Historically, MBA programs did not always exemplify the diversity that they strive for today, as programs were often composed of overrepresented populations. For example, Harvard Business School did not admit women into its MBA program until as recently as 1961. Thankfully, business schools have made significant steps in the last few decades to incorporate women, international students, and students of other backgrounds into their programs.
Business schools now understand and value the diverse backgrounds of MBA students, who bring a wealth of skills, knowledge, and experiences. Diverse student pools in MBA programs prepare future business leaders for success as they expand their global and cultural understanding by working with students from a wide range of backgrounds.
Most business schools are eager to diversify their MBA programs and admit MBA students of “differing races, ethnicities, religions, sexual orientations, gender identities, socioeconomic statuses and geographical origins.” Business schools also strive to recruit students from an array of industries and a variety of undergraduate institutions.
Business professionals in MBA programs collaborate with students from numerous backgrounds, simulating students' real-world business experiences after graduation. Kelly R. Wilson, executive director of masters admissions at Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business, said that “Each person’s unique experience and background – their lifestyle – brings them to a place where they have a way that they think about things.” When classrooms are composed of diverse students, the classroom experience becomes more valuable as students can learn and challenge their perspectives, facilitating better critical thinking skills.
To foster an ideal and diverse learning environment, many business schools will offer students the chance to write a diversity essay as part of their MBA application. We will explain the purpose of a diversity essay, tips for writing one, and include some diversity essay examples.
What is a Diversity Essay?
A diversity essay is often an optional essay that business schools may offer as part of their application process. Students can choose to write these essays if they self-identify as a minority based on their race, ethnicity, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, or belonging to any other marginalized group. These essays can also focus on a student’s values and unique experiences.
These essays differ from typical business school essays; they tend to illustrate an applicant’s personal identity rather than focusing solely on their personal or professional achievements or why they want to go to a particular school. Applicants who choose to write a diversity essay will often tell an anecdotal story about their upbringing, community, or family and how their experiences shaped them.
The essays may also explain how the applicant's diverse background will meaningfully contribute to the specific business school of their choice.
Purpose of the Diversity Essay
The diversity essay offers a space to include your minority identity on a business school application if it’s something you want the admissions committee to know. Not only will the admissions committee get to learn more about you, but you can also use this opportunity to give context into your background and potentially explain how you have overcome past adversities.
Business schools value the diversity of their students, and illuminating your background can show the admissions committee how you would add a unique voice and perspective to the MBA program. Many schools celebrate inclusivity and actively share class profile demographics on their websites. Among the top ten business schools, recent data shows that almost all schools had racial or ethnic minority students who make up at least 25% of the student body.
Under-Represented Minorities At The Top 10 Business Schools
If crafting a diversity essay is something you want to do, your essay can also highlight how your minority identity strengthens your MBA candidacy.
Shaun Carver, assistant dean of graduate programs with the Rady School of Management at UCSD, said that “It's important to put their [an applicant’s] diversity in context of what makes them unique and makes them a better candidate and not just mention it as... checking a box.” Remember that the purpose of the diversity essay is to showcase your background with context to the admissions committee, so they can learn more about you and how you will contribute to the program.
If you are comfortable writing and talking about your gender identity or your self-identification as a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, you may benefit from this in the admissions process. Jay Bryant, director of graduate recruitment and admissions with the Rady School of Management at the University of California—San Diego, said that “If you're applying to a school where that [LGBT status] would be an issue, you don't want to go there anyways.” Choosing to write a diversity essay about any part of your identity can help you later in the interview process as you explore the school’s culture and you get a better idea if you fit into it.
Top Tips for Crafting a Diversity Essay
Like any application essay, you want your diversity essay to be well-written, have a logical flow, and be free of any spelling or grammar errors. However, you can take some specific actions to make sure your diversity essay is the best that it can be. Here are some of our top tips to write a compelling diversity essay.
Understand and Define Your Views on Diversity and Inclusion
To help you get started on your essay, you should consider what diversity and inclusion mean to you. You can start jotting down ideas and themes that come to mind and ask yourself some questions to get the ball rolling. Some things you may want to ask yourself include:
- What are the types of diversity that I exhibit in my identity? Keep in mind that it’s possible to write about more than one facet of your identity. For example, perhaps you are a racial or ethnic minority that identifies as a member of the LGBTQIA+ community.
- As a student, how do you think you can contribute to the diversity of the school you wish to attend?
- What elements of your background influence your perspectives, experiences, and how you problem-solve in real-world settings?
- What are your values regarding diversity, and how do you integrate these values in a professional setting?
You will likely not have the luxury of a high word limit, so if you don’t hit all of these points in your essay, that’s okay. Asking yourself these questions is a way to get yourself thinking about what diversity means to you and to give yourself ideas for your writing.
Tell Your Story
Now that you’ve considered your beliefs surrounding diversity and inclusion, you can look toward identifying concrete examples in your personal experiences. You can write about how your background influenced and shaped you, any obstacles you’ve faced and how you overcame them, or initiatives or actions you’ve taken to promote diversity in your community.
