Most medical school diversity essay prompts give little away when it comes to helping you with ideas on what to write. Without seeing examples? It’s incredibly difficult to know where to get started!
As a medical student with an undergrad in English, I thought I’d run my eye over some of the web’s popular medical school diversity essay examples.
Ranking these six examples from best to worst, I’ll give a critique of each along the way.
All with the hope of better helping you craft your own diversity essays with a bit more ease and expertise!
Ready to get started? Let’s go.
Want some quick writing tips first? Check out this article; How To Write An Awesome Diversity Essay In Medical School (5 Quick Tips).
I’ll be ranking each of these from, what I feel, is the worst to best.
Note: It’s not my intention to be disparaging (having any one of these examples is a huge plus), but rather entertaining. I hope it’ll be fun figuring out what I’d look for if I was part of a Med School Admissions Team!
Medical School Diversity Essay Examples
Make sure you click through the links on each of these essays. Not only does this help give credit to other people’s work, but you’ll also benefit from their own explanations and critique!
6. Diverse Backgrounds – Chronicles of a Medical Student
My father gave me two things when I was young: early exposure to diverse people and a strong desire to learn to work cross-culturally. But the most important thing he taught me was to be a life-long learner through interaction with people from diverse backgrounds. Our house was always a second home for international students studying at nearby universities. I can remember playing Jenga with Russian engineering students or seeing our kitchen taken over by Korean music students. During college, I continued to learn to relate to people from many backgrounds through an internship to Southeast Asia in 2006. I found that humility and a genuine desire to learn about someone’s culture opened doors to relationships that would have remained closed. If students fail to interact with people of different cultures, preferring to cluster where they are comfortable, the benefit of a diverse campus is lost. My cross-cultural experiences have prepared me to learn to embrace ethnic and cultural diversity.– Chronicles of a Medical Student
This is by no means a bad essay – and there’s a lot of personal relevance that shines through – it’s just that it misses the mark a little when it comes to drawing parallels between the past and the future.
Although the student shows they’ve had a range of experiences that’s brought them into contact with diverse peoples and cultures, it doesn’t really answer how this lends itself to medicine.
Personally, I find myself wanting to know more about how these experiences have shaped this person’s desire to become a doctor!
5. Connecting Through Cultures – BeMo
I am extremely fortunate to have a strong connection to my roots. Spending time in Italy throughout my life has allowed me to see how the ideology of this culture differs from that in the United States.
The Italian society is often marred by the stereotype that they are lazy, or not willing to work. I believe that if one truly sees the society from an objective lens, they will see a society that derives their happiness less from material objects and more from love and companionship. Resultantly, there is a monumental emphasis placed on the health and well-being of others. There is always time for a family meal, a coffee with a friend, or an evening walk to clear one’s mind. Growing up my family always made sure everyone had enough to eat, and someone to talk to. I believe in this ideology and view the healthcare field as the opportunity to help others live a full, and fruitful life pursuing their own happiness.
Throughout my life, healthcare professionals have consistently given my loved ones the ability to live autonomously and be present in my life. It is a service and a gift that they have given me and a gift I wish to spend my life giving others. My culture, upbringing, and life experiences have fostered my desire to purse medicine and my holistic approach to life. I will bring these elements of empathy and holistic care not only as a training physician, but as a fellow classmate who is there for others through the rigors of medical school.– BeMo
There’s a lot to like about this essay, especially the way they talk about a different culture (Italy) and how it’s shaped fuel that desire to become a physician.
Where I feel it could be lacking is in drawing upon specific experiences (extracurriculars) diverse enough to pair well with an application.
They perhaps waste the second paragraph a little by repeating a similar sentiment; “a desire to pursue medicine and a holistic approach to life.”
It’s maybe just a bit too unspecific and uncreative.
4. Sharing Passions – Shemassian Consulting
There are many things a girl could be self-conscious about growing up, such as facial hair, body odor, or weight gain. Growing up with a few extra pounds than my peers, I was usually chosen last for team sports and struggled to run a 10-minute mile during P.E. classes. As I started to despise school athletics, I turned towards other hobbies, such as cooking and Armenian dance, which helped me start anew with a healthier lifestyle. Since then, I have channeled my passions for nutrition and exercise into my volunteering activities, such as leading culinary workshops for low-income residents of Los Angeles, organizing community farmer’s markets, or conducting dance sessions with elderly patients. I appreciate not only being able to bring together a range of people, varying in age, socioeconomic status, and ethnicity, but also helping instill a sense of confidence and excitement that comes with making better lifestyle decisions. I have enjoyed encouraging kids in the inner city to combat similar issues of weight gain and low self-esteem through after-school gardening and physical activity lessons. Now, I hope to share my love for culinary nutrition and fitness with fellow medical students at UCLA. As students, we can become better physicians by passing on health and nutrition information to future patients, improving quality of life for ourselves and others.– Shemassian Consulting
This is an example of just how creative you can get when it comes to essay writing – especially when you might not consider yourself “typically diverse” too!
