Applying to college is a daunting time in any student’s life. There are tons of questions to answer, big decisions to make, and an amazing amount of pressure to get into the “right” school. But, for LGBTQ students, there are even more things to consider, and often more pressure to find a school that works for them.
That’s why we’ve put together this list of tips for LGBTQ students as they navigate the college selection and application process.
1. Find schools that are LGBTQ friendly
There are lots of ways to determine if the college you’re interested in is friendly to LGBTQ students, but one of the fastest is to check out the college’s policies in regards to treatment of LGBTQ students, faculty, and staff. These policies can generally be found with regard to non-discrimination and sexual orientation or gender identity. If a college is LGBTQ friendly, their policies will protect LGBTQ students, faculty, and staff and ensure that they feel safe and welcome on campus. Other policies to look into are their policies for changing your gender identity, or name on official records.
It also doesn’t hurt to take a look at college rankings like the ones put out by Campus Pride, a website devoted to LGBTQ college students and helping them find the right school. While the campus pride rankings are not all-inclusive, they are incredibly extensive.
2. Use your campus visit to your advantage
The whole point of a campus visit is to get a feel for the campus that may be your home for the next 4 (or more) years, so use your time during your campus visit to ask questions, meet prospective professors and advisors, and make sure that you visit the LGBTQ resource center, or student center, if there is one on campus. During your visit you’ll have the opportunity to meet the staff and volunteers, and see what types of events there are on campus for LGBTQ students.
3. Chat w/ LGBTQ students
Whether this happens during your visit to campus, or via email and social media, getting to know the LGBTQ students on campus is a great way to determine if a school is the right fit for you. Emailing the LGBTQ groups on campus is a great way to find students if you’re not able to visit campus or you’re not comfortable reaching out via social media. It can be scary to reach out to someone you’ve never met before, but people are generally happy to talk about their experiences and it’s information you can’t get any other way.
4. Read the student newspaper
The student newspaper is the perfect resource for determining if the colleges you’re looking at will be a good fit. You’ll be able to see what issues the students themselves think are important, as well as gauge the general bias of a campus towards LGBTQ issues. The student newspaper is also a great place to learn about what events happen on campus.
5. Decide about being “out” in your applications
This is a tricky decision that ultimately comes down to you. If you’re not out to your family and friends yet, it IS possible to keep it that way but be out to your prospective colleges. You can come out during your interview, or ask to speak with your admissions counselor about it, rather than having it as a part of you application. You also don’t have to be out in your application at all. Just like with any coming out experience, you have to do what is right for you.
6. Apply for scholarships
Once you’ve applied to schools and narrowed down your choices, it’s time to start thinking about how you’re going to pay for school. The good news is that there are TONS of scholarships available to LGBTQ students. Do your research and see what you find. Our list of LGBTQ scholarships is by no means extensive, but it’s a great place to start.
7. Choose housing
So, you’ve narrowed down your school options, applied for scholarships, and you’re ready to commit to a school. Congratulations! You’ve come a long way already. The next step is to choose your housing. Some schools have specific LGBTQ housing options like a living learning community or gender-neutral housing options. Check with the residence life department at your school to see what options there are for you.
8. Enjoy your experience!
You’ve done your homework and made a choice that you feel comfortable with, so all that’s left is to enjoy your experience!