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College Application Question: Please help

Discussion in 'Gender Identity and Expression' started by ErickWolf, May 10, 2018.

  1. ErickWolf

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    So I'm doing an early decision to William ando Mary, and while it isn't due until November 1st, I really need this cleared up so it doesn't bother me for months on end. So I don't know much about the college application process, but how would I go about coming out, or dropping a hint, in my essay or something without my parents knowing? I feel like anything I write without my real story is going to a bunch of lame bull, and it wouldn't be authentic.

    That college is very lgbt friendly and has several incredibly helpful and amazing policies for inclusiveness to transgender or otherwise non-cis people. Only problem is, I'm not out to my parents and won't come out to them until college unless something radically changes; as of now, I will not change my stance on that. I don't need to cause any disasters in the house I'm still gonna be living in for another year. Anyway, I'm considering writing a bull-but-believable and well-written essay to my parents, a decoy so to speak, but having a secret different one (the one I'm actually sending to the college) saved in my documents as well. I could hopefully tell my parents that I want to do the application on my own, and thanks for their help but it's my responsibility and my job alone in the end, and hopefully that or something similar should do it.

    I already have a general idea, one where I could write about the impacts of my diverse (international studies, has a gsa, etc) school, and my volunteer work experiences and school friendships, have had on making me a better person, expanding my worldview, making me more open minded (thought I need to figure out how to do that bit without it seeming like I was ever closed minded or competely ignorant of the world or anything, as that was never the case, but it did make me a better person and open me up to a lot of real issues in the world). But it wouldn't really be complete without a part about my experiences as a trans person and how it's made me connect with people who have hardships of some kind in their life and how it's made me truly think about what most people take for granted...being able to simply be recognized as themselves with no one much as batting an eye at them, being able to live authentically, being able to live without fear or depression or dysphoria gnawing at them every day (the fear of being outed before you're ready, the instability and insecurity of that, and the instability and insecurity that comes wih living as a trans person, everything from finances and housing to job apps or legal forms, to simply being able to shop at the friggin grocery store without your legal name still ruining things until you change it...the list can go on and on), how all of that can drag a person down and beat them into the ground on a daily basis but make them stronger if they can overcome it, being able to have the basic and much-overlooked human right of simply being called by your correct name and pronouns without any crap or struggles for it...all that is what will really make my application have an impact. I can truly pour my heart into it. If I've dealt with all the crap that comes with being trans for nearly 18 years (and will deal with it, in varying degrees, for several years more until I'm fully transitioned and out...it's 24/7 and until I'm transitioned, and maybe even a bit then for the rest of my life, it's 24/7 and has no such thing as giving you a break. That's some heavy crap and it's certainly impacted me enough to write quite a lot about it), I will sure as hell use it to my advantage. I don't mean making a stupid overdone sob story, but a true and deep story about how my experiences have affected me and opened my mind and made me stronger. This is becoming long but see, I will have zero problem knowing what to write, I just need to know how to go about it without being outed to my parents.

    Anyway, how could I go about doing this? Does my current plan sound ok, do yall have any plan b's or a completely different approach, etc? Also, is my general idea ok but maybe I should tone it down a bit, or should I go for full impact and write honestly, openly, emotionally, etc about it? I don't want to dump a whole book on them but at the same time I don't want it be lacking in any way.

    If there's any weird typos, I'm typing from mobile, so it's probably autocorrect lol.
     
    #1 ErickWolf, May 10, 2018
    Last edited: May 10, 2018
  2. emerry

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    No, don't do that. They don't really want to hear your story. It is an essay they will grade. They will check out points you fulfil or not. This is supposed to be an advertisement of your person, not an authentic expression of self, no matter what they tell you. Listen, I got through the college essay part, I never mentioned anything lgbt. This is not a situation where you want to expose your real feelings. The people who read this are going to be like your parents or teachers, so give something you will not have any doubts giving any of them to proofread and suggest something.
     
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  3. Aussie792

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    To be fairly blunt, unless your experiences from your gender identity have lead to you doing something like community work (given you're not out, I imagine that's not the case) the person receiving your application is more likely to be put off than anything else.

