3 Strong NYU Diversity Essay Examples
New York University (NYU) is an extremely selective school, so it’s important to write strong essays that help your application stand out. In this post, we’ll share some essays real students have submitted for NYU’s Diversity prompt and outline their strengths and areas of improvement.
(Names and identifying information have been changed, but all other details are preserved.)
Note: Looking at examples of real essays students have submitted to colleges can be beneficial to get inspiration for your essays, but 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 plagiarize.
Read our NYU essay breakdown to get a comprehensive overview of this year’s supplemental prompts.
NYU Diversity Prompt
The following essays respond to this prompt:
NYU was founded on the belief that a student’s identity should not dictate the ability for them to access higher education. That sense of opportunity for all students, of all backgrounds, remains a part of who we are today and a critical part of what makes us a world class university. Our community embraces diversity, in all its forms, as a cornerstone of the NYU experience. We would like to better understand how your experiences would help us to shape and grow our diverse community. Please respond in 250 words or less.
This is the classic Diversity Essay, which asks students to share what makes them unique. While diversity is most commonly associated with ethnicity, culture, and identity, keep in mind that it also encompasses:
- Interests, hobbies, and talents
- Perspectives, values, and opinions
- Personality traits
With that, let’s dive into the student examples!
Example 1 – Life as an Indian-Muslim
Growing up in America as an Indian-Muslim, I am constantly reminded of my minority status. As a child, the only outlet I had from this feeling was traveling back to India; the secluded family farm welcomed me with the pungent aroma of Indian spices and the constant chatter of relatives always brought me comfort. However, as governments changed and the anti-Muslim sentiment in India grew, an insecurity in my identity began to form. Loud riots exploded and brutal attacks on Muslim families made it clear that I was no longer welcome in a country which once felt like home. Living in a world which never regarded me as part of the majority led me to turn to writing as the cornerstone of my cultural expression.
Reporting through the general and Islamic publications at NYU, including the Aftab Arts and Literature publication, is how I plan to use my seven years of prior experience in journalism to shape the diverse community at NYU. It is imperative that I not only raise a voice of representation for the miniscule percentage of Indian-Muslim students, but also give the larger NYU community unbiased reporting on Muslim concerns. Being a voice for Muslims in the media is essential to combating Islamophobia, especially since 9/11, as media propaganda has instilled a deadly bias against Muslims.
At NYU, where almost every country in the world is represented, I will be able to learn about other unique cultures and expand the community by educating on my own.
What the Essay Did Well
This student does a great job of answering this NYU-specific Diversity Prompt, specifically through their clear, engaging structure.
The prompt is two-pronged. Students must describe:
1) their diverse background or experience, and
2) how their diverse background or experience will improve the community at NYU.
In this essay, the student answers the first question in their first paragraph and the second question in their second paragraph. They connect the paragraphs with a strong transition sentence that takes us from their past experiences to the future experiences they hope to have at NYU: “Living in a world which never regarded me as part of the majority led me to turn to writing as the cornerstone of my cultural expression.”
On a smaller scale, the first paragraph is structured by a beautiful narrative arc. This student struggled with cultural expression growing up, so they enjoyed traveling back to India where they felt comfortable, but then Indian political activity made India less comfortable, and ultimately they turned to writing, rather than a place, as their preferred form of cultural expression. Their story is easy to follow, yet detailed, with compelling lines like “the pungent aroma of Indian spices and the constant chatter of relatives always brought me comfort” ensuring the reader doesn’t lose focus.
In addition to providing an engaging essay scaffolding, this student does a great job of making themself seem engaging by sharing their thoughts on the Indian-Muslim experience. Their reflections on the Indian government’s views on Islam, and the relationship between media, 9/11, and Islamophobia are brief by necessity, but nonetheless show this student has strong critical thinking skills, and would have a lot to teach their peers at NYU.
Finally, the student explains in concrete terms why they would be a valuable addition to the NYU community. In the sentence “Reporting through the general and Islamic publications at NYU, including the Aftab Arts and Literature publication, is how I plan to use my seven years of prior experience in journalism to shape the diverse community at NYU,” they both subtly reference their past accomplishments and paint a picture of how they’ll use NYU’s resources to continue building on those achievements.
What Could Be Improved
While this essay is both personal and compelling, there are two changes the student could make to take their writing to the next level.
Firstly, the student’s topic is emotional, but they don’t express much emotion in their writing. For example, they write “the only outlet I had from this feeling was traveling back to India,” but we are left wondering what “this feeling” was.