Think carefully about any anecdotes that stick out in your mind as especially formative to your personal or professional development. Remember to be yourself and to write honestly about your story. The admissions committee will get to know your story, and you may even discuss it later in your interview.
Explain Why Your Background Will Positively Contribute to the School’s Culture
Although you are writing about yourself and your own experiences and initiatives, you will want to round back and explain how your minority identity improves your MBA candidacy. Write about how your unique background will enrich the program through your one-of-a-kind perspective and voice. Remember that the purpose of your entire application is to show the admissions committee why you are an excellent fit for your desired program.
Maybe you’re passionate about a school’s club or course that directly relates to the anecdotes you wrote about in your diversity essay. If you can relate your story to your desire to attend a particular program, it undoubtedly makes your essay stronger.
Consider How Your Background Impacted Your Skills and Perspectives
The diversity essay is a great place to illuminate your individuality. Think about your life in the context of how your experiences may differ from the “norm.” Did you grow up in a foreign country? If so, how did cultural and regional differences impact your perspectives on the world? Did you not grow up in the traditional nuclear family archetype? Do you possess unique skills thanks to your upbringing?
Keep in mind that these skills don’t necessarily have to be professional in nature. Perhaps you excel in a sport or game that’s relatively unknown to other people in the U.S., or you are a great dancer to choreography specific to your culture. Your hobbies, skills, and experiences put into the context of the general American population can be very different and interesting to the admissions committee. After all, your interests and skills are central to your personality and self-expression.
Think About the Future
At the conclusion of your essay, you may want to write about your hopes for your future. Here you can write about what you want your life to look like after you graduate and the accomplishments you hope to achieve. You can intertwine these future aspirations with your diversity statement to give the admissions committee a comprehensive look at how you will continue to uphold your values and ambitions after graduation or how you want to continue to be involved with your school as an alumnus.
Three Diversity Essay Examples for Business School
We have compiled three diversity essay examples to help you craft your own stellar essay. Keep in mind that these are examples and that the prompt for a diversity essay may differ depending on the business school. These diversity essay examples exemplify the criteria of the top tips above and can provide you with the framework you need to get started on your own essay.
Values are what guide you in your life and work. What values are important to you, and how have they influenced you? (450 words)
“Thank you for calling [Call Center]; this is [Name] – may I have your name and email, please?” To my estimation, I’ve said this opening line 4,860 times. Unfathomable to my peers and family, I turned down a lucrative job in Silicon Valley to start my career in a call center. My decision was based upon my ambition of bettering the global community, driven by my guiding values of empathy and accountability.
Sample Body Paragraphs:
I was born in [Country] to [Nationality] parents and moved to [City] at the age of five. My adolescence and teenage years were far from ordinary as our family moved every four years, and my sister was born in [year]. Despite my initial chagrin of being employed at the age of 12 as a traveling unpaid babysitter, these small yet significant responsibilities gave me my first glimpse into understanding what it meant to care for others. Empathy had led me to contextualize my life in a world of others, with the conclusion that humans should strive to help those around them.
I graduated with a concentration in corporate social responsibility (CSR). I felt the for-profit sector held the most untapped influence to fundamentally address global societal shortcomings. However, I couldn’t reconcile corporations’ competing pressure to maximize profits and engage in effective CSR initiatives until I discovered the entrepreneurial initiatives underway at [Call Center].
This rating agency was innovating the way investments are evaluated by assessing them based on sustainability metrics – environmental, social, and governance (ESG). In combining sustainability data and traditional financial metrics, investors can capture their non-pecuniary preferences in their investment behavior, which realigns corporate incentives to consider the stewardship of its actions.
As I look to the future, I want to pivot from investment ratings and focus on broader sustainability evaluations for products and services. Much like how [Call Center] is innovating the way investments are assessed, I want to help shape how sustainability considerations can be integrated into the consumer decision-making process. I envision the parent company’s sustainability rating displayed directly on product packaging to allow consumers to incorporate their sustainable preferences into their purchasing decisions. I want to create a world in which a brand’s sustainability stewardship is as important as price and brand recognition.
Taking into consideration your background – personal, professional, and/or academic – how do you plan to make specific, meaningful contributions to the Wharton community? (400 words)
Hip hop choreography has been a significant part of my college and work career and is something that I am looking to continue at Wharton. I fell for choreography in college because it was not just one style but a mix of contemporary, jazz, freestyle hip hop, and many other sub-genres. To be successful in choreography, I had to be comfortable learning and combining different styles.
Sample Body Paragraph:
As a choreographer, I initially sought to never be the type of leader that was domineering and controlling. I wanted my team to be empowered to make independent decisions and never feel restricted. However, I learned that this was not the best approach for everyone. Some did love my leadership style and enjoyed the independence. Others disliked this and felt that I did not provide enough direction.
