The Campus Pride Ultimate Queer College Guide

Everything you need to know about finding the best LGBTQ college for you.

The college application process can be stressful no matter who you are, let alone if you identify as an LGBTQIA student. Follow this guide for helpful hints, tools, and resources to make this process as easy and stress free as possible.

 

Your LGBTQ Introduction

Understanding yourself or your student is the first stepping-stone for searching for the best LGBTQ College. Below are a list of terms that are a basic understanding of the acronyms and language that could be used by your student or by college officials through the LGBTQIA Resource center.

Term

Definition

Lesbian

A woman who is emotionally, romantically, and/or physically attracted to other women. People who are lesbians need not have had any sexual experience; it is the attraction that determines orientation.

Gay

The adjective used to describe people who are emotionally, romantically, and/or physically attracted to people of the same gender (e.g., gay man, gay people). People who are gay need not have had any sexual experience; it is the attraction that determines orientation.

Bisexual

An individual who is emotionally, romantically, and/or physically attracted to the same gender and different genders. It is the attraction that helps determine orientation.

Transgender

A term describing a person’s gender identity that does not necessarily match their assigned sex at birth. Transgender people may or may not decide to alter their bodies hormonally and/or surgically to match their gender identity.

Queer

Reclaimed from its earlier negative use, the term can be inclusive of the entire community and by others who find it to be an appropriate term to describe their more fluid identities.

Questioning

A term used to describe those who are in a process of discovery and exploration about their sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, or a combination thereof.

Intersex

Individuals born with ambiguous genitalia or bodies that are not typically male nor female, often arising from chromosomal anomalies or ambiguous genitalia.

Asexual

An individual who does not experience sexual attraction. There is considerable diversity in the asexual community and asexual spectrum; each asexual person experiences things like relationships, attraction, and arousal somewhat differently.

Ally

A term used to describe someone who does not identify as LGBTQ but who is supportive of LGBTQ individuals and the community, either personally or as an advocate.


The College Search

When starting the search, it can be difficult to identify where you should apply and what colleges are out there. There are databases, college fairs, and websites that are at your disposal. Below are some specific resources for LGBTQ colleges.

Don’t know where to start? Consider what you are looking for. Below is the Campus Pride Personal Inventory Quiz that could aid in the narrowing of your college search.

There are many different types and classifications of institutions in the United States. Four-year institutions are not always the best place to start. Many students start at a two-year institution and transfer to a four-year institution to save money and get General Education requirements done. Below are some different institution classification you can look at on the Campus Pride website.

Personal Inventory Quiz

  1. What do you identify as your passion or academic pursuits? What would be your dream job after college? Please describe.
  2. Describe your ideal campus environment. What academic disciplines are offered? What is the campus community like? How does the campus look and feel? What does the visible commitment to LGBTQ students look like? Be as specific as possible.
  3. What extracurricular activities interest you? Which of these involvement opportunities relate to or could relate to being LGBTQ? List all examples.
  4. How much money do you want to spend per year going to a college or university? What’s your overall budget for living expenses, books, and tuition?
  5. In what region of the country do you want to go to college? Do you have limitations imposed by costs that are keeping you close to home?
  6. What about the type of institution, the campus size, and the diversity? Do you prefer a private or a public institution? How large or small do you want the campus population to be?

Institution Classification:

[ ] Military Institution

[ ] Single Sex Institution

[ ] Community College

[ ] Religious Institution

[ ] Tribal Institution

[ ] Historically Black College/University

[ ] Hispanic Serving Institution

[ ] Asian American & Pacific Islander Serving Institution

[ ] Other Minority Serving Institution

[ ] Liberal Arts College

[ ] Tech Institute

[ ] Residential Campus

[ ] Nonresidential Campus

[ ] Doctoral/Research University

[ ] Master’s College/University

[ ] Baccalaureate College/University

[ ] Public/State

[ ] Private Institution

Things to consider when looking at institutions:

[ ] Financial Stability

[ ] In-state or Out-of-state Schools

[ ] Religious affiliation

[ ] Intercollegiate Athletics

 

After you consider the things above, it is time to check the Campus Pride Index and college fairs. Also refer to the recent Campus Pride Top list of LGBTQ Colleges in the U.S. Reminder: Just because these colleges score high on the Campus Pride Index, does not mean these are the best fit for you. So ask questions and try them all on for size.

