More than 400 of the nation's 3,000 colleges use the Common Application to help high school students who want to apply to many schools at once.
This year, the application added an option for students to detail their religious beliefs. Now, Common Application members are debating the addition of questions about sexuality and gender expression.
The Common Application is a 35-year-old, nonprofit organization that provides a college admission application -- online and in print -- that students may submit to any of its 415 members. According to the organization's website, last year almost 2 million applications were submitted to Common App Online.
Among the changes being considered is further dividing the mandatory male/female question to accommodate transgender, transsexual and intersex students. And questions of sexual orientation may be added to a series of optional questions about ethnicity, religious beliefs, marital status and veteran status.
Decisions on both points are likely in January.
The decisions will come in the wake of a semester that began at both the high school and college levels with a string of students nationwide who committed suicide after being bullied or humiliated for being gay or perceived to be gay.
In Tennessee, two gay controversies have erupted at colleges that use the Common Application: Belmont University, a Christian institution, denied recognition to a gay student group; and two members were kicked out of a Christian fraternity at Vanderbilt University, according to the student newspaper, allegedly for being gay.
All Common App modifications must be brought to the table by at least two member institutes. The University of Pennsylvania and Dartmouth College both sought the sexuality question; Connecticut College and Tufts University already ask for clarification of gender expression.
"Today, students are more comfortable and expressive than in the past," said David Hawkins, director of public policy and research at the National Association for College Admission Counseling. "But even with that, I'm not sure a student who is out would see it as a comfortable thing to declare."