An excerpt from Jeremy Shinewald’s book
In addition to a personal statement, most law schools invite applicants to highlight a unique aspect of their profile via an optional diversity essay. As one example, Stanford Law School includes the following instructions in its application materials:
If you would like the committee to consider how factors such as your back- ground, life and work experiences, advanced studies, extracurricular or community activities, culture, socio-economic status, sex, race, ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation would contribute to the diversity of the en- tering class and hence to your classmates’ law school experience, you may describe these factors and their relevance in a separate diversity statement.
We believe that you should not consider this diversity essay/statement “optional” at all, however, and recommend that you plan to submit one when of- fered the opportunity. You should take advantage of this invitation to present an aspect of yourself that will set you apart from other applicants and convince the admissions committee that you would be a welcome addition to the next class. This essay is an opportunity to convey a vibrant, sincere impression of your personality to the admissions reader. Note that a diversity essay is usually shorter than a personal statement would be. We recommend limiting yourself to approximately one double-spaced page, though typically, schools do not stipulate an exact length guideline for this essay.
Many law school applicants who do not belong to a readily recognizable mi- nority group will question whether they can truly write an effective diversity statement. However, diversity in this context encompasses much more than the usual parameters of race, ethnicity, and sexual orientation. Any aspect of your character or past that could be classified as unique in some way—perhaps you spent time volunteering in the developing world, or diligently overcame an obstacle that facilitated a unique perspective, or possess a special talent that one does not encounter every day—can be compelling fodder for this kind of essay. Simply put, you do not have to write about standing out as a minority (though you can, if this applies to you), you just need to be thoughtful about your experiences and share them in a way that informs the reader that you have perspective and something special to contribute.
Showing rather than telling is of utmost importance in this essay, and is demonstrated in the following sample, in which the author writes about overcoming her struggle with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Sample Optional Diversity Essay
“Every good boy deserves fudge” and “All cows eat grass.” They may strike you as nonsensical statements, but these mnemonic devices added much-needed sense and sensibility to my life when I was young, helping guide my unsure fingers to the proper keys on our family’s centuries-old piano. They served as beacons of focus in my quickly spinning mind, after I was diag- nosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). My mother, convinced that music would be my saving grace, would quietly watch my progress, anxiously wringing her hands.
I approached each new piece of music with an arsenal of markers and high- lighters, marking each section with a different color so I could more easily identify the important transitions and changes. Soon the pages of music would be covered in shades of pink, blue, purple, green, and yellow. Then, after I had spent many hours working on phrasing, rubato, and dynamics, my fingers would finally glide across the piano keys without interruption, as though I were performing in front of thousands of admiring fans at Carnegie Hall. In school, my peers would heckle me whenever I struggled to respond to a surprise question from the teacher—so often, my mind would wander and I would lose my place in my studies—and my self-confidence would falter, but at home, I pounded on the piano as confidently as Lang Lang strutting his stuff as “the J-Lo of the piano.” Playing allowed me to finally exhale, as the beauty and emotion of the music overtook me and I became one with the piano. Following the various colors across the pages as the sections of notes melded into one cohesive melody helped me learn to really focus and gave me invaluable practice in following things through to the end.
Jeremy Shinewald is the founder of jdMission, an admissions consulting firm that helps applicants get into law school. This article is excerpted from his book, The Complete Start-To-Finish Law School Admissions Guide.
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Re: Diversity Statement Samples
Postby friaznatch13 » Tue Feb 19, 2008 1:09 am
I really like all of these. So when I wrote my DS I was sooo happy with it, but reading everyone elses it feels so inferior to me. Thankfully I'm done with applying or else I might have just gotten rid of it, but I guess some schools liked it so I hope you guys do to!
I cannot pinpoint the exact day as to when I realized that I was different, but at a certain point, I could never understand why I have always been treated so. Growing up, I have had society tell me many different things that I did not even know about myself. I have had the media dictate to society what they ought to expect from me because my skin complexion matches that of other people. Today, I have found comfort in my skin, no matter what people think of me, but the truth is that to understand who I truly am, I have to come clear on exactly what I am not...
