Admission of Transgender Students

Mount Holyoke College welcomes applications for our undergraduate program from any qualified student who is female or identifies as a woman.

As a pioneer in higher education, Mount Holyoke remains committed to its historic mission of providing access to excellence for academically talented women regardless of socioeconomic background. The College values each student’s development, both academically and personally, and recognizes that self-identity may change over time.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Is Mount Holyoke College changing the fundamental nature of its mission as a women’s college by admitting transgender students?

Mount Holyoke remains committed to its historic mission as a women’s college. Yet, concepts of what it means to be a woman are not static. Traditional binaries around who counts as a man or woman are being challenged by those whose gender identity does not conform to their biology. Those bringing forth these challenges recognize that such categorization is not independent of political and social ideologies. Just as early feminists argued that the reduction of women to their biological functions was a foundation for women’s oppression, we must acknowledge that gender identity is not reducible to the body. Instead, we must look at identity in terms of the external context in which the individual is situated. It is this positionality that biological and transwomen share, and it is this positionality that is relevant when women’s colleges open their gates for those aspiring to live, learn, and thrive within a community of women.

Mount Holyoke is a liberal arts college dedicated to academic excellence in the pursuit of knowledge. Throughout our curriculum, in every department and program, there are courses in which faculty and students come together to interrogate social practices and engage in bold inquiry. The College’s practices and policies should align with our core values around individual freedom, social justice, and diversity and inclusion, in support of our mission of using liberal learning for purposeful engagement in the world.

2. Mount Holyoke College’s policy on the admission of transgender students states that it welcomes applications for its undergraduate program from any qualified student who is female or identifies as a woman. Can you clarify “who is female or identifies as a woman”?

The following academically qualified students can apply for admission consideration:

  • Biologically born female; identifies as a woman
  • Biologically born female; identifies as a man
  • Biologically born female; identifies as other/they/ze
  • Biologically born female; does not identify as either woman or man
  • Biologically born male; identifies as woman
  • Biologically born male; identifies as other/they/ze and when “other/they” identity includes woman
  • Biologically born with both male and female anatomy (Intersex); identifies as a woman

The following academically qualified students cannot apply for admission consideration:

  • Biologically born male; identifies as man

3. Why is the College making an announcement about this now?

Increasingly, women’s colleges are being called upon to articulate their policies with respect to the admission of transgender applicants. As a leader in higher education for women, we choose to be proactive. We choose to define membership in a women's college expansively, to be as inclusive as we can with respect to gender identity, while still fulfilling our mission as a women's college.

4. Will Mount Holyoke College require any statement beyond an applicant’s gender self-identification? For example, will transwomen need to establish that they have a history of identifying as female?

No. Many students will choose leaving home for college as an opportunity to explore or proclaim new identities. Whether a student transitions suddenly or has a long history with a particular gender identity will not have an impact on how their application for admission is assessed.

5. If a transwoman decides, during her four years as a Mount Holyoke student, to change her mind and chooses a male gender identity, will she need to withdraw from the College? What about biologically female students who come to identify themselves as male?

No. Once students are admitted, the College supports them regardless of their sex or gender identity, which is consistent with our current practice.

6. Does Mount Holyoke College currently have transgender students enrolled? What is the College’s position on diversity and inclusion?

Yes, Mount Holyoke currently has transgender students enrolled. The College values each student’s development, both academically and personally, and recognizes that self-identity may change over time.

Diversity and inclusion is about understanding our multiple identities through the lens of social justice education, ally development, and identity development. We embrace the intersectionality of race/ethnicity, gender, class, sexual orientation, ability, age, national origin, and religious/spiritual identities and the ways in which those identities move us to greater connection and communication.

7. How does the Office of Admission know whether it has received an application from a transgender student?

The Office of Admission knows only if the student self-identifies as transgender.

8. Are applications from transgender students handled differently?

No. Admission to Mount Holyoke is competitive and highly selective and we apply the same admission standards and criteria to all applications. Entrance is determined by a student’s overall record, and while we give the greatest weight to school records and evaluations, we also consider the big picture—which includes special talents, particular goals, and character. Overall, we seek to admit students whose talents, interests, and aspirations match the programs and opportunities offered by Mount Holyoke.

9. How does Title IX play a role when a transwoman is admitted to Mount Holyoke College?

Title IX of the Education Amendments Acts of 1972 (Title IX) is intended to prevent and eliminate discrimination on the basis of sex in any program, activity, or service of the College. It protects individuals from sex-based discrimination of all types, including sexual harassment, inappropriate touching, rape, and gender-based stereotyping.

Under the provisions of Title IX, a transwoman admitted to Mount Holyoke is protected from harassment, gender-based stereotyping, and other forms of discriminatory behavior that would limit full participation in programs, activities, and services of the College.

10. How does Mount Holyoke support students who decide to transition once they’ve enrolled?

Every enrolled student at Mount Holyoke College has equitable access to all programs, activities, and services provided by the College. Moreover, discrimination and harassment are strictly prohibited by the College's student conduct code. The College will also take affirmative steps, with the student's approval, to provide support services and recognize a transition. For example, Mount Holyoke is committed to using students' preferred names and pronouns, and may make changes to diplomas and other College records when a name is legally changed.