Some small adjustments could help readers better understand the student’s emotions. For example, they could change their first sentence to “Growing up in America as an Indian-Muslim has been painful, which has made me feel conflicted about my minority status” or “Growing up in America as an Indian-Muslim has been isolating, which has made me resent my minority status.”
Additionally, as they write about the effect of the anti-Muslim attacks in India on their cultural identity, they could add a sentence describing their emotions. For example:
“Loud riots exploded and brutal attacks on Muslim families made it clear that I was no longer welcome in a country that once felt like home. At the same time, the country that is my home has always been fond of profiling my family as terrorists, when they are the ones who force us to live in constant fear. Living in a world that never regarded me as part of the majority led me to turn to writing as the cornerstone of my cultural expression.”
Secondly, because the student does such a great job of responding to the prompt in their first two paragraphs, the concluding sentence “At NYU, where almost every country in the world is represented, I will be able to learn about other unique cultures and expand the community by educating on my own” is unnecessary. We are already convinced that they will expand the NYU community. Instead, these words can be reallocated to adding sentences with emotional valence.
Example 2 – Santa’s Not Real!
When I was four, my parents told me that Santa wasn’t real. This wasn’t shocking because I was Jewish, and my parents never perpetuated the idea that an old man snuck into our house to deliver presents. But, in December 2009, they gave me paramount instructions. I could not tell any of my friends the truth about Santa. The innocence of my pre-K peers was in my hands, so I promised never to reveal this colossal secret. However, every Christmas, I would feel isolated from my Christian friends. Annually, I was told how terrible it was that I didn’t celebrate.
For a while, I felt terrible too, and the isolation only persisted as I got older. At thirteen, I began fasting for Yom Kippur, so I would miss that day of school. However, my teachers would always manage to schedule a test that I would be forced to miss. This was infuriating. But, in the heat of my anger, I realized something. My Southern community wasn’t targeting Jewish people. They were just ignorant of cultures different from their own.
This realization made me value the importance of celebrating cultural diversity. No one should ever feel isolated because of their differences.
What the Essay Did Well
This essay does a great job of drawing us in with its first sentence. To most American readers, the sentence “When I was four, my parents told me that Santa wasn’t real” is intriguing. Finding out that Santa isn’t real is a universal experience that binds most of us, so we want to know why this student was told at such a young age.
Another strength of this essay is the student’s charming use of language. For example, the student cleverly describes Santa: “my parents never perpetuated the idea that an old man snuck into our house to deliver presents.” Similarly, the sentence “The innocence of my pre-K peers was in my hands” is funny.
Lastly, this student does a good job of pointing out their identity. While admissions officers have access to the name of this student’s high school, without being specifically reminded that the student grew up Jewish in the South, they likely would not have put that together. The sentence “My Southern community wasn’t targeting Jewish people” brings attention to this student’s complex identity.
What Could Be Improved
The main issue with this essay is that it does not flow. This is attributable to a lack of structure.
The student begins with the Santa anecdote, which is explored for four sentences (more than a “hook” normally gets), but oddly, does not turn into the focus of the essay. Instead, the student abruptly moves to discuss other experiences when they felt isolated due to being Jewish. For this anecdote to be effective, the student needs to do one of two things: focus it or connect it.
With the “focus it” method, the student would finish the Santa anecdote, then use the rest of the essay to reflect on how the anecdote shows their values or approach to diversity. This could look like:
“When I was four, my parents told me that Santa wasn’t real. This wasn’t shocking because I was Jewish, and my parents never perpetuated the idea that an old man snuck into our house to deliver presents. But, in December 2009, they gave me paramount instructions. I could not tell any of my friends the truth about Santa. The innocence of my pre-K peers was in my hands, so I promised never to reveal this colossal secret. Unfortunately, my pre-K self was chatty and didn’t understand that the Santa secret would hurt my friends if I told them, and I ended up telling Natalia Huckabee. Natalia’s mom called my mom and explained the importance of us respecting each other’s differences and my mom was mortified.
Since then, it has been very important to me that I respect the beliefs of people around me and that they respect my Jewish identity…“
For the “connect it” method, the student would shorten their Santa anecdote, connect it to other anecdotes about feeling isolated, then reflect on how that isolation affects their worldview. This would look like:
“My Jewish parents never perpetuated the idea that an old man snuck into our house to deliver presents. Actually, at the ripe age of four, they sat me down and told me that Santa wasn’t real. In that same sitting, they gave me very specific instructions: I could not tell any of my friends the truth about Santa. I just had to say that Santa didn’t visit Jews.
