Planning for College Standing Out from Others

Diversity Can Help You Get into College

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Many students think if they are not ethnically or racially diverse, they have missed the window of opportunity to catch admission officers’ attention. The problem is students do not usually understand how diverse they really are.

Colleges want DIVERSITY. Diversity is a factor that can tip the scales for admission. Often college admission essay prompts ask students to write to the topic of diversity, and interviewers try to pick up on what diversity a student might bring to their college campus.

The trick is to recognize your own diversity and be sure to point it out to admissions committees.  Diversity is not limited to race and ethnic background.

Consider the follow areas of diversity:

Handicaps:

Many obvious handicaps come to mind, and they do bring a unique and diverse experience to those who live with, cope, and overcome the handicap. There is blindness, wheelchair dependency, deafness, motor skill impairment, and more. There are other handicaps that may be as much a challenge as these to the individual experiencing them, and certainly your interaction with any handicap makes you different and able to react to your surroundings in a diverse way. Colleges are interested in all handicaps.

You might have ADHD, Crohn’s disease, autism. You might have suffered a bad accident and spent two or more years having surgeries and recovering. You may have had optical problems that affected your learning until the problem was corrected. Do you live with parents who are deaf? Did you suffer a club foot which was repaired? Maybe you didn’t talk until you were four. People often forget what different things they have overcome.

Gender:

Male or female, you might have a different view. You might be applying to a male-dominated college or into a male-dominated major, and you will bring a refreshing female perspective. You may be one of the first few classes of males to be attending a previously all-female college and be breaking ground in a newly-comprised campus community. Check out the student population of the schools you are applying to.

Under representation:

Under representation is another way to say you are a minority. But, the term minority has broad application. It depends on where you are as to what the designated minority is. If you are looking at a school in an urban environment, the fact you have never been in a town larger than 40,000 puts you in a minority. If you have never seen a mountain, you could be in the minority at a Vermont school. Whether or not you are a minority depends on many factors so check out the demographics of the regions of the schools to which you apply.

Geography:

Maybe you are from the South and you want to apply to a Midwestern school. You would bring a whole different world view, culture, and accent to the Midwest. Perhaps you have lived on an island all your life. Your geographic ken would be quite diverse to someone who has never seen the ocean. Consider applying to colleges geographically distant from you.

Interests:

Yes, the things you are interested in can set you apart. Think about what most high school students participate in. In even larger high schools that offer many and diverse extracurricular opportunities, they are still much the same school to school. So what if you buy and refurbish hot rods, what if you are a seamstress or tailor, what if you and your family rescue dogs, or if you have a store on eBay selling collectible records? The possibilities are endless.

Also, if you have a familiar interest but you happen to have more in-depth experience with it than your high school peers, you will still be diverse. How many students who play soccer have created a new community league or coached? How many students who are involved with Key Club have done major research projects on their community’s poor and been able to suggest a direction for change? How many students who are National Honor Society members teach a class in Chinese at the local college or in a summer school? How many students who are part of the Chess Team have opened a summer business selling games?

Travel:

There is travel, and then there is TRAVEL. Diverse travel experience is what we want. Maybe you have traveled with an Outward Bound group or you have been part of a military family. If your family is part of an ambassadorial assignment, you have traveled differently than most people. You might have visited exotic and unpronounceable countries. You may have been in under-developed countries where MacDonald’s is unheard of. Maybe you have traveled on your own, on foot, through the Rocky Mountains for three weeks. You might have sailed the whole West Coast. If you have had such diverse travel experience, you are different.

There’s even more!

There are other ways you may be diverse; you may not even fit into a category.

Your high school might have been a home-schooling experience, an independent and progressive school, a magnet school.

  • Maybe you have made enough money to pay for your own college education.
  • Maybe you have supported your family or a member of your family monetarily or with care and supervision.
  • Maybe you are bi-or multi-lingual or learned English in an ESL class.
  • Maybe you have seen an operation.
  • Maybe you live on you own.

What makes you DIVERSE?