Diversity Secondary Essay Writing Tips

Philippe Barr, PhD
7 min readFeb 27, 2023

Graduate programs in many disciplines often require applicants to provide a secondary diversity essay with their application. This type of essay is designed to give admissions committees a better idea of who the applicant is, their background, and how their diversity will contribute to the institution.

Admissions committees of graduate programs often use the diversity essay to secure specific types of funding for underrepresented applicants. This type of funding is often aimed at providing resources to support individuals who have been traditionally marginalized in higher education. This can come in the form of scholarships, grants, and even fellowships, as well as other forms of support.

By evaluating a student’s diverse experiences and backgrounds, admissions committees can better understand how to support and encourage students who may otherwise face more challenges in their pursuit of a graduate degree. In addition, this type of support can help to increase the success rate of underrepresented student populations and create a more diverse learning experience.

Ultimately, the secondary diversity essay can be a powerful way to support those who have been historically left behind.

The diversity essay also allows students with unique backgrounds to share their stories and show how they could contribute to the campus community. By writing a diversity essay, prospective graduate students can show admissions officers how they will bring valuable perspectives and ideas to their target school.

Demonstrating the Value You Bring to Diversity

Writing about how your background has shaped you can help demonstrate the value you will bring to a college campus. Your secondary diversity essay should discuss topics such as cultural differences, learning to adapt and thrive in diverse environments, and how your heritage has shaped the person you are today.

It should be an honest reflection of your journey and how it has made you a more thoughtful and open-minded individual. By highlighting these experiences in your application, you can help set yourself apart from other applicants and show admissions officers that you bring something special to their college campus.

You don’t have to be an under-represented minority to write authentically and powerfully about the topics you care most deeply about. In fact, everyone has their own unique story to tell, and it’s important to share it.

Whether you’re a young person growing up in a rural town, an immigrant adapting to life in the big city, or someone who’s been living with an invisible disability for years, your story can be valuable and inspiring to others.

Reflect on the moments that have impacted your life and how these might be meaningful to someone else. Take a few minutes to jot down your emotions and contemplations, probing for flashes of clarity or comprehension. These can lend power to an essay that speaks volumes to its readers.

Diversity is not limited to one’s religion, ethnicity, culture, language, or sexual orientation. In fact, diversity encompasses many aspects of one’s identity, including age, gender, race, socioeconomic status, physical ability, and more. Diversity also includes a person’s unique perspectives and experiences that arise from these differences.

It is important to recognize, value, and respect these variations within our communities and organizations as it can lead to a better understanding of our collective needs and challenges. Ultimately, embracing diversity allows us to foster greater acceptance and appreciation for each other, creating a stronger, more inclusive society.

Are you blazing a trail as the first in your family to attend graduate school? Or, perhaps leading the group by learning English before anyone else? Maybe you worked hard and earned money for tuition or helped your siblings. No matter how large of an impact on others you made, everyone’s journey is unique.

Why Is Diversity in Graduate School Applications So Important?

Admissions officers believe that diversity in the classroom has numerous benefits for students, both academically and socially. Diversity creates an environment where different perspectives are encouraged, and students are exposed to different cultures and backgrounds.

This can help them become more tolerant, understanding, and open-minded individuals. Moreover, it can help expand their worldview and understanding of different cultures.

Additionally, diversity in the classroom provides a platform for students to engage with peers who have different perspectives, providing them with the opportunity to learn from each other and appreciate different ways of thinking. This helps foster a more collaborative learning environment, enriching the educational experience of all students.

In an increasingly global and multicultural world, preparing graduate students to succeed in a diverse environment is essential. Learning and growing in a multicultural environment can help develop a student’s understanding of different cultures and how to effectively interact with people from diverse backgrounds.

This can provide invaluable experience when it comes to working in organizations and businesses with a range of cultures, languages, and ethnicities.

How to Demonstrate Diversity in Your Secondary Essay

Admissions committees understand that each applicant has a unique set of experiences and accomplishments. When writing your diversity secondary essay, highlight the moments in your life that have shaped the person you are today.

