Common App Again Changes Its Language

More changes to the application are designed to better serve transgender population.

March 7, 2022

Last year, the Common Application announced changes to better serve transgender students. The application added a question to provide applicants with the option to share their preferred first name, added a pronoun question that gives students the option to select multiple options or add their pronoun set, and shifted the presentation of a question from “sex” to “legal sex” to reduce student confusion. (Colleges are required to ask students’ legal name and sex to meet reporting laws.)

Now the Common App is making additional changes to accommodate transgender applicants.

Beginning with the 2022–23 application season, the Common App will add “Mx.” and “other” options for counselor, parent, recommender, teacher and adviser prefix options, as well as add “legal” to the first/given name question label. And beginning in the 2023–24 application season, Common App will add “X” or “another legal sex” as an option in addition to “female” and “male.”

“These shifts represent the next step in an ongoing effort to create an equitable, just and inclusive college admission process for all students—no matter how they identify,” said Jenny Rickard, president and chief executive officer of the Common App. “In order to fulfill the promise of higher education as a pathway to economic opportunity, it’s incumbent upon colleges, universities and organizations at every step of the admission experience to remove barriers that may prevent students from pursuing the next step in their educational journey.”

The change also was praised by Campus Pride, a group that focuses on gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students in higher education.

“These changes represent a holistic, intersectional approach to all students and allows campuses to take responsibility for trans and nonbinary students,” said Shane Windmeyer, CEO and executive director of Campus Pride. “At a time when trans youth are being targeted across the country in the most inhumane ways, the Common App announcement sends a clear message that trans people deserve recognition, respect, and, most importantly, their inclusion and safety matters.”

The Common App will also expand the question about eligibility for the fee waiver the service offers. It will list all of the criteria for getting a fee waiver, having heard that some who qualify for the waiver aren’t applying.

Other Applications

While the Common App has the largest number of U.S. colleges that accepts its application for admissions, with more than 900 members, it does have competition. The other application services are also working to make their applications more inclusive and welcoming for transgender students.

The Coalition for College’s application last year made a series of changes, according to Amanda Waite, its director of communications. Under pronouns, the choices now include “they, them, theirs” and “my pronouns aren’t listed.”

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And after a question about student’s legal sex, there is another question, on gender identity. Students may pick from “woman,” “man,” “nonbinary,” “additional gender category” and “prefer not to disclose.”

The Universal College Application also has made changes for transgender applicants. It asks applicants for both their “legal name” and “preferred name.” And it asks applicants their legal sex and their gender identity. For the latter question, applicants may select “man,” “woman” or they may self-identify (and give another answer).

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Scott Jaschik

Scott Jaschik, Editor, is one of the three founders of Inside Higher Ed. With Doug Lederman, he leads the editorial operations of Inside Higher Ed, overseeing news content, opinion pieces, career advice, blogs and other features. Scott is a leading voice on higher education issues, quoted regularly in publications nationwide, and publishing articles on colleges in publications such as The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, Salon, and elsewhere. He has been a judge or screener for the National Magazine Awards, the Online Journalism Awards, the Folio Editorial Excellence Awards, and the Education Writers Association Awards. Scott served as a mentor in the community college fellowship program of the Hechinger Institute on Education and the Media, of Teachers College, Columbia University. He is a member of the board of the Education Writers Association. From 1999-2003, Scott was editor of The Chronicle of Higher Education. Scott grew up in Rochester, N.Y., and graduated from Cornell University in 1985. He lives in Washington.

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