Each year, I was told a million times how terrible it was that I didn’t get presents from Santa. Each year, I missed four to seven tests for Jewish holidays. Each year, I…“
Either way, the anecdote should be followed by reflection. Currently, this student’s introspective musings feel surface-level and are not compelling. They include “For a while, I felt terrible too” and “This was infuriating.”
Similarly, the conclusions they draw about the importance of diversity lack nuance and do not show a capacity for deep thought. These include “I realized something. My Southern community wasn’t targeting Jewish people. They were just ignorant of cultures different from their own” and “No one should ever feel isolated because of their differences.”
Dedicating a few sentences specifically to deep reflection would allow the student to explore their identity with more authenticity and would help admissions officers get to know them.
Lastly, this student completely fails to answer a core element of this prompt: “We would like to better understand how your experiences would help us to shape and grow our diverse community.” The student does not say anything about NYU, the NYU community, or how they will contribute to the NYU community.
For any Diversity Essay, it is extremely important to write about how your diversity shapes your outlook and actions. Specifically with this prompt, the student should forecast how their diversity would play out at NYU. They could describe their plans to start a club, participate in a specific research initiative, or get involved with activism.
Example 3 – Doc McStuffins
“The Doc is in, and she’ll fix you up!”
Why was it okay for McStuffins to be both black and intelligent in her world, but it was so rare in mine? Based on assumption, I was shoved into intervention groups without proper assessment, causing me to avoid participation in class. At least until I discovered my true passion — Biology.
While my teachers discouraged me from STEM, my ever-curious mind gravitated towards it, yearning to learn more. I memorized each detail of what I was given, grinning as I recited cell systems and organelles. I now hold an internship investigating DNA editing technology (CRISPR), working to alter DNA of ailments through laboratory work and qualitative analysis. Somehow, seeing a 7-year-old girl wipe jam off a frantic doll, convinced it was bleeding, motivated me to dive head-first into the world of science.
Diversity in science is incredibly significant, but how can there be diversity if non-conventional scientists are discouraged? NYU values the importance of diversity, making it the school for me. At NYU I will join Blackademics and, I will form a podcast for women of color to talk about their experiences with commonly faced educational setbacks. As someone encouraged by seeing representation, I deeply understand the excitement that seeing someone like you doing “atypical” things can bring. Through NYU courses like Intergroup Dialogue, I will hold a similar influence that Doc McStuffins had on me towards others.
What the Essay Did Well
This is an example of a hook-done-right. The essay starts with a quote from the Doc McStuffins theme song, which (whether you’re familiar with Doc McStuffins or not) reads as sweet and endearing. Then, she uses a provocative question to connect the quote to her own experiences, which serves as a transition to the bulk of the essay, which is about her experiences.
This student centers her essay around a specific theme: representation. A common error in college essay writing is the failure to stay focused, but she successfully uses her theme to anchor her essay. Her hook is about representation, her setbacks are about representation, and she wants to get involved in specific NYU activities to improve representation.
Lastly, and extremely importantly, this student thoroughly answers the prompt. She is asked how her diverse experiences will improve the NYU community, and she explains how her experience growing up as a young, Black woman — interested in STEM but shut out from STEM — will motivate her to work towards equal representation at NYU.
What Could Be Improved
This student’s main area for improvement has to do with her integration of the Doc McStuffins hook. Simply put, Doc McStuffins is referenced too much in her later paragraphs. With a limited word count, every sentence is a resource, and the majority of sentences should go toward a student’s values and personality.
Here, we would suggest that “Somehow, seeing a 7-year-old girl wipe jam off a frantic doll, convinced it was bleeding, motivated me to dive head-first into the world of science” be replaced with a sentence describing the student’s emotions about her success in STEM. Throughlines are great, but connecting every paragraph back to your hook is repetitive.
Additionally, the aforementioned sentence is not easily digestible. Unless your reader is extremely familiar with Doc McStuffins, it will probably take them a minute to figure out who the 7-year-old girl is and what jam blood has to do with anything. This same issue presents itself in the sentence “Based on assumption, I was shoved into intervention groups without proper assessment, causing me to avoid participation in class,” which is hard to understand.
Read through your essay to ensure that all of your sentences make sense, no matter the knowledge level of the person reading. Run your essay by friends and family, and specifically ask them to flag areas that they think might be confusing.
Where to Get Feedback on Your Essay
Want feedback on your NYU diversity essay before you submit? 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!
Other NYU Essay Resources