LSAT Kung Fu Blog / How To Get Into Law School: Diversity Statement
How To Get Into Law School: Diversity Statement
Over the next few weeks, we’re going to continue our look at each piece of the law school application. We’re going to work chronologically—that is, we’ll take each item in the order that you should (in a perfect world, one in which you can maybe go back in time and fix your mistakes) be working on it. I’ve chosen to use a Q+A format, to make you feel like we’re in this together. It will be fun. I
promise absolutely do not promise that.
Last week, we looked at how your Personal Statement figures into your admissions decision. This week, we’re taking a crack at your Diversity Statement. Again, we’re going with the Q+A structure, because it’s delightful:
So, what is it? It’s an additional chance for you to parade your writing before admissions committees!
Yeah, but seriously. What is it? I am serious! The most serious utility of the Diversity Statement to you is that it gives you another chance to show admissions officers that you can write like a mofo. And law schools want students who can write.
OK, I mean that makes some sense to me. Well, it’s true—
But still it feels almost like you’re stalling. I am not! Your interest in the topic is not, I presume, simply academic, right? I mean, you care how this stuff affects you, right?
Right. Well, the Diversity Statement is your chance to show the law schools you’re courting how you’re different. But its primary use to you is to give you an additional opportunity to convey information through writing.
I give up. Don’t do that! Let’s try framing it this way: Where your Personal Statement is about who you are, your Diversity Statement is about how your background shaped you.
That’s better. Go on… Your Diversity Statement is usually about your culture (ethnicity, religion, shared interests, etc.), but it can be about any aspect of your background that will show the admission committee how you will make their law school more diverse by your presence.
OK. Now we’re getting somewhere. How important is it? Think of it as a tiebreaker. It’s very unlikely that your Diversity Statement will open doors that your LSAT and GPA have closed (with a few really significant exceptions. For example: Are you a refugee who managed to get to the US despite the Trump family’s best efforts to keep your foreign influence out? That may be a deal-maker for you! Are you an Olympic athlete? Likewise! Truly exceptional circumstances may make your Diversity Statement the most important thing about your application. If you are in truly exceptional circumstances, you already know it, and I praise your strength and salute your perseverance, and may god speed you on your way. For the rest of you, see the first few paragraphs above).
I think I get it. So, since I’m not, like, one-of-a-kind exceptional, what should I write? Good question. To frame your statement, it may help to start with these two questions:
1. How are you different from your peers? What facts of your history—your own experience or family or culture—make you different from the people around you? Or, if you come from a strongly unitary cultural enclave (you’re a Mormon from Salt Lake, or an African American attending Howard), it may help to phrase the question like this:
2. How are you and your peers different from the larger American culture? What cultural (or other) factors set you apart? Does your religious belief inform your culture or history? Are you stereotyped by others?
I can do that. So all I have to do is show why I’m different? Not quite. You also want to show me how those differences have made you who you are. Was being different hard for you? Did it make your life easier? Did it improve your ability to assimilate or did it provide challenges you had to overcome? What does your diversity teach me about who you are and what you'll do at my law school?
So, show where I come from and how that affects me. Cool. Anything else? Yes! Make sure that you show me that you’re not a stereotype. If you have cultural influences that make you different from the majority, how are you different from other people who share your cultural influences? Imagine a small box (your cultural heritage) inside a bigger box (the majority culture). You need to talk about how the small box changes your relationship to the big box, and you also need to talk about how you fit within the small box.
Why are you trying to put me in a box? I’m not! I mean… It… I was just—
I was kidding. Yeah. Yeah, I knew that.
Sure. Back to the Diversity Statement. Anything I should avoid? Yes. Avoid sounding preachy. Don’t lecture me, particularly on cultural differences. Yes, the current state of American cultural intolerance seems to be at a low ebb, but this is not the appropriate venue for your treatise on race- or gender- or religion-relations in the US. This is about you. Keep the spotlight on how your diversity has shaped you and what you will bring to law school, not how you think things ought to be in the world.
Well, that sounds like good advice, despite yourself. Thank you?
Any last tips? I think we’ve covered it, really. Use your Diversity Statement to tell schools how your background makes you different, follow the general advice here, and you’ll accomplish your goal of a winning Diversity Statement that gives law schools more information about you and more reasons to want you.
OK; Questions? Comments? Complaints? Post them below, or shoot me an email.
Be good to one another, for we need it now more than maybe ever,
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