Putting together an incredible diversity essay for a college or med school application can be tough. Knowing where to start, or exactly what it is a school wants to see or read, only adds to the challenge.
A good way to prepare and get a better understanding of what diversity essays are all about is to take a look at prompts. Reading them; you can see recurring themes, common questions, and how schools even try to “diversify” their own diversity questions!
In this article I’ve put together 21 examples and grouped them together under the following categorizations:
- Prompts from Ivy League medical schools
- Prompts from mid-tier schools
- Prompts from low-tier schools
- Prompts from D.O. schools
I hope that by reading them you’ll get a better idea of what diversity essays are about!
Ready to get started? Let’s go.
Just want quick writing tips? Check out this article; How To Write An Awesome Diversity Essay In Medical School (5 Quick Tips).
How can you find specific prompts for schools you’re applying for?
The best way to stay on top of secondary essay prompts is via the community at The Student Doctor Network.
There, you can sign up for alerts on application information (and secondary prompts) specific to each school.
You’ll also see new threads for every year of admission!
Diversity essay topics
You’ll see the most common topics from these prompts include:
- Your educational environment
- Your cultural and socioeconomic background
- Your ethnicity
- Your geographic origin
- Your lifestyle
- Your gender identity
- Your sexual orientation
- Your physical ability/challenges
- Your views on social justice
- Your work experience
Ivy League medical school diversity essay prompts
Of course, this list is by no means exhaustive and colleges change these prompts every year.
You’ll also notice that not every school asks for a secondary essay based on diversity!
Pay close attention to the word count of your school’s prompt when it comes to writing…
Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania
Are there any special, unique, personal, or challenging aspects of your personal background or circumstances that you would like to share with the Committee on Admissions, not addressed elsewhere (siblings/relatives at Penn, applying as a couple, educational environment, culture, ethnicity, etc.) (1000 characters)
Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons
Columbia Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons values diversity in all its forms. How will your background and experiences contribute to this important focus of our institution and inform your future role as a physician? 300 words.
Harvard Medical School
If there is an important aspect of your personal background or identity, not addressed elsewhere in the application, that you would like to share with the Committee, we invite you to do so here. Examples might include significant challenges in access to education, unusual socioeconomic factors, identification with a minority culture, religion, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender identity. Briefly explain how such factors have influenced your motivation for a career in medicine. (4000 character maximum)
Geisel School of Medicine
Geisel School of Medicine values social justice and diversity in all its forms. Reflect on a situation where you were the “other”. (250 words)
Yale School of Medicine
Yale School of Medicine values diversity in all its forms. How will your background and experiences contribute to this important focus of our institution and inform your future role as a physician? (500 words limit)
Alpert Medical School
How will your unique attributes (e.g., cultural or socioeconomic background, lifestyle, work experiences) add to the overall diversity of the Alpert Medical School community? (2000 characters)
Mid Tier medical school diversity essay prompts
*Schools typically ranking 10-20 in common medical school rankings
These schools follow the same trends as those of the Ivy League ones. They also expect you to think about socioeconomics, sexual orientation, gender, and ethnicity, etc.
Some recycle their prompts every year. Others (like John Hopkins/Vanderbilt) are a little more open to creativity.
Tell us more about who you are. You may provide additional information that expands your self-identity where gender identification, racial and/or ethnic self description, geographic origin, socioeconomic, academic, and/or other characteristics that define who you are as you contemplate a career that will interface with people who are similar AND dissimilar to you. You will have the opportunity below to tell us how you wish to be addressed, recognized and treated. (500 words)
The Committee on Admissions regards the diversity (broadly defined) of an entering class as an important factor in serving the educational mission of the school. The Committee on Admissions strongly encourages you to share unique, personally important and/or challenging factors in your background which may include such discussions as the quality of your early education, gender, sexual orientation, any physical challenges, and life or work experiences. Please describe how these factors have influenced your goals and preparation for a career in medicine and may help you to uniquely contribute to the Stanford learning environment. (2000 characters)
Johns Hopkins University
Briefly describe a situation where you were not in the majority. What did you learn from the experience? (2500 characters)
Optional: You may address any subject you wish, such as being a first generation college student, or being a part of a minority group (whether because of your sexual orientation, religion, economic status, gender identity, ethnicity) or being the child of undocumented immigrants or being undocumented yourself, etc. (2500 characters)
University of Pittsburgh
UPSOM is committed to building a diverse and talented community that will train physicians in delivering culturally competent, person-centered care, and promoting a supportive, collaborative learning environment. To achieve this, we want our fellow students to recognize health disparities and advocate for health equity. We are interested in combating all forms of systemic barriers, and would like to hear your thoughts on opposing specifically: systemic racism, anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination, and misogyny. How will you contribute? (Limit your response to 250 words or less.)
