Approaching the Diversity Essay Question

For more application essay writing tips, check out our free special report 'From Example to Exemplary'!

Show how your background will add to the mix of perspectives at the college you are applying to.

Many applications now have a question, sometimes optional, geared to encouraging people with minority backgrounds or unusual educational or family histories to write about their background.  If you are an immigrant to the US, the child of immigrants or someone whose ethnicity is a minority in the US, you might find this question an interesting one to show how your background will add to the mix of perspectives at the college you are applying to. If you are applying after having an unusual experience for applicants like joining the military, becoming part of a dance troupe, or caring for an elderly relative, you can use your experience to evoke the way in which you will bring diversity to campus.

Your family’s culture, situation and traditions, and the way they have helped you develop particular character and personality traits are of interest, as well unusual experiences that have shaped you. Perhaps you have grown up with a strong insistence on respecting elders, attending family events or learning your parents’ native language and culture. Perhaps you are close to grandparents and extended family who have taught you how teamwork can help everyone survive. Perhaps you have had to face and deal with difficulties that stem from your parents’ values being in conflict with those of your peers. Perhaps teachers have not always understood the elements of your culture or outside-of-school situation and how they pertain to your school performance. Perhaps you have suffered discrimination and formed your values and personality traits around your success in spite of the discrimination. Perhaps you have learned skills from a lifestyle that is outside the norm–living in foreign countries as the child of diplomats or contractors, performing professionally in theater, dance, music or sports, or communicating with a deaf sibling.

Understanding and explaining how your experience built your empathy for others, a strong will, and character is a good focus for the diversity question.

Learn how to use sample essays to create an exemplary essay of your own! Click here to download our free report!



Related Resources:

5 Fatal Flaws to Avoid in Your Personal Statement
4 Application Strategy Tips: Stand Out AND Fit In
How to Prove Character Traits in Essays

  • Vincen Mathai


    I am a Indian , who was brought up in the Middle East for 17 years of my life.

    I have met and interacted with people from many countries and cultures in those years. I have used this exposure to a great extent in extracurricular activities such as Model UN events, Work as School student president and other competitions . Living in a racially and culturally diverse country, I have watched and learned everything I could about Global pop culture, current affairs and cultural topics .

    In addition, in my current job I interact daily with clients and employees based in around 15-18 countries.

    Also I belong to a Syrian christian community , which is minority in India.

    Can I use these points to differentiate my profile from the other Indian applicants in an optional essay to show how I can add to the diversity of a college , even though I come from an over-represented nationality ?

    • Linda Abraham

      Hi Vincen,
      Certainly, but don’t just list these circumstances. You need to dig deeper and analyze how these factors have influenced you as an adult and as a professional? Does the fact that you have been part of a minority culture most of your life affect the way you treat others? If so how Give an example. How does the fact that you grew up in the Middle East enrich or change you?
      The facts give you an opportunity to differentiate yourself. Don’t be superficial and you will use the opportunity well.

  • Maria Franco


    I am a lathin american woman and I am applying for a graduate program in engineering at Purdue University. They are requesting a 300 to 500 words diversity essay.

    I have live my entire life in Colombia and now I am currently working as a project manager for a construction company.

    How can I use my ethnical background for this? I will appreciate any help.

    • Linda Abraham


      It’s a little bit difficult to advise you because all I know about you is what you wrote above, but here is a possible approach.

      You are working in a male-dominated industry and profession and in a society that is reputed not to encourage women to pursue demanding professional careers. If your experience matches my understanding, how has your decision to pursue your interests despite cultural conditioning or resistance or plain old discrimination shaped you? What does it reflect about you as a person? How will this experience continue to influence you going forward at Purdue and beyond?


  • Derek


    I’m in the process of applying to veterinary school but am having trouble figuring out a topic to go on for the diversity essay. I come from a fairly average background of two middle class parents in a semi-urban area of New Hampshire. I’ve been through academic failures that I feel have shaped me into a much better student. Although, I’m not sure if admissions advisors want to know that I haven’t been the greatest student in the past.

    Any advice would be great.

    • Linda Abraham


      Admissions officers will look at your transcript and in an instant know that you weren’t always a stellar student. You might as well tell them how you changed and grew from the experience. They like resilience and turn-around stories.

      Whether that should go under the heading of “diversity”???? Not sure and can’t tell without knowing much more about you.