Name, GPA and sexual preference

Do you consider yourself to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender? This question is appropriate not only for Match.com but also for college applications.

Elmhurst College in Chicago just released their 2012-2013 student application, and in addition to answering questions about extracurricular activities and ethnic backgrounds, students can now answer a question about sexual orientation. For past applicants, seeing this question on a college application could have caused a major ink splatter, jaw drop or maybe even an outbreak of nervous perspiration. Despite the fact that it has never been seen on any past college applications, it is a major leap for the future of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community and diversity in general.

What exactly does this question have to do with being accepted to college? Everything.

By allowing students to identify themselves with the LGBT community before being accepted to college, doors of opportunity are automatically opened. Students could be referred to LGBT clubs on campus and feel instantly more comfortable in their own skin before attending orientation.

Students already identify with their racial, religious, and socio-economic groups on applications and the question of sexual orientation should not be thought of any differently. This designation will also expand the number of people who qualify for diversity related funds. Scholarships and financial aid are always awarded to underrepresented groups at any college or university. With the addition of this question, LGBT students are included as minority groups, thus making them eligible to receive diversity scholarships.

Hopefully, Elmhurst will be the first of many colleges and universities to include the sexual orientation question on their applications. Students who choose to answer the question (the Elmhurst application does include a “prefer not to answer” choice) will automatically be exposed to the presence of a community they may have been embarrassed or apprehensive to look in to. This could ultimately influence their decision to accept or decline admission to the school.

Knowing how many incoming students identify with the LGBT community gives the school a chance to play up the presence of the group on campus and make it a more attractive recruiting point. Think of it like your major. You would never choose a school that did not provide the major you want to study, so why would you choose one where perhaps not all of your lifestyle is embraced? Although the LGBT community is much more of a personal concern than a field of study, you can see the comfort it creates knowing that such an important aspect of your life is openly represented on a campus.

Unfortunately, not everyone feels the same way about the installment of a sexual orientation question. Some may feel that sexual orientation should never cross paths with academics and are offended by the question. It could also be confusing for students who are uncertain of their sexual preference and this could cause even more anxiety than is already associated with the application process.

College is said to be a time to “find yourself” and allowing students to identify with the LGBT community on a college application encourages this in every way.

— Caroline Nachazel is a junior studying journalism and communications. She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.


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