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Financial Struggles on Applications


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Hi everyone,


On most of my applications, they mention diversity and ask you share anything  in your background that will contribute to diversity. For example, the prompt on the Stanford application is:


"Stanford University regards the diversity of its graduate student body as an important factor in serving the educational mission of the university. We encourage you to share unique, personally important, and/or challenging factors in your background, such as work and life experiences, special interests, culture, socioeconomic status, the quality of your early!educational environment, gender, sexual orientation, race or ethnicity. Please discuss how such factors would contribute to the diversity of the entering class, and hence to the experience of your Stanford classmates.


If I had a rough start financially (lived in subsidized housing as a kid, foot stamps, etc) then do you think that this something that I should share or is it better to just skip this optional prompt?



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I think it would be worth it! I too come from a disadvantaged background and it does set you apart from your fellow students the higher you climb the educational ladder. 


Admitting you to their school will help your incoming class meet others not so much like themselves, which can frame their research in a broader way. Academia is very self-selecting and exclusive; anything to break that chain is awesome! It will lead to better opportunities for everyone and a greater awareness of the world we live in. Science advocacy is one of my interests, so I'm coming at it from that perspective, but there are many other ways. I'm sure you'll think of something and good luck! :)

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I think you can share it, BUT you need to make clear about how that difference had an impact on your educational outlook and journey.  To be blunt, the statement can't come across as "I was poor, and being poor is hard, so pity me and let me in!"  It needs to be more about "I was poor, and being poor was a significant disadvantage in my early life - yet I managed to persevere through it.  And in the mean time, I have learned that it has set me apart from my peers in X specific ways, and that I have learned Y specific things that have had Z specific impacts upon my approach to my work."  That doesn't mean that your research has to be specifically related - just how is your approach perhaps different?

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UCSB's diversity prompt actually cites financial hardship as an example of what to include. 


And by the way, good for you for kicking a** in your life even though life was kicking yours when you were a kid. Not easy.

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