College Applicant and College Student News

Are you a college student, a parent or a high-schooler curious about why the Common Application is now asking for your “legal sex?” Are you curious about the future of college? Can you guess the name of who is giving away a ton of money these days? Do you want to know whether colleges can require a COVID-19 vaccine?

For these answers and more, read the following seven articles from the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and

What to Answer When the Common App Asks the Double Entendre “Legal Sex?”

Students complete the to apply to over 916 colleges, from Aberystwyth University to Zaytuna College, including Harvard, Yale, and the University of Michigan.  For sixteen years, these prompts have been an essential starting point when Essay Coaching assists students in writing their strongest college application essay.

But 2021-2022 has brought big changes, and not just about the election or the pandemic.  As explained in this article by the Common App, students applying in 2021-2022 will no longer be asked their “sex,” now they will be asked their “legal sex.”  To the Common App, your “legal sex” is not necessarily your sex at birth.

What is your “legal sex?”

Do you find the term “legal sex” confusing? If so, you are not alone. For the .6% of our population that is transgendered, this term may be helpful.

The confusion may perhaps arise because the word “sex” has two definitions in the noun form: 1-sexual activity and 2-(as defined here) either of the two main categories (male and female) into which humans and most other living things are divided on the basis of their reproductive functions.

When the form previously asked “sex,” most people knew they were being asked about noun definition #2.  But now the adjective “legal” makes one think about noun definition noun #1. Which makes “legal sex” a double entendre.

A majority of the population is cisgender, i.e. their current “legal sex” is the sex assigned to them at birth.

However, a small proportion of the population is not legally identified by the sex assigned to them at birth. For example, Bruce Jenner is now a female: Caitlyn Jenner.   For people like Caitlyn, “legal sex” refers to their current sex.  The Common App explains this in more detail here, “Common App Revises Application Questions on Sex and Gender,” and also in this clarification by email to

“Legal sex would be, for example, what appears on a driver’s license or a passport. That said, a student can input what they would like to be there if they have recently begun to not identify as such. If they are unsure regarding how to input, they are welcome to provide an explanation in the Additional Information section to ensure the colleges understand their situation. If they have any trouble inputting this or any other information on their Common App, they are also welcome to reach out to us at and we will be more than happy to assist the students with any issues they encounter”–Common Application

The Common Application is also attempting to reach out to a wider range of students with its new mobile app.  You can read more about that here.

Is This the End of College as We Know It?

For millions of Americans, getting a four-year degree no longer makes sense. Here’s what could replace it. Read more at the Wall Street Journal.

‘I Was Stunned’: Big Gifts to Small Colleges From an Unexpected Source

MacKenzie Scott’s donations to colleges serving often overlooked students were a surprise — and potentially transformational. Read more at the New York Times.


Which Schools Leave Parents With the Most College Loan Debt?

Poor and middle-income parents at hundreds of colleges have taken on substantial debt—amounts sometimes more than twice their annual income—to help their children through school, new federal figures show. Read more at the Wall Street Journal.

Where Parents and Students Can Get Help With the Fafsa

There are many options, free or not, to ease your way through the application process. Read more at the Wall Street Journal.

Can Colleges Require Covid-19 Vaccines?

Most U.S. colleges and universities already require on-campus students to show proof of vaccines for illnesses, like bacterial meningitis, that can spread rapidly in close quarters. But Covid-19 is a much more complicated story. Read more at the New York Times.

States Weigh Making Financial-Aid Applications a High-School Graduation Requirement

Listen to this article from the Wall Street Journal.

Lawmakers in at least eight states are pushing legislation this year that would require high-school seniors to complete federal or state financial-aid applications before they can graduate, part of a broad effort to guide more high-school students toward college. Read more at the Wall Street Journal.


Need more assistance with writing your college application essay?  Check out the free Essay Coaching quizzes here.  Would you like to work one-on-one with a principled, honest, award-winning writer who helps businesses, authors and students tell their story in a compelling, meaningful way?  Write Debbie Merion: