Why and how to consider diversity when comparing schools
Diversity generally refers to the variety of people and experiences you may be exposed to at that particular college.
While you may think of diversity in terms of race or ethnicity, there are actually many student and faculty characteristics which can contribute to a diverse campus, including cultural background, geographic location, religious/spiritual activities, socioeconomic status, sexual orientations, gender identities, and abilities. Just as we are very diverse as individuals, colleges also have variety. These differences contribute to diversity on campus.
When it comes to choosing a college, how much should diversity factor into your decision?
- There is no right or wrong answer. Your decision depends on your own personal preferences and what kind of experience you are looking to have.
- You may want to be on a campus that has a community of people with your shared background.
- If you have not been exposed to different groups of people while growing up, you may want a diverse campus that will introduce you to new personalities and perspectives to learn and become aware of.
A diverse campus has the potential to create a richer educational experience. College campuses with diverse people bring value during your time in college and after graduation. If diversity is important to you, make sure you research how each of your college options measure up in order to find the right match for you.
Ask yourself the following questions to figure out what is important to you about your college environment and community:
- Will this college’s community support you to learn and grow as an individual?
- Do you want to be around people who identify with your own experiences or those who will challenge you with new ideas and viewpoints? Or both?
- Are there multicultural clubs, unions, support services and activities offered that are accessible to you?
- Are there grants or scholarships at the university or college to support students from similar backgrounds like you?
Check the diversity statistics at each college you apply to
Checking diversity statistics and metrics is easy with DecidED! The DecidED app breaks down each college’s diversity according to the following metrics:
- Ethnicity and Race: We will provide you with each school’s diversity based on ethnicity/race. (Note: DecidED uses options from national data sources, so choices may be limited as a result.)
- When available, you will also see the percentage of students that selected your ethnicity/racial background in your student profile.)
- Socioeconomics: We will provide you with each school’s socioeconomic diversity.
- This information is based on how many students at that school are receiving financial aid in the form of a Pell Grant and/or a state grant
It is important to consider the type of environment that is best for you. Where you choose to go to college will have an impact on your ability to learn and the quality and format of the education you receive.
As you compare colleges, you will most likely run into schools with very different levels of diversity.
Tip: Campus diversity is only one important component to review in addition to other important factors like affordability, graduation rate, campus environment, earning potential of your major, etc.
Be sure to compare the colleges you are interested in across all the factors mentioned while taking into account your top priorities and personal preferences. This will help you narrow down your choices and make a final decision.
Tip: At the end of the day, you should feel good about your college choice because it will be your experience and no one else’s.
Accessing resources on campus
Here are some questions to ask regarding diversity metrics:
- What services and support systems are provided for students with my ethnic/racial background at this college?
- What is the diversity like in my program of study?
- Are there affinity groups, clubs and organizations that I can be a part of?
- Are there programs that support students with similar family backgrounds as me? First generation? From diverse communities?
What is an “affinity” group?
An affinity group is a population of individuals who have a shared characteristic. For students, this could be a group devoted to a specific culture, career interest, extracurricular activity, or a special population. For example, if you are a foster youth, undocumented youth, or homeless youth, there may be a student group and resources to support you on your campus.
- These groups are not exclusively for students of color, but they provide safe spaces for students who share an identity or common factor, such as socioeconomic status.
- Your campus may have student success centers or student unions devoted to groups like, first-generation students, African-American/Black students, Chicanx/Latinx students, Asian American and Pacific Islander students, Indigenous students, LGBTQIA+ students, and more.
Tip: The importance of affinity groups, clubs, and other student organizations on college campuses comes from the desire to be part of a community.
Whether you go to college for two years, four years, or six years, you will want to connect with other people from similar or familiar backgrounds or who have similar life experiences as you. While it can be challenging to be a college student, having a community you can relate to can make your college experience much more positive and impactful.