We’ve been getting a lot of questions lately about when you should include a diversity statement in your application, and the answer is not always a simple one. It is wise to provide the law school with a lot of information about you as an applicant, and at the same time, you want to make sure that information is relevant and helpful in determining who you are as an individual. It is truly an optional statement; it will not be a negative mark on your application if you don’t have one. That said, it can offer a richer perspective on you as an applicant.
Here are a few facts that may help you decide if it works for you.
Be sure to read each school’s application instructions on submitting a diversity statement; each prompt may be different but many use a very broad definition of diversity. Race and ethnicity are certainly included, but are not the only topics that fall under this category. Socioeconomic disadvantage, religion, sexual orientation, and unique upbringing are examples of other themes – and this is not an exhaustive list.
The diversity statement is designed for applicants to have an additional opportunity to describe/discuss something about them that will give them a unique perspective or something that has affected their outlook so they can bring a different viewpoint to the classroom. It allows the applicant a space to discuss this outside of the personal statement if they wish to do so.
It should be different from your personal statement. Your personal statement can be a topic that would fit as a diversity statement, but then you won’t need a diversity statement. The diversity statement should not be redundant of your personal statement and it shouldn’t be used to simply lengthen your PS.
The topic should be fairly obvious to you; if you can’t think of something that makes sense right away, it is probably a sign that you do not need to write one.
In general, you shouldn’t try to stretch something that is a temporary hardship into a lifelong challenge. For example, there is a significant difference between growing up poor and going through a temporary drop in disposable income. The former is much more likely to have a deep and lasting impact on someone’s outlook where the latter probably builds character. Adversity can make for a highly compelling diversity statement, but only when said adversity is both truly distinctive AND it provides you with an added dimension and perspective to bring to a law school.
Bad topic choices include: getting a used car as a gift instead of a new one because of a parent’s recent job change, being left-handed, having an econ major, appreciating diverse viewpoints, having fallen out of a chairlift, etc. (these are all real diversity statements we have seen). Writing about one of these things will do more harm than good, for sure. It shows poor judgment.
So, in sum a diversity statement can be a great opportunity to provide the admissions committee with more information about you and what you can bring to the community and classroom, but it is not something that everyone should submit. Still unsure about it? Give us a call or email, but if you are really still unsure, then it’s probably not a good idea.