Diversity Essays

calphys
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Diversity Essays

Postby calphys » Fri Dec 14, 2007 2:12 am

Everyone here who's applying to the UCSB or Berkeley (and probably the other UCs as well) knows what I'm talking about -- the essay that asks you to describe what you'll bring to the incoming class, whether you've endured hardships, etc.

I'm trying to write this thing right now, and it's hurting my soul. Everything I try to write sounds either cliche or whiny, and either one makes me want to throw up. I have two questions for y'all: what in god's name do you think they're using this for (admissions or fellowships), and what sorts of things are you planning on talking about?

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grae313
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Postby grae313 » Fri Dec 14, 2007 2:58 am

lol, I saw the title of the post and I felt your pain before I even read what you wrote.

I almost didn't want to write that part of the essay, but a relative who had been accepted to UCB told me I should write something. It was very painful though!

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butsurigakusha
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Postby butsurigakusha » Fri Dec 14, 2007 3:00 am

I know what you mean. I just kind of wrote some crap. If it is important for admission, then I probably won't get in. I think it may be more for university fellowships. I am also applying to UCSD, and they didn't require a diversity essay. But they had an option of applying for a San Diego fellowship, and that one required a diversity essay, which seemed to be a key factor in getting the fellowship. So maybe it is similar at UCSB. I really can't imagine the physics department putting too much emphasis on something as irrelevant as that.

nvanmeter
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Postby nvanmeter » Fri Dec 14, 2007 2:34 pm

yeah i got lucky for that essay...i just wrote about hurricane katrina (i'm from new orleans). but i agree that it is all bullshit and, ideally, should have no impact on the admission decision. i had to write it for stanford, ucsb, berkeley, and cornell.

KB
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Postby KB » Fri Dec 14, 2007 4:04 pm

I chose to ignore the bullshit "whine to me about how disadvantaged you are" part of the prompt and focused on the slightly less repulsive academic journey part. Seriously, what do they want from us?

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twistor
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Postby twistor » Fri Dec 14, 2007 7:10 pm

They want to let the "disadvantaged" in first because they feel so bad about taking their application fees.....

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grae313
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Postby grae313 » Fri Dec 14, 2007 7:31 pm

nvanmeter, lol, you got "lucky"...

well hey, at least you can look on the bright side and say that one good thing has come from that hurricane.

calphys
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Postby calphys » Fri Dec 14, 2007 8:57 pm

@nvanmeter

I'm from New Orleans too. JHS '04. Where'd you go to school?

nvanmeter
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Postby nvanmeter » Sat Dec 15, 2007 8:45 pm

@ calphys

i went to Rummel class of 2004. and by the way, didn't you start this post about the diversity stuff? just give into what they want and write about katrina. by JHS do you mean jesuit? that's freakin crazy. my name's nick vanmeter (i'm not exactly clever with my username), any chance you've met/heard of me?

GCS
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Postby GCS » Sun Dec 16, 2007 6:02 pm

Maybe it's just me, but I didn't perceive those essays as asking you to whine about how life has been hard for you. In my opinion (and what I focused on mine) they are simply asking you to show what else goes on in your life, which might not be physics related, and how it could help improve your, and everyone else's, graduate experience.

I would say that you should talk about other experiences that make you interesting and different from everybody else. Do you play in your school's orchestra? did you live in a different country for a while? do you do some kind of community service in your free time? etc...

If I was in an admission's committee, and I had two candidates that were comparable in their academic achievements, then I would certainly admit the one that seems like a more interesting person!
During graduate school we're not only going to be interacting on a scientific level with out peers and the faculty, but we'll also have to interact at a personal level. It's better to be around people that you can talk about a variety of subjects, and enjoy different activities than with someone who just goes and locks themselves in their room to watch TV whenever they are not doing physics.

I'm not saying that this is more important than your academic abilities, but among many well qualified applicants, I believe that having other interests and skills (which may or may not actually help your scientific career) is important and will make you stand out.

Just my opinion. Feel free to disagree, I would like to hear people's take on this.

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grae313
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Postby grae313 » Sun Dec 16, 2007 7:07 pm

GCS, I like your take on it

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quizivex
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Postby quizivex » Sun Dec 16, 2007 9:19 pm

How would factors such as your background, work and life experiences, special interests, culture, socioeconomic status, race, or ethnicity contribute to the diversity of the entering class, and hence to the experience of your Stanford classmates? Please describe these factors and their relevance. (700 characters maximum)

I am a middle class white American heterosexual male 21 years of age without the slightest physical or mental handicap. And yes, for a typical physics department, this would be adding plenty of diversity.

