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Through our very own editors and guest writers, this blog will discuss the INSIDE scoop on the admissions process of various schools and programs. If you wish to ask a specific question, please write to us, and we will make every attempt to address your questions in our future blog discussions.
Friday, February 3, 2017
When College Application Information Gets Too Personal
Over the past several years, American universities have begun creating space for something new on their entrance applications: gender identity. The space takes different forms. Duke University earned recognition for offering an optional essay prompt inviting students to discuss things such as gender identity and cultural influences, on the premise that students may want to share other dimensions of their self-identification.

Last Spring, the Common Application-used by over 400 universities and colleges-announced that it would be introducing an optional essay question that would allow students to discuss their gender identity. They even begun to include a drop-down menu option (also optional), where students could enter their "sex assigned at birth".

Dozens of universities have followed suit across the nation. In California, all community colleges and California State University campuses invite student-applicants to designate one of several gender and sex identities.

For LGTBIA students and their allies, these options create a safe space and an invitation to discuss the ways in which being gender non-conforming affects their approach to their worlds.

But the news hasn't been universally welcome. College admissions is competitive, and some critics see these new identity options as a threat to the neutrality of the system. They worry that gender non-conforming students may be given preference in admissions. They fear that gender identity-like race-could be used by colleges to populate a diverse student body.

By most external metrics, colleges rely most heavily on grades and test scores in making admissions decisions; essays can tip the scale for students on the bubble. Beyond that is anyone's guess.

College admissions is still inherently opaque. No one knows exactly why some students are admitted and others aren't. It isn't and cannot be a scientific process. So people speculate, and worry that someone will be given an unfair advantage.

This is the nature of the competitive game, and it isn't always pretty.

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