Here are some inspiring topics to explore:

  1. Navigating differences in values between your parent’s beliefs and your social environment at school.
  2. Your grit, values, and character enabled you to overcome forms of discrimination that stood in the way of your success.
  3. You were raised with an unwavering emphasis on showing respect to your elders, attending family functions, and immersing yourself in the language and culture of your ancestors.
  4. With the guidance of your beloved grandparents and extended family, you have learned that working together is essential for everyone’s success.
  5. Experiences that aren’t common to many, such as living in different countries and cultural environments allowed you developed cross-cultural skills
  6. You’ve been exposed to racism or other discriminatory behavior (either against yourself or others) and have stood up for diverse, tolerant beliefs, etc.

Our unique backgrounds and experiences shape us into diverse individuals. We all have different stories that make us who we are, with our own set of thoughts, values, and beliefs. We have different cultures, upbringings, religions, interests, ideas, and perspectives that teach us to think differently from one another.

The goal of the graduate diversity statement is to demonstrate how individualized experiences allow us to learn and grow as people, expanding our knowledge and understanding of the world around us. Having such a wide variety of perspectives helps to create an open and accepting environment, where we can come together to share our stories in a meaningful way. As you write your essay, keep in mind that by sharing our unique experiences, we can form a collective understanding of the world and gain insight into how to create a better future.

Discovering How to Articulate Your Diversity in Your Secondary Essay

Graduate programs may ask applicants to speak about the diversity they can bring to their school, chosen profession, or community. Understanding and responding to this question can be an important factor in admissions decisions.

Ensure you respond to the query presented in your application by showcasing a special quality that will make up an integral part of the student body. Do not aim for mediocrity, but instead strive to be exceptional while still fitting into the school’s atmosphere.

If you want to expand your ideas on diversity, here are three ways to discover material worth writing about:

  1. Who are you? What attributes make up your identity? How do you set yourself apart from others? Your identity encompasses a variety of elements, including gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, disability status, and/or religion. Additionally, some may consider non-traditional work experience or educational background to be a component of one’s identity. Furthermore, multicultural backgrounds as well as family’s educational level can also contribute to an individual’s unique selfhood.
  2. What have you achieved? Think of it this way: what life experiences, both positive and challenging, can you bring to the table that set you apart from other applicants? These could include your successes from within or outside your area of study such as leadership roles, volunteering in the community, military experience, and more. Have any personal setbacks forced you to make a new plan but allowed for further growth on an individual level? All these elements are unique and worth considering when crafting a persuasive application!
  3. What sparks your creativity? How do you process information and come up with new concepts? What motivates you to create innovative solutions? Who or what has the most influence on your thought processes?

Ponder each query and consider how you can use your diverse elements to benefit the classroom, school, or community. Any of these components can form your essay’s foundation.

To write a successful essay about how you will contribute to the diversity of your dream school’s community, take some time for self-reflection and focus on what makes you unique. You are an individual — there is no one else like you! Investigate your identity, reflections, and ideas to articulate why it would be beneficial for the graduate program to admit YOU.

To sum it up, the diversity secondary essay for grad school can be intimidating and overwhelming. You may feel like you have too much to talk about or not enough. But don’t panic; this article has given you some tips for what to include in your essay so that you can properly reflect on and showcase your diverse background.

If you’re still having difficulty getting started or if the writing process is taking longer than expected, check out our graduate school application services. We make it easier to explain your unique experiences in a meaningful way, helping you put forward a strong and memorable application. So go ahead and take advantage of our resources, they’re sure to help ease the stresses of this entire process!

Got questions? Sign up for a consultation, or send us your draft for an estimate. It’s FREE!

With a Master’s from McGill University and a Ph.D. from New York University, Dr. Philippe Barr is the founder of The Admit Lab. As a tenure-track professor, Dr. Barr spent a decade teaching and serving on several graduate admission committees at UNC-Chapel Hill before turning to full-time consulting. With more than seven years of experience as a graduate school admissions consultant, Dr. Barr has stewarded the candidate journey across multiple master’s and Ph.D. programs and helped hundreds of students get admitted to top-tier graduate programs all over the world.

Follow me on Instagram and TikTok for tips and tricks on navigating the grad school application process and weekly live Q&A sessions!

Originally published at https://admit-lab.com on February 27, 2023.



Philippe Barr, PhD

I am Philippe Barr, founder of The Admit Lab, a graduate school admissions consultancy that helps students get admitted into grad school: https://admit-lab.com/