a diverse definition of diversity in college admissions
Posted : February 3, 2006
Last Updated : September 10, 2014
Do you wonder how diversity fits into college admissions? When you hear the words "diversity" and "college admissions" in the same sentence, you may automatically think about race. However, many colleges look at other aspects as well in order to achieve a diverse student body. Simply put, if you belong to a population that is underrepresented at a particular school (be it by race, academics, age, etc.), then your chances of getting into that school are boosted. Colleges like to admit students who, as a group, will have a variety of experiences, talents, viewpoints, and backgrounds. Many colleges find that students with these differences add a great deal of richness to classroom discussions, social events, and simple late-night conversations with friends. Colleges want a community where their students can learn from each other. The following are some of the different types of diversity colleges consider during the admissions process.
Colleges value the mixture of background and culture that students from different parts of the United States and from different countries bring to their campuses. Many colleges like to emphasize on their web sites and in their handbooks that they have students from so-and-so number of states and countries. Furthermore, they want students from both rural and urban areas, from public schools and private schools, etc. Because colleges value geographic diversity so much, it may give you a boost in the admissions process. For instance, if you are from a country, state, county, etc., that has a low college bound student population, you may have the option to choose admission from a wide variety of schools. Furthermore, if you are from an eastern state, for example, you may have a more enhanced chance of getting into a school located on the west coast and vice versa (as long as you still have good academic credentials, of course). Just don't be afraid to apply to schools farther away from home; it might give you a leg up.
Some colleges also look at academic diversity when it comes to admissions. Schools need to make sure there are enough Agriculture, Economics, History, Theater, etc. majors for the professors to teach. Therefore, if you know what you want to major in, go ahead and let the admissions officers know. It may be especially helpful if, for example, you are a girl who wants to major in science, and the school you are applying to does not have a lot of females majoring in science. See how that underrepresented thing works? (Keep in mind though, if you have no clue what to major in, it's okay to be undeclared!)
Extracurricular activities are highly appreciated in the college admissions process. Having an interesting or atypical extracurricular activity (such as starting your own pet therapy business, for instance) that you plan to be involved with in college can really benefit you in the admissions process. College admissions officers love originality. But colleges also want a student body that is overall diverse in regular extracurricular activities, so they can make sure their organizations and clubs stay active and continue to expand. So, being involved in any extracurricular, even if it isn't that unique, will still help you in the admissions process. After all, colleges need newspaper editors, athletes, instrument players, etc. in order to have an appealing campus. Just remember to be fully involved in a few extracurricular activities so you will look good to admissions officers. Check out tips on how to stay active outside of the classroom.
Ethnic and racial diversity are valued among many colleges and universities since variety in a student population contributes to a broader learning environment for all students. This type of diversity in college admissions is usually the one that is most debated, and while belonging to a minority population may give you a boost in the admissions process, it really depends on who the college is looking for. For instance, if Hispanic Americans are underrepresented at a certain college, then that particular school may actively choose to seek out candidates of Hispanic descent for admission more so than populations that have already established a successful presence on campus. The debate becomes controversial when separate admissions guidelines are established to promote ethnic diversity, which may result in students with higher scores and grades being denied to universities as a result of the practice. Whether you agree or disagree with such policies, admissions offices utilize this type of profiling to fulfill a perceived need in the composition of the overall student body, much in the same way that the other factors previously mentioned contribute diversity to the bigger picture of an incoming freshman class.
Socioeconomic and Geographic Diversity
For some colleges and universities, socioeconomic and geographic diversity can be a factor in the admissions process. As previously mentioned, schools want to have a good representation of students from different backgrounds and from different regions of the country or the world. For instance, it is often attractive for colleges to have a successful population of first generation college students. A college might also want some students from more rural counties or distant states if the student population from those areas is underrepresented at their school. Furthermore, a school, such as a private college where the majority of their student population may be from upper income families, could decide to broaden their student body by offering impressive financial aid packages to more middle and lower income students. Therefore, even if you think you can't afford a certain school, don't let that stop you from applying. Read more information about paying for college.
Age diversity can also be an important factor in college admissions. Many colleges value the diversity a nontraditional student can bring to the table. Schools may find that an older student's life experiences often enrich classroom discussions. Nontraditional aged students also show strong motivation and commitment, which provides an example for students of traditional college age. If you are a little older than the traditional college student, don't let the age gap deter you from applying to college. Having age diversity may even boost your chances of admission. Read Advice for Adult Students for more information on going to college as an adult.
As you can see, many colleges and universities do appreciate diversity. Most schools believe a diverse student body will enrich the campus community as a whole, provoke the students to have deeper classroom discussions and evaluate their own beliefs, and enable the students to be better prepared for life experiences and interactions after college. And while it is important to note that diversity should never be relied upon as a substitute to a strong academic performance, it is still a good idea to showcase your uniqueness to colleges. Just like a good college essay or an impressive SAT/ACT score, your diverse quality could enhance your existing credentials and help get you into your dream school.