6 Diversity College Essay Examples

 

What’s Covered:

 

While working on your college applications, you may come across essays that focus on diversity, culture, or values. The purpose of these essays is to highlight any diverse views or opinions that you may bring to campus. Colleges want a diverse student body that’s made up of different backgrounds, religions, ethnicities, sexual orientations, and interests. These essay prompts are a way for them to see what students can bring to their school.

 

These culture and diversity essay examples were all written by real students. Read these examples to inspire your writing. We’ll also include the revision process for the first essay and share resources for how to improve your own essay at the end.

 

Essay 1: Jewish Identity


I was thirsty. In my wallet was a lone $10 bill, ultimately useless at my school’s vending machine. Tasked with scrounging together the $1 cost of a water bottle, I fished out and arranged the spare change that normally hid in the bottom of my backpack in neat piles of nickels and dimes on my desk. I swept them into a spare Ziploc and began to leave when a classmate snatched the bag and held it above my head. “Want your money back, Jew?” she chanted, waving the coins around. I had forgotten the Star-of-David around my neck, but quickly realized she must have seen it and connected it to the stacks of coins. I am no stranger to experiencing and confronting anti-Semitism, but I had never been targeted in my school before. I grabbed my bag and sternly told her to leave. Although she sauntered away, the impact remained. This incident serves as an example of the adversity I have and will continue to face from those who only see me as a stereotype. Ironically, however, these experiences of discrimination have only increased my pride as a member of the Jewish Community. Continuing to wear the Star-of-David connects me to my history and my family. I find meaning and direction from community values such as pride, education, and giving, and I am eager to transfer these values to my new community: the Duke community.

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Essay 2: Being Bangladeshi-American

Life before was good: verdant forests, sumptuous curries, and a devoted family.

 

Then, my family abandoned our comfortable life in Bangladesh for a chance at the American dream in Los Angeles. Within our first year, my father was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. He lost his battle three weeks before my sixth birthday. Facing a new country without the steady presence of my father, we were vulnerable — prisoners of hardship in the land of the free. We resettled in the Bronx, in my uncle’s renovated basement. It was meant to be our refuge, but I felt more displaced than ever. Gone were the high-rise condos of West L.A.; instead, government projects towered over the neighborhood. Pedestrians no longer smiled and greeted me; the atmosphere was hostile, even toxic. Schoolkids were quick to pick on those they saw as weak or foreign, hurling harsh words I’d never heard before.

 

Meanwhile, my family began integrating into the local Bangladeshi community. I struggled to understand those who shared my heritage. Bangladeshi mothers stayed home while fathers drove cabs and sold fruit by the roadside — painful societal positions. Riding on crosstown buses or walking home from school, I began to internalize these disparities. During my fleeting encounters with affluent Upper East Siders, I saw kids my age with nannies, parents who wore suits to work, and luxurious apartments with spectacular views. Most took cabs to their destinations: cabs that Bangladeshis drove. I watched the mundane moments of their lives with longing, aching to plant myself in their shoes. Shame prickled down my spine. I distanced myself from my heritage, rejecting the traditional panjabis worn on Eid and refusing the torkari we ate for dinner every day. 

 

As I grappled with my relationship with the Bangladeshi community, I turned my attention to helping my Bronx community by pursuing an internship with Assemblyman Luis Sepulveda. I handled desk work and took calls, spending the bulk of my time actively listening to the hardships constituents faced — everything from a veteran stripped of his benefits to a grandmother unable to support her bedridden grandchild.

 

I’d never exposed myself to stories like these, and now I was the first to hear them. As an intern, I could only assist in what felt like the small ways — pointing out local job offerings, printing information on free ESL classes, reaching out to non-profits. But to a community facing an onslaught of intense struggles, I realized that something as small as these actions could have vast impacts. Seeing the immediate consequences of my actions inspired me. Throughout that summer, I internalized my community’s daily challenges in a new light. I began to stop seeing the prevalent underemployment and cramped living quarters less as sources of shame. Instead, I saw them as realities that had to be acknowledged, but could ultimately be remedied. I also realized the benefits of the Bangladeshi culture I had been so ashamed of. My Bangla language skills were an asset to the office, and my understanding of Bangladeshi etiquette allowed for smooth communication between office staff and its constituents. As I helped my neighbors navigate city services, I saw my heritage with pride — a perspective I never expected to have.

