As we sit in the midst of another busy college application cycle I want to take a moment to remind us all about the meaning of diversity. If my job as an admission counselor has taught me anything, it’s that diversity comes in all shapes and sizes. I say this because it is easy to get caught up in the idea that diversity only encompasses race and ethnicity. This job has offered me an incredible opportunity to understand diversity in a broader sense; to see that diversity is not just about race and ethnicity, but about differences within a group. These differences include things such as socioeconomic status, gender, geographic background, philosophies and values, and many other things. It could be anything that makes an individual different from the rest of the group.
I bring this up because as we work with students in the college application process, as both admission counselors and high school counselors, it is easy to maintain a limited view of diversity and lose sight of what makes every student unique and diverse. A lot of the time students may not even be aware that they provide diversity. I come across this a lot when speaking to students, especially when it comes to questions regarding how to go about writing the personal statement. Students are concerned that they don’t have anything to talk about that makes them unique or different from other students. Their view of diversity is still somewhat limited. My advice to students is to focus on their particular experience and how they felt and dealt with it as individuals because that is what makes them unique and different; no other student experienced and felt what they felt. No other student is going to have their exact same perspective, even if the situation or experience is the same. Those diverse experiences and perspectives are what a student can contribute to a university and what will ultimately enhance the classroom experience. This was recently confirmed by a faculty member that spoke to a group of us admission counselors at the university where I work. He relayed that the increase in diversity he has seen at our university has led to better classroom discussions that include different perspectives and ideas. He specified that the diversity existed not only in regards to race and ethnicity but to philosophical perspectives.
Keeping in mind this broad definition of diversity will make us better professionals whether we are helping students articulate what makes them different and how they can contribute to a university or as we read applications in search for those diverse students to bring to our universities. Every student has something unique to offer, it is just a matter of being able to recognize this within context. I encourage everyone to keep this in mind every step of the way as we continue through another busy year of working with students.
By Maria Rodriguez