Diverse Student Applicant Resources
Professional programs value diversity. Our professional fields and training programs often don't look like the rest of our population. To provide the best care and services to patients and clients, we need to create learning and working environments that reflect our society. People do their best learning and work in these environments.
This section will provide you with additional application information and resources to assist you during your application process. While we have sectioned this material into categories to make it easier to find information, we recognize that your life may cross-over the groupings we used here.
If you come across information that we don't have and think that we should know about it, please let us know! firstname.lastname@example.org
Every professional school wants their class to learn from each other. That means that they are looking to fill their class with diversity of all kinds--ethnicity, gender, economic, religious, ability, etc. One thing that we know from research on education is that people learn better in more diverse environments.
It can sometimes be helpful to highlight diversity in your application. That said, there can be better ways to do that than others. Randomly stating, for example, in an application that you are transgender if it has nothing to do with why you want to be an optometrist will probably not be helpful. Discussing growing up with intermittent homelessness and now wanting to be a lawyer who works with housing issues, could work as it goes to your reason for wanting to enter the field.
Important Resource at Schools
- Because diversity is such an enormous issue at professional schools, most schools have someone whose job it is to recruit students who are underrepresented in the fields of healthcare and law. Typically the people in these roles are incredibly helpful.
- The people in these roles often like to make early contact with students (before your application year). They can provide insight into the schools you apply to, may be willing to read your personal statement, and serve as another mentor in the application process.
- If you are comfortable using this resource, check the school's website and look to see if someone is listed in this role. The complication is that the title of the role differs by school. It is often easier to contact the admissions office and state that you are a future applicant and would like to speak with someone who works specifically with students who are underrepresented in the field.
Ways to Highlight the Diversity You Bring to the Class
Applications provide a number of ways to highlight diversity.
- Diversity Statements--Some schools provide an essay (sometimes required/sometimes optional) where you can discuss your experiences with diversity.
- Selecting Disadvantaged Status--The MD application (AMCAS), for example, uses this. If you were from an area that was medically underserved, you could select this.
- Candidate Referral Service--While this is not just for students who are underrepresented in the field, you can indicate certain aspects of your application and schools can search by this. Law schools use this mechanism.
Adding Depth to Your Application through Your Life Experiences
Think carefully about aspects of your life and experiences that could add depth to your application.
- Have you worked to pay for school?
- Did you grow up in a household with parents who came from another country so that you grew up within two cultures?
- Do you speak more than one language?
- Have you experienced poverty?
- Did you have multiple generations living at home?
- Have you worked to help support your family?
These kinds of things matter to schools (not that these are the only things).
Information for All Fields
It is totally fine to contact schools directly!
Please do not be shy about contacting schools and communicating with them about questions and concerns that you have. Pre-Professional Advising is happy to help you prepare for this conversation.
- You should prepare for conversations like this.
- Make sure you check their website first and that your answers can't be found there.
- You want these conversations to be concise and professional.
- Most schools have a person designated to work with underrepresented students. You can ask to speak with that person.
- Admissions people are busy people so you want to be prepared and keep the conversation as short as possible.
- We hear a lot at conferences about gaps in phone skills so preparing ahead for this call and being very polite is important. This added professionalism will go a long way toward impressing professional programs.
- They track student contacts--so again--be very polite (we know that we don't need to tell you that as a Purdue student).
- Write out all of your questions ahead of time.
- Thank them for their time.
Attend online events to learn about schools
Watch our website and newsletter (sign up for our monthly e-newsletter on our homepage) for any online events that schools are hosting. This will help you learn more about how programs work and what you want in a program. The LSAC Law School Forums (online this fall) are a great example of this. Our spring Health Programs Expo is another great opportunity whether it is on campus or online this year.
Essentially you want to know a number of things about programs.
- How do they differ?
- How are they similar?
- What are the various ways they structure their curricula?
- What appeals to you about the different approaches?
- What kind of support do they offer students?
- What kind of student organizations do they have?
- What academic support is available?
Even if a school isn't one you really want to attend, starting to learn about the variation within programs will help you start to learn what YOU want in a program.
Consider a pipeline program
Pipeline programs are set up to encourage students underrepresented in professional fields to learn more about the field, meet people who can mentor them along the way, and excite them about the possibilities the field has for them.
