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What Is DEI and Why Does It Matter in My College Search?

The college search involves considering a whole host of factors, including a school's DEI initiatives. This is what to know about DEI from an expert.

Ciera GrahamDr. Ciera Graham
K–12 Manager
City of Seattle
DEI stands for diversity, equity, and inclusion—and it plays an important role in shaping a college’s cultural and social climate. A campus that values DEI is able to recruit and retain students of color, LGBTQ+ students, students with disabilities and learning differences, and others who represent historically underrepresented identities. Each of the terms are defined as follows:
Diversity refers to a person’s social identities, which can include race, sex, gender, religion, disability, class, national origin, etc.

  • Equity acknowledges that those who face systemic injustices need additional resources to ensure everyone can achieve the same outcome.
  • Inclusion means people feel welcomed, validated, and affirmed and that all students feel comfortable and able to participate in all aspects of campus life.

When you start your college search, ask the following questions to learn how committed a campus is to diversity, equity, and inclusion:

  • How many students of color are on campus?
  • Does the campus have gender-neutral restrooms or campus housing?
  • Is the campus accessible for students with disabilities?
  • Does the campus celebrate a variety of cultural events or holidays?

Colleges and universities that value DEI are more likely to have a diverse student body and faculty as well as academic offerings like cultural and ethnic studies. Diversity in the classroom has shown to improve students’ cultural awareness and academic performance. Additionally, colleges that value DEI have programs and/or scholarships that support diverse students, like TRIO Programs or clubs focused on students’ social identities and lived experiences. Having access to these programs provides students the opportunity to build relationships with their peers and receive additional academic and financial resources to succeed in college.

Need help finding schools that value diversity? We have a bunch of great lists of featured diverse colleges to start exploring!

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