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Diversity in Higher Education

Diversity is a buzzword on college campuses and in the college admissions process, but families sometimes do not have a full understanding of what diversity means and why colleges care about it. Diversity is more than race and ethnicity – it involves income level, first-generation status, geography (both within the United States and internationally), cultural background, sexual identity and orientation and gender (and this is not an exhaustive definition, just a sampling of things that fall under diversity considerations). Colleges look at their overall campus diversity, and at diversity within specific programs (for example, making sure there are women in STEM programs). Colleges care about diversity on their campuses because learning takes place best when students with diverse perspectives can learn from one another, and diversity can play a role, however marginal, in college admissions. Thus, when students are applying to college, applicants need to think about all aspects of their identity and how they want to represent themselves in their applications. Does partial heritage count? If a parent is from South America but a student has never been there and doesn’t speak Spanish should they check that they are Hispanic? Is disclosing LGBTQ status advantageous? These are complex issues and require careful and deliberate consideration; the first step is self-reflection and understanding why diversity matters. For a thoughtful discussion, here is a link to a U.S. News article.