There is a significant need to diversify the medical field, so various other selection factors play an important role in your success. Many medical schools require secondary essays as part of their application materials to help them assess candidates’ strengths, desirable qualities, experiences, and insights.
Some schools require the medical school diversity essay, so it’s essential to understand the ins and outs of what makes a compelling essay stand out. This blog will review the definition of diversity in the context of medical school applications and provide examples of prompts from top schools.
You will also learn how to write a diversity essay, including tips on what to include and the proper format to follow. Lastly, we’ll provide an example that tells an interesting story and connects a candidate’s diversity with a medical school’s mission and vision.
A diversity essay is required or recommended for many medical school secondary applications. In the cases that the diversity essay is recommended, you should still consider it as a requirement, as submitting additional, strong materials maximize your chances of acceptance.
Admissions committees matriculate well-rounded, diverse, and experienced candidates, so sending more materials will help them gain a better overview of your unique background. If you look at medical school websites, there is a common theme among mission and vision statements: diversity.
This is because the medical field needs to diversify health care practitioners who can empathize with and effectively treat various types of patient populations. Some schools even have separate diversity statements that show their ongoing commitment to matriculate a diverse student body, representing every race, religion, sexual orientation, identity, educational/professional background, and more.
Admissions committees are even seriously considering and matriculating non-traditional applicants from non-science backgrounds to further serve the benefits of diversity in medicine.
If you’re worried that you don’t count as a diverse candidate because you don’t belong to a historically underrepresented group, cast your concerns aside. Diversity in the context of medical school applications is not a politically correct code word to only matriculate ethnic or racial minorities.
Yes, candidates from minority groups are diverse and are encouraged to apply to medical school, but diversity doesn’t end there. Rather, diversity is broadly defined to include many categories. Everyone is diverse because everyone has their own unique experiences and backgrounds to draw from, which is valuable in healthcare.
There are many distinguishing factors and characteristics that can make candidates diverse:
If you broaden your understanding of diversity to include your unique learning experiences and worldviews, you will have a plethora of examples to choose from to write a powerful diversity essay.
The following are diversity essay prompts from top schools to give you an idea of what is expected. Keep in mind that there is a similar thread in all of these prompts. Namely, medical schools want to know about your diversity in broadly defined terms, and most importantly, how it will enhance the school’s mission, vision, and student body.
“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.”
“We seek to train physicians who can connect with diverse patient populations with whom they may not share a similar background. Tell us about an experience that has broadened your own worldview or enhanced your ability to understand those unlike yourself and what you learned from it.”
“The Larner College of Medicine at the University of Vermont recognizes that diversity extends beyond chosen and unchosen identities and encompasses the entirety of an individual’s experiences. Reflect on a time you learned something from someone or a group of people who are unlike yourself.”
“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?”
“At the University of Chicago, in an atmosphere of interdisciplinary scholarship and discovery, the Pritzker School of Medicine is dedicated to inspiring diverse students of exceptional promise to become leaders and innovators in science and medicine for the betterment of humanity. Our mission statement is an expression of our core purpose and educational philosophy. In particular, it highlights the value we place on diversity since we regard the diversity of entering class as essential for educational excellence. Please write an essay on how you would enhance diversity at Pritzker and advance the Pritzker mission.”
To write a powerful diversity essay, take the following steps:
First, before you even begin to write, brainstorm the things in your background that make you unique. In particular, think about your education, work experience, extracurricular activities, upbringing, family life, and other aspects of your journey to medical school.
Brainstorming ideas is meant to get your creative juices flowing. At this point, don’t worry about grammar, spelling, or sentence structure. Your goal is to get as many ideas on paper as possible so that you can begin to craft a story that uses one to three examples for your diversity essay.
You can ask yourself the following questions to get started:
A compelling diversity essay consists of one or a few meaningful experiences instead of overloading the essay with brief mentions of too many examples. You should prioritize quality over quantity and weave a story that’s memorable to the admissions committee.
You should also be mindful of character limits. Every school has different requirements, so be sure you achieve the minimum character count and stay within the upper limits.
No matter the length of your secondary essays, you should always structure it with the following:
The introduction should begin to tell your main story. It should introduce one to three examples so that the reader knows what to expect in the essay. Strong introductions often have a hook, which can appear as the beginning of an interesting and evocative anecdote.
The body of your diversity essay should demonstrate your examples through reflective storytelling. Here is where you will go into compelling details about your examples. The body will also demonstrate how your diversity will be an asset to the school and your peers and colleagues.
It’s also important to show rather than tell. For example, rather than list all of the personal characteristics that make you diverse, use imagery and storytelling to show these personal characteristics in action.
Finally, the conclusion should neatly tie in your meaningful and diverse experiences to the pursuit of medicine. Your last sentences should leave the reader with a strong impression of why your diversity will be an asset to the school.
Draw from your notes and outlines to write the first draft. Excellent writing involves an evolution of multiple drafts, so don’t be discouraged if the first draft isn’t perfect. You’re not striving for perfection here—you’re still in the beginning stages, so you should prioritize fully addressing the essay prompt with strong examples from your diverse background.
Polishing your first draft can come later.
