6 Diversity College Essay Examples
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- What is the Diversity Essay?
- Diversity Essay Examples
- Where to Get Your Essay Edited for Free
What is the Diversity Essay?
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.
In this post, we will share six essays written by real students that cover the topic of culture and diversity. We’ll also include what each essay did well and where there is room for improvement. Hopefully, this will be a useful resource to inspire your diversity essay.
Please note: Looking at examples of real essays students have submitted to colleges can be very beneficial to get inspiration for your essays. You should never copy or plagiarize from these examples when writing your own essays. Colleges can tell when an essay isn’t genuine and will not view students favorably if they plagiarized.
Diversity Essay Examples
Essay #1: Jewish Identity
What the Essay Did Well
Writing about discrimination can be difficult, but if you are comfortable doing it, it can make for a powerful story. Although this essay is short and focused on one small interaction, it represents a much larger struggle for this student, and for that reason it makes it very impactful.
The author takes their time at the beginning of the essay to build the scene for the audience, which allows us to feel like we are there with them, making the hateful comments even more jarring later on. If they just told us their classmate teased them with harmful stereotypes, we wouldn’t feel the same sense of anger as we do knowing that they were just trying to get a drink and instead were harassed.
This essay does another important thing: it includes self-reflection on the experience and the student’s identity. Without elaborating on the emotional impact of a situation, an essay about discrimination would make admission officers feel bad for the student, but they wouldn’t be compelled to admit them. By describing how experiences like these drive them and make them more determined to embody positive values, this student reveals their character to the readers.
What Could Be Improved
While including emotional reflection in the latter half of the essay is important, the actual sentences could be tightened up a bit to leave a stronger impression. The student does a nice job of showing us their experience with antisemitism, but they just tell us about the impact it has on them. If they showed us what the impact looked like though, the essay would be even better.
For example, rather than telling us “Continuing to wear the Star-of-David connects me to my history and my family,” they could have shown that connection: “My Star-of-David necklace thumps against my heart with every step I take, reminding me of my great-grandparents who had to hide their stars, my grandma’s spindly fingers lighting the menorah each Hannukah, and my uncle’s homemade challah bread.” This new sentence reveals so much more about the student and the deep connection they feel with their family and religion than the existing one.
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.
What the Essay Did Well
This student’s passion for social justice and civic duty shines through in this essay because of how honest it is. Sharing their personal experience with immigrating, moving around, being an outsider, and finding a community allows us to see the hardships this student has faced and builds empathy towards their situation. However, what really makes it strong is that they go beyond describing the difficulties they faced and explain the mental impact it had on them as a child: 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.
The rejection of their culture presented at the beginning of the essay creates a nice juxtaposition with the student’s view in the latter half of the essay and helps demonstrate how they have matured. They use their experience interning as a way to delve into a change in their thought process about their culture and show how their passion for social justice began. Using this experience as a mechanism to explore their thoughts and feelings is an excellent example of how items that are included elsewhere on your application should be incorporated into your essay.
This essay prioritizes emotions and personal views over specific anecdotes. Although there are details and certain moments incorporated throughout to emphasize the author’s points, the main focus remains on the student and how they grapple with their culture and identity.
What Could Be Improved
One area for improvement is the conclusion. Although the forward-looking approach is a nice way to end an essay focused on social justice, it would be nice to include more details and imagery in the conclusion. How does the student want to help their community? What government position do they see themselves holding one day?
A more impactful ending might look like the student walking into their office at the New York City Housing Authority in 15 years and looking at the plans to build a new development in the Bronx just blocks away from where the grew up that would provide quality housing to people in their Bangladeshi community. They would smile while thinking about how far they have come from that young kid who used to be ashamed of their culture.
Essay #3: Marvel vs DC
Superhero cinema is an oligopoly consisting of two prominent, towering brands: Marvel and DC. I’m a religious supporter of Marvel, but last year, I discovered my friend, Tom, was a DC fan. After a 20-minute vociferous quarrel about which was better, we decided to allocate one day to assemble coherent arguments and have a professional debate.
One week later, we both brought pages of notes, evidence cards, and I had my Iron-Man bobblehead for moral support. Our moderator – a Disney fan – sat in the middle with a stopwatch – open-policy style. I began the debate by discussing how Marvel accentuated the humanity of the storyline – such as Tony Stark’s transformation from an egotistical billionaire to a compassionate father – which drew in a broader audience because more people resonated with certain aspects of the characters. Tom rebutted this by capitalizing on how Deadpool was a duplicate of Deathstroke, Vision copied Red Tornado, and DC sold more comics than Marvel.
40 minutes later, we reached an impasse. We were out of cards, and we both made excellent points, so our moderator failed to declare a winner. Difficult conversations aren’t necessarily always the ones that make political headlines. Instead, a difficult discussion involves any topic with which we share an emotional connection. Over the years, I became so emotionally invested in Marvel that my mind erected an impenetrable shield, blocking out all other possibilities. Even today, we haven’t decided which franchise was better, but I realized that I was undermining DC for no reason apart from ignorance.