 

I can now appreciate the value of my unique culture and background, and of living with less. This perspective offers room for progress, community integration, and a future worth fighting for. My time with Assemblyman Sepulveda’s office taught me that I can be a change agent in enabling this progression. Far from being ashamed of my community, I want to someday return to local politics in the Bronx to continue helping others access the American Dream. I hope to help my community appreciate the opportunity to make progress together. By embracing reality, I learned to live it. Along the way, I discovered one thing: life is good, but we can make it better.

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Essay 3: Why Medicine

I took my first trip to China to visit my cousin Anna in July of 2014. Distance had kept us apart, but when we were together, we fell into all of our old inside jokes and caught up on each other’s lives. Her sparkling personality and optimistic attitude always brought a smile to my face. This time, however, my heart broke when I saw the effects of her brain cancer; she had suffered from a stroke that paralyzed her left side. She was still herself in many ways, but I could see that the damage to her brain made things difficult for her. I stayed by her every day, providing the support she needed, whether assisting her with eating and drinking, reading to her, or just watching “Friends.” During my flight back home, sorrow and helplessness overwhelmed me. Would I ever see Anna again? Could I have done more to make Anna comfortable? I wished I could stay in China longer to care for her. As I deplaned, I wondered if I could transform my grief to help other children and teenagers in the US who suffered as Anna did.

 

The day after I got home, as jet lag dragged me awake a few minutes after midnight, I remembered hearing about the Family Reach Foundation (FRF) and its work with children going through treatments at the local hospital and their families. I began volunteering in the FRF’s Children’s Activity Room, where I play with children battling cancer. Volunteering has both made me appreciate my own health and also cherish the new relationships I build with the children and families. We play sports, make figures out of playdoh, and dress up. When they take on the roles of firefighters or fairies, we all get caught up in the game; for that time, they forget the sanitized, stark, impersonal walls of the pediatric oncology ward. Building close relationships with them and seeing them giggle and laugh is so rewarding — I love watching them grow and get better throughout their course of treatment.

 

Hearing from the parents about their children’s condition and seeing the children recover inspired me to consider medical research. To get started, I enrolled in a summer collegelevel course in Abnormal Psychology. There I worked with Catelyn, a rising college senior, on a data analysis project regarding Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). Together, we examined the neurological etiology of DID by studying four fMRI and PET cases. I fell in love with gathering data and analyzing the results and was amazed by our final product: several stunning brain images showcasing the areas of hyper and hypoactivity in brains affected by DID. Desire quickly followed my amazement — I want to continue this project and study more brains. Their complexity, delicacy, and importance to every aspect of life fascinate me. Successfully completing this research project gave me a sense of hope; I know I am capable of participating in a large scale research project and potentially making a difference in someone else’s life through my research.

 

Anna’s diagnosis inspired me to begin volunteering at FRF; from there, I discovered my desire to help people further by contributing to medical research. As my research interest blossomed, I realized that it’s no coincidence that I want to study brains—after all, Anna suffered from brain cancer. Reflecting on these experiences this past year and a half, I see that everything I’ve done is connected. Sadly, a few months after I returned from China, Anna passed away. I am still sad, but as I run a toy truck across the floor and watch one of the little patients’ eyes light up, I imagine that she would be proud of my commitment to pursue medicine and study the brain.

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Essay 4: Leadership as a First-Gen American

Leadership was thrust upon me at a young age. When I was six years old, my abusive father abandoned my family, leaving me to step up as the “man” of the house. From having to watch over my little sister to cooking dinner three nights a week, I never lived an ideal suburban life. I didn’t enjoy the luxuries of joining after-school activities, getting driven to school or friends’ houses, or taking weekend trips to the movies or bowling alley. Instead, I spent my childhood navigating legal hurdles, shouldering family responsibilities, and begrudgingly attending court-mandated therapy sessions. At the same time, I tried to get decent grades and maintain my Colombian roots and Spanish fluency enough to at least partially communicate with my grandparents, both of whom speak little English. Although my childhood had its bright and joyful moments, much of it was weighty and would have been exhausting for any child to bear. I grew up fast. However, the responsibilities I took on at home prepared me to lead and to work diligently, setting me up to later use them in life.

 

I didn’t have much time to explore my interests until high school, where I developed my knack for government and serving others. However, being cast in a lead role in my school’s fall production as a freshman gave me the confidence to pursue other activities: namely, student government. Shortly after being cast, I was elected as Freshman Vice-President, a role that put me in charge of promoting events, delegating daily office tasks, collaborating with the administration on new school initiatives, and planning trips and fundraisers. While it demanded a significant amount of responsibility, my childhood of helping my mom manage our household prepared me to be successful in the role. When I saw the happy faces of my classmates after a big event, I felt proud to know that I had made a small difference for them. Seeing projects through to a successful outcome was thrilling. I enjoyed my time and responsibilities so much that I served all four years of high school, going on to become Executive Vice-President.

