Don’t be fooled into thinking your diversity essay in medical school should only be about your race or gender. It’s more than that. It’s intended as an exploration of yourself.
Putting one together, especially if you feel there’s nothing particularly “unique” about you, is hard.
In this article, I’ll try and help with that. We’ll cover:
- Quick things to think about
- Examples to help guide your writing
- How other successful med students approached it
As a white male med student myself, my background (and upbringing) is pretty standard. But you’ve got to get creative if you ever hope to impress admission committees.
You’ll obviously be restricted a little by whatever prompt you get, but hopefully, the following tips can still help!
Ready? Let’s go.
How to write the best diversity essay
5 quick things to focus on before you start:
1. Unique interests
Think about what you do when you’re not studying or working. What things do you feel impassioned to learn about or explore?
How far have you taken these interests? Have they led you to interesting places or conversations? What types of people have you encountered through pursuing them?
Personally, this whole project here is a unique interest of mine. I’m keen to explore writing, share tips about medical education and try and effectively help others. This blog forces me to constantly think about you, the reader.
Maybe there’s something similar you can tap into.
2. Unusual experiences
Maybe you’ve studied something weird or you majored in a topic that’s unusual for most med school applications. Diversity is as much what you’ve done as it is who you are.
Perhaps the way you were brought up was a little unorthodox or different from the norm?
If you can learn to trace these experiences back to your application and how they can help shape your approach to medicine (and working with others), you’ve got something valuable on your hands.
3. Important views or beliefs
Have you ever petitioned for something or embarked on a radical change in your lifestyle or political positioning? These are good things that can help show the diversity of thinking you may be experiencing.
It doesn’t matter if you later reversed these beliefs or were proven wrong. Having adopted them once makes you unique in a certain sense. And you’re bound to inevitably face a patient, doctor, or medical staff with a similar ideal.
Show how these things can help you draw connections with a broader set of people.
4. Impactful interactions
Have you ever had a chance meeting that changed the course of your life forever? Maybe a teacher that encouraged you when nobody else would?
These are the types of things that can make for great essays.
5. Failures and struggles
Failure is the best teacher. Highlighting tough lessons learned isn’t something to shy away from when writing about yourself.
It can help ingratiate you to others and show qualities like resilience and perseverance – two things any good doctor is going to need if they wish to be successful.
Diversity Essay Prompts
The prompt you get is critical to how you go about “strategizing” a writing plan.
If you’re curious as to what a prompt can look like (and how to find them), here’s an example…
Geisel School of Medicine values social justice and diversity in all its forms. Reflect on a situation where you were the “other”. (250 words)– Geisel School of Medicine
You can find a ton more in the following article:
Before writing, make sure you familiarize yourself with your target school’s prompt and link it back to their mission statement and core objectives (they’ll usually have this published somewhere on their website).
Following on from Geisel in the prompt, here’s how they talk about theirs…
Matching up your ideas with their principles; “building a diverse and inclusive community etc.” is the best way to go about this.
Keep this in mind with your prompt and you’ll be off to a good start.
After reflecting on the prompt, and the recommendations above, make a list to see what ideas you come up with.
Step one: brainstorm
Get all your ideas down.
- How do you see yourself and what do you think best defines you?
- Do you subscribe/conform to certain societal ideas or expectations?
- What challenges have you had to face and overcome? Did you succeed?
- Have you ever been responsible for someone’s health or care? How did this impact you?
- Do you have experience volunteering or participating in community projects?
- Do you lead or make up any teams? How does this help shape who you are?
- Do you speak and have experience working in different languages?
- Do you have a military service record?
- Have you worked in any positions of responsibility?
- What were the environment/conditions like in your childhood growing up? How did this shape your views/opinions?
- How was your family and personal life growing up?
- Have you participated in events overseas or traveled to unique places?
- Have you experienced illness or injury? How did this shape your worldview?
