The LGBTQ+ community is diverse and unique—and full of individuals who have been discriminated against and undervalued for far too long. That’s why it’s important for both queer students and their allies to seek out colleges that place their dedication to the community front and center. It’s these colleges and universities that will have the most welcoming campus environments for you to thrive and find your people during your college years. Let’s explore LGBTQ+ self-exploration, advocacy, extracurriculars, academic programs, and more on your potential college campus.
College life and your authentic self
College is a time for students to explore their identity—even more so, it’s often the time many who are grappling with their sexuality find the space and comfort to come out as a member of the LGBQT+ community. College allows you to find independence, discover who you want to be, and make connections with others who share those values. But in order to have room to grow and thrive as your authentic self in college, you need a safe and uplifting environment that will celebrate this exploration. So, let’s start with what kind of inclusive resources and policies to look for in supportive colleges.
Colleges with inclusive support and protective policies
Colleges that are LGBTQ-friendly will be upfront and comprehensive when it comes to support and policies that uplift and protect queer students. Look for official statements of dedication about supporting LGBTQ+ students, a wide variety of events and organizations dedicated to fostering safety and community, and employees and staff who are LGBTQ+ or specifically trained in assisting these students. Here are just a few examples of colleges that offer very specific services and policies:
- The University of Kentucky has admission officers with specific training in helping LGBTQ+ students, dedicated trans-inclusive counselors, and LGBTQ+ campus police liaisons to help students feel safe.
- The University of New Hampshire’s Inclusive Excellence Strategic Plan ensures that the campus always feels welcoming, more diverse students are recruited, and academic programs are more inclusive.
- The University of Vermont offers unique admission fairs for LGBTQ+ recruitment, gender-inclusive bathrooms, affirming health care services, and a Rainbow graduation ceremony.
Diverse academic programs
Many colleges these days not only support the LGBTQ+ community but actively teach about them and make them feel seen in the classroom. LGBTQ+ history has long been erased by the history books or ignored by school curriculums, but supportive, forward-thinking colleges are looking to change that. Students can take courses like Queer Representation on Television at Ithaca College or pursue the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies major at Washington State University. This is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the kinds of classes and degrees you can pursue in college to connect with others that share your values.
Extracurriculars and campus events
Campus events, clubs, and professional organizations are the easiest way to find friends and meet other LGBTQ+ individuals on campus. Inclusive colleges offer a plethora of opportunities dedicated to queer students and their lived experiences. Look on bulletin boards around campus, ask professors if they know about upcoming events, or visit your college’s website for a list of available clubs to start living your best life on campus. Here are some examples of colleges with incredible offerings for LGBTQ+ resources, celebration, and pride:
- Eastern Michigan University: Coming Out Being Out, Queer and Trans People of Color Collective, Binder Exchange Program
- The Ohio State University: Dental Pride Alliance, LGBT and Allies in Medicine, Pride Veterinary Medical Community, Trans*Mission
- University of Iowa: EQUAL Meds, Reaching Out in Business, UI Trans Alliance
Fun fact: UI is home to the first-ever queer student organization. Now called Spectrum UI, the Gay Liberation Front was formed on campus in 1970 and is still going strong!
Help when and where you need it
A big part of a happy and healthy life in college for anyone is getting help when you need it. But college can be especially difficult for LGBTQ+ students because of the discrimination they face in their own lives and on a national scale. It’s important to utilize the resources your college has in place for support, including mental health services, campus security, resource centers, and more. For instance, the University of Massachusetts Amherst’s Stonewall Center offers workshops for all students, dedicated trans resources, and more. Support groups and centers are both great ways to connect with other students who may be struggling and create a network of support for each other.
The transition to college is never easy, and the difficulty can be exacerbated whether you’re already a member of the LGBTQ+ community or just beginning to question and explore your identity. Your goal should be to find a college that offers a supportive and inclusive environment that you can picture immersing yourself in. And once you’re there, take advantage of as many opportunities as they offer to propel you into a bright future.
Want to ensure you find a college that aligns with your needs and values? Check out this list of the Top 50 LGBTQ-Friendly Colleges and Universities.