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7 Great Diversity Essay Examples and Why They Worked

Supplemental "diversity" or "community" essays are becoming increasingly popular components of college and university applications. A diversity essay allows you to highlight how your individual circumstances, values, traditions, or beliefs could contribute to the vibrant mix of cultures on a college campus.


The importance of the diversity essay lies in its ability to showcase aspects of your identity that may not be fully captured elsewhere in your application. It provides a platform for you to express your authenticity, highlight any obstacles or challenges you've overcome, and demonstrate how your unique viewpoints could enrich the learning environment. 


This trend is in part driven by institutions' heightened efforts to increase the diversity of their student bodies, as many elite schools have historically favored wealthy and/or white applicants. These diversity essays provide a valuable opportunity for students to give context about their identity and background, which supports colleges' missions of fostering more inclusive campus environments.


The push for diversity essays has been compounded by the recent Supreme Court decision ruling affirmative action policies unconstitutional. With this ruling blocking colleges from directly considering an applicant's race or ethnicity in admissions decisions, many institutions have turned to supplemental essays as an alternative way to gauge how a prospective student's unique experiences and perspectives could contribute to a richly diverse student body. While not explicitly factoring racial or ethnic backgrounds into admissions, compelling diversity essays enable colleges to indirectly account for the varied identities and circumstances that applicants would bring to enrich the campus community.


However, even students who do not hold identities historically underrepresented at colleges, or face discrimination, are encouraged to approach the diversity essay thoughtfully. These essays allow all applicants to shed light on their individualized experiences that could add meaningful value to the institution's diversity and culture. Ultimately, colleges aim to curate an incoming class of students whose collective array of backgrounds fosters an environment of mutual understanding, intellectual growth, and cross-cultural exchange.


In this blog, we’ll walk through 7 examples of strong diversity essays, and give a brief discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of each one. 


Note that for the sake of concision, only the first 150-250 words of each essay is included in the article. You can find links to the full text of each essay at the bottom of the page!


1. Finding My Voice (Hopkins)

I looked up and flinched slightly. There were at least sixty of them, far more than expected. I had thirty weeks to teach them the basics of public speaking. Gritting my teeth, I split my small group of tutors among the crowd and sat down for an impromptu workshop with the eighth graders. They were inexperienced, monotone, and quiet. In other words, they reminded me of myself…

I was born with a speech impediment that weakened my mouth muscles. My speech was garbled and incomprehensible. Understandably, I grew up quiet. I tried my best to blend in and give the impression I was silent by choice. I joined no clubs in primary school, instead preferring isolation. It took six years of tongue twisters and complicated mouth contortions in special education classes for me to produce the forty-four sounds of the English language.


This essay is highly effective in several ways. The author opens with a vivid, engaging anecdote that immediately draws the reader in and provides context for the essay's overarching theme of finding one's voice. The personal story of struggling with a speech impediment as a child and overcoming insecurities to become a confident public speaker on the debate team is powerful and memorable. The essay’s beginning, where Jerry is faced with the daunting task of teaching public speaking to a large group of eighth graders, is reminiscent of his own struggles with communication. This scene immediately captures the reader's attention and establishes a connection between Jerry's personal journey and the theme of the essay.


Throughout the essay, Jerry skillfully weaves together his experiences of overcoming a speech impediment and finding his confidence through participation in the debate team. He candidly reflects on the challenges he faced, such as stuttering and feeling like a "deer in the headlights," and how he persevered through practice and determination. By sharing specific anecdotes, such as watching upperclassmen and adapting his speaking style, Jerry demonstrates his growth and development over time.


The continued arc of the essay conveys the broader significance of Jerry's journey by highlighting how his newfound confidence extended beyond the debate team to his interactions in school and leadership roles. Through his own experiences, Jerry founded a program to help other students overcome their insecurities and find their voices, thereby paying forward the empowerment he received. The conclusion nicely ties back to the introduction and leaves the reader with a positive, uplifting sense of the author's journey and values.


One potential area for improvement could be spending slightly more time underscoring specific insights, challenges, or ways this experience shaped the author's goals and worldview could make the essay even more impactful for admissions officers evaluating the author's ability to contribute to a diverse community.


2. 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.


