Campus diversity: Why it’s important for international students
Factor in a strong student-body mix when building your college list.
Diversity across campus is one of the greatest benefits of studying in the US and the US is a popular choice for students from all over the world. International students often focus on rankings, affordability, and competitiveness at different universities while building their college lists, and often overlook the importance of campus diversity. Understanding the meaning and benefits of campus diversity is more important than you might think and evaluating a college’s student-body diversity can help you identify schools that are a better fit and help you narrow down your college list.
As an international student, meeting and engaging with students from different racial, ethnic, and national backgrounds gives you the opportunity to learn from diverse, global perspectives and understand different cultures. Interacting with people from different religious, cultural, or socio-economic backgrounds strengthens your student experience in the classroom, on campus, and in the workplace.
Campus diversity helps you think critically and teaches you how to effectively communicate with people from different backgrounds who might have different values or perspectives. Here’s what you should know as you evaluate each university’s diversity data.
Top 10 Most Diverse Colleges in the US
Want to learn more about campus diversity across colleges in the US? Download our list to see which US colleges host the most diverse student-body populations!
There isn’t a simple definition for “diversity” but in general, diversity refers to any “any dimension that can be used to differentiate groups and people from one another” while maintaining the “respect for and appreciation of [the] differences” (US HUD).
You should first understand the difference between nationality and citizenship. In simple terms, nationality refers to your place of birth (which country you were born in); it refers to your country of origin and is a legal identification of your belonging to a particular country (i.e. your passport). Citizenship refers to your legal status that is granted by a country’s government. For example, Sundar Pichai (CEO of Alphabet and Google) was born in India (an Indian national) but is currently a US citizen (as granted by the US government).
It’s also important to understand the difference between race and ethnicity, though both of these terms relate to human ancestry. They can both be broadly defined, but you can think of race as a group of people sharing similar physical traits, whereas ethnicity relates to large groups of people classed according to common racial, national, tribal, religious, linguistic, or cultural origin or background. The US government recognizes the following races: White, Black or African American, American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian, and Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander; it also recognizes two ethnicities: Hispanic or Latino and Not Hispanic or Latino.
Why diversity matters for international students
A student-university mismatch not only wastes valuable tuition dollars but also impacts student mental health; this is especially concerning for international students who already experience a high level of anxiety and depression during their early stages of study in the US. As an international student, campus diversity is an important factor to consider while building your college list. Click here to read more about dozens of other characteristics you should think about as you build your college list.
Moving to the US and adapting to a different culture can be difficult. While college is a great opportunity to experience different cultures and engage with students from different backgrounds, lack of sufficient diversity can have a significant impact on your student experience. Living so far away from your family and friends back home and adjusting to a new environment can be a steep slope to climb; sometimes it helps to surround yourself with students that really understand the challenges you encounter.
How should I evaluate campus diversity?
Universities often publish their enrollment and admissions statistics throughout their individual websites. Turning to datasets published by the Institute of Educational Sciences (IES) can also be helpful - you could use their College Navigator platform to research individual universities and look at diversity stats under the ‘Enrollment’ section for each university.
It helps to learn more about different cultural student organizations on campus. Universities have dedicated websites that list their active student-run campus organizations, but you can also look at Campus Labs to learn more about different student organizations at specific universities. Google “Campus Labs [University Name]” and usually the first link in your search result should take you to a list of student organizations for that university.
Don’t forget to research the demographics of the campus setting as well. Sometimes campuses can be a microcosm that don’t reflect the diversity of their physical location - local restaurant options are a great way to quickly understand how diverse a town or city might be.