 

As I found success in high school, my mother and grandparents began speaking more about the life they faced prior to emigrating from Colombia. To better connect with them, I took a series of Spanish language classes to regain my fluency. After a practice run through my presentation on Bendiceme Ultima (Bless me, Ultima, by Rudolofo Anaya) with my grandmother, she squeezed my hand and told me the story of how my family was forced from their home in order to live free of religious persecution. Though my grandparents have often expressed how much better their lives and their children’s lives have been in America, I have often struggled with my identity. I felt that much of it was erased with my loss of our native language. In elementary school, I learned English best because in class I was surrounded by it. Spanish was more difficult to grasp without a formal education, and my family urged me to become fluent in English so I could be of better help to them in places as disparate as government agencies and grocery stores. When I was old enough to recognize the large part of my identity still rooted in being Colombian, it was challenging to connect these two sides of who I was. Over time I have been able to reconcile the two in the context of my aspirations. I found purpose and fulfillment through student council, and I knew that I could help other families like my own if I worked in local government. By working through city offices that address housing, education, and support for survivors of childhood abuse, I could give others the same liberties and opportunities my family has enjoyed in this country. Doing so would also help me honor my roots as a first-generation American.

 

I have been a leader for my whole life. Both at Harvard and after graduation, I want to continue that trend. I hope to volunteer with organizations that share my goals. I want to advise politicians on policy-making that will make children and new immigrants safer and more secure. When my family was at their worst, my community gave back. I hope to give that gift to future generations. A career in local, city-based public service is not a rashly made decision; it is a reflection of where I’ve been in life and where I want to be in the future.

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Essay 5: Protecting the Earth

I never understood the power of community until I left home to join seven strangers in the Ecuadorian rainforest. Although we flew in from distant corners of the U.S., we shared a common purpose: immersing ourselves in our passion for protecting the natural world.

 

Back home in my predominantly conservative suburb, my neighbors had brushed off environmental concerns. My classmates debated the feasibility of Trump’s wall, not the deteriorating state of our planet. Contrastingly, these seven strangers delighted in bird-watching, brightened at the mention of medicinal tree sap, and understood why I once ran across a four-lane highway to retrieve discarded beer cans. Their histories barely resembled mine, yet our values aligned intimately. We did not hesitate to joke about bullet ants, gush about the versatility of tree bark, or discuss the destructive consequences of materialism. Together, we let our inner tree huggers run free.

 

In the short life of our little community, we did what we thought was impossible. By feeding on each other’s infectious tenacity, we cultivated an atmosphere that deepened our commitment to our values and empowered us to speak out on behalf of the environment. After a week of stimulating conversations and introspective revelations about engaging people from our hometowns in environmental advocacy, we developed a shared determination to devote our lives to this cause.

 

As we shared a goodbye hug, my new friend whispered, “The world needs saving. Someone’s gotta do it.” For the first time, I believed that someone could be me.

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Essay 6: Coaching Kids in Ice Skating

“Everyone follow me!” I smiled at five wide-eyed skaters before pushing off into a spiral. I glanced behind me hopefully, only to see my students standing frozen like statues, the fear in their eyes as clear as the ice they swayed on. “Come on!” I said encouragingly, but the only response I elicited was the slow shake of their heads. My first day as a Learn-to-Skate coach was not going as planned. 

 

But amid my frustration, I was struck by how much my students reminded me of myself as a young skater. At seven, I had been fascinated by Olympic performers who executed thrilling high jumps and dizzying spins with apparent ease, and I dreamed to one day do the same. My first few months on skates, however, sent these hopes crashing down: my attempts at slaloms and toe-loops were shadowed by a stubborn fear of falling, which even the helmet, elbow pads, and two pairs of mittens I had armed myself with couldn’t mitigate. Nonetheless, my coach remained unfailingly optimistic, motivating me through my worst spills and teaching me to find opportunities in failures. With his encouragement, I learned to push aside my fears and attack each jump with calm and confidence; it’s the hope that I can help others do the same that now inspires me to coach. 

 

I remember the day a frustrated staff member directed Oliver, a particularly hesitant young skater, toward me, hoping that my patience and steady encouragement might help him improve. Having stood in Oliver’s skates not much earlier myself, I completely empathized with his worries but also saw within him the potential to overcome his fears and succeed. 