(IMPORTANT: Don’t be fooled by copycat commercial websites that are in this for the money like College Choice and who utilize the Campus Pride data and resources without permission profiting off LGBTQ work — or — be careful of relying on the flawed commercial rankings like Princeton Review that ask one subjective question to determine if a campus is LGBTQ-friendly.)

Check the Campus Pride’s Top List:

  1. LGBTQ Colleges – Campus Pride’s 2017 Top 25 LGBTQ-friendly List 
  2. Check the Campus Pride Index – https://www.campusprideindex.org/ – The Campus Pride Index allows you to look at the institutions that are registered through Campus Pride and are given a rating on how LGBTQ Friendly they are.
    • Understanding the Index:
      1. LGBTQIA Student Group
      2. Pro-LGBTQIA Policies
      3. LGBTQIA Academic Support
      4. LGBTQIA Student Support
      5. LGBTQIA Campus Safety
      6. LGBTQIA Resources
      7. LGBTQIA Counseling
      8. LGBTQIA Retention and Recruitment
    • Understanding the Search Engine:
      1. Filter by Region
      2. Filter by State
      3. Index Rating (1 Star – 5 Stars)
      4. Institution Type
      5. Locale (Population of College Location)

Extra Tip: If you are into sports, check out the Campus Pride Sports Index too – CampusPrideSportsIndex.org

Before you apply:

Before you apply to any college, it would be best to do some pre-research into the culture and atmosphere of the college you are looking for. Campus pride offers many resources that describe the perfect campus for you. As you are doing your pre-research, don’t forget to fill out the Individual Action Plan for LGBTQ College Seeker

Action Plan:

  1. Overall Approach

Describe your overall approach to choosing a college or university based on the responses from your Personal Campus Inventory Quiz. What are your needs and priorities? These can be LGBTQ-specific or more broadly oriented to your self-identity.

  1. Identify Your Top Five LGBTQ Campus Choices

College 1

Name of College/University:
Particular Reason(s) for Selecting This Campus:
Application Deadline:
Application Requirements:
Testing Requirements:
Possible Dates for Campus Visit:

College 2

Name of College/University:
Particular Reason(s) for Selecting This Campus:
Application Deadline:
Application Requirements:
Testing Requirements:
Possible Dates for Campus Visit:

College 3

Name of College/University:
Particular Reason(s) for Selecting This Campus:
Application Deadline:
Application Requirements:
Testing Requirements:
Possible Dates for Campus Visit:

College 4

Name of College/University:
Particular Reason(s) for Selecting This Campus:
Application Deadline:
Application Requirements:
Testing Requirements:
Possible Dates for Campus Visit:

College 5

Name of College/University:
Particular Reason(s) for Selecting This Campus:
Application Deadline:
Application Requirements:
Testing Requirements:
Possible Dates for Campus Visit:

Determine the most significant LGBTQ-inclusive factors that you want to learn more about in order to compare your top campus choices. These can be from the Personal Campus Inventory Quiz or other factors you have determined. e.g., high number of LGBTQ students, LGBTQ sensitive health services, LGBTQ social events, etc.

Describe any challenge(s) that you might face in researching the LGBTQ-friendliness of these selected campuses. Create a list of these concerns.

List resources, people, and/or organizations that can help you overcome any challenges or assist in learning more about your final LGBTQ campus choice.