- Many of the summer opportunities listed on the National Association of Advisors for the Health Professions website are pipeline programs.
- Association of American Medical Colleges Summer Enrichment and Pipeline Programs Database.
- One of the major programs out there is only available at the end of your freshman and sophomore years: the Summer Health Professions Education Program.
- Boston University has a number of summer opportunities for pre-health students listed on their site.
- CLEO offers a number of programs for pre-law students at different levels.
- Pre-Law Undergraduate Scholars (PLUS) Program
- Training and Recruitment Initiative for Admission to Leading Law Schools (Trials)
You can find additional summer options in our summer opportunities lists in the Learning Center of our website.
One of the frequent questions students ask us is how much discussion of certain activities/topics might impact their applications.
- Will mentioning being a student organizer in Black Lives Matter be seen as too political?
- Is being a leader of a Bible study or part of Muslim student group seen as being too religious?
- Will mentioning being in a sorority/fraternity be seen as wasting time?
- If I mention being gay will the admissions committee be biased against me?
- If I mention my disability will the admissions committee be biased against me?
Generally speaking, an admissions committee cannot use your religious or political beliefs or your sexuality to evaluate you. That means that you do not want to spend a lot of space in your application on these topics as you are basically wasting space--they can't use that. Spend your space providing them information they CAN use.
Disability is a bit different in that it is actually illegal for an admissions committee to use that against an applicant. Still, you have limited space to communicate what you want them to know about you. They can't use the information about your disability. Use your space telling them things they can use as much as possible.
For most of the examples above, mention your involvements then move on to talk about what you learned or contributed. For example, "During the summer I realized I could no longer stand by while people lost their lives. I became active as an organizer in Black Lives Matter. What may have looked like unorganized groups on TV was actually highly organized behind the scenes. I overcame my own shyness to speak in front of thousands of people and...."
Typically we encourage you to highlight YOUR core competencies throughout your application. This is an example of that. The focus isn't on the organization or situation. You want the focus to be on what you learned, how it changed you, what you contributed, why it mattered to you, etc.
A number of questions are common among our LGBTQ students as they approach their applications
- Should I be "out" on my application?
- If I decide to be "out," how should I share my identity during the application process?
- If I decide to share my identity, how will schools use that information?
- Could I be discriminated against if I am out on my application?
- What resources are available to me as an LGBTQ applicant?
- How can I tell if a school will be supportive of my identity?
- Our Pre-Professional Advisors are happy to discuss all of these topics with you.
- This is a personal decision, and no absolute answers are really available. You need to feel comfortable with the decisions you make.
- Find a school where you feel comfortable, seen, and supported living and learning in whatever degree of "out" you want to be during your training.
OutCare Health Mentorship Program OutCare provides LGBTQ health services and also helps match students to mentors working in healthcare.
Point Foundation The Point Foundation empowers LGBTQ students to reach their full academic and leadership potential.
GLMA Healthcare providers advocating for LGBTQ equity.
Vanderbilt University Medical Center Program for LGBTQ Health This is a summer undergraduate internship. Applications are typically due in February.
Implementing Curricular and Institutional Climate Changes to Improve Health Care for Individuals who are LGBT, Gender Nonconforming, or Born with DSD. This is a report from the Association of American Medical Colleges.
*Thanks to Tyler Lockman, Health Professions Advisor at Northwestern University and Glenn Cummings, Associate Dean and Director of Health Professions Advising at Bryn Mawr College for help with this section and resources.
Blog Post on the LGBTQ Community and Dentistry
LGBT Student Experience Study from the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges
PrideVMC Creating a better world for the LGBTQ+ veterinary community
Resources - Physician Assistant
LGBT Inclusion - This list of sites from the Physician Assistant Education Association is a useful list of resources for caring for patients/clients who are part of the LGBTQ+ community.
Resources - Physical Therapy
To Be All of Me - An Blog post by a physical therapy student talking about her journey. You will need to create a free account to read the whole article.
Resources - Occupational Therapy
Resources - Law
LGBTQ & Law School Information from the Law School Admission Council
Lambda Legal Lambda Legal is an organization dedicated to the civil rights of the LGBTQ community
Resources - General
A number of questions are common among our disabled students as they approach their application process.
