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How to Write a Diversity Statement for Graduate School?

EssayEdge > Blog > How to Write a Diversity Statement for Graduate School?

The diversity statement is an important part of the application process. There are many things to consider and keep in mind when thinking about how to write a diversity statement as a part of your grad school admissions process. At first, it may seem overwhelming, but in actuality, a diversity statement is really just another opportunity to showcase to admissions officers who you are as an applicant as well as what you can bring to the university. With that in mind, here are some guidelines for how to begin the diversity statement brainstorming process to determine what kinds of things should be included in your diversity statement as you work on your application.

Table of Contents:

How To Start Your Brainstorm For Your Diversity Statement For Your Grad School Application:

  • Maybe you’ve lived in the same place your entire life up until this point, or maybe you grew up in a lot of different places, moving around with your family. The experiences we have growing up shape who we are and who we become. With that in mind, consider what your unique and personal experiences were growing up. Whether you grew up in a small town where everyone knew everyone or a racially diverse, thriving metropolitan area, these experiences are potentially worth including in a diversity statement for graduate school.
  • Maybe you’ve traveled all around the world. Maybe you’ve never left the state where you were born. No two peoples’ journeys are the same, and so it contributes to your unique perspective. This is also a great opportunity to brainstorm about extracurricular experiences, research experiences, and work experiences that have opened your mind to new ideas or introduced new aspects of the world to you for inclusion in your grad school diversity statement.
  • Brainstorm where and when you have been able to be around people who are different from you. Remember, diversity can mean racial diversity, gender diversity, age diversity, and more. Some people have a great deal of diversity within their own families. Others may have been exposed to people who are different from they are much later in life. All of these things contribute to who you are and why you are a unique applicant, so it’s worth thinking outside the box to what your own experience has been as you brainstorm for your graduate school diversity statement.
  • Diversity of ideas is very important and can open our minds to new ways of life and new dreams and aspirations—even new things we may want to study at the graduate or undergraduate levels! Where have you had the opportunity to expand your mind? Who has helped expand it? Are there specific places you’ve been that have allowed opportunity to really think in a new and different way? These are areas that can help enhance a grad school diversity statement as well.

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What is a Diversity Statement?

Now that you’ve started the process of brainstorming what might be included in your diversity statement for your application, you may be wondering, “What is a diversity statement for graduate school, exactly?” It’s exactly what it sounds like—a statement of diversity experiences that you have had. Sometimes people write diversity statements for grad school applications that are focused on what they think that grad school admissions officers want to hear, and so they try to shoehorn in “diverse” experiences into their applications that are marginal or not vital components of their life experiences. Diversity can include a lot of things, whether that is a diversity of people, diversity of thought, diversity of opportunity or more. The most important thing when brainstorming for your diversity statement is to make sure that your experiences are truthful, relevant, and important to who you are.

Below are some topics from our EssayEdge editors that can be included in a diversity statement as a part of your grad school application process, or even undergraduate application, to craft a truly personal, relevant diversity statement:

  • The diversity statement should focus on not just where you come from, but what is your personal background has contributed to your view of the world. Your grad school diversity statement can be focused on your life itself as opposed to your academic experiences.
  • If this is a diversity statement for a graduate application, this is a great opportunity to talk about how your undergrad experiences have shaped your views and experiences. If this happens to be a part of an undergraduate application, your high school experiences are relevant. Ultimately, the courses you took, the programs you studied in, and the environment of your school itself can all be very relevant for a diversity statement.
  • At this moment in time, in particular, you should feel free to articulate how you self-identify if that feels relevant here and feels like it contributes to the way you experience the world. Whether it’s your racial identity, your gender identity, or something else, your identity impacts how you experience the world and how you see, interact with, and shape the world around you, which is all extremely relevant to a diversity statement for grad school.
  • Perhaps you’ve had difficulty interacting with certain environments and you’ve learned how to manage that. Perhaps navigating certain circumstances comes naturally to you. Including this information in your diversity statement will help admissions committees have a better understanding of how you can fit into and have a positive impact on a university’s community, which is the goal of the grad school diversity statement.
  • Perhaps you have a unique reason from your own life for why you are choosing to pursue the graduate program you’re pursuing. The diversity statement as a part of your grad school application would be an opportunity to share this kind of information.

