Don’t be fooled into thinking your diversity essay in medical school should 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. As a cis white male myself, my background (and upbringing) is pretty standard. But you’ve got to get creative if you ever hope to impress admission committees (Adcoms).
In this article, I’ll try and help with that. We’ll cover:
- Quick things to think about in terms of what makes you diverse
- Neat examples you can use to help guide your writing
- How other successful med students approached it
You’ll obviously be restricted a little by whatever prompt you get, but hopefully the following tips can still help!
Ready? Let’s go.
Here’s what best to think about in your diversity essay in medical school…
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 lead 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.
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.
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 diversity of thinking.
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 more broader set of people.
Have you ever a 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.
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 perseverence – two things any good doctor is going to need if they wish to be successful.
After reflecting on each of these things, make a list and see what ideas you come up with.
Then it’s on to the writing stage.
These are the types of things you want to be mindful of:
- Connect your experiences/insight to what you can offer in your studies: answer how these things make you diverse and why that’s a benefit to the people you’ll come into contact with during med school.
- Avoid buzzwords or cliched terms: just because it’s a “diversity” essay doesn’t mean you should use the obvious tropes. 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 do they help bring to the table now in your journey to becoming a doctor?
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’s a few of the best comments I could find in terms of 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
Its not about it being “some objectively cool activity” its about having something you care about. Real people have interests and things they care about. Seriously, I wrote about reading and going on walks with my dog as some of my interests. That’s a pretty average interest, yes, but I care about it. Adcoms are looking for real people who care about things and by doing so, enrich the lives of their classmates, their patients, and their communities.u/bright_and_peachy
Some ideas for diversity: do you play an interesting musical instrument? Have an interesting hobby? What is that “wow” factor that people like hearing about you? Have you grown up outside of the U.S? Speak multiple languages? What organizations are you involved in at school? Are you non traditional? I.e. Did you pursue another career path before medicine? Are you studying something really unique outside of basic sciences?u/serpuoy
Notice how they all have similar advice in common:
- Don’t fixate on your gender, race or sexuality
- Reflect on experiences that helped shape your personality, beliefs and interests
- Consider what you actually care about
- What’s something you’ve experienced/done that 9/10 people probably haven’t?
These essays are there to weed out the superficial applicants – those focused on money or prestige.
So show what it is that makes your intentions different!
Diversity essay examples
You’ll find some really interesting examples at the following links:
- MotivateMD: this should be your first port of call. There’s several med-specific examples here that are each very different but work on many levels.
- CollegeVine: they’re not med specific but they’re great examples of both storytelling and the writing process.
- TexAdmissions: the five examples here show very different, yet effective, approaches spanning advocacy, income, careers and more.
- My own story: it’s 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…
Figuring out what to write on your diversity essay in medical school isn’t always obvious.
Hopefully the tips above can you help think more carefully about it.
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Image Credit: @Aarón Blanco Tejedor at Unsplash
Born and raised in the UK, Will went into medicine late (31) after a career in digital marketing and 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.