Go over your draft with a critical eye. Ensure that all prompt components are thoroughly answered, check for spelling and grammatical mistakes, and proofread for proper syntax and sentence structure.
Look at the flow of your essay. The transitions from introduction, to the body, to the conclusion should be seamless and make sense. If you’re writing about a few experiences, ensure that they make sequential and logical sense. The transitions should feel natural, not jarring or out of place.
Have someone else look at your essay to offer objective feedback. This can be a trusted friend, family member, instructor, employer, peer, or mentor. Be open to constructive criticism and revise any areas that need improvement or further clarification/elaboration.
The following is an example of a compelling diversity essay that weaves one memorable story. As you read, consider how the essay transports you to another location and invites you to view medicine and health care from a unique perspective. Note how the essay ties into the school’s mission, vision, and goals for diversifying health care. Finally, consider the overall structure of the essay: there is a tangible introduction, body, and conclusion.
“Being South Asian, I have firsthand knowledge of what it means not to access basic health care. As a child, my mother took me to Pakistan every year, where I spent summers with my grandfather, a top pediatrician in the nation.
He had a free clinic attached to his home in Faisalabad, and his practice was so renowned and respected that people from all over the country would travel great distances to have my grandfather treat their children.
Pakistan is a third-world country where a significant part of the population remains illiterate and uneducated due to the lack of resources and opportunities. This population is the most vulnerable, with extremely high numbers of infectious disease and mortality rates.
Yet, it is entirely underserved. With the lack of hospitals, clinics, and doctor’s offices in rural Pakistan, parents of ailing children must travel great distances and wait in long lines to receive proper health care.
Every summer at my grandfather’s clinic, from ages five to 17, my job was to open the doors to long lines of tired, hungry, and thirsty parents with their sick children. I would pass out bottled water and pieces of fruit. I would record names, where the patients came from, and the reasons for their visits.
I would scurry back inside with the information for my grandfather to assess, and then he’d send me running back out again to let the next family inside. I learned in my formative years how to communicate with diverse patient populations with special needs and a lack of basic necessities.
I learned to listen to every family’s unique reasons for their visit, and some of their desperation and pleading for the lives of their children will stay with me forever.
When I get into medical school, I hope to share the story of how Gulzarah carried her dehydrated daughter for 12 miles in the Pakistani summer heat without rest (thanks to my grandfather, she later made a full recovery).
I want to tell my peers that doctors like my grandfather are not only healers in biology but healers in the spirit by the way he made up heroic songs for the children and sang the fear out of their hearts. I want to show my peers that patients are unique individuals who have suffered and sacrificed to trust us with their health care, so we must honor their trust by providing quality treatment and empathy.
My formative experiences in pediatrics contributed to my globally conscious mindset, and I look forward to sharing these diverse insights in my medical career.”
1. I don’t qualify as an underrepresented minority, so how can I write a diversity essay for medical school?
Diversity in the context of medical school secondary essays is not limited to race, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, or other historically underrepresented groups. Think of diversity in broader terms that include your unique experiences and insights, and write about how your diverse skill sets will enhance the school and the student body.
2. How can I write a diversity essay that stands out from other candidates?
Brainstorm unique experiences that you have had and narrow down one or two main experiences to weave compelling stories with a clear introduction, body, and conclusion. You should prioritize the quality of your experiences and elaborate upon them rather than pack too many bullet points in a limited space.
3. I’m not a strong writer, so how can I improve my diversity essay for medical school?
Writing is not a linear process, and even bestselling authors need skilled editors. Start small with outlines and notes, then flesh out the essay with details. Write multiple drafts. When you’re happy with a draft, ask friends, family, peers, colleagues, instructors, or mentors for objective feedback. You can also consult with our team of experts to help you.
4. Why do some medical schools require diversity essays?
Medical schools want to diversify the field and accept candidates with unique backgrounds and skill sets. These students will go on to be leaders in health care, so a holistic admissions process ensures that the world’s future doctors represent diverse groups, perspectives, talents, and skill sets.
5. Where can I find more prompts and examples of diversity essays?
Browse the medical school’s website and read their application procedures. You can also contact the school’s admissions committee helpline for more information.
6. What should I avoid in my medical school diversity essay?
Avoid spelling and grammar errors, an unprofessional or casual tone/language, controversial or offensive statements, embellishing stories, and negative outlooks. If your diversity essay addresses facing adversity, make sure to focus on a growth mindset, what you learned, and the positive outcomes of that experience.
7. How long should my diversity essay be?
Every school has its own character limits and requirements for secondary essays. Be sure to follow the recommended application guidelines and secondary essay requirements, including the school’s specific diversity prompt. You can use the same stories for each diversity essay but repurpose them to answer different prompts.
The diversity essay for medical school is an important component of many secondary applications. Medical schools are increasingly relying on a holistic review of candidates to diversify medicine to better serve global patient populations.
To write an effective diversity essay, think about the unique characteristics and experiences that make you unique. Remember that diversity is broadly defined, so don’t limit yourself to only certain categories.
Pick one to three of the strongest examples that showcase your diversity in the best light. Answer the prompt fully and include every aspect of the prompt. Remember to tell a great story and tie in your experiences to the school’s goals of diversifying health care.