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Gender Inclusivity and the Rackham Admissions Application Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

The Rackham admissions application is the first institutional point of contact between U-M and its prospective graduate students.

From its very first interactions with applicants, Rackham aims to communicate a sense of welcome and belonging while lifting up our institutional values with regard to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

As a result, Rackham has recently made revisions to the admissions application to include a more robust set of gender identities, while protecting the privacy of its applicants during the admissions process.

Answers to frequently asked questions about the changes to the application and admissions process can be found below:

Can applicants indicate a name other than their given or legal first name when applying to Rackham graduate programs?

Yes, applicants are able to indicate the name that they would like to use when submitting their application. Applicants can provide a “preferred first name,” which will be used on documents and communications generated by Rackham in lieu of answers provided by applicants in response to the “first name or given name” and “legal first name” questions on the application.

Will an applicant’s preferred first name be used on all application materials?

When provided, Rackham will use a prospective graduate student’s preferred first name, in lieu of the first or given name, on all application materials and communications generated by Rackham.

However, because not all admissions documents are generated by Rackham, the graduate school cannot ensure that the preferred first name will be indicated on all documents submitted as part of the application process, such as letters of recommendation, undergraduate transcripts, etcetera.

Will an applicant’s legal first name be included on application materials if they provide a preferred first name?

Yes, in order to reconcile application materials with legal documents, such as passports and visas, legal first names must be included in application materials, even if a preferred first name has been provided by an applicant.

However, Rackham continues to partner with other units on campus to review alternatives for protecting applicant privacy while still being able to effectively reconcile applicants academic and legal documents.

Can applicants indicate their pronouns on the Rackham admissions application?

Yes, applicants can now indicate their pronouns, including more than one set, if an applicant identifies with more than one. Neopronouns (for example, ze/hir/hirs, per/per/pers, etcetera) can be included by responding to the “Please indicate your pronouns if not listed above” prompt on the application.

Are there additional gender identities included on the application?

Yes, prospective graduate students can now select from a more robust group of gender identities listed on the application. Additionally, an applicant can select more than one gender identity, if the applicant identifies with more than one gender listed.

If a prospective graduate student’s gender identity is not listed among the various options provided, the applicant can indicate their gender identity by responding to the “Not Listed Above” prompt on the application.

Are prospective graduate students required to respond to the “Pronouns” and “Gender” questions?

No, these questions are optional. Applicants can skip the questions, or respond by indicating that they would “Prefer Not to State.”

What is the difference between “Sex” and “Gender”? Why are applicants asked to provide both?

“Sex” and “gender” are related terms; however, they are not synonymous.

"Sex" describes the sex assignment (usually male or female) that a person is given at birth. One's birth-assigned sex is related to chromosomes, hormones, and anatomical features. Birth assigned sex becomes a part of one's government issued identification in the form of one's legal sex or gender marker.

“Gender” describes how a person identifies within a set of socially and culturally constructed attributes associated with a gender spectrum.

Applicants are required to respond to the “Sex” question in order to comply with federal and state reporting obligations. However, in order to protect the privacy of prospective graduate students, responses to the “Sex” question will not be shared with graduate admissions committees in documents generated by Rackham.

Responses to the “Gender” question are optional.

Are prospective graduate students still required to respond to the binary “Sex” question on the Rackham application?

Yes, applicants are required to respond to the “Sex” question to comply with federal and state reporting obligations. Currently, the State of Michigan only recognizes student sex data reported as either binary “Male” or “Female.” 

Will applicant responses to the “Sex” question be shared with graduate admissions committees?

No, in order to protect the privacy of prospective graduate students, responses to the “Sex” question will not be shared with graduate admissions committees in documents generated by Rackham.

Will graduate programs continue to have access to admissions data regarding gender?

Yes, gender equity in higher education is an important goal for Rackham. As a result, these data will continue to be made available to support campus efforts to promote gender equity.

How can an applicant’s privacy be ensured if information, such as given first name and sex, are still being collected?

Faculty are regularly entrusted with sensitive student data in order to perform their normal job functions. Rackham graduate faculty serving on admissions committees are expected to maintain the highest level of confidentiality when reviewing student records.

How does Rackham use this information in its own public dashboards?

In its public dashboards, Rackham continues to report data using the binary “Sex” responses, following federal and state reporting standards. 

Rackham is exploring how it may report data in the future using the new, more robust gender identities available.