Step two: be mindful of common mistakes
These are the types of things you want to be mindful of:
- Avoid buzzwords or cliched terms: just because it’s a “diversity” essay doesn’t mean you should use obvious themes. Don’t use anything you yourself would cringe at, especially heavy usage of words like ‘cultural/multicultural’, ‘underserved’, ‘awareness’ etc.
- Don’t state the obvious: figure out why these things make you different and what the result of them is. Don’t just write what they are.
- Avoid falling back on your identity as a minority/immigrant: it’s fine to talk about these things, but what did they change for you and what did they help shape on your journey to becoming a doctor?
Step three: recognize the writing structure
You’ll want to start off with some kind of punchy introduction or hook. Grab the attention of the reader early.
Here’s an example:
“I’m sick and don’t know if I’ll get better.” Hearing those words is probably the most painful memory I have about my mother. And I’m reminded of it often when I talk with family at the Memorial Hospital Cancer Center.
Want 13 more? Check out this article; Medical School Personal Statement Hooks (13 Examples). These can be a good source of inspiration!
After coming up with hook ideas, choose the best and then expand the essay and detail your experience.
Weave in the parts that make you unique.
Conclude by matching your philosophy to the mission objectives of the school.
Step four: draft
As soon as you have an idea of the types of things you can write about and how you can start, get a rough draft down.
Don’t sweat the details, just match the word count.
The important thing is to make a start and get out of your own head.
Step five: feedback
Taking your draft (but still keeping your ideas in mind), it’s good to start gathering feedback.
You can start out by sharing your essay with current students of the school you’re targeting and asking for criticism.
Besides that, also consider sharing your ideas with student communities like Reddit or Student Doctor Network. Or reaching out to people on Facebook or Discord groups.
It’s important you remain open-minded to feedback and avoid getting too defensive. The whole idea of a draft is that it’s subject to change!
Step six: edit
Once you’ve implemented the ideas from your feedback, start adding polish.
Run the essay through grammar and spelling tools to clear up any errors.
Consider consulting or hiring a secondary essay editor for a little extra boost.
It’s not necessary but it definitely can help!
Diversity essay examples
You’ll find some really interesting examples in the following article…
My own story is not exactly formatted like a diversity essay (quite the opposite) but it is a personal account of how/why I got into med that can maybe give you some ideas too!
Medical school diversity essay: Reddit ideas
Reddit’s always a great source of real advice from students who’ve successfully made the transition from pre-med to med.
Here are a couple of useful remarks for putting together a good diversity essay…
I’m black, low income, first generation, so plenty diverse. But ultimately I chose to shy away from writing about belonging to those groups for the diversity prompt (or at least not let the entire essay focus on those identities) because I think they speak for themselves in other parts of my application…Instead I wrote about a unique hobby and more about my life experiences growing up.u/len49
I talked about constantly moving as a kid and how that shaped my worldview and view of others. Then I related that back to the prompt. You might have something like a passion for scuba diving. You can talk about how your experiences with that have shaped you and set you apart from others in a med school class. Talk about your growth specifically. Don’t just describe a list of activities.u/VainNGlory
Notice the tip of not centralizing your focus on your gender, race, or sexuality? These things are important but aren’t enough on their own. Adcoms want to see how they directly relate to your philosophy on becoming a doctor.
There’s a ton more great advice from Redditors on the topic of diversity essays here; Tips For Diversity Essays In Medical School (Reddit’s 14 Best).
Diversity essays are a device used by med schools to help weed out superficial applicants; those typically focused on money or prestige etc.
Showing what makes your intentions different is the name of the game when it comes to writing.
Hopefully, by following the process above, reviewing the examples, and really thinking about aspects of your character that make you unique, you might find it a little easier.
If you enjoyed this post, you might find the following articles useful:
Image Credit: @Aarón Blanco Tejedor at Unsplash
Born and raised in the UK, Will went into medicine late (31) after a career in journalism. He’s into football (soccer), learned Spanish after 5 years in Spain, and has had his work published all over the web. Read more.