The Common Application Expands Gender Identity Options

Apr 25, 2016

The Common Application Expands Gender Identity Options

Starting in the upcoming 2016-2017 academic year, students applying to college through The Common Application will have the ability to express their gender identity in several ways including within the Profile page, optional free response text field, as well as in member colleges’ specific sections.

“The Common Application is not merely a collection of data points. It is, rather, a vehicle through which all students regardless of their background can express who they are. We want to make sure that all students have the ability to express themselves in the ways in which they feel most comfortable. We are now at a place where we believe we can make an adjustment that not only serves students, but also helps to meet the needs of member colleges and universities,“ said Gil Villanueva, Chair of the Board of Directors.  

"Adding a question that addresses gender identity is important for two reasons. First, it affords students the opportunity to be authentic in their application, which is something that we talk about often in the college choice process. Second, inviting students to identify as a gender different from what was assigned at birth, allows colleges to demonstrate their support for transgender students as well as their desire to have them join their campus community," said Aliza Gilbert, College Counselor, Highland Park High School (IL). 

The Common Application will offer an optional free response text field, to give students a place to further describe their gender identity. Additional areas within the application that will help students when asked about their gender identity:

·     Within the Profile screen, the sex question will be updated to “sex assigned at birth.”

·     New instructional information will be provided to better support students in understanding all of their available options.

·     Member colleges will still have the opportunity to ask additional questions in order to receive the data most needed for their individual campus process.

This change comes after an ongoing dialogue with member colleges and universities and in consultation with the Application Advisory Committee, comprised of member representatives, and the Outreach Advisory Committee, which is made up of high school and CBO counselors. "This will give transgender students the option to self identify on their college application if they chose to do so. With this information being asked on the application, transgender students will feel validated and acknowledged in a way that they never have been before, " said ​Renee Ferrerio​, Counselor, Northview High School (GA). 

In addition to conversations with Common App member colleges and universities, and transgender individuals, recommendations and best practices from respected organizations such as the Williams Institute were helpful in determining the most appropriate phrasing for the question. The intent in providing an optional free response text area was that it would provide students the opportunity -regardless of sex assigned at birth - to express their gender identity in the ways in which they felt most comfortable.

Students can create a Common Application account now to explore the Common App and learn more about the college admissions process. Common App accounts made will roll over to 2016-2017 and beyond. The answers for any of the questions that appear in the six sections of the “Common App” tab (Profile, Family, Education, Testing, Activities, and Writing) will be preserved. High school counselors can use Common App Ready, a flexible advising tool, to introduce students and families to the college preparation and application processes whenever is best for individual needs.