This essay captures the transformative power of community and shared values through the author's experience in the Ecuadorian rainforest. The opening sets a vivid scene, drawing the reader into the narrator's journey of joining a diverse group of strangers united by their passion for environmental conservation. By contrasting the indifference of their conservative suburban community with the shared purpose and enthusiasm of their newfound companions, the essay immediately establishes a theme of community and belonging. The examples of the group's enthusiasm and "inner tree-huggers" bring an authentic voice to the narrative.


In the body of the essay, the author skillfully portrays the camaraderie and mutual support within the group, despite their diverse backgrounds. The shared experiences of bird-watching, discussions about medicinal tree sap, and collective efforts towards environmental advocacy highlight the strength of their bond and the alignment of their values. Through anecdotes and dialogue, the author effectively conveys the sense of empowerment and inspiration derived from being part of such a community.


The essay additionally conveys the personal growth and transformation experienced by the author as a result of their time in the rainforest community. The realization that they can make a difference in the world, coupled with a newfound sense of purpose and determination, serves as a powerful conclusion to the narrative. The essay communicates the importance of community in shaping one's beliefs, values, and aspirations, while also highlighting the potential for individual agency and impact.


Where the essay could be strengthened is providing more insight into how this experience will shape the author's future contributions to building and leading communities. While it's impactful to convey the determination instilled to devote one's life to environmental advocacy, expanding on the specific ways the author hopes to foster community around this work would add depth. Additionally, reflecting on the personal growth sparked by stepping outside one's insular worldview could highlight the importance of diversity of perspectives. Overall, however, this is a strong essay that captures the power of an eye-opening experience bonding with others over shared values and passions.


3. Activism (Rochester)

To Nigerians,


It’s been eight years since we’ve been subjected to the tyranny of bad governance. Our medical systems have been destroyed, economy devaluated, and freedom of speech banished. But we need not worry for long. Just 5 years left!


By 2027, I will have explored the strategies behind successful revolutions in Prof. Meguid’s Introduction to Comparative Politics Class ( PSCI101) in my world politics cluster, equipping me to successfully lead us through the revolution we’ve eagerly awaited and install a political system that will ensure our happiness. With the help of the Greene Center, I will have gained practical experience of the biomedical engineering career field by interning at Corning’s biochemical department, enabling me to contribute to the rebuilding of our medical system. I will have developed a Parkinson-stabilizing device from my experience analyzing human motion with MATLAB in Professor Buckley’s BME 201-P class. I hope to later extend this device to cater for poliomyelitis, a disease that has plagued us since 1982. I will have strengthened my ability to put corruption under check through music by developing my soprano voice at Vocal point.


This essay, earning the author admission to the University of Rochester, blends a personal narrative with a vision for the future, demonstrating the author's determination to address the challenges faced by Nigeria through education and practical experience. The author begins by painting a stark picture of the current state of governance in Nigeria, highlighting the systemic issues that have plagued the country for years. This sets the stage for the author's ambitious plan to enact change within their homeland.


The author's strategic approach to addressing these issues is given a college admissions focus by outlining their academic and professional goals at the University of Rochester. By detailing specific courses, internships, and extracurricular activities, the author demonstrates a clear path towards acquiring the knowledge and skills necessary to lead a revolution and contribute to rebuilding Nigeria's medical system. This strategic planning reflects the author's commitment to effecting tangible change and underscores their preparedness for the challenges ahead.


To further strengthen its impact, the author could provide more context or examples of their previous activism or engagement with Nigerian issues, with clear links between the specific experiences and opportunities at the University of Rochester and their goals. 


4. Taking Care of Siblings (Cornell)

He’s in my arms, the newest addition to the family. I’m too overwhelmed. “That’s why I wanted you to go to Bishop Loughlin,” she says, preparing baby bottles. “But ma, I chose Tech because I wanted to be challenged.” “Well, you’re going to have to deal with it,” she replies, adding, “Your aunt watched you when she was in high school.” “But ma, there are three of them. It’s hard!” Returning home from a summer program that cemented intellectual and social independence to find a new baby was not exactly thrilling. Add him to the toddler and seven-year-old sister I have and there’s no wonder why I sing songs from Blue’s Clues and The Backyardigans instead of sane seventeen-year-old activities. It’s never been simple; as a female and the oldest, I’m to significantly rear the children and clean up the shabby apartment before an ounce of pseudo freedom reaches my hands. If I can manage to get my toddler brother onto the city bus and take him home from daycare without snot on my shoulder, and if I can manage to take off his coat and sneakers without demonic screaming for no apparent reason, then it’s a good day. Only, waking up at three in the morning to work, the only free time I have, is not my cup of Starbucks. 


