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Top 10 Things to Look for in an LGBTQ-Inclusive College

Finding a safe and inclusive campus is essential for LGBTQ+ students and allies. Here are 10 important things to investigate when searching for colleges.

Choosing the right college is a monumental decision for anyone, but for LGBTQ+ students and allies, ensuring your campus is both safe and inclusive is paramount. The right environment can make the difference between a fulfilling college experience and a challenging one. Here are 10 key factors you should consider to evaluate the safety and inclusivity of any college campus.

1. Anti-discrimination policies

One of the first things to check is whether a college has an explicit anti-discrimination policy that includes language about sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression. These policies are crucial, as they provide a foundation for protecting LGBTQ+ students from harassment and discrimination. You can usually find these policies in student handbooks or on a college’s website.

2. LGBTQ+ resource centers

A dedicated LGBTQ+ resource center can be a beacon of support and a clear indicator of a college’s commitment to inclusivity. These centers often offer counseling, social events, educational programming, and advocacy for LGBTQ+ students and allies. They also provide a safe space for students to connect and find community. Be sure to research whether colleges of interest have this resource and what kinds of services each center offers.

Related: Resources and College Search Tips for LGBTQ+ Students

3. Inclusive housing options

College housing can be a significant concern for LGBTQ+ students, especially those who are transgender or nonbinary. Inclusive housing options—such as gender-neutral dorms or the ability to choose roommates regardless of gender—are important for creating a safe, comfortable living environment. Check if your schools offer these options and if there are clear processes for requesting specific accommodations.

4. LGBTQ+ student organizations and clubs

Student-led organizations play a crucial role in fostering an inclusive environment for everyone. Look for active clubs or organizations on campus that provide support, advocacy, and social opportunities for LGBTQ+ students and allies. Some examples include the Gay-Straight Alliance; the Queer Student Union; Out in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (oSTEM); and more. The presence and vibrancy of these types of organizations can be a good indicator the level of peer support available.

5. Health and counseling services

Access to affirming, competent health and counseling services is another vital element to investigate. While you’re researching colleges, evaluate whether each campus health center has staff trained in gender, sexuality, and identity issues. This should include mental health professionals who understand the unique challenges faced by LGBTQ+ students as well as medical staff who are knowledgeable about their unique health concerns.

6. Training and education for staff and students

Inclusivity often starts with education, so it’s a big plus when a college provides regular training on LGBTQ+ issues and general diversity, equity, and inclusion for faculty, staff, and students. These trainings can help create a more knowledgeable and supportive campus community. You can also check if a college includes LGBTQ+ topics in its curriculum, which reflects an even broader commitment to progress.

Related: How to Find Community, Safety, and Support as an LGBTQ+ College Student

7. Reporting and support systems

A critical aspect of student safety is having robust systems for reporting harassment or discrimination and receiving support on campus. Review a college’s procedures for reporting incidents and whether there are clear, accessible channels for students to use. Also consider the responsiveness and effectiveness of these systems: Are there designated staff members or offices that handle these reports? How does a college support students who report incidents?

8. The general campus climate

The overall climate of a campus can be assessed through various means. Campus climate surveys, for example, provide valuable insights by measuring the experiences and perceptions of current students, faculty, and staff. Some colleges make these survey results public, so do some research or ask an admission representative. It also helps to connect with current students, especially those involved in LGBTQ+ organizations, to get firsthand accounts of a campus’s atmosphere.

9. Visible symbols of support on campus

Look for Pride flags, safe space stickers, inclusive language on signs and communications, and other obvious symbols of support! This can significantly impact a student’s sense of belonging on campus. They signal to LGBTQ+ and other minority students that they are recognized and valued members of the college community. Be sure to look for these visible signs on school websites, in promotional materials, and during campus visits.

10. Inclusive policies beyond campus

Last but not least, consider the college’s policies and practices beyond the physical campus. This includes study abroad programs, internships, and partnerships with outside organizations. Ensuring these extended opportunities are inclusive and provide safe, supportive environments for LGBTQ+ students is critical to your success throughout your college career, wherever it may take you.

Related: What Is DEI and Why Does It Matter in My College Search?

Choosing a college is a complex process, and for LGBTQ+ students, the stakes can be even higher. Ensuring that your future campus is both safe and inclusive requires careful research and consideration. The right college should not only provide excellent academic opportunities but also foster a supportive and inclusive environment where every student can thrive. By focusing on these factors, you can make informed decisions that will lead to a positive and empowering college experience.

Ready to start your search? We know a great place to begin. Check out this list of the Top 50 LGBTQ-Friendly Colleges and Universities!

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