Common app adds questions for transgender students

The Common App today announces a series of changes to make the app more inclusive for transgender applicants. The application:

  • Add a question to give candidates the option to share their preferred first name.
  • Add a question about pronouns to give students the option of selecting multiple times or adding a set of pronouns.
  • Move the presentation from a question of “sex” to “legal sex” to reduce student confusion.

The changes are all designed with ways in which some candidates will not feel left out. The latest change is designed to replace an earlier effort to include trans students. The app asked about ‘sex at birth’. This question ignored the fact that some trans students had had their legal status changed when they applied to college. The question was first changed to ‘sex’ and will now be changed to ‘legal sex’.

Jenny Rickard, CEO of Common App, said the association has told its members that “we will not be neutral” and will look for ways to reach a range of populations who have not always felt welcome.

Since then, the joint application has put an end to the question about high school disciplinary records, frequently finding them to be racially biased. And the joint application has decided to no longer question veterans about their release status.

The new changes aren’t the first time the Common App has tried to be inclusive for transgender students. It added a text box in 2016 where students could voluntarily explain their gender identity. Over 69,000 students did so last year, out of a total of over one million who applied.

But Rickard said a survey of admissions officials found many wanted something more specific and some students didn’t understand the question.

“We hope that students who don’t identify as male or female will be able to see that it’s okay,” Rickard said. She added that most admissions officials said they were interested in the information not for admissions but for student registration.

She said if a Common App member college doesn’t agree with the new policies, it doesn’t need to use the information the questions get.

Keygan Miller, senior advocacy associate for the Trevor Project, a suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ youth, praised the new Common App policy and said it did not was not exaggerating when she said she could save lives.

Transgender and non-binary youth attempted suicide at half the normal rates when their preferred pronouns were used, they said (Miller’s preferred pronoun).

“The big problem here is adding it as a formal question – that says I have a place here,” Miller said. And if a college shares information about admitted students with other professionals at a college, it can help them too. “It affects the way they enter space on day one,” they said.

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