Navigating College Essays on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

September 20, 2023

By Leanne Soulard

With the Supreme Court’s recent decision to ban affirmative action in college admissions, many schools have added supplemental essays regarding diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) to their applications. In spite of the Court’s decision, most colleges and universities recognize the value of creating a campus environment that embraces individuals from all walks of life. These essays offer applicants the chance to reflect on their personal experiences, values, and perspectives while showcasing their potential contributions to a diverse campus community. So, how can you effectively answer college essays about DEI? Let’s explore some strategies to help you craft impactful and authentic responses.

  1. Self-Reflection is Key:

Begin by engaging in deep self-reflection. Consider your own experiences, beliefs, and encounters with diversity. It’s important to keep in mind that diversity is about more than race; it can also be about cultural or religious differences, socioeconomic status, and diversity of opinion. Reflect on how these experiences present themselves in your own community and how they have shaped your perspective and the values you hold. Ask yourself questions like:

  • How have my experiences with diversity and inclusion influenced my personal growth?
  • What have I learned from interacting with people from different backgrounds?
  • How have I contributed to creating an inclusive environment in my school or community?
  1. Showcase Genuine Engagement:

Admissions counselors are adept at identifying sincerity in essays. Rather than trying to present an idealized version of yourself, be authentic. (There’s that word again.) Share moments that genuinely impacted you and led to personal growth. Discuss instances where you actively engaged with diversity and inclusion, whether through volunteer work, school projects, or personal interactions. Highlight your willingness to learn and adapt to new perspectives.

  1. Personal Stories Speak Volumes:

The power of storytelling allows us to tap into our emotions and connect with others. Use a personal narrative to demonstrate your understanding of diversity and your commitment to equity and inclusion. Consider discussing challenges you’ve faced, conversations that left a lasting impact, or moments when you advocated for someone else’s inclusion.

  1. Connect to Your Aspirations:

Demonstrate how your own experiences and values align with the college’s DEI initiatives. You’ll have to do your research here. Explore the institution’s diversity-related programs, clubs, and resources. Illustrate how you envision contributing to and benefiting from these offerings. Explain how your unique perspective can enrich the campus community and contribute to ongoing conversations about equity.

  1. Address Your Growth:

No one is immune to biases or lack of awareness. Admissions counselors appreciate applicants who demonstrate an ability to learn and grow. Be vulnerable and discuss moments where you recognized your own biases or misconceptions and took active steps to unlearn them. Emphasize your willingness to continue learning and evolving as an individual committed to building a diverse and inclusive world.

  1. Avoid Clichés and Generalizations: 

Steer clear of overused phrases and general statements. Phrases like “I value diversity” or “I believe in inclusivity” can sound insincere and lack depth. Instead, provide specific examples and details that showcase your unique perspective and experiences.

  1. Emphasize Empathy and Open-Mindedness:

Highlight your ability to empathize with others and listen to their perspectives with an open mind. Express your commitment to creating spaces where everyone’s voice is heard and respected. Share examples of when you actively sought out differing viewpoints and collaborated with people from diverse backgrounds.

Addressing college essays about diversity, equity, and inclusion is an opportunity to demonstrate your genuine commitment to fostering an inclusive community. Through self-reflection, personal stories, and a focus on growth, you can write an essay that resonates with admissions counselors and reflects your authentic self. Remember, your unique perspective is a valuable asset that can contribute to the diverse fabric of the college campus and beyond.

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