The inevitability of diversity suggests that it is our responsibility to understand the other person and what they believe. We may not always experience a change in opinions, but we can grant ourselves the opportunity to expand our global perspective. I strive to continue this adventure to increase my awareness as a superhero aficionado, activist, and student by engaging in conversations that require me to think beyond what I believe and viewing the world from others’ perspectives.
And yes, Tom is still my friend.
What the Essay Did Well
Diversity doesn’t always have to be about culture or heritage; diversity exists all around us, even in comics. The genius of this essay lies in the way the student flipped the traditional diversity prompt on its head and instead discussed their diverse perspective on a topic they are passionate about. If you don’t have a cultural connection you are compelled to write about, this is a clever approach to a diversity prompt—if it is handled appropriately.
While this student has a non-traditional topic, they still present it in a way that pays respect to the key aspects of a diversity essay: depicting their perspective and recognizing the importance of diverse views. Just as someone who is writing about a culture that is possibly unfamiliar to the reader, the student describes what makes Marvel and DC unique and important to them and their friend. They also expand on how a lack of diversity in superhero consumption led to them feeling ignorant and now makes them appreciate the need for diversity in all aspects of their life.
This student is unapologetically themselves in this essay which is ultimately why this unorthodox topic is able to work. They committed to their passion for Marvel by sharing analytical takes on characters and demonstrating how the franchise was so important to their identity it momentarily threatened a friendship. The inclusion of humor through their personal voice—referring to the argument as a professional debate and telling us the friendship lived on—contributes to the essay feeling deeply personal.
Choosing a nonconventional topic for a diversity essay requires extra care and attention to ensure you are still addressing the core of the prompt, but if you accomplish it successfully, it makes for an incredibly memorable essay that could easily set you apart!
What Could Be Improved
While this is a great essay as is, the idea of diversity could have been addressed a little bit earlier in the piece to make it absolutely clear the student is writing about their diverse perspective. They position Marvel and DC as two behemoths in the superhero movie industry, but in the event their reader is unfamiliar with these two brands, there is little elaboration on the cultural impact each has on its fans.
To this student, Marvel is more than just a movie franchise; it’s a crucial part of their identity, just as someone’s race or religion might be. In order for the reader to fully understand the weight of their perspective, there should be further elaboration, towards the beginning, on how important Marvel is to this student.
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.
What the Essay Did Well
Although this essay begins on a somber note, it goes on to show this student’s determination and joy they found and ends with a positive, forward-looking perspective. This is a great example of how including your hardship can bolster an essay as long as it is not the main focus.
Explaining the challenges this student faced from a young age—becoming the man of the house, dealing with legal matters, maintaining good grades, etc—builds sympathy for his situation. However, the first paragraph is even more impactful because he explains the emotional toll these actions had on him. We understand how he lost the innocence of his childhood and how he struggled to remain connected to his Colombian heritage with all his other responsibilities. Including these details truly allows the reader to see this student’s struggle, making us all the more joyful when he comes out stronger.
Pivoting to discuss positive experiences with student government and Spanish classes for the rest of the essay demonstrates that this student has a positive approach to life and is willing to push through challenges. The tone of the essay shifts from heavy to uplifting. He explains the joy he got out of helping his classmates and connecting with his grandparents, once again providing emotional reflection to make the reader care more.
Overall, this essay does a nice job of demonstrating how this student approaches challenges and negative experiences. Admitting that the responsibilities of his childhood had a silver lining shows his maturity and how he will be able to succeed in government one day. The essay strikes a healthy balance between challenge and hope, leaving us with a positive view of a student with such emotional maturity.
What Could Be Improved
Although the content of this essay is very strong, it struggles with redundancy and disorganized information. He mentions his passion for government at the beginning of the student government paragraph, then again addresses government in the paragraph focused on his Colombian heritage, and concludes by talking about how he wants to get into government once more. Similarly, in the first paragraph he discusses the struggle of maintaining his Colombian identity and then fully delves into that topic in the third paragraph.
The repetition of ideas and lack of a streamlined organization of this student’s thoughts diminishes some of the emotional impact of the story. The reader is left trying to piece together a swirling mass of information on their own, rather than having a focused, sequential order to follow.
This could be fixed if the student rearranged details to make each paragraph focused on a singular idea. For example, the first paragraph could be about his childhood, the second about how student government sparked his interest in government and what he hopes to do one day, the third about how he reconnected with his Colombian roots through his Spanish classes after years of struggling with his identity, and the final paragraph could tie everything together by explaining how everything led to him wanting to pursue a future serving others, particularly immigrants like his family.
Alternatively, the essay could follow a sequential order that would start with his childhood, then explain his struggle with his identity, then show how student government and Spanish classes helped him find himself, and finally conclude with what he hopes to accomplish by pursuing government.
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.
What the Essay Did Well
This student is expressing their diversity through their involvement in a particular community—another nice approach if you don’t want to write about culture or ethnicity. We all have unique things that we geek out over and this student expresses the joy that came when they found a community where they could express their love for the environment. Passion is fundamental to university life and should find its way into successful applications.