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will
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Postby will » Sun Dec 16, 2007 11:59 pm

I don't think it's valid to determine how 'interesting' someone is based on one or a few written paragraphs. In fact, I'd say the kind of people who treat such essays as Serious Business are usually somewhat one-dimensional off the paper (where they are still only two-dimensional at best.)

GCS
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Postby GCS » Mon Dec 17, 2007 1:46 am

I don't think it's valid to determine how 'interesting' someone is based on one or a few written paragraphs.


I certainly agree that it is not a good method, and does not compare to even a short conversation in person. But the whole application process consists of us sending snapshots our lives, which then the committees supposedly try to piece together to determine whether we are "a good fit" for the department and PhD level research. So I would say this is a way to see into a different facet of our lives, which might otherwise not be depicted. I think one or two paragraphs to show a little more about yourself is better than nothing...

Now let me clarify that I don't particularly agree with this whole process (and what I stated is just my perception of it), but the fact is that we are required to write these essays, and I personally find this a better approach for that :)

In fact, I'd say the kind of people who treat such essays as Serious Business are usually somewhat one-dimensional off the paper (where they are still only two-dimensional at best.)


I didn't mean that these should be weighted heavily. It should definitely be a small part of the other much more important things....
I agree with the part that they shouldn't really be "serious business" but I'm not sure why you say that people that might weigh them more heavily are one-dimensional...

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will
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Postby will » Mon Dec 17, 2007 2:26 am

I was addressing essay writers, not readers.

What I'm saying is that there's certain things that make someone look, to me at least, like they're more interested in Harvard than in physics. In my own experience, a lot of the people i've met who have had the opportunities (oh, how thinly veiled my jealousy gets at times) to visit foreign countries, or play the violin since they were 2, etc... see those life experiences as actually being little more than a killer essay.

Now, of course, none of this should be taken so acerbically as it might come across. Of course people who are actually interesting will probably have had more unique, interesting experiences. I'm saying it's no guarantee (on which i think we agree), but also further that some of the people with amazing life-resumes are just life-resume-packers, not necessarily any more interesting than a high-school class president.

Let me also say that I don't assume that you are a person who takes this essay very seriously, and that I agree with your interpretation of the question. It's just that you're quite right about this being a requirement, but just buckling down and doing it because it needs to be done is seriously impeding on all of the moral superiority I'm supposed to get by earning a Ph.D.

GCS
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Postby GCS » Mon Dec 17, 2007 3:34 am

Ah, so I understand you point better now, and yeah I believe we’re essentially on the same page.

I do agree with the point of life-resume-packers (I like the term btw). I have to admit my initial statement was a little naive, since you are right about some people that do things just to use them for such an essay/resume, instead of genuinely stating their experiences and what they gained. I guess I was relying too much on that moral superiority, expecting everybody at this level to actually pursue things for the experience more than to just fluff their resumes :wink:

Although it is true that for the committee it might be hard to determine your original intentions, I don't see why you would feel it's morally wrong to write this. As long as we're being genuine with our own intentions and interests, I feel it's good to put them out there.

It's just that you're quite right about this being a requirement, but just buckling down and doing it because it needs to be done is seriously impeding on all of the moral superiority I'm supposed to get by earning a Ph.D.


Now I definitely agree with you here, and a big part of the application process feels this way, not just this particular essay (including future experiences such as postdoc/job hunting, and then teaching and tenure, or moving up the corporate ladder, etc...). But I really don't know what can be done to get everyone to stop jumping through the hoops...
Unfortunately, there are a lot of things out there that require you to "buckle down and do it" and if you don't play the game, somebody else will in your place. Now, I agree that this sort of mentality just keeps the circle going, and ideally we could just defy it and get rid of it, but in reality one just gets overrun by the system.
Not to say nothing should be done about it, and I believe the process can be slowly changed. But I don't think outright defying it will accomplish anything (unless you actually get essentially everybody in on it, which in practical terms is impossible).

aanaa
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Postby aanaa » Mon Dec 17, 2007 4:45 am

aaaaaaaah :shock: i know it is not an important part of the application, or even one that matters the slightest, but it still needs to be written...

is it a bad idea to include anything that goes back to before the college years?




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