    Universities want to accept students who will be significant contributors to the community and low burdens. There is definitely a way to make challenges inspiring. But the university needs to feel that you have developed skills as a result of those experiences that will make you a better student. They want to be sure you're not going to be more trouble than it's worth. A tiny personal background, of less than a sentence, related explicitly and relevantly to why you've done something resume-appropriate is just about all you can afford in that regard.

    If you give a laundry list of all the reasons your life is hard because of who you are, rather than transferable skills given to you by your response to particular experiences, the marker will likely get a negative impression. Even if they are very pro-trans, they just will have no idea why you're telling them about that. At best, it just won't be credited as a reason for accepting your application. At worst, it will cast doubt on your judgement and reasoning and waste valuable words.

    I don't want to dismiss your passion out of hand. You are right. You've been through something most people almost never turn their mind to, something character-building which likely has given you a greater sense of empathy and compassion.

    But it's not something you should put into this essay. Most people who get into good universities do not do so because they recount the ordeals they've been through.Those who do prove they've gained tangible skills and are not a mental health or social liability the university will not want to deal with. These decision-makers are pressed for time and usually face institutional cultures of avoiding creating more pastoral care work and social liability for the university.
     
    #3 Aussie792, May 10, 2018
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  4. emerry

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    Yeah, exactly.

    I'd just say something more neutral. What I wrote about: helping other students with study, some volunteering events/clubs at school - that shows you can work with others, sports club and musical instruments that show I can participate in community activities, learning French as a hobby and summer schools that show that I learn out of my own initiative and succeed. I did not have that but you can include a description of your work experience that shows that you are capable of being committed and responsible. That being said, an extracurricular activity you participed in for a lenght of time (years) is a good way to show commitment and endurance. If you were in an organisational commitee for some school events or in the student council or class treasurer - that is worth describing, because you are contributing to the community.

    This is what kind of stuff they are looking for. What personality traits and soft skills make you a good student and community member. Don't hesitate to mention somewhere your hard skills that are extracurricular if you have them as well, the more, the more impressive. So if you are a musical school graduate or if you can speak several languages fluently and have certificates, if you won a competition, be it sports, academics, art - mention it. They look for people like that, for successful learners. And if you are passionate about learning or eager about participating in the school community - probably this is what they mean about "your real feelings".

    I'd even say gender and sexual orientation inhabit somewhere in the "destructive teenage phases and leftist politics" area, which might put some people off. You might come across as a "hippie" or a "punk" - which is not the best choice when it comes to college admissions officers, they might think it is a distraction from school or going overboard with "teenage phases". As a bit more experienced, a couple years older trans person, I can tell you that gender is a topic rarely mentioned, rather when you go out for a coffee or a beer with a friend and exchange all kinds of gossip and other "nonsense". In college/job? Irrelevant. Unless you look like one gender and want the pronouns or a typical name of the other and insist on the college staff and classmates/ collegues to call you that, not just friends and family. Even if it seems of utmost importance to you now.
     
    #4 emerry, May 11, 2018
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  5. DRobs

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    I went to private baptist college and believe my essay got me into the school. My horrible grades sure didn't. The college accepted me with the caveat that I keep a C average my 1st year. I kept a 3.0 the whole time I was there and graduated in 3.5 years.
     
    #5 DRobs, May 11, 2018
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  6. Flynn S

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    I don't know if W&M still has the same essay for the next round of applicants, but last year (incoming class of 2022) they had a "tell us about yourself" essay. I'd say that may be the best place to discuss your identity and experiences, especially since they led you to get involved in all sorts of stuff in your school, community, etc. (I saw in one of your other threads you had your school change its traditionally sexist grad gown policy - I think that's awesome!).

    A friend of mine when applying to schools wrote about his experiences as being gay. I'm not sure what school the essay was for or if he got in, but I think it was important to him that the school knew about that essential part of him.

    Remember, W&M is a small school, they put A LOT of emphasis on uniqueness and personality.