I am not Black. It was not until I got a little bit older that people would start comparing me to other Blacks that I differentiated myself. I was not just Black. My skin might have been darker, but I was not the type of person you can fit into a category. What I truly am is: Canadian, Jamaican, Indian, Scottish and Jewish (the ethnicity, not the religion). What people do not know when they look at me is that I am a quarter White and the majority Indian, it just so happens that my skin color matches that of other African Americans. Although, I have found that I have no choice, but to mark the box that says so, I am not Black.
I am not a part of a simple family. Not only am I different than the majority of society, I am completely unique within my own family as well. Both of my parents and three of my brothers were born in Jamaica and all of them had previously grown up in a neighborhood that had a dominant Jamaican culture. My parents both had children in previous marriages and upon marrying, they had me. My father’s three sons are Jamaican, Indian, and Jewish and my mother’s two are Jamaican, Chinese, and Scottish. It was hard growing up in a family that was so different than myself.
I am not supported by my family in everything that I do. I grew up with the mainstream Canadian culture and at times this was very different than the many cultures found in my own house. While everyone in my family was listening to Reggae, I started listening to country music. My parents could not grasp the fact that I would listen to alternative music such as Our Lady Peace and Nirvana. Not only would my brothers find it amusing to fool with me for the sheer fact that I was a girl, but because of mere music selections, I had set myself apart and would pay the price. Not a day would go by that I would not be ridiculed for the fact that the majority of my friends were White, I listened to “White people” music, and had no idea how to be Black. Their favorite thing to call me was “White-washed.” I found out at a very early age that being “Black” had a lot more to do with than my skin color.
I am not a spoiled little girl. Both of my parents had respectable employment, but due to unfortunate circumstances, they became unable to work. My mother, working at the Ontario Ministry of Transportation as a court clerk, worked in a time before headsets and spent a lot of time with the telephone resting on her shoulder while typing. This caused arthritis from her neck right down through her fingers. My father was just as unfortunate. He used to deliver for UPS, but one day, while on the job, he fell down a staircase and now has incurable back problems and arthritis in his right shoulder. Both of my parents, due to their injuries are now on permanent disability and can no longer work. This created so many problems for my family. No longer could my father even pick me up, my mother had to learn to write with her left hand, and they both battled depression. My parents would trade sitting at home to go back to work in a second and it is their work ethic I wish to emulate. At a very early age, I had to realize that my parents could not financially support me. I have had to work hard to get to where I am today, and because of my parents, I know that I cannot take anything for granted.
I am not held back by stereotypes. Just as I do not classify myself as being “Black”, I do not believe that I have to live up to the stereotypes of that title. As a child, my parents gave me the freedom to try many things and entertain many dreams and for this I am grateful because I have become a very well rounded person. Unfortunately, many people would not use the term “well rounded”, but instead it changes into being “White”. For some reason, a Black person is acting White when they are able to ice skate and swim, do not watch Black Entertainment Television, but instead listen to country music. Those who get to know me at Niagara University say the same things, they call me an “Oreo” because I am supposedly Black on the outside and White on the inside. If I were to listen and internalize all of the stereotypes I have heard throughout the years, I would never have become the woman I am today. I have come to realize that by labeling certain things as either "Black" or "White" is putting a limitation on what I am capable of doing. No action should be unacceptable because of my race, because no matter what I look like on the outside, in the end I am still a human being.
Who I am is not easily explained, but over the years I have found myself knowing exactly who I am not. I am comfortable in my own skin, I have found a way to survive life without a great deal of money and I reject the stereotypes that could potentially hold me back. I no longer care if someone thinks that I am “acting White” and they refer to me as an Oreo, instead I have no problem in joining and letting them know that I am no ordinary Oreo, I am double stuffed.