 

To alleviate his anxiety, I held Oliver’s hand as we inched around the rink, cheering him on at every turn. I soon found though, that this only increased his fear of gliding on his own, so I changed my approach, making lessons as exciting as possible in hopes that he would catch the skating bug and take off. In the weeks that followed, we held relay races, played “freeze-skate” and “ice-potato”, and raced through obstacle courses; gradually, with each slip and subsequent success, his fear began to abate. I watched Oliver’s eyes widen in excitement with every skill he learned, and not long after, he earned his first skating badge. Together we celebrated this milestone, his ecstasy fueling my excitement and his pride mirroring my own. At that moment, I was both teacher and student, his progress instilling in me the importance of patience and a positive attitude. 

 

It’s been more than ten years since I bundled up and stepped onto the ice for the first time. Since then, my tolerance for the cold has remained stubbornly low, but the rest of me has certainly changed. In sharing my passion for skating, I have found a wonderful community of eager athletes, loving parents, and dedicated coaches from whom I have learned invaluable lessons and wisdom. My fellow staffers have been with me, both as friends and colleagues, and the relationships I’ve formed have given me far more poise, confidence, and appreciation for others. Likewise, my relationships with parents have given me an even greater gratitude for the role they play: no one goes to the rink without a parent behind the wheel! 

 

Since that first lesson, I have mentored dozens of children, and over the years, witnessed tentative steps transform into powerful glides and tears give way to delighted grins. What I have shared with my students has been among the greatest joys of my life, something I will cherish forever. It’s funny: when I began skating, what pushed me through the early morning practices was the prospect of winning an Olympic medal. Now, what excites me is the chance to work with my students, to help them grow, and to give back to the sport that has brought me so much happiness. 

Revision Process for Essay 1

 

All of these essays have gone through several rounds of revision to become what they are. Here’s a look at the draft of Essay 1 and the reader’s comments to help you understand how to improve your essay.

 

I was thirsty. In my wallet was a lone $10 bill, ultimately useless in the world of school vending machines. Tasked with making up the $1 needed to buy a water bottle, the spare change that normally hid in the bottom of my backpack was now fished out and on my desk in neat piles of nickels and dimes. Added into a spare baggy, the coins remained on my desk until a classmate snatched the bag and held it above my head chanting “Want your money back, Jew?” I had forgotten the Star-of-David necklace I always wore, but realized she must have connected it to the coins. I am no stranger to confronting anti-Semitism, but I had never been targeted in my school before. I grabbed my bag and sternly told her to leave, but although she fled, the impact stayed. This incident serves as an example of the adversity I will continue to face amongst those who see me as a mere stereotype. Ironically, however, it has only increased my pride as a member of the Jewish Community and will help me exponentially as I enter new environments. I know I must work hard to bring out my unique perspective as one of the .2% of Jews in the world. As part of a community that fosters pride, education, and giving, I feel I can transfer these aspects to any new community, specifically one that holds dear the same concepts: A Duke community.

Reader’s comments:

 

This essay responds well to the prompt, giving an example of the author’s experience as a member of the community while using some great imagery that keeps the reader engaged. There is also a solid narrative voice, which helps paint a picture of the author’s personality and who they are.

 

They’ve also chosen the right structure for the essay. The anecdote is vivid and relevant, pulling in the reader. Then, the last few sentences of reflection tie back to their experience to the bigger picture, to give a sense of how this connects to their whole identity, and especially their identity as a member of the Jewish community. Within the last few sentences, though,  there is some room for improvement. The sentence about working hard to “bring out” their unique perspective could be scrapped in favor of a sentence that fleshes out their claim that these experiences have increased their pride.

 

Besides that, there are various places where they can smooth out choppy constructions for clarity and flow, and a handful of substitutions in diction they can make for stronger imagery; most of these are just final polishing touches.

 

Is Your Diversity Essay Strong Enough?

 

After reading your essays over and over, it can be difficult to judge your writing objectively. That’s why we created our Peer Essay Review tool, where you can get a free review of your essay from another student. Since they don’t know you personally, they can be a more objective judge of whether your personality shines through, and whether you’ve fully answered the prompt. 

 

You can also improve your own writing skills by reviewing other students’ essays. We highly recommend giving this tool a try!

 

More Supplemental Essay Tips

 

How to Write the “Why This College” Essay

How to Write a Stellar Extracurricular Activity College Essay

 

 

Want help with your college essays to improve your admissions chances? Sign up for your free CollegeVine account and get access to our essay guides and courses. You can also get your essay peer-reviewed and improve your own writing skills by reviewing other students’ essays.


Short Bio
Asia is a graduate of Tulane University where she studied English and Public Health. She's held multiple writing positions and has experience writing about everything from furniture to higher education to nutrition and exercise.

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