“Would you consider yourself a member of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) community?”
Elmhurst College, a private four-year institution in Illinois, made national headlines after including that question on its application this fall.
Amidst speculation by schools that more colleges may join Elmhurst in asking about LGBT status, GW’s top admissions administrator said last week that the University is hesitant to ask about the sexual orientation of its prospective students.
“Right now, I would be cautious about adding that question,” Associate Vice President and Dean for Undergraduate Admissions Kathy Napper said, noting that the sexual orientation of a student is not a consideration in admissions decisions, and asking for an applicant to reveal that orientation could increase the stress associated with college applications.
“To add this question could, for some students, add additional anxiety to the admissions process,” she said.
Napper distinguished between admissions criteria and recruitment techniques. While the University requires grades and SAT scores, it does not take transgender status or sexual orientation into account for admission. To be a diverse University, she said, GW hopes to attract members of a wide range of backgrounds, including the LGBT community, who will succeed at the University.
More than 90 percent of the University’s applicants use the Common Application, the leadership of which is mulling over the addition of an LGBT question.
Any participating institution may include an LGBT status question on its individual supplement to the standard application, Rob Killion, executive director of the Common Application Inc., said.
“Our Board considered adding a question to the Common Application proper, but for the time being has chosen to leave it to individual members to decide using their own supplements,” Killion said.
None of the more than 450 institutions using the application currently ask about sexual orientation on their supplements, although two include an option to disclose transgender status, he said.
Napper said applicants can demonstrate membership in the LGBT community through activities and essays without an explicit question.
Campus Pride, a national LGBT advocacy group, lobbies for an LGBT question to be added to the Common Application, according to a report this month by the Chronicle of Higher Education.
Elmhurst College is not a member of the Common Application consortium.
Blake Bergen, president of the University’s chapter of Allied in Pride, supports adding a question about sexual orientation to the application. He said it would demonstrate that the University is supportive and would better estimate the needs and resources allotted to the campus LGBT population.
“Students who identify themselves as LGBTQ will feel accepted and welcomed during such a critical time,” Bergen said. “It could only have a positive impact on those that need it.”
“Queer and questioning” students should also be included in the application question, Bergen said.