The Perks Of Being A College-Bound Gay (Kinda Sorta Maybe)

So, backstory: once upon not actually a super long time ago, I was an overachieving high school student at a high school for overachievers and it seemed really important to get into a fancy college for overachieving college students. In this kind of environment, a completely insane kind of collective obsession forms between you and everyone else you know where you keep track of each acceptance and rejection received by anyone you had ever met.

This included a sick kind of oppression-olympics calculus, like “Well even though _______ doesn’t speak Spanish at home her mom is still an Argentinian citizen, right, so probably that’s why she got into Stanford, but maybe if I include my essay on Assata Shakur as a writing sample someone will make assumptions about my ethnicity and I can get financial aid at Brown!” I was aware at the time that this was crazy and completely out of line, but at the same time couldn’t help wondering kind of petulantly why my particular marginal identity didn’t seem to “count,” why I couldn’t be awarded points in this weird contest for liking girls. Well, confused seventeen-year-old me, now you can! Maybe!

It seems like Ivy League schools may now be considering applicants’ queerness (albeit most particularly the intersection of queerness with their political or activist stance) when deciding who should receive the proportionately very few spots in their incoming classes. The University of Pennsylvania and Dartmouth have both begun specifically reaching out to applicants who have a clear interest in GLBT issues based on their resumes or personal essays. It’s confusing because it doesn’t seem like any colleges are volunteering their new Recruit Baby Queers plan, and it’s a little unclear how anyone knows that this program is happening in the first place.

Mention the idea that an LGBT student in some way gets extra admissions points to Jordan Pascucci, an admissions officer at Penn who’s a lesbian, and she disagrees. “Not at all,” she says. “The reality of it is that this outreach is no different than what already happens with almost every other group on campus. All the cultural resource centers do this already, and it’s a shame that it took so long to happen with the LGBT community.”

Furthermore, the article makes a point of saying that being gay only helps as much as, say, being the first in your family to attend college, so it’s not an equivalent to that status so coveted by angsty white academically elite seventeen-year-olds: Being A Student Of Color. We are told that “In some students’ cases sexual orientation can weigh in the admissions committee’s decision, depending on how much the student tries to disclose and how much is appropriate,” says Irena Smith, a private college consultant in Palo Alto, California. “But I think a student’s orientation would also need to feed into something either like a really strong sense of self-awareness or a willingness to organize politically and socially and form a support group or start a gay-straight alliance. I think admissions officers are more savvy than to just say, ‘Here’s an LGBT kid—we don’t have enough of those.’ 

What does this mean for the future of college-bound queers? It’s hard to say. Maybe this will make it easier, especially for gay kids from low-income areas who might find it hard to attend college otherwise, and for kids who need to leave their homophobic home communities and are counting on college to let them live more freely. Maybe this will ultimately change nothing about the sick one-upping that college application season always brings, and straight kids will just start joining GSAs to have the words on their resumes. Maybe this is an opportunity to reflect on how outrageous this process is anyways, and how ridiculous it is that for three months out of their lives ridiculously over-privileged people tear apart their marginalized friends and acquaintances for getting “special treatment.” How exciting! Let’s find out!

But of course the sad truth is that no matter what this may or may not say about the future of college admissions, it still doesn’t really change the landscape w/r/t what it feels like for a queer in college. Most colleges still aren’t that “gay-friendly” – less than 8% have LGBT-inclusive anti-discrimination policies – and even those that are fall pretty short of our ideal. A just-released study on gays in college reveal that a quarter of them have experienced harassment, and when looking at only transgender students that number rises to almost 40%. More than half said they hide their sexual or gender identity to avoid intimidation. Campus Pride’s study says that one-third of students have considered leaving their schools because of the “challenging climate.”

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Originally from Boston, MA, Rachel now lives in the Midwest. Topics dear to her heart include bisexuality, The X-Files and tacos. Her favorite Ciara video is probably "Ride," but if you're only going to watch one, she recommends "Like A Boy." You can follow her on twitter and instagram.

Rachel has written 1142 articles for us.

25 Comments

  1. I wrote my college admissions essay on being gay because I too was an overachieving student at a high school for overachievers and I was desperately searching for my own “oppressed minority”. I was obsessed with getting into a fancy college. And I figured that my gayness was the only thing that would push me over the edge so I just went with it.

    We’ve actually have conversations with administration at Barnard and Columbia about reaching out to queer students when they apply to our schools. I’m not sure what they’re doing about that now though. Although the freshman class this year seems especially gay so perhaps Columbia has some sort of gaydar that I don’t know about.