    Sure, if you just told them you are trans and said nothing else they might wonder what your point was. But it's just like anything else in an essay - if someone wrote about being adopted or being the only racial minority kid at their school or playing a sport - it's about what that characteristic means to you and how it affected you. They want to see personal growth, maturity, how you overcome barriers in your life. They are trying to get a sense of who you are and how you react to difficult situations. The more selective US universities are looking for more than just good test scores, grades, and extracurriculars because you're not just joining their school but their community.

    This might end up doing more harm than good. There will be many, many, many applicants to W&M this coming fall and I guarantee you most of them will be at the top of their class and have great extracurriculars. If you don't differentiate yourself from them, you'll fall into the crowd of 'decent but not extraordinary.' That's not to say you should use your identity as an 'I'm different, therefore special' token, but rather craft your essays to show why you do the things you do - your motives, passions, aspirations.

    To answer your original question, writing an alternative essay might be a good idea but only if you have the time. You could also just tell them that it is personal and ask them to respect your privacy. When I was filling out my applications, one of the essays I wrote was rather personal so when my mother asked to read my essays I told her there was only four (there were actually five) and left it at that.
     
  7. ErickWolf

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    I'm kind of conflicted about what to put on that stupid form - it's very sad that they would actually be put off by, or not care about, me as a person (I guess I thought that was the whole point of the essay, and that the resume type crap was a separate thing). I haven't done many extracurriculars, partly because of my being trans (some of you might say it's stupid not to, and that I should've just sucked it up and joined sports and forced myself to fake being a girl and compete as a girl, but I couldn't do that to myself...in figure skating I was really talented but part of the reason I had to stop was that competing as a girl felt like a forced, fake, drag show and it kinda ruined the whole purpose of skating for me, which was to have fun and have something to work at, but without doing crap to myself). But - I'm in the National High School Slavic Languages Honor Society (I'll get officially inducted May 21st and I'll be co-president b/c only two of us are in it), I've won a bronze medal in the Russian National Essay Contest, I volunteer at an animal shelter, and while I don't have *complete* straight A's, I've had mostly A's and a B or B+ here and there throughout basically my entire school career. I got a 1260 on the SAT the first time I took it but I'm taking it again to get a 1300 or higher, hopefully. I hope this stuff counts. I'm not one of those people who does *every goddamn thing on the planet* but I like to think that the things I do have will count and will count for as much as, or more than, the usual stuff because they're either very unique or they truly make the world a better place. I like to think I've made a lot of dogs' day at the shelter, and we got all three of the family dogs there as well (and we surely saved the lives of at least 2 of our three when we adopted them, because the latter two were not likely to get adopted due to age and health [Luci] or in bad health [Wil]. Luci's an elderly dog and was sadly overlooked - all those peoples' loss! She went from what my parents thought was doggie hospice to having lived years past her expectation and having an amazing, funny, quirky, adorable personality and lots of energy and joy, especially considering that she was injured and neglected, neglected both by her previous owner and the prospective adoptors. Wil was starving when we first got him, all his ribs and his hips and cheekbones sticking out, and he was so timid - we think he'd been abused. Now he's plump, happy, energetic, a total goofball, and just a happy, gentle, great dog to be around, and he really opened up to us and is less afraid of people now. Just because it only feels right to add this last part, no part of their bad condition was due to the shelter; the shelter is full of amazing people and is a no-kill shelter, it's very clean and well-maintained, and the employees there do stuff like spend the night to comfort the dogs if there's bad weather, etc.).

    I think as far as the essay, I might do something kind of in the middle. I might not outright mention that I'm trans (when I get into the college I definitely will though; not only is part of my reason for going to this college because they're trans-friendly and more so than even other LGBT friendly colleges I looked at...the any gender bathrooms with showers, all over campus?? I've never heard of that, that's more than I thought I could hope for in any college. I've personally emailed someone there with trans-related questions, and their site features several inclusiveness policies, and they seem proud of that fact. So I'd like to think that they wouldn't be negatively biased towards me for being trans but I guess you never know, it's just very sad if that's the case). At the very least, I'll write about the gown and yearbook changes I've been pushing for (and the fact that the gown change was successful), and I have an electronic copy of the petition as proof in case I should include that. I might drop a hint of some sort about my identity but not say it outright, or otherwise I'll just keep it a secret until I'm accepted into the college. Sad and frankly disgusting, if that's what I have to do, but if I have to do it, well, at least I have the gown thing and the other stuff to talk about.