The opening scene of the essay, where the author holds their newest sibling while their mother prepares baby bottles, immediately sets the tone for the essay and introduces the central theme of familial responsibility and sacrifice.


The author candidly reflects on the challenges of balancing their familial obligations with their desire for personal growth and independence. The author's frustration and sense of overwhelm are palpable as they navigate the demands of caring for multiple siblings while also trying to pursue their own goals and aspirations. The contrast between the author's responsibilities as the oldest sibling and their longing for "sane seventeen-year-old activities" effectively highlights the tension between duty and personal desires.


The message of the essay effectively communicates the author's resilience and determination in the face of adversity. Despite the challenges they face, the author demonstrates a sense of agency and resourcefulness, such as waking up at three in the morning to work and finding moments of freedom amidst their responsibilities. This resilience reflects the author's inner strength and determination to overcome obstacles and pursue their dreams.


5. East Asian Bibliophile / Not “Black Enough”

Growing up, my world was basketball. My summers were spent between the two solid black lines. My skin was consistently tan in splotches and ridden with random scratches. My wardrobe consisted mainly of track shorts, Nike shoes, and tournament t-shirts. Gatorade and Fun Dip were my pre-game snacks. The cacophony of rowdy crowds, ref whistles, squeaky shoes, and scoreboard buzzers was a familiar sound. I was the team captain of almost every team I played on—familiar with the Xs and Os of plays, commander of the court, and the coach’s right hand girl.


But that was only me on the surface.


Deep down I was an East-Asian influenced bibliophile and a Young Adult fiction writer.


Hidden in the cracks of a blossoming collegiate level athlete was a literary fiend. I devoured books in the daylight. I crafted stories at night time. After games, after practice, after conditioning I found nooks of solitude. Within these moments, I became engulfed in a world of my own creation. Initially, I only read young adult literature, but I grew to enjoy literary fiction and self-help: Kafka, Dostoevsky, Branden, Csikszentmihalyi. I expanded my bubble to Google+ critique groups, online discussion groups, blogs, writing competitions and clubs. I wrote my first novel in fifth grade, my second in seventh grade, and started my third in ninth grade. Reading was instinctual. Writing was impulsive.


In this essay, the complexities of identity and personal growth are presented through a multi-dimensional portrait of the author's cultural experiences and interests. The opening vividly describes the author's immersion in the world of basketball, showcasing their athleticism and leadership on the court. The essay quickly moves into substantive analysis, revealing the author's passion for literature and writing, as well as their deep connection to East Asian culture and philosophy.


Through anecdotes and reflections, the author skillfully juxtaposes their outward persona as an athlete with their internal world as a bibliophile and writer. This contrast highlights the complexity of identity and challenges stereotypes, demonstrating that individuals can possess a range of interests and talents beyond societal expectations. The author's journey of self-discovery, from devouring young adult literature to emulating authors like Haruki Murakami, adds depth to the narrative and underscores their intellectual curiosity and growth.


The internal and external conflicts faced by the author are developed in the essay body, including the pressure to conform to stereotypes and the challenges of balancing multiple passions. The author's experiences of being judged and bullied for not fitting into narrow expectations highlight the importance of embracing individuality and resisting societal norms. The author unpacks their overall resilience and determination to pursue their diverse interests despite obstacles, including overcoming ACL injuries and transitioning to homeschooling. By detailing their involvement in various extracurricular activities and nonprofit initiatives, the author demonstrates their desire to make a positive impact and empower others to reach their potential.


6. Instagram Post


On “Silent Siege Day,” many students in my high school joined the Students for Life club and wore red armbands with “LIFE” on them. As a non-Catholic in a Catholic school, I knew I had to be cautious in expressing my opinion on the abortion debate. However, when I saw that all of the armband-bearing students were male, I could not stay silent.


I wrote on Instagram, “pro-choice does not necessarily imply pro-abortion; it means that we respect a woman’s fundamental right to make her own choice regarding her own body.”


Some of my peers expressed support but others responded by calling me a dumb bitch, among other names. When I demanded an apology for the name-calling, I was told I needed to learn to take a joke: “you have a lot of anger, I think you need a boyfriend.” Another one of my peers apparently thought the post was sarcastic (?) and said “I didn’t know women knew how to use sarcasm.”