Diversity Statement: Summary

In conclusion, the diversity statement is a great opportunity to really showcase who you are and make your application for admission really stand out. While sometimes the diversity statement is not required in an application—it can sometimes be listed as optional—it is a unique component of your graduate school application, as long as you use it as an opportunity to talk about who you really are and how your experiences so far have impacted your view of the world. Ultimately, you want to use your grad school diversity statement to talk about new experiences and things that aren’t necessarily a part of your application elsewhere, or, if they are, the diversity statement is a chance to provide a new perspective on it where the admissions committee can see your experiences and who you are through a different lens. The diversity statement is an important part of your graduate admissions process and can really help your application stand out.

An admission essay is the biggest fear of any applicant until they know about a diversity statement. This guide tried to answer all the questions one can face when writing. A proper approach to brainstorming and writing will lead you to success. If you want to play if safe, place an order on our graduate school essay editing service , and we’ll review your draft.

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Examples of Successful Diversity Statements

We've been asked for examples of diversity statements many times; below are several great ones. It is important to note that diversity statements are truly optional, and not everyone should write one. Contrary to what you may have heard, it is not a missed opportunity to write more about yourself. In fact, we wrote a blog a few years ago on when you should write a diversity statement . We hope these examples are helpful!

Living in the bubble of suburban [City], my family was treated like a blemish on its pristine surface. A house with a black father and white mother, along with a handful of mixed kids, easily stood out in our predominantly white neighborhood. Though some families talked about us, and never to us, my father always reinforced the importance of our lineage and helped immerse me in our culture.

Our family comes from a small village in upper Egypt; its proximity to Sudan and prevalence of Nubian lifestyles created a melting pot of cultures that encapsulates my identity as a first-generation Muslim African American. Although kids made fun of my skin tone and practices, my father taught me to be proud to emphasize the African in being African American. My peers’ derogatory comments and terrorist jokes were so common I became desensitized to the insults. And though I spoke out against their hateful rhetoric, my words seemed only to bounce off the Kevlar vest that is ignorance. It wasn’t until years later, while working on an election campaign, that I found the solution.

A state representative had asked me to stand a few feet farther from the door than the typical distance of my white coworkers while canvassing door-to-door because my dark skin could scare off potential voters. In that moment, she treated me not like the seasoned campaign veteran I was, or even as a person, but as a liability. I pulled the campaign manager aside and talked to him about the representative’s crass comments; from that day forward I helped to advise the campaign on diversity and inclusion issues. Learning about these topics allowed our staff to understand the issues facing underrepresented members of the community, and thus allowed us to better represent the entire district.

That experience taught me the power of education in changing people’s perceptions and led me to use my positions as a platform for diversity issues. As a debater, I promoted racial and ethnic understanding in round by reading from Afro-pessimism or Afrocentricity to broaden my opponent’s perspective. While chief justice of the Student Government Supreme Court, I worked with the student president to create a proposal for a mandatory diversity and equity class that would later be presented to the Faculty Senate.

I am proud of my African background and black ancestry as it has given me the opportunity to shape the outlook of people I meet. Skin tone and religion do not justify malicious behavior, which is why I strive to educate as many people as possible to create a world more accepting of all identities.

I was raised by a single mother, but my home was filled with family. My mother, sister, and I shared a room with two twin-size beds. My aunts, uncles, five cousins, and grandparents shared the two remaining bedrooms. In total, there were thirteen people sharing a three-bedroom, one-bathroom home. For the children, the nonstop playtime and carefree memories mitigated the obstacles that came with our socioeconomic insufficiency. For me, our tight-knit family and living situation made it much easier to overcome the absence of my father.

My father represented many of the negative stereotypes that Mexican Americans and Mexican immigrants have to combat. He immigrated to the United States as a young adult and fell into a life of criminal activity during our city’s booming methamphetamine trade. His choices had an adverse impact on not only my family, but also our community at large. I was somewhat sheltered from learning too much about my father, but I knew enough to feel burdened with shame. In fact, that feeling was so strong that I became fixated on the goal of creating a life opposite to that which my father had built.

Pursuing a brighter future did not come without obstacles in my neighborhood and family. Rejecting the criminal element in our community required a deliberate choice to exclude myself from the majority and often made me feel left out. Many of my peers criticized me and called me stuck up or “white washed” because of the choices I made. My family fully supported my goals, but their own education levels and unfamiliarity with the college admission process restricted the amount of guidance they were able to provide. Counselors at my high school were overloaded by high dropout rates and unable to focus on college bound students. It was the small acts of support and encouragement that ultimately got me to overcome my inhibitions and fears of the unknown and pursue a bachelor’s degree: a friend who told me what the SAT was, a teacher who explained the FAFSA and college deadlines. These processes seem basic to some, but can be overwhelming to a first-generation student to the point where it becomes easier to put it off or quit altogether.

