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Finding an LGBT Friendly College

October 26, 2010 By: Julie Manhan Category: Choosing a College

When it comes to making their college choice, LGBT students have more to consider than just location and major.  Having often been the target of bullying in high school, they can be acutely aware of the need to find a campus where they can be themselves without constantly worrying about their safety.  Taking extra time to investigate the campus climate toward LGBT students is essential in finding a campus where they can truly thrive.While acceptance of LGBT students is growing quickly among most college populations, some colleges are moving more quickly in their implementation of policies and support systems for LGBT students than others.  Here are a few ways you can learn more about how “friendly” a campus is before you make your college choice:

  1. Ask admissions reps about the support services available for LGBT students.  The more they can tell you, the better the chance that this is something that is a priority on their campus.
  2. Find out if the college has an active GSA (Gay Student Association) or similar organization.  Be sure to ask how involved “straight allies” are in the organization. Also, find out how well attended any events sponsored by them have been.
  3. Check out the college’s non-discrimination policy.  No mention of sexual orientation or expression?  Take it off your list of college choices.
  4. Look for colleges that offer gender neutral housing.  Whether you are looking for this type of housing for yourself or not, it is an excellent indicator of a campus where meeting the needs of LGBT students has been thoroughly embraced.
  5. Consider the area in which the campus is located.  A campus in a state or city with strong support for equal rights for GLBT workers and couples is more likely, though not guaranteed, to reflect that.  (This is one reason why more GLBT students have begun considering colleges in Canada when making their college choice.)
  6. Make contact.  Ask the people in admissions if there’s any way they can put you in touch with a member of the LGBT organization on campus.  If you live nearby or go for a visit, try to spend some time, face to face, to ask questions and discuss any concerns you may have.
  7. Visit the colleges you are considering.  While on your visit, read the school newspaper, look at what’s posted in the halls and talk to students besides your tour guide.  Doing these things can give you an invaluable insight into the campus climate.
  8. Check out the Campus Climate Index.  This site ranks colleges according to their answers to questions that get at how LGBT friendly their campus really is.  (Since completing the questionnaire is voluntary on the part of the colleges, not all colleges are ranked.)
  9. Attend a LGBT & Ally College Admission Fair.  Unfortunately, these are currently only being offered in large cities, but if you live close it may be worth your time to make the trip.  Times and places can be found at Campus Climate Index website above.
  10. Visit the Consortium of Higher Education LGBT Resource Professionals website.  This website offers a directory of LGBT service offices found on college campuses throughout the U.S. and Canada.

Investigating colleges this thoroughly before you make your college choice takes time,  but for an LGBT student, finding that campus where they will be welcomed and encouraged to reach their full potential - just as they are - can make all the difference.