College Choice for LGBTQ Students

It’s down to the wire for seniors who have a number of offers and still haven’t decided which college to attend. They may be getting phone calls from current students at the colleges that accepted them. If you are a prospective business major, you might be contacted by a student majoring in marketing who wants to tell you about the school’s great internship opportunities with local businesses. A saxophone player may get a call from a student in the jazz band. This kind of outreach has been done for years and helps prospective students feel connected to a college, which makes them more likely to enroll.

What’s new is that in addition to appealing to prospective students based on their interests, some colleges are identifying newly admitted students who may be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, and letting them know that they will find a welcoming environment on campus. Times have changed, and there are many LGBTQ friendly colleges, but some campuses are more comfortable than others, and students need to make sure they are choosing a college where they will feel safe and accepted.

While college applications don’t typically ask about a student’s sexuality, some students write essays that indicate they are interested in LGBTQ issues, and they may receive information about a campus groups and resources.

One way to locate schools that provide a welcoming environment for LGBTQ students is to check the Campus Pride Index, which assesses the quality of life for LGBTQ students on more than 200 college campuses. Colleges receive up to five stars for overall campus climate, and for factors such as academic life, student life, housing, campus safety, recruitment and retention for LGBTQ students.

But don’t just rely on rankings to identify LGBTQ-friendly colleges. You can look through a school’s catalogue (available on the website) for courses with LGBTQ themes. When you visit the campus, you can also stop by the LGBTQ resource center, if there is one. A large LGBTQ-friendly university may have a resource center with paid staff and support groups. A small college may not have a designated center on campus, but should have a student organization that provides social activities and other campus events. Check the student life section of the school’s website for a list of student organizations, and contact the LGBTQ organizations to learn more about campus life. If there isn’t an LGBTQ organization on campus, the school might not be LGBTQ-friendly. In addition to researching the environment on campus, you need to check out the town. Is there an active LGBTQ community in the area, with LGBTQ-friendly businesses?

While it is important for LGBTQ students to find a college that provides a safe and welcoming environment, they also need to make sure the college meets their other criteria. If you know you want to study creative writing, an LGBTQ-friendly college that has no creative writing courses would not be the right school.

At the LGBTQ-Friendly National College Fair, students and parents can talk to representatives from colleges around the country.  The more important you have about prospective colleges, the better.

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