I did not spend my entire youth in that overcrowded yet comforting home. Eventually, my mother remarried and we were able to move out of my grandparents’ house. But I still know what its like to feel insecure about where you come from and what you lack—it is something I will carry with me throughout my life and career. My education and career goals have been shaped by my background, and I will continue to aim high despite the challenges that may come my way.

For as long as I can remember, I outwardly portrayed myself as a calm and controlled individual. It is a true reflection of my demeanor, but it is the complete opposite of what I have lived throughout my childhood and adolescence. When I was in fourth grade, my father admitted to me that he was addicted to crack. At the time I did not understand what crack addiction meant, but I was educated by his actions soon enough. Shortly after this confession, the family structure I knew and loved began to collapse. In addition to my family’s dissolution, the neighborhood we lived in is not a place where success stories are born or a location people would visit without important cause. My neighborhood could be described as a breeding ground for gangs, drugs, violence, and anarchy. One of the few bright spots of growing up in my neighborhood is the chemistry children had with one another by having similar troubles at home. It was not uncommon for my neighborhood friends to have a drug abusing parent, a single parent household, alcoholic parents, or experience domestic violence. Even though my father’s addiction clouded his judgment, both he and my mother always warned me about the dangers of our neighborhood. I was not allowed to cross the street without their supervision due to gang members on the corner selling drugs, and playing outside at night was dangerous due to occasional shootings. Growing up in a neighborhood like mine was a double edged sword; it was dangerous, but our common struggles made it easy to relate to one another.

Living with a drug addicted parent was full of uncertainty and confusion. There were many break-ins, but I always had a strange feeling about these break-ins because although valuables were stolen, certain sentimental items of value would remain untouched. I did not learn until much later in life that my father was the one stealing from us. Eventually my mother left my father and moved out in the beginning of my seventh grade year. My sister and I stayed with our father.

In winter the heating bills went unpaid and the temperature in the house would drop to the low forties. My sister and I would walk to the local laundromat at night and warm our blankets and pillows in the dryer in order to have heat through the night. Money for food was scarce, and my sister and I became accustomed to eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner out of vending machines on a budget of six dollars a day. Although this experience was mentally and physically damaging, it served as motivation for me to strive for a better life and made me never want to regress to that standard of living.

After about a year of living with my father, I began my eighth grade year at my mom’s new home in a different neighborhood. I was separated from my childhood friends for that year, but we reunited the next year as freshmen in high school. Things had changed in that year: the friends that I grew up with became the gang members that my parents warned me about as a child. Out of all of my childhood friends, I was the only one to go on to college, let alone finish high school. The toughest part of my transition to my mother’s new home was this shift away from my childhood friends. Living with the feeling of turning my back on them by cutting off communication with them during high school was an isolating experience. If teachers saw me with them, I would be categorized as a gang member, or worse, if other gang members noticed then they would try to attack me because they thought I was a rival. I tried to explain this to my friends but they could not understand and eventually the friendships grew cold.

During the end of my ninth grade year, I was still adjusting to my new life. Although I no longer physically lived in that neighborhood, I still felt like I was alone and was stuck in the same position. My closest friends, the ones I could relate to, were all on a downward spiral in life; at the same time, I could not relate to the students in my honors courses. Many were discussing vacation trips, showing off new clothes or getting a new car for their birthday when getting their driving permit. While some of my classmates were planning on taking family vacations to Disneyland, I was planning to visit my father who had been recently arrested and was serving jail time for robbery. Instead of having memories of helping my parents wash their car in the front yard or riding a bicycle on the sidewalk as a child, I remember seeing people get shot and killed in my neighborhood or seeing a pregnant woman smoking crack.

Sophomore year of high school proved to be the lowest and most humbling part of my life. I remember vividly the moment I found out that I lost my first two friends to gang violence. “V is dead and J is arrested.” Those words made my heart race as I learned J killed V over a drug deal. At the funeral I approached V’s mother and offered my condolences. In a traumatized voice, she whispered to me, “I wished you could have taken V away with you and saved my son.” I can still hear her voice today speaking those words, and the chills still make my bones shiver.

