Diversity/Background Statements and other "optional" statements

(Applications Advice, Letters of Recommendation . . . )

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Joined: Mon May 21, 2018 1:36 pm

Diversity/Background Statements and other "optional" statements

Postby chad2 » Wed Nov 21, 2018 4:04 pm

So this is mainly about statements that seem to occupy a sort of grey area between mandatory and *truly* optional (like the same way an addendum is, as opposed to say GTown's "optional" 250-word essay). How important are these, especially diversity/background statements? It's worth saying that I absolutely do not have a background that would conventionally be described as contributing to diversity: White straight male, upper middle-class background from a suburb of a moderately sized Midwestern city, not religious, went to a medium-sized public high school, currently at a top 15 undergrad university with a double major in Philosophy and Political Science. Here are some specific essays I'm wondering about:

-Columbia's supplementary statement about diversity (emphasis on socioeconomic status, race, religion etc.)

-Vanderbilt "welcomes" a diversity statement in addition to listing off demographic characteristics in another part of the app

-Northwestern has an open-ended diversity statement

-Georgetown has an optional personal background statement (in addition to the aforementioned 250-word essay) that asks about "diverse racial, economic, educational, and ethnic backgrounds"

-Duke, in addition to the Why Duke? essay, has an optional essay that asks about background experiences that could contribute to a diverse student body. Examples "include but are not limited to" experiences of prejudice/bias/adversity, other forms of social hardship (stemming from race/gender/sexual orientation).

-Harvard has an optional essay that pretty much says you can include anything else you want (I'm assuming this one is pretty much completely optional)

Any clarification on the importance of any of these six statements would be much appreciated. Thanks in advance!


Posts: 77
Joined: Wed May 30, 2018 1:34 am

Re: Diversity/Background Statements and other "optional" statements

Postby Lolstudent » Sat Nov 24, 2018 5:37 pm

I would not recommend doing the diversity statements. I just don't see how you could spin your narrative in a way that makes you sound diverse. An attempt to do so won't come across as genuine and could detract from an otherwise strong application. Focus on things you can control like crafting a flawless personal statement, getting a high LSAT/GRE score, and applying early. Good luck to you.


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Joined: Mon Aug 07, 2017 9:52 am

Re: Diversity/Background Statements and other "optional" statements

Postby QContinuum » Sun Nov 25, 2018 1:17 am

If you don't have any diverse factors to speak of, you should absolutely leave the DS blank.

Schools generally mean it when they say things are optional. For example, many applicants feel pressured to max out their LORs, even though schools only generally require 2. There's no need to submit more than the minimum number required unless the additional LORs add independent value over and above the first two. Even the vaunted Why Xs are generally optional - I only know of a few specific schools that really care, and you can generally smoke out those schools by plugging your numbers in to LSN and looking for any schools with an inexplicably low offer rate for your numbers.

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