Elmhurst application asks for sexual and gender orientation

In historical news, Elmhurst College in Elmhurst, Il., has become the first college in the entire nation to ask incoming students about their sexual orientation and gender identity on their college application.

The question, “Would you consider yourself to be a member of the LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender] community?”, with response selections of “yes”, “no” and “prefer not to answer”, appears with other optional questions on the liberal arts school’s 2012-2013 application for enrollment.

But surprisingly enough, Elmhurst was not expecting to make headlines with their ground breaking addition; the college simply wanted to address the gap in both scholarships and services available to incoming students who identified as LGBT.

The college assures applicants’ responses to the questions will bear no weight in determining their likelihood of admission, and instead will serve as a better tool to identify prospective students as underrepresented groups. This recognition of LGBT youth as a minority group will give the institution more opportunities to distribute additional scholarships.

Incoming students and transfers who answer “yes” may be eligible for scholarships worth almost one-third of Elmhurst’s entire tuition and receive information about LGBT interest groups and organizations on campus. As the Dean of Admissions Gary Rold, stated in an interview with the Chicago Sun Times, “Increasing diversity is part of our {school’s} mission statement; this is simply closing the loop, in many ways, of another group who has a very strong identity. It may not be race and religion but it’s an important part of who they are.”

Rold reasoned being aware of students’ sexual orientation would help school officials better understand their incoming students and ready themselves to provide services and groups that might assist in easier transitions to college life.

USC could learn quite a bit from Elmhurst College. For example, The LGBT Resource Center, which sponsors academic, educational, social programs and advocacy services for the entire campus community, along with Program Board’s Queer and Ally Student Assembly, work tirelessly on campus, to ensure students are aware of both the events and programming they provide.

However, incoming students and transfers could be losing out on scholarship opportunities. The USC  Lambda LGBT Alumni Association awards scholarships to “incoming, undergraduate, and graduate USC students who show a commitment to the LGBT community, regardless of gender or sexual identity,” according to their website.

The specific scholarship information is available online, but if one was not directed towards the site initially, they could be missing out on enrollment-deciding financial aid, that could have otherwise been forwarded to them if a simple box was checked on their college application.