3. List of things your LGBTQ-friendly college needs:

  1. Active LGBTQ Student Organization
    • Campus LGBTQ organizations offer a sense of community. Such groups are critical to the well-being of LGBTQ students, as they provide social networks, educational and emotional support systems, leadership opportunities, and outlets for activism. Some students may look for LGBTQ groups specific to gender identity/expression, students of color, religious affiliations, or special interests/activities.
  2. Out LGBTQ Students
    • “Where are people like me?” That is how one LGBTQ high schooler put it. Students should look for other visible and active LGBTQ students on campus. The LGBTQ community encompasses many individual backgrounds and identities, and it’s important that prospective students find a campus where they can feel at home.
  3. Out LGBTQ Faculty and Staff
    • Out LGBTQ faculty and staff members signal an inclusive environment. They can also serve as advisors and bases of support throughout the college years. Keep in mind that if a school’s faculty and staff members are not comfortable being out, then it is unlikely that LGBTQ students will want to attend that college.
  4. LGBTQ-Inclusive Policies
    • Campus policies demonstrate a commitment to inclusion. Find ratings on LGBTQ benchmarks for policy inclusion at CampusPrideIndex.org, a valuable resource for students searching for LGBTQ-friendly colleges.
  5. Visible Signs of Pride
    • Visible symbols of pride–such as rainbow flags and pink triangles–in the student union, campus offices, and social venues create a sense of openness, safety, and inclusion. Their prominent presence also sends a clear signal that the campus is LGBTQ-welcoming. Other visible signs of openness include Ally or Safe Space/Safe Zone program stickers and buttons.
  6. Out LGBTQ Allies from the Top Down
    • Allies are essential to LGBTQ students, especially when they are active in LGBTQ-friendly college administrations. LGBTQ students should look for examples of allies standing up for LGBTQ students on campus. In particular, take note of top-level administrators, such as the president, vice president, or deans, who include LGBTQ issues in the campus dialogue. Visible allies are also important in the classroom and in student life.
  7. LGBTQ-inclusive Housing and Gender-Inclusive Bathrooms
    • LGBTQ-themed housing and gender-inclusive bathrooms contribute to positive living and learning communities. Learn more about fostering safety for trans students through housing and bathroom policies at CampusPride.org/TPC .
  8. Established LGBTQ Center & Support Services
    • Many LGBTQ students seek committed campus resources, such as an established LGBTQ center where students can find support and learn about services. If a dedicated center is lacking, students might look for paid LGBTQ staff members within the Women’s Center or Multicultural Office. Devoting resources in these areas demonstrates an institutional commitment to LGBTQ students similar to that shown for other diverse populations.
  9. LGBTQ/Queer Studies Academic Major or Minor
    • Some high school students are looking for a college where they will have opportunities to study LGBTQ issues–by taking classes on LGBTQ/queer identity, politics, and history. Some may even graduate with an academic major or minor in LGBTQ/queer studies.
  10. Progressive Culture and Vibrant LGBTQ Social Scene
    • These are two separate yet interrelated issues. Prospective students should seek an environment where they’ll be accepted fully for all their intersectional identities (race, faith, gender, sexual identity, gender identity, and so on). For some LGBTQ students, living on a campus that offers queer or queer-friendly entertainment choices is paramount; other students may prefer to venture off-campus for these and other social activities.

Finding an LGBTQ College for Queer People of Color

  1. IDENTIFY AVAILABLE RESOURCES 
    • Much of this can be found on the campus website or discovered on your campus visit. Look for and ask about everything: student group(s) for LGBTQ people of color; multicultural center(s); ethnic studies programs; multicultural living-learning program(s); organization(s) for alumni/ae of color; diversity advisers in various departments; training programs or organizations for white allies; and a campus wide diversity council, task force or presidential advisory group.
  2. FIND A GROUP FOR LGBTQ STUDENTS OF COLOR
    • Since names vary widely among LGBTQ of color student groups and often don’t explain the groups purpose, finding an organization may be challenging. Examples of LGBTQ student of color groups are Queer Students of Color Alliance (Q-SOCA), Young Queers United for Empowerment ( Y Que), LLEGO, Mosaic, Colors of Pride and Shades. Many campuses in this guidebook are indicated as having groups specifically for LGBTQ students of color. In addition, communities of color may use terms other than lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer and transgender to describe themselves. For example, Same Gender Loving (SGL) is a term originating in the African American community that describes individuals who are attracted to individuals of the same gender. Some people who prefer this term may feel that terms such as gay, lesbian, bisexual, queer and transgender are Eurocentric terms that do not historically represent communities of color. Two Spirit is an American Indian/First Nation term for people who blend traditionally polar gender identities. It was used historically to describe individuals who crossed gender boundaries and were accepted by American Indian/First Nation cultures. It is used today by some transgender and sometimes gay, lesbian and bisexual American Indians to describe themselves. If a school doesn’t have a group for LGBTQ students of color, check to see if another local institution has an LGBTQ student of color group. Some campuses allow other nonaffiliated students and community members to attend group meetings or events. Once you find a group in your community, ask if you can participate.
  3. EVALUATE THE COLLEGE STATEMENT ON DIVERSITY 
    • Look at how the campus envisions “diversity” and what aspects of diversity are included in the statement. Typically, this information is located on the campus admissions website along with a list of resources available that relate to diversity.
  4. ASK QUESTIONS 
    • When you’ve determined which resources are available at a given campus, e-mail or telephone to ask some of the following questions:  What kind of resources and programs are there for LGBTQ students of color; for educating white students about antiracism; and for educating straight students of color about anti-heterosexism? What is your understanding of the needs of LGBTQ students of color and the campus climate for LGBTQ students of color? How does the LGBTQ center/adviser/group collaborate with the multicultural center(s)/adviser(s)/group(s) and vice versa? Are there local resources for LGBTQ people of color? Are there LGBTQ students of color I could contact to discuss these issues?
  5. TALK TO CURRENT LGBTQ STUDENTS OF COLOR 
    • Some LGBTQ students of color feel strongly that if a campus has a healthy LGBTQ person of color community, then a prospective student should be able to get in contact with an LGBT student of color. If you have an opportunity to discuss campus climate with one or more current LGBTQ students of color, this will be your best source of information about what you can expect at that particular campus. Crucial questions include: What have your personal experiences been as an LGBTQ person of color? Do you think your experience is representative of others? How do you meet LGBTQ students of color? If an LGBTQ student of color group exists, ask about the group’s membership, activities, goals and mission. If an LGBTQ of color group doesn’t exist, ask why not and if there has been any effort to form one.

