We Are the World
We here at 203 are thrilled to know that we aren't the only admissions office on campus that likes to have fun and doesn't take ourselves too seriously:
It's technically a plug for Yale College, but it mentions the Law School (albeit in an inaccurate conext) which makes it good enough for our blog.
To the goods:
Should I include a diversity statement with my application? I have written one for other schools but wasn't sure whether it would help or hurt my application to Yale Law School.
We get this question a lot. The short answer is that you are welcome to include any information which you feel will enable the Admissions Committee to make a fully-informed decision on your candidacy. Which translates into: we don't ask for a diversity statement specifically, but if you would like to include one, it is O.K. to do so.
Explaining some aspect of yourself which you think would make a unique contribution to the Law School is a good thing. The question is whether you really need to provide a supplemental essay to do it. Keep in mind that unlike many law schools, we already ask for an additional essay (the infamous 250-word essay) in addition to your personal statement. Since we do not specify a topic for either the shorter essay or the personal statement, you can include information relevant to an aspect of diversity which you feel is important to your application in either (or both) of these pieces of writing.
Consider the following applicants:
1. A stay-at-home parent who is applying to law school after being out of school/workforce for seven years. The applicant explains that he has spent this time raising his three sons in Question 6 ("If you have been out of school for more than six months, describe what you have been doing in the interval."), and then also writes a personal statement about how he spent several years finding and fighting for special needs educational acommodations for one of his children, which led to his interest in law school.
2. A student who writes a 250-word essay about growing up in a blue-collar family, attending a resource-poor public school, and being the first to attend college. The student includes an addendum explaining that because she had to finance a large part of college herself, she did not have much time for extracurricular activities and asks the Admissions Committee to take that into account.
3. A former military veteran who spent the last five years deployed to Iraq. The applicant includes details on his various duties in Iraq on a resume which he includes in the application, and also provides a letter of reference from one of his commanding officers.
I would submit that all of the above individuals would have their "diversity" (older, non-traditional applicant, socioeconomic background, military experience, respectively) taken into account even though none of them provided a specific diversity statement. In fact, most likely, an additional diversity statement wouldn't really provide any additional information for any of these applicants -- the applicants have already successfully illustrated what makes them different and how it has shaped or impacted their lives just through the regular components of the application. So here is where a diversity statement might "hurt" them, in the sense that it would be redundant, and unnecessary.
Now, it's possible that the above applicants could craft their applications entirely differently, and a diversity statement would make sense. For example, if the military vet did not inlcude a resume (which we do not require), and doesn't know what his officer wrote in the recommendation (because he would wisely waive his right to see the letter), and also used both essay opportunities to discuss personal and academic interests, then it might make sense to include a statement which explains that he has served in the armed forces, has seen combat, and feels that as a result of these experiences he might be able to provide a valuable perspective on x,y, and z issues. Again, that's just a possibilty, and there are other permutations.
The take home point is that while you can include as much information as you like, you also want to be judicious in the number and amount of additional essays/addenda that you provide. You don't want your application to be the one that never ends (that's not a good thing for the reader, or for you). Ideally, you will try to incorporate all the relevant information about yourself into the questions provided on the application. If you feel that there is something critical that really won't fit anywhere else, certainly include it as a supplement.
Finally, I hope that the examples above make clear that we do have a very broad definition of "diversity" which we do consider in putting together our class. However, if you do choose to write a diversity essay, please, PLEASE try to be serious about it and make sure it is something that has truly shaped your experiences and perspective. Do NOT write a diversity statement on how you are "a good listener" or something similar. Seriously, that's just lame.
I hope this is helpful, and I look forward to reading your final masterpiece!