    I really like to believe that they care about me as a person beyond the test scores, grades, and extracurriculars (how the heck do they differentiate all the applicants?). I'll be careful when it comes time for me to write it, and I might post a draft on here to see what people think before submitting a final application. I get that it's my job and my responsibility, but it gets old having to do things alone, and this is obviously a case where some help would be greatly appreciated, and where any second opinions on it would definitely be a wise idea.

    I'm a bit worried about falling into the decent but not extraordinary category, or maybe somewhere a bit above decent but not quite 'perfect' or whatever. But the Russian stuff this year should hopefully help for sure (and help with the uniqueness part because not many people are in SLAVA or have straight A's in an arguably hard language or win a medal in a national essay contest in a foreign language before even taking much of my 3rd year Russian class - the contest was near the beginning of the year). I think all these recent developments, as well as how I've been doing in general in school, should help, but sometimes it just feels like if you don't have straight A+++s and do every activity ever, you're 'not good enough', and you're just a piece of paper that gets tossed like trash without a second thought. If I can raise my SAT score and keep the hard work up next year, I really hope I can be all good as far as college goes.

    Thank you, everyone, for your advice so far.
     
  8. Flynn S

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    Erick, don't let college apps stress you out. You still have several months before they are due. If you have the chance, I'd recommend you do an in-person interview with the College before the application deadline.

    You don't need a million different extracurriculars. The more you are involved in, the less time you have to get better at any particular activity. For these things it's generally a depth over breadth standard. If you are worried your academic profile might not be outstanding, consider obtaining really good, personal teacher/counselor recommendations - they are important too.

    I think a lot of selective universities, like W&M, do care about their applicants' character/personality simply because without that insight, all they can see are cookie-cutter applicants, which, while academically impressive, are just plain boring. For example, MIT had a prompt in prior years asking what applicants did in their free time, UVA had a 'what is your quirk' essay, and, as I said in my previous post, W&M had a general 'tell us about yourself' essay. Obviously they are looking for more than just a reiteration of your resume. So the tricky part, then, is to gauge how accepting they are of the LGBTQ+ community. I am inclined to agree with you that it is a very liberal school, but you may want to check your regional admissions officer's stance on this. You wouldn't want them to discriminate against you, though I doubt that they would.
     
  9. MzMrAlexa

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    I've not been to college, but just remember that a college is a business.. And as a business they need to remain solvent and profitable. One of primary ways they do this is largely to have highly successful people to have graduated from their school.. Think of it as long term advertising and testimonials.

    So really a good part of the application process is to get an idea of your potential and how you would represent the school after you graduate, as well as to see if you are capable of being successful as a student there.

    So if I were in your shoes I would approach it from that angle.. If you're gender identity or sexuality is necessary to you showing them your fit for the school, and showing them your potential to be a great advocate for people to attend their school down the road.. Try to work it in as best as you can given the circumstances.

    Being in industry I can tell you that most companies don't give a hoot about your gender or orientation so long as it doesn't negatively impact the business or bottom line. Which is why there are so many people (like myself) who are not "Out" at work. Sure, they have their Lbgt discrimination policies etc. That sound great, but if someone comes out and it causes too much disruption or impacts the job or bottom line (and that doesn't just mean you as an individual, but even your presence and the affect on others) then you likely won't be around for long one way or another... I'm not trying to be negative, I'm just relating the reality I've seen far too often in my close to 35 years in the professional work force.
     
  10. Romin

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    Also remember that because it is an LGBT friendly school, once you get in, you’ll be able to come out socially at school because it’s a safe space to do so. (And by that point you may not even remember what was in your essay anyway) You don’t need to put your life story into the essay, but if it will help show that you are well-rounded (clubs, activities, interests, etc.) I’d say it won’t hurt. But make sure you prove that you are more than your orientation.
     
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