When admissions officers read early decision applications throughout the next month, they will be keeping an eye for indicators of sexual orientation.
Jordan Pascucci , Office of Admissions Associate Dean of Recruitment , specifically trains admissions staff on how to “read” LGBTQ applicants’ applications. Unlike ethnicity, the Common App does not have a section to specify an applicant’s sexual orientation.
“As we read an application, we tag students who self-identify as part of the LGBT community or as strong allies,” she said. Contrary to admission staff’s expectation that most of the “tagged” students would be allies, three-fourths of the tagged students are themselves self-identified LGBTQ.
In addition to identifying LGBTQ students, Pascucci trains admission officers to be aware of the environment and available resources on campus for LGBTQ students. She also holds additional sessions and fact-checking quizzes on gender-specific knowledge and terms that may be unfamiliar to th e officers.
Bob Schoenberg , the director of the LGBT center , said that he wants admissions officers also to be aware of more subtle indications of LGBTQ identity in applications. “We realized that there must be applicants who are self-identifying in some ways that we weren’t noticing,” he said. “It is not always as explicit as saying ‘I’m gay.’”
When Pascucci first joined the Office of Admissions in 2007, there was already a liaison between the LGBT Center and the admissions office. However, her experience as an active member of the LGBT community in Philadelphia made her a good candidate to take over as the Admissions’ dedicated LGBTQ staff person when the position opened. Other cultural resource centers also have dedicated Admissions staff liaisons.
The data on incoming students who are self-identified LGBTQ also allows the center to reach out to the incoming students before they arrive at Penn. The center had previously been unable to reach out to those students, Schoenberg said.
Since 2010 when the tracking of LGBTQ applicants started, the Office of Admissions has seen huge growth in the number of LGBTQ or ally applicants, plus a 152 percent jump in those admitted and 270 percent jump in accepted applicants who ultimately matriculate.
Pascucci said the increase is attributable to both the Office of Admissions’s effort and Penn’s reputation as an LGBT-friendly university. “We are one of the few universities that has a dedicated space for LGBT issues,” she said.
She added that through the tagging process, the office has been able to bring in active LGBTQ students and connect them to opportunities at Penn. This goes back to the overall objective the office has in evaluating and selecting the applicants.
“We’re looking for a diverse class of greatest achievement and promise,” Dean of Admissions Eric Furda said. “This is a very methodical, thoughtful, sometimes highly analytical and subjective process, and that’s our responsibility.”