higher ed

Is It Time College Applicants Are Asked to Voluntarily Share Their Sexuality?

The majority of American universities accept the Common Application, a standard form applicants can fill out once (and stay up all night) and send off to dozens of schools. So it’d be a pretty big deal if the most-used college application started quizzing students on their sexual orientation.

But that’s exactly what the board behind the Common Application are thinking of doing, Inside Higher Ed says.

The Common Application has conducted a nonbinding survey of its members and — while not releasing results — has indicated that the membership is split. (The association’s board will decide the question.)

The current Common Application simply gives two choices — male or female — on gender. Common Application officials have stressed that they will continue to ask that question, and to specify that applicants should check the box consistent with their birth certificates. That’s because colleges use some of the demographic data collected to meet federal reporting requirements, and single-sex institutions need to know that applicants are eligible for admission.

On the issue of sexual orientation, one proposal under consideration would feature a drop-down menu that would let students select gay/lesbian, bisexual, straight/heterosexual or “another identity” that could be listed. Another approach — if the organization adds a question on sexual orientation — is to simply provide a free text field and ask the question about orientation.

On the issue of gender identity, the Common Application is considering options that would explain why the male/female question must be asked consistent with federal reporting requirements, but which would then go on to tell applicants that if there is a word that better describes their identity beyond male or female, they are welcome to add that.

It sounds like a responsible way to tackle the issue while giving applicants a voluntary way to describe themselves. And it’s certainly help out those schools, like UPenn, that are actively trying to recruit LGBT students; no more taking cues from “high school drama club” and “member of gay-straight alliance.”