Diversity Essay for the MBA: Tips + Samples

It’s no secret diversity, equity, and inclusion are incredibly important in MBA admissions. Business schools value broad representation in the admitted student class to enrich the program’s experience for all. For this reason, many schools have a diversity essay within the application.  Here, candidates can preview how they would contribute to class dicussions with their unique personal history, values, or life experiences. 

diversity essay

But having a diverse background alone is not enough. Former Stanford GSB Admissions Director Derrick Bolton once signaled that application quality is equally important for minority applicants. “We are not going to take candidates who are not as strong as candidates from somewhere else, just to have that diversity,” he noted. 

MBA application essays give candidates a chance to share the value of their unique identity.  As Bolton explained, it is the “mindset that the students have versus what their passports say or what their gender is.”  

In reviewing SBC admit data for the last five seasons, we see that every top MBA program has shown a preference for underrepresented minority (URM) applicants when those candidates have compelling stories in their essays and recommendation letters.  

diversity essay

For example, we worked with a URM male in private equity who gained admits to every school he applied to—including HBS—even with a GMAT below 650.  Last season, we guided a female Hispanic candidate who had a GPA below 3.0. Nonetheless, she received admits to Duke Fuqua and Kellogg with scholarships.

Diversity Application Materials

For the MBA admissions process, the application essays are the avenue for highlighting the value of diversity. The following are four essay excerpts taken from successful MBA admits within SBC’s client pool. 

Diversity Essay Sample #1

Cultural sensitivity is an essential asset in India’s growing cosmopolitan cities and commercial life. For that reason, my parents sought out a school with a diverse student body to teach me how to navigate the modern Indian landscape.

My classmates traced their roots to every corner of India, and my closest friends practiced three different religions. When the tumult in Indian society would sometimes descend into violence, my friends and I would reflect on these issues. We each had distinct opinions, and I saw how people with opposing beliefs interpreted the same situation differently.

I learned to appreciate varied viewpoints—and even seek them out to expand my thinking and deepen my connections to those around me.

diversity essay

Diversity Essay Sample #2

We moved to the United States from Mexico in the 1990s. My father is a math professor and received a position at the University of Iowa. My experiences growing up in a “foreign” country have helped me to become a more open person. I now appreciate the world’s diversity and try to learn about people who are different from me.

I experienced culture shock going from a town where everyone looked like me to a place where I was considered exotic. My classmates welcomed me, and in no time, I learned to speak English with almost no accent. The seasons in Iowa came as a shock to someone who grew up in a warm seaside town. Also, it took me months to become acclimated to the food. My mother used to have to travel to the next city over to find chilies and cilantro to prepare our favorite foods.

But what has interested me the most over the years are the stereotypes that follow my life in the U.S. as a person of Mexican heritage. When I went to college, many of my classmates assumed I was on scholarship and that my parents had no formal education. When I told them that my mother is a dentist and my father is a professor, they had to change their conception of what a Mexican-American is.

As someone who is often judged before someone gets to know me as a person, I have learned to see beyond the superficial in others. For example, one of my best friends in college was on a football scholarship. Many people assumed that Rick had no interest in intellectual pursuits and would only focus on sports and parties.

Because of my background, I have learned never to make assumptions. That’s why I treated Rick as just as serious as any other classmate. Soon Rick and I started discussing the material from our world history class for hours. We built a strong friendship out of shared intellectual interests that lasts to this day.

Diversity Essay Sample #3

In the past ten years, I have lived in seven different places while pursuing academic and professional opportunities. Through study abroad programs in high school and college, I spent one year in Rome and another in London. 

The greatest way in which I would be an asset to fellow Kellogg students is through the insight I can provide on cultural diversity. I would promote an environment where different ideas and perspectives can be expressed, understood, and accepted.

Living in many different places taught me to adapt to new environments and bridge cultural differences. Drawing from my own experiences studying and living abroad, I can help the many international students attending Kellogg and ease their integration into every aspect of the school’s community.

Diversity Recommendation Letter Excerpt

Sean will enhance the diversity of Wharton’s student body due to his unique international background. When he describes his experiences growing up in India and traveling through Western Europe, it shows he has a unique perspective on people, cultures, and religions.

In addition, Sean’s struggles as a gay Muslim man dealing with his own life’s contradictions have led him to appreciate others’ unique qualities. I expect that Sean will bring tremendous diversity to the class with his exposure to culture, study, work, and travel.

Fundamental Essay Writing: Tactical Tips

We have several diversity specialists on the SBC team, including a former board member of The Consortium. In partnership with The Riordan programs, two of our diversity experts recently led an MBA essay workshop for URM applicants. In that presentation, they shared how candidates can optimize all aspects of the essays. 

When the fundamental elements of MBA essay writing are effective, a candidate’s own diverse voice, identity, and perspectives become vivid and compelling to the MBA admissions committee. 

SBC’s Top 6 MBA Application Essay Tips and Examples 

  1. Make sure you answer the question asked and do so early in the essay.
  2. Be specific rather than general.  
  3. Don’t be afraid to get personal (but not too personal).  
  4. Be bold in your aspirations and thoughtful/realistic about your plans.
  5. Let the S-T-A-R format be your guide.  
  6. Have strong/memorable opening and closing sentences for each paragraph.

Essay #1: Personal Statement / Describe your personal leadership style

Options:

Best Practices:

Essay #2: Why School?

Options:

Best Practices:

Essay #3: Short & long-term goals

Options:

Best Practices:

Diversity in the b-school classroom is the best preparation for the challenges and rewards of the multicultural marketplace. SBC is the only MBA admissions firm with a complete panel of former Admissions Officers from all the elite programs. Several of these experts specialize in URM candidates and would love to help you tell your diversity story. Request a free analysis of your candidacy here.

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Meet Anthony, who served as the Associate Director of MBA Admissions at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, where he dedicated over 10 years of expertise.

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