  2. I mentioned being a queer youth in my admission essay to UMN. And did I think it put some point in my favor? Yes, absolutely. But I made sure to get involved in the GBLTA programs office, just so I didn’t use ‘affirmative action’.

  3. I am applying to college this year and being gay is the only thing I can think of for those questions that every supplement seems to have about how you are a minority. I guess in a way I’m thankful for it because I’m only applying to liberal schools in the Northeast, but at the same time I feel like I’m somehow exploiting my gayness.

  4. i’ve considered writing about being gay for my essay, but i’m not really certain i’ll go with it. i’m one of those overachievers at a high school for overachievers, but i don’t know- it just doesn’t seem like the most eye-catching thing in the sea of essays that’ll inevitably be sent along by my peers. and, hell, i’m going to need as much eye-catching-ness as i can get with going pre-dental, right?

    it frustrates me how we get so caught up in the frenzy of college applications. at least there’s a small comfort in knowing our GSA won’t get a huge influx of students joining just to put another item on their resume- but that’s only because we have a metric fuckton of academic clubs to boot. i can’t imagine what applying to dental school will be like…

  5. oh penn, how awesomely gay you are. ironically, i know someone else (besides the woman quoted) who works in admissions who’s a lez.

    i was out in college but not part of the penn scene at all -and it definitely hadnt factored into my college decision bc id had no idea when i entered that two years later, id be kissing girls and trying to sweet talk the bouncers at Sisters (which never worked, btw). that being said, penn’s lgbt community had (has?) a pretty large presence and was well accepted by the student body. i had gay friends (boys and girls) in frats and sororities, and it just wasnt that big of a deal.

    i dont know if the lgbt thing should be your number one criteria for attending a school, but knowing that there’s somewhat of a community there – whether or not you choose to be a part of it – is really nice. id argue the same for living in a city like SF – it’s not that everthing and everyone needs to be gay, but to just be able to be yourself, without regard to what someone walking by or at the table next to you or in lecture hall alongside you might think? to have it be a complete non issue? god that feels great.

  6. A classmate of mine at Smith College once actually complained about how she felt marginalized as a straight woman on campus. I shit you not.

    Needless to say my college bound queers, if you can somehow swing the outrageous tuition, consider Smith College. Otherwise, just swing through on your college’s rugby, crew, soccer, or lacrosse team and make some Smithie girl a happy camper for the weekend ;)

  7. This admissions essay seems really weird to me. I didn’t have to write one – applied, showed them my highschool marks (which would have been WAY HIGHER if high school had been at all a decent place for a fifteen year old homogay), paid an advance deposit, and BAM, got in.

    So, uh, for you USA-autostraddlers, what’s this essay thing about? Is it, like, an explanation of why you deserve higher education? Is it a chance to dazzle scholarship funds with how amazing you are? I’m pretty confused about the whole thing.

    • it can be pretty much anything, really. we’ve got things like a common application, which lets you use one standard app and send it to multiple colleges- that’ll let you write on practically any topic you want. other than that, colleges will ask you to write about personal memories, an issue that you have feelings about, why you want to attend that particular college, so on and so forth. the better your essay is & the more it stands out, the greater your chances of getting in.

      i completely envy you for not having to write one- you’re definitely not missing out! the entire process slowly sucks your soul, if colleges were dementors and we were all just little wizards & witches trying to make it through our final year at hogwarts. we’re not, sadly, else i’d be chugging butterbeer until graduation.

    • This was my experience…applying to school was not as crazy as it is for the Americans I know. I submitted my marks, and had to write one essay for this one school (and it was the only school that made me do that). I was never an overachiever, but I still got into everything I wanted to and my marks weren’t as good as they have to be in the States for a well-known liberal arts college.

  8. “Most colleges still aren’t that “gay-friendly” – less than 8% have LGBT-inclusive anti-discrimination policies …A just-released study on gays in college reveal that a quarter of them have experienced harassment, and when looking at only transgender students that number rises to almost 40%…. Campus Pride’s study says that one-third of students have considered leaving their schools because of the “challenging climate.”

    Woah. This makes me incredibly shocked/sad/annoyed.

    Come to England guys, my University loves the gays. You can sleep on my floor :)

  9. “I was an overachieving high school student at a high school for overachievers and it seemed really important to get into a fancy college for overachieving college students. In this kind of environment, a completely insane kind of collective obsession forms between you and everyone else you know where you keep track of each acceptance and rejection received by anyone you had ever met.”

    Did you go to the same high school I did?

  10. Okay, kind of unrelated, but can I just say “straight kids joining GSAs” isn’t a bad thing? For the purpose of getting into a certain school, of course it’s awful, but there’s a reason It’s a Gay-STRAIGHT Alliance. Straight kids are supposed to be there.

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