Finding the best College for Trans and Non-binary Students

  1. Colleges and Universities that include Non-Discrimination Policies that Include Gender/Gender Expression
  2. Colleges and Universities that cover Transition-Related Medical Expenses Under Student Health Insurance
  3. Colleges and Universities that cover Transition-Related Medical Expenses Under Employee Health Insurance
  4. Colleges and Universities that provide Gender Inclusive Housing
  5. Colleges and Universities that Allow Students to Change the Name and Gender on Campus Records and Have Their Pronouns on Course Rosters
  6. Colleges and Universities with a Trans-Inclusive Intramural Athletic Policy
  7. Colleges and Universities with LGBTQ Identify Questions as an Option on Admissions Applications and Enrollment Forms
  8. Women’s Colleges with Trans-Inclusive Admissions Policies  

Applying as an Out LGBTQ individual

The application process can be difficult to navigate but hopefully by the time you are ready to apply to the institutions that you have found good fit with, it will seem a little easier. When it comes time to apply, there are a few things you will need to keep in mind.

  1. Does the state you live in have an easy application system to apply to many institutions at one time?
    • Example: CFNC – College Foundation of North Carolina offers a system where you fill out the base information that applies to each admission application for Undergraduate admissions in the state of North Carolina. Once you are ready to apply to individual schools, through this website, it will auto-fill all of the base information for you. Some of this information includes name, address, high school information, etc.
    • These state foundations also hold a lot of great resources for applying to different institutions.
  2. Should I come out or identify as an LGBTQ individual in one of my essays?
    • Answer: This is all up to you and your comfort. If you are comfortable with that being on your applications where potential institution stakeholders, potentially parents/guardians, if they are helping with your applications, and college admissions officers, then go for it! Just make sure it fits with what the questions is asking.
  3. If the application asks me if I am LGBTQ, should I answer yes?
    • Answer: This is all up to you as well. Just because a university ask you this doesn’t mean they are more LGBTQ-friendly and vice versa. Some universities use this information for data collection, alumni groups, and specific resource reach out. If you are comfortable enough to answer yes or specify, then go for it. If you are not comfortable, then keep it to yourself until you are ready.
  4. Who are people you can talk to if you have questions about things on the application?
    • Speak with a high school counselor about the college application process. They can provide great feedback on schools you could potentially look at.
    • Still confused and need some more guidance but don’t feel comfortable talking to them about the admissions process? Ask the LGBTQIA coordinator or Multicultural Coordinator at the institution you are looking into for more help. These professional can be found on the institution’s webpage usually on their resource center’s webpage.
    • The admissions counselors of the institutions are also willing to help in any ways. The admission counselors can be found on the institution’s admission webpage.

Paying for College

Paying for college is the most difficult part about the college process. College can be expensive especially for those who identify as LGBTQ and may not have guardian support. Below describes how to navigate the FAFSA application and the scholarship database.

