In addition to a personal statement, many law schools also encourage applicants to submit a supplementary “diversity” statement. Applicants are often confused about how to approach a diversity essay, as law schools provide significantly more leeway and less guidelines in terms of the type of content they are looking for. Often, applicants forgo writing a diversity statement altogether, out of the fear of not being “diverse enough” or feeling as if they do not have a unique enough experience to merit a separate essay.
But, this is a mistake! During the admissions process, your application is often compared against applications with similar GPA and LSAT numbers. Writing a diversity essay is an excellent way to make sure admissions officers have a better understanding of what makes you a great candidate for their law school.
Given the importance of writing a diversity essay, follow the tips below in order to make sure your essay provides the most benefit to your application:
What “counts” as diversity?The definition of diversity in this context is extremely expansive. Many applicants worry that by “diversity” schools are looking for stories regarding only race or extreme hardship. This is not the case! Law schools are looking for an essay conveying how your personal experience has informed your worldview, and how these experiences will make you a unique contribution to their law school community. Penn Law School for example, asks applicants to “describe how your background or experiences will contribute to or enhance the diversity of the Penn Law community (e.g., based on your culture, race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, ideology, age, socioeconomic status, academic background, employment experience, etc.” With these wide parameters, almost every applicant has something worth writing about.
Keep it personal.When writing your diversity essay, keep in mind that the essay is ultimately about you and how you in particular will be an asset to their law school. As such, the focus of your essay should be extremely narrow and reflective in nature. While you should be careful not to “over-share,” make sure your essay is not describing the experiences of a group. Instead, try to communicate how you have personally been impacted by certain attributes or experiences.
Show, don’t tell.Given the numerous aspects that distinguish you from the other applicants, it can be tempting to simply list all of the things that make you diverse. So, be very careful not to view this essay as a “checklist.” Instead, focus on how these attributes or experiences have shaped your perspective. The best way of achieving this is by framing your diversity statement around a particular anecdote or experience that illustrates this perspective. For example, if you were a member of an affinity-group in college, don’t write about being a member the affinity group in general. Choose a particular event or meeting that impacted your perspective of what it means to exist as a minority within a community.
Sell Yourself.Admission officers have a lot of essays to read, so you want yours to stand out! While you don’t have to explicitly state it, when writing your essay always ask yourself : what does this essay say about me and how I will contribute to the law school community? Will I add a unique perspective in class discussions? Will I help create a sense of community for other law students with similar experiences? How have my attributes and experiences shaped how I view a certain legal or political issue?
Finally, keep it short.While personal statements can range in length from two to four pages, you should keep your diversity essay around one page. Given the limited length of the essay, every single sentence counts. Revise your essay until every sentence contributes to your message.
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