The experiences of this applicant are ones that most of us, growing up in the West, are familiar with. Yet they expertly turn these “standard problems” into something personal that communicates to the reader why they got involved with volunteering and community projects in the first place (i.e. not just because med school admissions teams told them they had to!)
Even if the bottom line is a little generic; “passing on health and nutrition information to future patients”; it’s that honesty at the beginning that makes it seem like a genuine essay.
The way it addresses the school specifically is another nice touch.
3. Multiple Identities – Motivate MD
In Peace Corps training, we learned a metaphor for our service. If our home, America, was a circle, our new community could be described as a square. We, as volunteers, were triangles. The point? We were part of each; not quite one, nor the other, but able to recognize both as valid ways of being.
Most of us have multiple identities. I also bring practice of inhabiting the middle; the boat in a channel between islands. In one of my favorite novels, Ann Patchett’s Bel Canto, the story of international diplomats held hostage at a party, the translator plays a central role. It is he who must interpret and communicate; give voice to space between characters.
As a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, oldest child, and part of a mixed-race family, I’ve had many opportunities to translate; on behalf of my siblings (to my parents), my parents (to my siblings), Belizean villagers, & others in my health advocacy work.
My “triangular” identity helps me approach problems differently. _______Medical School is a place for visionary thinking; a community of innovators. I want to be part of curiosity-driven inquiry; translating differences & supporting evidence based solutions to health problems.
I see my role as one that can only be attempted through willingness to understand others. My greatest contribution to the medical school community at _________will be my ability to stand in two places, ears & heart open, facilitating dialogue & sharing my perspective from a place of collaborative appreciation. Growth cannot occur in a silo. It begins in learning from & with other people, recognizing the value of all identities.– Motivate MD
This is a really awesome example that’s formatted perfectly.
Compact, punchy, and making great use of metaphor, this does so many right things when it comes to putting together a strong diversity essay.
What I like most about it is the way it plays on the cultural background of the applicant to explain how they will contribute to the school’s community moving forward.
This is a really important thing to consider!
But what’s also neat is the way they link reading and literature to their own cross-cultural role. That’s a nice creative flourish.
2. Diversity Through Faith – University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine
In the sweating discomfort of the summertime heat, I walked through Philadelphia International Airport with several overweight bags, tired eyes, and a bad case of Shigella. Approaching Customs, I noticed the intensity and seriousness on the faces of the customs officers whose responsibility were to check passports and question passengers. As I moved closer to the front of the line, I noticed someone reading a foreign newspaper. The man was reading about the Middle Eastern conflict, a clash fueled by religious intolerance. What a sharp contrast to Ghana, I thought. I had just spent three weeks in Ghana. While there I worked, studied their religions, ate their food, traveled and contracted malaria. Despite all of Ghana’s economic hardships, the blending of Christianity, Islam, and traditional religion did not affect the health of the country. When I reached the front of the line, the customs officer glanced at my backpack and with authoritative curiosity asked me, “What are you studying?” I responded in a fatigued, yet polite voice, “Religious studies with a pre-med track.” Surprised, the officer replied rhetorically, “Science and religion, interesting, how does that work?” This was not the first time I had encountered the bewildered facial expression or this doubtful rhetorical question. I took a moment to think and process the question and answered, “With balance.”
Throughout my young life I have made an effort to be well-rounded, improve in all facets of my personal life, and find a balance between my personal interests and my social responsibility. In my quest to understand where I fit into society, I used service to provide a link between science and my faith. Science and religion are fundamentally different; science is governed by the ability to provide evidence to prove the truth while religion’s truth is grounded on the concept of faith. Physicians are constantly balancing the reality of a person’s humanity and the illness in which they are caring for. The physicians I have found to be most memorable and effective were those who were equally as sensitive and perceptive of my spirits as they were of my symptoms. Therefore, my desire to become a physician has always been validated, not contradicted by my belief system. In serving, a person must sacrifice and give altruistically. When one serves they sacrifice their self for others benefit. Being a servant is characterized by leading by example and striving to be an advocate for equity.
As a seventh grade math and science teacher in the Philadelphia public school system, everyday is about sacrifice and service. I sacrifice my time before, during and after-school; tutoring, mentoring and coaching my students. I serve with vigor and purpose so that my students can have opportunities that many students from similar backgrounds do not have. However, without a balance my effectiveness as a teacher is compromised. In February, I was hospitalized twice for a series of asthma attacks. Although I had been diagnosed with asthma, I had not had an attack since I was in middle school. Consequently, the physicians attributed my attacks to high stress, lack of sleep, and poor eating habits. It had become clear to me that my unrelenting drive to provide my students with a sound math and science education without properly balancing teaching and my personal life negatively impacted my ability to serve my students. I believe this experience taught me a lesson that will prove to be invaluable as a physician. Establishing an equilibrium between my service and my personal life as a physician will allow me to remain connected to the human experience; thus enabling me to serve my patients with more compassion and effectiveness.
