College Admissions

Penn Puts Gay Box on Application

The University of Pennsylvania last week became the first school to announce that it will provide a spot on its application for students to indicate their sexual orientation. Is this a good idea? There seem to be some obvious objections—for example, hypercompetitive students will simply lie about their sexual orientations if they think it will give them an edge. But Gabriel Arana raises some more interesting points at the American Prospect: “[S]tudents who are out in high school live in communities that are more tolerant. Statistically, these communities are more educated, less religious, wealthier, and whiter. Having grown up in a conservative, largely Hispanic community on the U.S.-Mexico border, I would not have felt comfortable identifying as gay on college applications. So if the intention is to recruit gay students, the effect will be felt only by the subset of gay applicants who, at 18, feel comfortable identifying as such. It really becomes a proxy for other demographic attributes that on the whole are largely indicative of privilege.” Furthermore, Arana points out that elite schools like Penn already have large and active LGBT communities—in general, they don’t face the same problems in attracting gay students than they do with students of racial minorities.