  • FAFSA – Free Application for Federal Student Aid
  •  Scholarships:
    • How to get Need-Based Grants and Scholarships in 2 easy steps:
      1. Apply to College – Remember application deadlines vary, so it is important to stay in touch with the admissions offices at your selected school.
      2. File your Free Application for Federal State Aid (FAFSA) after October 1. Your eligibility for state and federal need-based aid is determined when you complete the FAFSA.
    • How to get Merit-Based and Other Scholarships:
      1. Start by filing your Free Application for Federal State Aid (FAFSA)! This is the best way to ensure you will be considered for all available aid.
      2. Merit-based and other scholarships often require separate applications, so it is never too early to start looking for these funding opportunities. You can:
      3. Talk to your high school counselor to learn about possible scholarships from foundations or other organizations in your community.
      4. Contact the college or university you are considering to see if you are eligible to apply for their merit scholarships.
      5. Campus Pride LGBTQ Scholarship Database: Filter by
        • Specific Campus
        • National Scholarship
        • Regional Scholarship
        • State Scholarship
    • Point Foundation Scholarships: Point Foundation empowers promising lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) students to achieve their full academic and leadership potential – despite the obstacle often put before them – to make a significant impact on society through scholarships.

Campus Visit

Your campus visit is a crucial part to the college journey. This allows you to see the campus for the first time and take in the culture and atmosphere of the campus. Visiting a lot of campuses can get expensive so make sure you are aware of your finances. Campus Pride provides some great resources on how to make your campus visit the best it can be.

  1. Want to talk to a lot of campuses at one place? Try the Campus Pride College Fair.
    1. Southeast – Charlotte, NC
    2. Midwest – St. Louis, Missouri
    3. South – Atlanta, Georgia
    4. Mid-Atlantic – Boston, Massachusetts
    5. West – Los Angeles, California
    6. West – Vancouver, Washington
    7. Northeast – New York City, New York
  2. When you visit a campus follow the campus checklist to make sure you get all your LGBTQ Answers filled:
    1. Fill out the campus visit checklist – (https://www.campuspride.org/campusvisitscorecard/)
  3. Try to visit the LGBTQ center, resource center, or inclusion and multicultural office to ask about the campus and meet other LGBTQ students.
  4. Campus Pride’s Factors to Consider in Choosing a University? – Majority of the time, a campus tour will not cover LGBTQ needs unless you ask. This articles shows some great questions to ask other officials on campus and your tour guides on the campus tour. These factors could make or break a campus for you.

Need some last minute advice? Check out “Minding your P’s and Q’s to choose your Perfect LGBTQ Campus!”

  1. PICTURE: Envision Yourself on Campus
  2. PASSION: Find Your Passion
  3. QUESTIONS: Ask Plenty of Questions
  4. PATIENCE: Be Patient
  5. PREPARE: Be Prepared
  6. PROBE: Learn about the Environment
  7. QUIRKY and FUN: Have a Sense of Humor
  8. PRIORITIES: Don’t Forget the Reason for College
  9. PRIDE: Celebrate Who You Are

This is the conclusion to the Campus Pride Ultimate LGBTQ College Guide. Just remember this journey is all about you and finding the best fit for yourself. If you are having a hard time with a certain aspect of the college search process or if the college guide doesn’t answer a question you have, reach out to reliable, trustworthy organization like Campus Pride, a college administrator, or college counselor for aid and support. This guide cannot answer every question but hopefully offers direction and an overview to your college search.  Get started now.

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Compiled by Taylor O. Bailey: B.A. Dance Studies, Appalachian State University, B.S. Sociology of Family Development, Appalachian State University, M.Ed Counseling Student Affairs, Northern Arizona University

Bio: I started my college journey at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina where I volunteered in the LGBT Center majority of my undergraduate career. I also served President, Vice President, and Secretary of the LGBT student organization (SAGA) and event planner for the LGBT Center. I was an Resident Assistant for University Housing for 3 years and served as President of the National Residence Hall Honorary. I just finished my Master in Education at Northern Arizona in May 2017 where I supervised a residence hall and the RAs in a suite style community. I worked alongside the Gender Inclusive Housing option and served on the LGBTQIA Commission. I did my internship with the Chief Diversity Office and Office of Equity and Access working on the Center for Inclusion and Universal Design. I served on the Commission for Disability Access and Design and the Commission of Ethnic Diversity. I am starting my professional career at Georgia Institute of Technology as a Residence Hall Director in Atlanta, Georgia. I wish you all luck on your journey and remember you are perfect just the way you are.

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Campus Pride is the leading national educational organization for LGBTQ and ally college students and campus groups building future leaders and safer, more LGBTQ-friendly colleges and universities. The organization provides resources and services to thousands of college students and nearly 1400 campuses annually. Learn more online at CampusPride.org.

 

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