Common App To Increase Gender-Identity Options

High school applicants to Harvard will have more options to indicate their gender identity through the Common Application starting this summer.

The Common Application, the standardized admissions form used by Harvard and 624 other schools, announced on Monday that students will be asked to state their “sex assigned at birth” and have an additional free-response option to describe their gender identity. Colleges will also have the choice to ask more questions to receive clearer information on applicants’ gender.

These changes come in the wake of heightened attention to BGLTQ issues at Harvard, including the introduction of gender-neutral housing and bathrooms in all upperclassmen houses, as well as the option to choose preferred gender pronouns during registration.

Students lauded the proposed changes as an indication of increased administrative support for gender diversity on campus.

“The change is good. Recognizing that people have gender identities different than the sexes they were assigned at birth is critical,” W. Powell Eddins ’16 said. “It will also be helpful in helping the admissions committee get a fuller picture of each applicant, especially transgender applicants.”


Joshua D. Blecher-Cohen ’16, an intern at the Office of BGLTQ Student Life, said the changes are a “new step forward in including BGLTQ students in application process.”

“The changes allow admissions officers to be more attentive to the diversity of the applicant pool in the incoming class,” he said. “[They] really send the message that the college admissions process is proactively trying to be inclusive of transgender and gender nonconforming students.”

Despite agreeing that the changes are “a really positive and affirming step,” Noah R. Wagner ’18, who uses the pronoun they, said they were concerned about how institutions would use the information.

“It’s difficult for students to know whether institutions will use this information against them or rather, to include more diverse voices into school community,” Wagner said.

Similarly, Blecher-Cohen argued the changes were “only half of the way of where it should be.”

“Since 2010, advocates have been pushing for not just gender identity but also sexual orientation, and the recent change just doesn’t yet make it that far,” he said.

The Common Application changes follows ongoing conversation with participating schools, high school counselors, and Common Application Advisory Committee members, according to the application’s website.

—Staff Writer Jessica Min can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @jessmin17.


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