Writing an Effective Diversity Statement

The diversity statement asks graduate school applicants to identify and discuss their demonstrated commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and social justice. While a diversity statement is not required for all graduate school applications, it is becoming increasingly common. Prompts can vary widely across institutions and can change yearly. They are not always available on a program’s website and are often encountered once you have opened an application for that school. Below are a few examples of prompts from recent years. Notice the difference and similarities in what applicants are being asked to address.  

  1. UC Santa Cruz is interested in a diverse and inclusive graduate student population. In an essay, discuss how your personal background informs your decision to pursue a graduate degree. Include any educational, familial, cultural, economic, or social experiences, challenges, or opportunities relevant to your academic journey; how you might contribute to social or cultural diversity within your chosen field; and/or how you might serve educationally underrepresented segments of society with your degree. (2022)
  2. Supporting the development of a diverse student body is central to the University of Minnesota’s mission. This mission is enacted by the inclusion of academically excellent students with diverse backgrounds, experiences, and/or a commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. Please write a statement that identifies the distinctive characteristics and/or life experiences, such as successfully overcoming obstacles or hardships, that you would bring to your graduate program and how that could contribute to the education and enhanced perspective of fellow students at the University of Minnesota. (2022)
  3. Yale Chemistry is dedicated to attracting qualified students with diverse backgrounds and experiences. In 300 words or less, applicants should briefly describe their perspectives on diversity, why it is important, and how they have contributed to or will contribute to diversity, equity, and inclusion. (2022)
  4. Applicants may submit a statement with their application, briefly describing how their academic interests, background, or life experiences would advance Princeton’s commitment to diversity within the Graduate School and to training individuals in an increasingly diverse society. Please submit a succinct statement of no more than 500 words. (2022)

 A helpful starting point is to consider definitions of diversity, equity, inclusion, and social justice. Dafina-Lazarus Stewart’s definitions are particularly useful because they disentangle the nuances of the language: 

 Diversity celebrates increases in numbers that still reflect minoritized status on campus and incremental growth. Equity celebrates reductions in harm, revisions to abusive systems and increases in supports for people’s life changes as reported by those who have been targeted. Inclusion celebrates awards for initiatives and credits itself for having a diverse candidate pool. Justice celebrates getting rid of practices and policies that were having disparate impacts on minoritized groups” (Stewart, 2017). 

 Brainstorming Questions 

  • What are your experiences with diversity, equity, inclusion, and social justice? How have you contributed to these initiatives? How have you created, maintained, or prompted diverse/equitable/inclusive spaces and communities? 
  • What experiences come to your mind? Some examples include extra-curriculars, clubs, coursework, campaigns, work, research, volunteer activities, mentoring activities, etc. 
  • Why were these experiences meaningful? What did you learn from them? How did they extend your understanding of diversity, equity, inclusion, and social justice?  
  • Are there aspects of your identity that inform your approach to diversity, equity, inclusion, and social justice? What would you be comfortable sharing with an admissions committee? 
  •  Are there aspects of your identity, or life experiences you’ve had, that help you approach academic work in an uncommon way? 
  •  Does the prompt encourage you to think about your future engagements in diversity, equity, inclusion, and social justice? If so, what do you want to include? How will you engage in such work as a graduate student, in your research, outreach, or beyond graduate school? 
  •  Do your responses answer the prompt?  
  •  Should you zero in on one or more of these experiences? Or will you take a more comprehensive approach in discussing your experiences? In deciding which approach to take in organizing your diversity statement, refer back to the prompt and the other materials in your application. 

Additional Resources   

This resource was developed in collaboration with Grinnell College’s Writing, Reading, and Speaking Center