Graphic courtesy of Dimensions Admissions.

Non-Binary Applicants Found Less Likely to Be Admitted to Ivy League Schools

In recent years, the LGBTQ community has steadily gained visibility in the mainstream. Along with this increase in visibility has come support and acceptance. However, there is more work that remains to be done. 

Institutions that define the status quo are very often the last to accept new ideas. It seems that this may be the case for the most prestigious institutions for higher education. Dimension Admissions, an educational consulting firm dedicated to helping students gain admission to Ivy+ schools (the top 20 institutions in the country), has conducted a data analysis and ongoing study on non-binary students that is yielding surprising results. 

All data used in this analysis comes from the Common Data Set. Last year, students identifying outside of the gender binary – marking “another gender” on applications – made up only 0.17 percent of Ivy+ school admissions, despite making up about 1.85 percent of college applicants. This staggering number jumps off the page, but it doesn’t tell the full story. Non-binary students are applying to these universities and are without a doubt there in the student body. Seven percent of adults in America identify as LGBTQ, and Harvard, Princeton, and Brown all report over 25 percent of their enrolled students identifying as LGBTQ, with Brown being the highest at 38 percent. However, none of these three schools, along with Penn, report data on non-binary applicants. Two additional Ivy+ schools do not report on non-binary applicants — UChicago and Vanderbilt — meaning in total 14 of the top 20 schools keep data on non-binary applicants. 

Kelly said, “It’s not because the schools don’t have non-binary enrolled students, so that was surprising, and we plan to reach out to these schools for a comment about this,” Margaret Kelly, the COO of Dimensions Admissions, told Georgia Voice. The issue in these findings is not a lack of interest from non-binary students in prestigious universities. UCLA received over 5000 non-binary applicants for class of 2026. Berkeley received over 2000 applicants, and Columbia almost 1500. Those who apply are also not struggling to gain admittance. Of the four schools to admit non-binary applicants for class of 2026, UCLA was the only to admit at a lower rate than the general applicant admission rate (6.1 percent vs 8.6 percent). Berkeley’s non-binary admission rate was 12 percent vs the 9 percent general rate. Columbia was four percent vs 3.7 percent, and Hopkins admitted six of their 18 non-binary applicants. 

From 2009 to 2016, the National Library of Medicine did a study on over 14,000 students from middle school into college tracking Educational Outcomes of Gender-Diverse Youth. The study found that non-binary performance was typically even with those of cis-gender identities, and while trans youth saw some major differences, they “appear[ed] to be explained by social-structural location and social-psychological factors associated with minority stress.” However, all gender diverse students showed a significantly lower sense of belonging. 

When it comes to the most influential academic institutions in the nation, there is an issue of acknowledgment and accurate representation. A huge step in making sure students are properly cared and accounted for is ensuring they are being seen in the first place. Every schools included in the study have LGBTQ-welcoming offices, and they all have gender inclusive housing options to some degree. Columbia in particular has received attention for expressing interest in “deepening knowledge of the challenges facing LGBTQ patients” in its nursing program, and Princeton consistently shows up on lists for top queer-friendly universities. 

We can appreciate the steps that many of these schools are taking to become more inclusive. However, small things to some can be huge to others. The option to identify goes a long way in feeling comfortable and feeling like you belong. 

You can keep up with new findings from this study at dimensionsadmissions.com/blog.