I was taken aback. I had thought I was empowering my team but instead had sowed confusion. I thought I knew best, but had not actually taken the time to understand their perspectives to truly support my team. From this, I gained a valuable learning experience. I learned the value of challenging my preconceptions and the importance of listening to others’ perspectives.
With a passion to engage and understand others, I will be a student at Wharton who will connect my classmates together, facilitating networking and group collaboration such as knowledge sharing events and interview practice. Additionally, I will share my values of challenging preconceptions to help my classmates approach problems from new points of views. Simply put, I will be a student who will bring my classmates together and solve problems together in new ways.
Taking into consideration your background – personal, professional, and/or academic – how do you plan to make specific, meaningful contributions to the Wharton community? (400 words)
I was hired on the spot during my final round of interviews at [Company] because, in addition to my communication skills, I knew how to code. Two years into my career, it turns out the interviewers were right: My high-level technical skills allow me to translate complicated processes into digestible language for our clients. By effectively articulating my growing passion for social media, I have made it my mission to spread the word about the power and pitfalls of technology. At Wharton, I will do the same: I will be committed to encouraging my classmates to consider how they can use social media to benefit their businesses and positively influence the world.
Sample Body Paragraphs:
As I reflect on my past academic experiences, I am thankful for learning from my classmates’ diverse perspectives. At Wharton, I will add value to classroom discussions by contributing my technical perspective in its simplest and most relevant form. As a team player, I will effectively persuade my peers to seriously consider the power of social media.
While I firmly believe that social media and social influence go hand in hand, much of their complex relationship has yet to be studied. Popular culture often focuses on the negative impact of technology, I prefer to appreciate how it improves people’s lives. Social media is giving a platform to historically silenced groups of people: The pioneers of the #MeToo movement, who have expertly utilized social media to get out their message, inspired me to speak up about my own experience. At Wharton, I will fearlessly advocate for both myself and others to maintain an inclusive community where everyone feels comfortable and respected.
Finally, I look forward to strengthening the Wharton community even after I graduate. As part of the [Name] community, I serve as an alumni fund agent to encourage giving to the alumni fund, which finances 10% of the college’s operating budget. I look forward to proudly continuing these efforts as a Wharton alumna, because I know a close-knit alumni network is what separates a good school from a great school.
1. Do I have to write a diversity essay if I identify as part of a minority group?
The diversity essay is optional, so no you do not have to write one if you choose. However, writing this essay can help the admissions committee learn more about you and your values and illustrate your background. Business schools value diversity, so you may give yourself a better chance of acceptance by writing a stellar diversity essay.
2. How long should my diversity essay be?
The answer to this will depend on the school, but many business schools will provide you with a word limit for your essay. You should expect to write around 300-500 words.
3. How do I know I’m on the right track with my essay?
There’s no fundamental right or wrong way to write a diversity essay as long as you are answering the given prompt. Sometimes it can be difficult to ascertain that your essay accurately represents you or if it's well-written. If you feel apprehensive about your diversity essay, there are services available that will help you with your writing to make sure that it’s reviewed, polished, and ready for submission.
4. What elements of my diversity can I write about in my essay?
In your diversity essay, you can write about many facets of your identity, including your race, ethnicity, religion, socioeconomic status, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, age, or other minority group. Note that you can also write about your experiences with intersectionality of two groups or more if that applies to you.
5. Will the content of my diversity essay be discussed in my interview?
If the business school admissions committee does not conduct blind interviews with anything on hand but your resume, anything on your application can be fair game for your interviewer to ask you. It may or may not come up, but you may want to be prepared with an example other than the one discussed in your essay to talk about with your interviewer.
6. How do I know that my essay is ready for submission?
Like all business school application essays, you want to make sure your essay is easy to follow, flows well, and is free of spelling or grammatical errors. If you feel that your essay accurately represents you and your experiences, answers the business school’s prompt, and is a clean edited copy, it may be ready for submission with the rest of your application!
Business schools today value the diversity of their MBA students and their unique skills and perspectives. Students have the opportunity to learn and grow together while gaining new perspectives from students from different backgrounds. Writing a diversity essay as part of your application can be a great way to illustrate your distinct upbringing, identity, or culture to the admissions committee.
You know that the purpose of the diversity essay is to share your experiences with the admissions committee and provide context to how these experiences shaped you. Doing so can strengthen your MBA candidacy, especially if the rest of your application is polished.
When you’re writing your diversity essay, remember to ask yourself questions about your views on diversity and inclusion, and use your beliefs and values to guide your writing. If you possess any unique skills or hobbies, the diversity essay may be a great place to write about them too.
Remember to tell your story authentically and explain how your acceptance will enrich the program. Your essay should reflect your past or your present, but be sure to think ahead to what you want your future to look like as well. Use the diversity essay examples above to guide your own writing, but remember that what experiences you choose to write about are ultimately up to you. You are the expert in your own life, and the admissions committee will undoubtedly be pleased to hear your story.