There was a lot of guilt in the weeks that followed; I felt like there was more I could have done to steer them in the right direction. I began to replay my childhood and explore my life direction and I decided a change was needed. All of my experiences up until that point started to serve as an inspiration to become better than where I started and continue to build myself into a stronger person. My natural disposition allows me to see the positive things in every situation, and I realize that no matter how dire the situation seems, it could be worse. Many people say that phrase not knowing what that worse actually is. But I know. Opportunities that have come my way are very much appreciated, and I intend to make the most of them. Knowing where I once was, I am confident in my accomplishments and hopeful for future generations as I start a new trend in my family and build a strong foundation. My childhood is not a weight that drags me down; instead it has become the strength to push through adversity when challenges arise.

My life was supposed to be simple. I wanted to make my parents happy, to give us the future they desired. Winning Quran memorization competitions, fasting, and praying daily: my religious beliefs guided me throughout my childhood. After the September 11th attacks festered resentment for Muslims across the nation, I faced religiously charged backlash in my public school; as a result, I transferred to an Islamic school where I hoped to blend in better. It was clear, though, that another difference would soon set me apart.

My new classmates were quick to point out my effeminate mannerisms that unintentionally flowed from the flicks of my wrist. I, following my natural inclinations, also didn’t consider the implications of knitting in lieu of building toy airplanes. As my sexuality blossomed and the homophobic rhetoric harshened, I wrestled with conflicting feelings of living authentically and living without fear. I questioned whether my religious beliefs could sustain what I knew to be true about myself. I couldn’t see a way through to safe ground.

As a result, comforted by its familiarity, I resigned to the security of the proverbial closet. Clothing myself with a wardrobe of feeble masculinity, I prayed my actions would become my sexuality. By denying my identity, I rejected a part of myself for the sake of my parents. In my head, I was a martyr, bravely sacrificing for the greater good of my family. In my heart, I was a heretic, terrified to openly challenge my religious dogma and familial values.

Over time, though, the need to live genuinely became too great to deny. Sitting in a mosque attending a traditional Pakistani wedding, my own future telescoped before me. As I observed the beaming couple, I realized I would one day face a similar choice. How could I look into the eyes of a woman and speak of love as if I felt it between us? Dejected, I finally understood that what some call the closet felt more like a coffin. What once felt familiar was now incompatible.

Professing my queer identity to my parents swelled our home with such a rage that our relationship fragmented in an instant. They believed homosexuality was incompatible with Islam, and reparative therapy was the only cure for my dis-orientation. They kicked me out of the house and, with no place to stay, I happened to find a Buddhist abbey with a room to rent.

My struggle to reconcile religion and sexuality had left me ambivalent towards religious practice. So, initially, the abbey was only a place to sleep: a momentary reprieve from school and three jobs. Yet, the ringing bells and chanting monks, which now replaced my alarm clock, slowly tugged on my inquisitive nature.

Using my experience as a guide, I studied Buddhism from a neutral lens. As I began to explore the subtle boundaries of cultural practice and religious dogma, I recognized how unadulterated doctrine is assimilated into deeper cultural undertones. Just as some pervert scriptures of the Quran to promote acts of terrorism, others craft its teachings to legitimize homosexual prejudice. My spiritual introspection has galvanized my Islamic understanding: I am a Queer Muslim. I reclaim my faith with a broader interpretation of the Quran – one that advocates inclusion. Through self-reflection, analysis, and contemplation, the fabric of my identity evolves.

In America, the Queer community continues to face prejudice. Yet, in Pakistani society we struggle with blatant persecution. In coming out to my mother, I remember the disgust emanating from her curled lips and grimace. At the time, I took it as a clear sign: believing in Islam had failed me. Today, I am able to use this foreboding memory to fuel new purpose in my advocacy work. My parents still struggle with my coming out, but by shifting the paradigm from myself to empowering my Queer Muslim community, I hope to serve others who endure a similar experience.

As a child, I never found it odd that my parents were immigrants, spoke English with heavy accents, and were only minimally educated. My mother arrived in the United States from the Dominican Republic at a young age, and although she was unfamiliar with the language, she made a fervent effort to forge a new and better life for herself. My father arrived to the U.S., from Ghana, under similar pretenses and worked hard to take advantage of the plethora of opportunities he found here. With their heavily accented English and menial jobs, my parents fostered an environment of love and support that allowed me to construct an identity that truly reflects the social, economic, and ethnic histories that have formed me. Because they were new to the area and struggling financially, my parents decided to settle in the most affordable area they could find, the South Bronx. The South Bronx is everything the media portrays it to be; dangerous, destitute and adverse. Nevertheless, it is still home, and as much as I have resisted it, growing up in the South Bronx has also had an undeniable impact on me.

