An important thing to consider when exploring college options is the diversity of the student body, faculty, and activities/groups on campus. College may be the first time that you will live and learn with people who are different from you. So, the first question to ask yourself is: do you want to go to a school where most everyone is like you, or are you looking for more variety and diversity?
Studies show that being exposed to a diverse community in college can greatly benefit you in the future. Not only can exposure to people from different backgrounds increase your cultural awareness, but it can also instill in you a commitment to racial understanding, which is very important in today’s world where it has become increasingly common for many different groups to interact and live together. In addition, according to the Gallup-Purdue Index (read this if you’re unsure what this is), U.S. college graduates who strongly agreed that they interacted with people from different backgrounds on a regular basis in college were 2.2 times more likely to say that their college degree was worth the cost, and 1.4 times more likely to say that they are engaged (satisfied and involved) in their current job, versus graduates who did not agree that they interacted with people from different backgrounds in college.
Diversity can lead to positive outcomes, but when it comes down to it, it’s about your personal preferences and comfort zone. Below are some diversity factors to consider when it comes to choosing a school.
Race/Ethnicity. A school can be very, somewhat, or not at all diverse when it comes to race/ethnicity. Check out the demographic profile for each school you’re considering (this can, or at least should, be easily found online) and see which ones will work for you.
Sexual/Gender Identity. If you identify as LGBTQ, you’ll want to make sure to choose a college where you will feel comfortable, safe and supported. Campus Pride is a great resource to find LGBTQ-friendly colleges and universities.
Socioeconomic Status. Do the majority of students at a school come from wealthier families, poorer families, or somewhere in the middle – or is there a mixture of different backgrounds? It might be hard to find this information out online, so your best bet is to visit a school and/or talk to current students to get an idea of the students’ family and economic backgrounds.
Age. Perhaps you’re just out of high school and looking to attend a college where all of the undergraduates are around your age, give or take a few years. Or, you might be a veteran of military service or an older adult who has made the decision to get your college degree after being in the workforce for several years, so you might feel more comfortable being around people (i.e., other adults) who have made the same decision. Or, you can be any age and not really care what the average age of the student body is. Whatever your situation and preference, make sure your school of choice aligns with them.
Religiosity. A school can be a mixed bag when it comes to the religious background of the student body, or it can be very homogenous where most students are of the same religion. Think about your own background and if it’s important to you to attend a school with many who share the same religious beliefs.