University of Alberta hopefuls applying for fall classes will have a third option when declaring their gender.

Applicants previously had two options to check off on their application form — male or female — when declaring their gender. However, students will now also be able to choose "another/prefer not to disclose."

Former U of A student and activist Linh Lu said the third option is available for students who may not feel like their perceived gender fits with who they really are. Lu, who identifies as non-binary, said it's an option they would have welcomed when first applying for university.

"I think it's really exciting. It seems like a really small step, but it's an important first step," Lu said. "This is a proactive step … it's one of those smaller, micro-interactions that really shows the university cares and is understanding of gender issues and gender dynamics."

The change is currently in effect and the deadline to apply for fall admission is March 1.

Students find acceptance and respect

Students' Union Vice-President Cody Bondarchuk was one of the people who advocated for the change and said U of A administration was supportive of the move.

"I think in the simplest terms it means that students can feel comfortable applying to the U of A because they know they'll be accepted and respected here," Bondarchuk said.

The gender-neutral addition is one of 19 recommendations for gender diversity and inclusion on campus made in the SU's gender advocacy policy this past summer. The motion was approved unanimously by the SU's 30-member student council.

Bondarchuk said that while there is value in knowing prospective students' gender for recruitment and statistical purposes, students should have the option of not having to define their gender.

"I think a lot of the staff at the U of A have been progressive and accepting for quite a while," Bondarchuk said.

"This is a symbolic change to show people publicly that they are."