One by one, I responded. I was glad to have sparked discussion, but by midnight, I was mentally and emotionally exhausted.


This is a strong essay, effectively recounting a journey of self-discovery and activism, beginning with a pivotal moment of speaking out against the majority opinion on abortion rights at their Catholic high school. The author's courage in challenging societal norms and expressing their beliefs, despite potential backlash, is evident from the outset. By sharing a personal anecdote of facing criticism and derogatory comments on social media, the author gives a clear look at the emotional toll of standing up for one's beliefs in the face of adversity.


The essay integrates the author's reflections on their evolving understanding of social justice and feminism, sparked by their experiences and research following "The Post." Through engaging with feminist literature and studying historical movements like the Civil Rights Movement, the author demonstrates a growing awareness of systemic inequalities and the importance of dissent in effecting change. The author's decision to volunteer with Girls on the Run and engage in political activism, such as signing petitions and advocating against discriminatory policies, underscores their commitment to advancing social justice beyond their personal experiences.


This ambition reflects the author's desire to contribute to positive societal change and advocate for marginalized communities on a broader scale. The essay effectively conveys a sense of optimism and determination for the future, encapsulated by the author's vision of becoming the first Asian woman on the Supreme Court.


7. ADHD

The labels that I bear are hung from me like branches on a tree: disruptive, energetic, creative, loud, fun, easily distracted, clever, a space cadet, a problem … and that tree has roots called ADHD. The diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder made a lot of sense when it was handed down. I was diagnosed later than other children, probably owing to my sex, which is female; people with ADHD who are female often present in different ways from our male counterparts and are just as often missed by psychiatrists.


Over the years, these labels served as either a badge or a bludgeon, keeping me from certain activities, ruining friendships, or becoming elements of my character that I love about myself and have brought me closer to people I care about. Every trait is a double-edged sword.


The years that brought me to where I am now have been strange and uneven. I had a happy childhood, even if I was a “handful” for my parents. As I grew and grew in awareness of how I could be a problem, I developed anxiety over behavior I simply couldn’t control. With the diagnosis, I received relief, and yet, soon I was thinking of myself as broken, and I quickly attributed every setback to my neurological condition.


The author begins the essay by candidly acknowledging the various labels and stereotypes associated with their condition, illustrating the challenges of navigating societal perceptions and self-perception. By highlighting the gendered aspect of ADHD diagnosis and its impact on their experiences, the author sheds light on the complexity of neurodiversity and the importance of recognition and understanding.


Throughout the essay, the author reflects on the dual nature of their ADHD traits, acknowledging both the struggles and strengths associated with their condition. They eloquently describe how their ADHD has influenced various aspects of their life, from friendships to academic performance to sports achievements. By sharing personal anecdotes and reflections, the essay effectively captures the author's journey of self-acceptance and reframing their perspective on their ADHD. 


The author acknowledges the initial sense of relief upon receiving their diagnosis, followed by feelings of brokenness and self-doubt. However, through introspection and self-compassion, the author ultimately embraces their neurodiversity as a fundamental aspect of their identity. This shift in mindset from viewing their brain as "wrong" to recognizing its uniqueness and resilience is a powerful testament to the author's growth and resilience.


By volunteering at a mental health resource center and advocating for the normalization of neurodiversity, the author demonstrates a desire to create a more inclusive and compassionate society. The essay effectively communicates a message of empathy, acceptance, and celebration of diversity, encouraging readers to embrace their own differences and those of others.


Links to full essays:



One other option – Lumiere Research Scholar Program

If you’d like to pursue a rigorous research program open to high schoolers, you may want to consider the Lumiere Research Scholar Program, a selective online high school program for students founded by researchers at Harvard and Oxford. Last year, we had over 4000 students apply for 500 spots in the program! You can find the application form here. 


Also check out the Lumiere Research Inclusion Foundation, a non-profit research program for talented, low-income students. Last year, we had 150 students on full need-based financial aid!


Alexej is a graduate of Princeton University, where he studied Linguistics, Cognitive Science, and Humanities & Sciences. Alexej works in college admissions consulting, and is passionate about pursuing research at the intersection of humanities, linguistics, and psychology. He enjoys creative writing, hiking, and playing the piano.


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