Laura Berlinsky-Schine 4 min read Essay FAQs, Essay Tips

4 Tips for Writing a Diversity College Essay

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When working on your college applications, you’ll write numerous essays, including your Common Application or Coalition Application essay and supplemental essays for each college, some of which will have similar themes. One common theme you may encounter is diversity.


So, what is a diversity essay? How to do you write an effective one? Read on to find out what a diversity prompt looks like and how to write a standout essay that addresses it.



What is a Diversity Essay?


Colleges want a diverse student body that includes different ethnicities, religions, sexual orientations, backgrounds, interests, and so on. Essays that ask students to illuminate what sets them apart helps adcoms see what kind of diverse views and opinions they can bring to the campus.


You can choose this theme for your Common App essay. One prompt states:


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.


Some schools also have individual diversity essay prompts. For example, here’s one of Duke University’s:

Prompt #2: Perspective and Experience (Optional)

Duke University seeks a talented, engaged student body that embodies the wide range of human experience; we believe that the diversity of our students makes our community stronger. If you’d like to share a perspective you bring or experiences you’ve had to help us understand you better — perhaps related to a community you belong to, your sexual orientation or gender identity, or your family or cultural background — we encourage you to do so. Real people are reading your application, and we want to do our best to understand and appreciate the real people applying to Duke. (250 words)

In all instances, colleges want you to demonstrate how and what you’ll contribute to their communities.

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Tips for Writing a Diversity College Essay


1. Have a standout topic


The topic for this essay isn’t just “diversity”; it’s your particular experience or perspective. You want to show what makes you unique and what you’ll contribute to campus.


For example, if you grew up in a socioeconomic circumstance that made it difficult to have the same type of experience your peers have had, this sets you apart. Alternatively, you might write about a difficult experience you had and how it shaped you. For example, if you were bullied because of your gender identity, you could discuss some examples and anecdotes and explain how they helped you grow.


For this essay, it’s helpful to brainstorm. Think about experiences that shaped you and made you who you are today.



2. Write in an honest, authentic voice


It’s important to stay true to your experience, so use a voice that is authentic to you and your personality. That means avoiding making your essay overly formal—this isn’t a paper for your English class—but also remembering that you’re not texting your best friend (no Urban Dictionary lingo).


Never exaggerate or outright lie—doing so could get you into trouble. The best essays reflect who you are and how you speak, and if your writing is authentic, it will be obvious to adcoms.



3. Give yourself time to brainstorm and revise


Starting your essays early is essential because senior year will be extremely busy. (Check out Balancing the Start of Senior Year with College Applications for tips on how to stay on top of your to-do list.)


Start working on your essay over the summer. This gives you time to brainstorm and have a draft ready for people to review when fall rolls around.



4. Read and revise your essay


Your first draft should never be your final draft. Make sure to proofread and edit your essay carefully. Read 11 Tips for Proofreading and Editing Your College Essay for plenty of helpful hints on how to refine your work.


It’s also helpful to get another set of eyes. Ask your parents, friends, teachers, guidance counselor, and others if they would mind reading your essay and giving you feedback. Keep their suggestions in perspective, though. First and foremost, the essay needs to be authentic to who you are—which is something people close to you may be able to assess. Remember that your readers may not know the intricacies of the college admissions process, so you don’t need to incorporate every edit or suggestion if it’s not something with which you agree or are comfortable.


This essay, as with your other college essays, is about to you, and first and foremost, your voice and perspective are what matter the most.


For more ideas on how to write a diversity essay, check out our database of prompts and advice on how to answer them. Also, read 8 Dos and Don’ts for Crafting Your College Essay.


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Laura Berlinsky-Schine
Senior Blogger at CollegeVine
Short bio
Laura Berlinsky-Schine is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University, where she majored in Creative Writing and minored in History. She lives in Brooklyn, New York and works as a freelance writer specializing in education. She dreams of having a dog.