Throughout my travels and experiences I have seen the unfortunate consequences of not having equitable, quality health care both domestically and abroad. While many take having good health for granted, the financial, emotional, mental, and physical effects illnesses have on individuals and families can have a profound affect on them and the greater society. Illness marks a point in many people’s lives where they are most vulnerable, thus making a patient’s faith and health care providers vital to their healing process. My pursuit to blend the roles of science and religion formulate my firm belief that health care providers are caretakers of God’s children and have a responsibility to all of humanity. Nevertheless, I realize my effectiveness and success as a physician will be predicated mostly on my ability to harmonize my ambition with my purpose. Therefore, I will always answer bewildered looks with the assurance that my faith and my abilities will allow me to serve my patients and achieve what I have always strived for and firmly believe in, balance.– University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine
First things first, you’re incredibly unlikely to get the chance to write this much for a diversity essay.
Most of the prompts you’ll see from med schools are in the 500 words range. As evidenced in the following article…
What I love about this example here however is the narrative. This essay really paints a picture. And has an awesome hook in its opening about the writer experiencing shigella!
Other things it does excellently include discussing diverse experiences (teaching, preaching, illness etc.) and showing a firm understanding of the roles doctors play across societies and cultures.
It shows real passion and drive, as well as someone struggling on a more personal level to make sense of their own journey.
I imagine this would stand out well from the crowd.
1. Exploring Narratives – Morgan (The Crimson)
I started writing in 8th grade when a friend showed me her poetry about self-discovery and finding a voice. I was captivated by the way she used language to bring her experiences to life. We began writing together in our free time, trying to better understand ourselves by putting a pen to paper and attempting to paint a picture with words. I felt my style shift over time as I grappled with challenges that seemed to defy language. My poems became unstructured narratives, where I would use stories of events happening around me to convey my thoughts and emotions. In one of my earliest pieces, I wrote about a local boy’s suicide to try to better understand my visceral response. I discussed my frustration with the teenage social hierarchy, reflecting upon my social interactions while exploring the harms of peer pressure.
In college, as I continued to experiment with this narrative form, I discovered medical narratives. I have read everything from Manheimer’s Bellevue to Gawande’s Checklist and from Nuland’s observations about the way we die to Kalanithi’s struggle with his own decline. I even experimented with this approach recently, writing a piece about my grandfather’s emphysema. Writing allowed me to move beyond the content of our relationship and attempt to investigate the ways time and youth distort our memories of the ones we love. I have augmented these narrative excursions with a clinical bioethics internship. In working with an interdisciplinary team of ethics consultants, I have learned by doing by participating in care team meetings, synthesizing discussions and paths forward in patient charts, and contributing to an ongoing legislative debate addressing the challenges of end-of-life care. I have also seen the ways ineffective intra-team communication and inter-personal conflicts of beliefs can compromise patient care.
By assessing these difficult situations from all relevant perspectives and working to integrate the knowledge I’ve gained from exploring narratives, I have begun to reflect upon the impact the humanities can have on medical care. In a world that has become increasingly data-driven, where patients can so easily devolve into lists of numbers and be forced into algorithmic boxes in search of an exact diagnosis, my synergistic narrative and bioethical backgrounds have taught me the importance of considering the many dimensions of the human condition. I am driven to become a physician who deeply considers a patient’s goal of care and goals of life. I want to learn to build and lead patient care teams that are oriented toward fulfilling these goals, creating an environment where family and clinician conflict can be addressed efficiently and respectfully. Above all, I look forward to using these approaches to keep the person beneath my patients in focus at each stage of my medical training, as I begin the task of translating complex basic science into excellent clinical care– Morgan, Harvard Med Matriculant; The Crimson
You can see why this student successfully made it into Harvard Med!
Again, they tell a story. They hook us in curiously with a statement that we want to know the answer to. And we continue reading while the greater narrative unfurls.
What this example does perfectly is interweave the personal with the playful while showing a diversity of thought (writing about a local boy’s suicide etc) and a commitment to expanding her perspective.
Showing (not telling) how this pastime has enriched her staple extracurriculars (internships, research, clinical experience, etc.), it shows real thought as to the future of medicine and exactly where this future physician wants to take it.
The level of detail and specificity shows that she’s really thought about how she wants to develop her career based on her existing clinical experience.
This is the type of diversity essay I’d aspire to write!
Hopefully, in ranking these examples and discussing their finer points, you have some better ideas about how you might want to approach writing your own diversity essays.
While it’s impossible to really comment on the appropriateness of each example, namely because we don’t know the exact prompt, they still give plenty of food for thought!
Just remember to follow your own prompts where possible, and make sure to go over your school’s mission statements to help tailor your own essays.
I’m pretty confident you can write essays as effective as these!
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.