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Across the country, universities often try to connect current students with applicants who have academics or demographics in common. Now, according to USA Today, the University of Pennsylvania among the first colleges in the nation known to specifically target LGBT applicants, asking prospective students about their sexual orientation and matching those identified as LGBT with members of the campus gay group.
Eric Furda, dean of admissions at the university, says it's simply an extension of the outreach already offered to students.
"We are speaking to students on the areas that they are most interested in," he said of the program. Admitted applicants who identify as gay or express interest in what the school offers LGBT students may be put in touch with current students who are members of Lambda Alliance, the umbrella gay student organization at Penn. Dartmouth College officials told USA Today their school has a similar effort.
Some voices from academia welcomed such programs. Jack Miner, chair of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgendered Caucus of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, said that "speaking to someone who knows this firsthand could make a huge difference for students deciding where to go."
National gay student advocacy group Campus Pride also praised the move. Founder Shane L. Windmeyer saids Campus Pride is preparing to ask Common Application, used by almost 400 colleges across the country, to add a similar, voluntary question to its applications.
Common Application executive director Rob Killion said he isn't sure how the board would react, but he added that all users must abide by the Common Application nondiscrimination policy, which includes sexual orientation.
Interest has been high from other colleges and universities, but they are watching to see how such outreach is received. As Miner observed, "Schools are hesitant to be the first."