needs to be at least somewhat relevant to law school, but as long as you’re able to relate your narrative or essay to this even somewhat, go for it!

8. What’s the difference between a diversity statement and a personal statement?

Personal statements are on average quite a bit longer and somewhat general, whereas a diversity statement is asking you to answer a much more specific question in less space. Moreover, personal statements are meant to be comprehensive narratives that delve into your big-picture motivations for attending law school and what you hope to do in the future, at least to some extent. Conversely, a diversity statement is much more focused on the past, and specifically those factors that have brought you to the present moment. In a way, we can summarize the difference like this: a personal statement deals heavily in what you’ve done and what you want to do, and a diversity statement is about who you are.

To your success,

Your friends at BeMo

BeMo Academic Consulting 

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