- Should I discuss my disability in my application?
- If I do disclose it, how much detail should I provide?
- How will schools use this information?
- Could I be discriminated against if I disclose this information on my application?
- What resources are available to me as an applicant?
- How can I tell if a school will be supportive of me as a student?
- Our Pre-Professional Advisors are happy to discuss these topics with you.
- Ultimately, this is a personal decision and no absolute right or wrong answer exists. What is important is for you to feel comfortable with the decision you make.
- You need to find a school where you feel comfortable and supported living and learning and where you have any additional services that you need at the school and in the community to live safely and to thrive.
Technical Standards for Healthcare Programs
If you are planning to apply to a healthcare program, you should be aware that many of them have something called "technical standards." This is a list of abilities--typically physical abilities--that professional programs will expect students to be able to do. They will admit students without an expectation of being able to meet these, but then once admitted if you are unable to meet these standards, you might not be able to remain in the class. These may include certain hearing, motor, and observational abilities. This is one example of technical skills. You will need to discuss with schools whether they will accommodate your needs. Some schools are not willing to do so.
Unjustified Barriers for Medical School Applicants with Disabilities. Stanley F. Wainapel. AMA Journal of Ethics (online). February 2015.
Resources - Healthcare
Resources - Medicine
Accessibility, Inclusion and Action in Medical Education an AAMC Report
Medical Students with Disabilities: A Generation of Practice an AAMC Report
Paving the Way for Physicians with Disabilities. Stacey Weiner. Association of American Medical Colleges (online). November 25, 2019
Resources - Occupational Therapy
Law School Admission Council Resources for Applicants with Disabilities
The National Association of Attorneys with Disabilities has a Facebook page
Attending one of the National Law School Forums is a good time to have "face" time (even virtually this fall) with individual law schools that you might be thinking about. This way you have actual interaction with schools as well as access to various application workshops. The Fall 2020 Law Forums are digital and free, but you do need to register.
It is also perfectly fine to contact schools directly to ask questions. If you need assistance to plan what to ask and how to do that, Pre-Professional Advisors are happy to help with that.
Medical & Dental School
For Indigenous Students considering medical school, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) has a number of resources including some "pipeline" programs (programs developed to encourage students to apply their skills in the field of medicine). In 2018, they also developed a report on the need for more Indigenous physicians: Reshaping the Journey: American Indians and Alaska Natives in Medicine.
Veterinary Medical School
Students who are traditionally underrepresented in healthcare and law are very much needed to provide better services to all people. All students learn more in diverse settings. A diverse class makes the education a professional school provides better. In the end, resulting patient care and client services are more informed and higher quality when our professional programs and staff look more like the rest of our population.
Below are some of the professional and student organizations available to you.
If you look at the websites of individual professional programs, you will find many more student organizations that cater to very specific groups of students. These are often not national organizations (at least, not yet). If you want to learn more about the climate at an institution, you can speak with the admissions office and ask about reaching out to one of these organizations if that club does not have their contact information online. You may even find some intersections that are important to you with these organizations.
As an example, if you want to apply to dental school they might have a Student National Dental Association which is primarily for Black dental students, but you may find they have a Christian Dental Student club or a Jewish or Muslim Dental Student club that you want to speak with as well.
- National Medical Association
- Student National Medical Association
- National Hispanic Medical Association
- Latino Medical Student Association
- Asian Pacific American Medical Student Association
- National Osteopathic Medical Association
- National Dental Association
- Hispanic Dental Association
- National Optometric Association
- National Optometric Student Association
- National Conference of Black Lawyers
- National Bar Association
- Hispanic National Bar Association
- National Asian Pacific American Bar Association
The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) has resources for veterans and currently serving members of the military who are applying to medical school
The Law School Admissions Council (LSAC) mentions veteran applicants on their funding page.
In general, the VA Education and Training Benefits website will provide help, but as with many government programs it can be complicated.
For graduate programs, the Yellow Ribbon Program can be useful.
For funding questions, it is always good to speak with the financial aid office at the school where you plan to attend once you are admitted.
Purdue's Veterans Success Center will also be able to assist you with figuring out some of the VA funding options.