Tell us about a time when you interacted with someone who is different than you. What did you learn? What would you do differently? (600 words)
Northwestern University (Feinberg)
The Feinberg School of Medicine values diversity as a measure of excellence. We define diversity as the totality of the characteristics and experiences of our students. We believe that a diverse student body improves the educational environment and the ability of our graduates to serve an increasingly diverse patient population. Narrative Descriptions: Everyone has their own narrative. Please provide more detail about how your experiences would enrich the Northwestern community. (200 word max)
Feinberg’s mission is to train future leaders in medicine who will serve their patients, communities and society. Describe one specific interest in medicine and how FSM, located in Chicago which is one of the most culturally diverse cities in the country, will help you achieve this professional goal. (200 word max)
Low Tier medical school diversity essay prompts
*Schools typically ranking outside the top 20 in common medical school rankings
Diversity is at the heart of all medical colleges in the U.S.
Rankings? Have nothing to do with a school’s level of commitment – as you’ll see with these prompts!
Make sure you read your school’s mission statement along with their prompt, that’ll help you better approach an answer.
University of Iowa (Carver)
Describe any unique personal characteristics or obstacles you may have overcome that will influence your contribution to a diverse healthcare system.
Temple University (Katz)
How do you plan on contributing to the Lewis Katz School of Medicine Community? LKSOM seeks an engaged student body with a wide variety of backgrounds, experiences, perspectives, and interests to enhance the medical school experience for everyone. Please use the space below to describe what makes you unique as an applicant, an obstacle that you had to overcome, or how you will contribute to the LKSOM community. (2000 characters)
Florida Atlantic University (Schmidt)
Diversity means understanding that each individual is unique and recognizing our individual differences. Describe what uniqueness you would bring to the Schmidt COM. We are proud to already have a medical school rich in cultural, ethnic, and socioeconomic diversity. What values, skills, talents, and life experiences would you add to our culture? (1600 characters)
SUNY Upstate Medical University
Upstate Medical University is strongly committed to providing a diverse, equitable, and inclusive environment for the patients we serve and all who work at, study at, or visit our campus. As a potential partner in this effort, please describe your commitment to eliminating health inequities, discrimination, or other forms of social injustice. (500 words)
George Washington University
What makes you a unique individual? What challenges have you faced? How will these factors help you contribute to the diversity of the student body at GW? (1000 characters)
D.O. medical school diversity essay prompts
You’ll also see that D.O. schools require diversity essays just as often as their allopathic counterparts.
The same writing rules and strategies apply.
Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine (MSUCOM)
Other than healthcare access, what are some of the most important health care issues confronting underserved communities? How would you address them?
Briefly describe a situation where you were not in the majority. What did you learn from this experience?’
New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine (NYITCOM)
NYITCOM values diversity, equity, and inclusion. How will your background and experiences add to our inclusive culture and how will this focus influence your future role as a physician? (Max. 1000 characters)
What should you do with a medical school diversity essay prompt?
The next best step is to look at your school’s mission statement. Examine what their aims and objectives are in terms of student and faculty representation. Understand that, then try to draw parallels from your own background that lend themselves well.
Use it to brainstorm a couple of points from your life that fit the prompt. Then choose what you feel are the best ones and start writing a couple of rough drafts.
The important thing is to make an attempt early. That’ll make it seem less daunting!
Where can I see medical school diversity essay examples?
I’ve ranked some of the best diversity essay examples I could find, along with giving them a small critique, in the following article…
Related: 6 Medical School Diversity Essay Examples (Ranked Best To Worst!)
Hopefully, scanning over those can give you further ideas on what to think and write about.
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.