The essay finds strength in the fact that readers feel for the student. We get a little bit of backstory about where they come from and how they felt silenced—“Back home in my predominantly conservative suburb, my neighbors had brushed off environmental concerns”—, so it’s easy to feel joy for them when they get set free and finally find their community.
This student displays clear values: community, ecoconsciousness, dedication, and compassion. An admissions officer who reads a diversity essay is looking for students with strong values who will enrich the university community with their unique perspective—sounds like this student!
What Could Be Improved
One area of weakness in this essay is the introduction. The opening line—”I never understood the power of community until I left home to join seven strangers in the Ecuadorian rainforest“—is a bit cliche. Introductions should be captivating and build excitement and suspense for what is to come. Simply telling the reader about how your experience made you understand the power of community reveals the main takeaway of your essay without the reader needing to go any further.
Instead of starting this essay with a summary of what the essay is about, the student should have made their hook part of the story. Whether that looks like them being exasperated with comments their classmates made about politics or them looking around apprehensively at the seven strangers on their program as they all boarded their flight, they should start off in the action.
Essay #6: Music and Accents
India holds a curious place in my heart and ears. Whenever I returned on a trip or vacation, I would show my grandmother how to play Monopoly and she would let me tie her sari. I would teach my grandfather English idioms, which he would repeat to random people and fishmongers on the streets, and he would teach me Telugu phrases.
It was a curious exchange of worlds and I’m reminded of this every time I listen to Indian music. It was these tunes that helped me reconnect with my heritage and ground my meandering identity. Indian music, unlike the stereotype I’d been imbued with, was not just a one-and-done Bollywood dance number! Each region and language was like an island with its own, unique sonic identity. I’m grateful for my discovery of Hindi, Telugu, Kannada, Tamil tunes, for it has opened me up to the incredible smorgasbord of diversity, depth, and complexity within the subcontinent I was born in.
Here’s an entirely-different sonic identity for you: Texan slang. “Couldya pass the Mango seltzer, please hon?” said my Houstonian neighbor, Rae Ann, her syllables melding together like the sticky cake batter we were making.
Rae Ann and her twang were real curiosities to me. Once, she invited my family to a traditional Texan barbecue with the rest of our neighbors. As Hindus, we didn’t eat beef, so we showed up with chicken kebabs instead. Rather than looking at us bizarrely, she gladly accepted the dish, lining it up beside grilled loins and hamburger patties. Her gesture was a small but very well accepted one and I quickly became convinced she was the human manifestation of “Southern hospitality” – something reflected in each of her viscous, honey-dripping phrases. “Watch out for the skeeters!” was an excellent example. It was always funny at first, but conveyed a simple message. We’ve got each other’s backs and, together, we can overcome the blood-sucking mosquitoes of the Houstonian summer! I began to see how her words built bridges, not boundaries.
I believe that sounds – whether it’s music or accents – can make a difference in the ways we perceive and accept individuals from other backgrounds. But sound is about listening too. In Rice’s residential college, I would be the type of person to strike up a conversation with an international student and ask for one of their Airpods (you’d be surprised how many different genres and languages of music I’ve picked up in this way!). As both an international student and Houstonian-at-heart, I hope to bridge the gap between Rice’s domestic and international populations. Whether it’s organizing cultural events or simply taking the time to get to know a student whose first language isn’t English, I look forward to listening to the stories that only a fellow wanderer can tell.
What the Essay Did Well
This essay does an excellent job of addressing two aspects of this student’s identity. Looking at diversity through sound is a creative way to descriptively depict their Indian and Texan culture. Essays are always more successful when they stimulate the senses, so framing the entire response around sound automatically opens the door for vivid imagery.
The quotes from this student’s quirky neighbor bring a sense of realism to the essay. We can feel ourselves at the barbecue and hear her thick Texan accent coming through. The way people communicate is a huge part of their culture and identity, so the ability of this student to perfectly capture the essence of their Texan identity with accented phrases is skillfully done.
What Could Be Improved
This essay does such a great job of making the sounds of Texas jump off the page, so it is disappointing it wasn’t able to accomplish the same for India. The student describes the different Indian languages and music styles, but doesn’t bring them to life with quotes or onomatopoeia in the manner that they did for the sounds of Texas.
They could have described the buzz of the sitar or the lyrical pattern of the Telugu phrases their grandfather taught them. Telling us about the diversity of sounds in Indian music is fine, but if the reader can’t appreciate what those sounds resemble, it makes it harder to understand the Indian half of their identity. Especially since this student emulated the sounds and essence of Texas so well, it is important that India is given the same treatment so we can fully appreciate both sides of this essay.
More Supplemental Essay Tips
How to Write the “Why This College” Essay
How to Write a Stellar Extracurricular Activity College Essay
Where to Get Your Diversity Essays Edited
Do you want feedback on your Diversity essays? After rereading your essays countless times, it can be difficult to evaluate your writing objectively. That’s why we created our free Peer Essay Review tool, where you can get a free review of your essay from another student. You can also improve your own writing skills by reviewing other students’ essays.
If you want a college admissions expert to review your essay, advisors on CollegeVine have helped students refine their writing and submit successful applications to top schools. Find the right advisor for you to improve your chances of getting into your dream school!