As a college freshman, the many layers of my diversity unfolded in an inharmonious manner. It took me some time to integrate my experiences as a first-generation Latino and African American and a South Bronx native. I did not find many other students who shared my background when I began my undergraduate studies at the College of the Holy Cross. Along with standing out as one of the few persons of color, I also was an outlier socioeconomically. I soon began to feel inferior about my life and background. I avoided conversations that involved my home life and began wishing for another. I longed for affluent, American parents with professional careers. I desired the lavish home in the serene neighborhood or the summerhouse in Martha's Vineyard; I wanted to live the lives of the other Holy Cross students. Soon these longings festered into embarrassment towards my parents. I silently accused them of being lazy, choosing to be uneducated and thus forcing us to live in the South Bronx. I essentially blamed them for making me different in every possible sense.

Over time, I began to grasp that although I had a different racial and socioeconomic background than the majority of my classmates, these differences were not negative or adverse. My distinct experiences allowed me to stand out from many other students at my college; these experiences became sources of pride and strength. My background brought a fresh voice to the classroom setting, something that my professors greatly valued. As I fostered my perspective, I learned to develop and utilize this voice by speaking up and adding my diverse experiences to class discussions. I identified with the experiences of authors like Junot Diaz and Esmeralda Santiago, who both lived in impoverished ghettos and faced the difficulties of having immigrant parents unaccustomed to the American way of life. I frequently contributed to discussions examining the social and academic difficulties Black students face on predominantly White college campuses. I began to understand that I needed to embrace my diversity rather than suppress it. Consequently, I began to value my multifaceted identity and came to trust in the significance of my diversity.

As I embark on a legal education, my experiences, not just as a person of color, but as a biracial and bicultural son of low income African and Latino immigrants, can help me contribute to the law school environment as well as the legal field. Diversity of thought and perspective are paramount in the study of law, and my unique voice can serve as an asset, allowing me to represent and bring forth the experiences of those who may not have a platform from which to do so.

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How To Craft a Diversity Statement for Graduate School Application

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In recent years, more and more institutions of higher education are requesting applicants to graduate programs to write a statement of diversity. A diversity statement, also sometimes referred to as a personal history statement, is used by these institutions to gauge how their future student population will contribute to their ongoing efforts to promote and maintain a culture of equity and inclusion.

Typically, diversity statements are one-page double-spaced documents that highlight how you, as a future student, will foster diversity within the community. The narrative tends to be more personal than that in a statement of purpose, with particular emphasis on cultural competence and understanding of current issues and efforts surrounding diversity, equity, and inclusion.  In composing such an essay, it might be helpful to include some of the following elements:

  • Statements of values  as they relate to your understanding of historical barriers to diversity, inclusion, equity, and/or justice in higher education and your commitment towards dismantling those barriers. If you belong to a minority population, you can discuss how that experience shaped your outlook on life and your willingness to champion others who are in similar circumstances.
  • Examples   of experiences  that highlight your efforts in promoting the success of underrepresented students, peers, and staff and supporting various viewpoints in the classroom, lab, campus, or community. For example, if you have taught a class, how did you ensure equitable learning in that environment? If you have volunteered in underrepresented communities, what did you learn from those interactions? Try to include at least 2-3 relevant experiences, and for any of those be sure to emphasize what you did to promote diverse perspectives.
  • Relevant projects and coursework that address topics related to diversity, equity and inclusion. For example, if you have sat in on a workshop on how to address intrinsic or extrinsic bias, you could convey how you incorporated what you learned into your daily living. If you have undertaken a project for a class that touched on issues surrounding diversity, you could highlight that as well.
  • Future plans  for continuing to advance inclusive excellence, diversity, or equity in your research, teaching, and service to the campus community. You can also talk about your personal growth as you continue to educate yourself on issues surrounding diversity, equity, and inclusion. Be genuine in your narrative and present yourself as a person who is willing to learn and adapt to change.

Should You Self-Disclose Elements of Your Personal Identity?

Although most people are willing to share elements of their personal background and upbringing in their actual statement, it is ok if you do not. Nevertheless, if you do identify as a member of an underrepresented group, reflecting on your personal circumstance might provide context to the values that you articulate in your statement. Additionally, be sure to focus on your own experiences and accomplishments rather than those of your family or loved ones. If you have questions and/or concerns regarding any aspect of the diversity statement, do not hesitate to reach out to your mentors or pre-grad advisors to ask for

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