Diversity has become an increasingly important factor in medical school admissions.  The future of medicine requires a diverse workforce with strong cross-cultural competencies; for instance, medical school curriculums have increasingly expanded testing on cultural sensitivity and communications [1].  Clinical research has shown that culturally and racial sensitivities play a major role in patient adherence and outcomes [2]. Therefore, you will need to prepare diversity responses for both secondary statements and interviews.  In my mentorship of students, diversity questions are the third most common type of question asked on the interview trail, only behind “Tell me about yourself” and “Why would you attend our school.” 

Diversity can take many forms

Some aspects of diversity are more obvious than others, such as race or ethnicity. Yet there are so many other aspects of diversity you may not have considered.  Have you studied abroad or traveled extensively?  Did you live in a rural setting?  Are you from a part of the US that the particular medical school does not typically take students from?  Is your family unit non-traditional? Was your major/minor in a subject that is not common in medical school applications? All these factors of life can contribute to your diversity and represent something unique that only you bring to the table.  These factors are all things that you can showcase in your essay and discuss in depth. It is important to demonstrate the miles walked and path you have taken that makes you unique. 

For example, as a Harvard Medical School student, many of our classmates have a lot of “diversity” that one might miss at first glance. Some of my classmates are older and have worked in consulting, obtained masters in various fields, or have volunteered abroad. Other classmates are international, from rural states, or underserved cities. When students have the opportunity, I often encourage them to travel abroad because it is a fantastic way to learn new culture, values, and perspectives whether it is through relationships, food, or language. Through these experiences, students are able to view life from a different lens; foundational to patient care, being a doctor, and connecting with a others who come from different walks of life. That is just one example of many. Ultimately, schools are looking for a student body with a rich spectrum of perspectives and lived experiences, and “diversity” in this context therefore can represent any number of different factors.  Working with Cambridge Coaching Tutors can help us identify all the avenues by which your background may be considered diverse. 

Expand your perspective

In this increasingly tough admissions environment, I have noticed that the students who succeed are those who have a story.  Simply discussing diversity is increasingly insufficient; you must show how your perspectives matter.  For instance, in an HMS class on healthcare policy, a few students who had more conservative backgrounds contributed counterpoints to the Affordable Care Act, and this produced a rich discussion that lasted over an hour.  In another situation, a student who had lost a parent to the opioid pandemic provided powerful testimony to why needle clinics and decriminalization was so essential to healing from the opioid crisis.  The best applicants not only discuss their aspects of diversity, but also highlight how their background can directly help enrich classroom discussions and enhance their cohort’s understanding of challenging topics.  These examples are meant to showcase why schools care about diversity and highlight ideas you can consider as you undertake the writing of these essays. There are so many ways you already stand out! 

[1] https://www.aamc.org/professional-development/affinity-groups/cfas/diversity-inclusion-toolkit/resources 

[2] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19194767

Fang is a MD candidate at Harvard Medical School, spending his time conducting research at the Harvard Institute of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology. He holds a DPhil in Cardiovascular Medicine from Oxford, where he studied as a Rhodes Scholar.

Comments

topicTopics
academics study skills MCAT medical school admissions SAT college admissions expository writing English strategy MD/PhD admissions writing LSAT GMAT physics GRE chemistry biology math graduate admissions academic advice law school admissions ACT interview prep language learning test anxiety career advice premed MBA admissions personal statements homework help AP exams creative writing MD test prep study schedules computer science Common Application mathematics summer activities history philosophy secondary applications organic chemistry economics supplements research grammar 1L PSAT admissions coaching law psychology statistics & probability dental admissions legal studies ESL CARS PhD admissions SSAT covid-19 logic games reading comprehension calculus engineering USMLE mentorship Spanish parents Latin biochemistry case coaching verbal reasoning AMCAS DAT English literature STEM admissions advice excel medical school political science skills French Linguistics MBA coursework Tutoring Approaches academic integrity astrophysics chinese gap year genetics letters of recommendation mechanical engineering Anki DO Social Advocacy algebra art history artificial intelligence business careers cell biology classics data science dental school diversity statement geometry kinematics linear algebra mental health presentations quantitative reasoning study abroad tech industry technical interviews time management work and activities 2L DMD IB exams ISEE MD/PhD programs Sentence Correction adjusting to college algorithms amino acids analysis essay athletics business skills cold emails finance first generation student functions graphing information sessions international students internships logic networking poetry proofs resume revising science social sciences software engineering trigonometry units writer's block 3L AAMC Academic Interest EMT FlexMed Fourier Series Greek Health Professional Shortage Area Italian JD/MBA admissions Lagrange multipliers London MD vs PhD MMI Montessori National Health Service Corps Pythagorean Theorem Python Shakespeare Step 2 TMDSAS Taylor Series Truss Analysis Zoom acids and bases active learning architecture argumentative writing art art and design schools art portfolios bacteriology bibliographies biomedicine brain teaser campus visits cantonese capacitors capital markets central limit theorem centrifugal force chemical engineering chess chromatography class participation climate change clinical experience community service constitutional law consulting cover letters curriculum dementia demonstrated interest dimensional analysis distance learning econometrics electric engineering electricity and magnetism escape velocity evolution executive function fellowships freewriting genomics harmonics health policy history of medicine history of science hybrid vehicles hydrophobic effect ideal gas law immunology induction infinite institutional actions integrated reasoning intermolecular forces intern investing investment banking lab reports letter of continued interest linear maps mandarin chinese matrices mba medical physics meiosis microeconomics mitosis mnemonics music music theory nervous system