Students can also find out what type of training faculty and staff receive, what the reporting process is, and how these issues are handled if they arise. Even something as seemingly simple as changing the name on a student ID can be difficult at some schools, but this can be determined in advance through research. Students can also ask what kind of education and sensitivity training is included in student orientation, and if it addresses harassment policies on campus.
LGBTQ+ Student Life
Finding a school with a welcoming and supportive campus community is an important part of the college experience. Haddock advises students to research whether a college and its surrounding community are LGBTQ-friendly.
"Are there things happening that might raise a red flag?" Haddock said. If not, check to see if the school offers an LGBTQ resource center or community center, and if there are student-led pride organizations, events, and programs. A school that supports a vibrant, active LGBTQ student community will make that visible on their website, Haddock said. Joining queer clubs and organizations is also a great way to meet other LGBTQ students on campus.
Students can also use the Campus Pride Index to gauge how LGTBQ-friendly a school is. This tool rates schools from one to five stars based on the level of campus inclusion to identify the best schools for LGBTQ students. Campus Pride also maintains a list of the worst colleges for LGBTQ students based on which schools have applied for Title IX exemptions to discriminate against LGBTQ students or have a history of discrimination.
Gay, trans, nonbinary, and queer student athletes should also check their sports index to find out how inclusive a college's sports policies are.
For students who plan to live on campus, it's important to check the school's policies regarding housing, Haddock says, including gender-neutral bathrooms and showers. Above all, LGBTQ students need to feel comfortable, safe, and respected in their home away from home. Check Campus Pride's resource to find schools that offer inclusive and gender neutral housing.
For students who plan to live off campus, search engines like Roommates.com, Roomies.com, and Sublet.com offer LGBTQ-friendly roommate finder services. You can post on there looking for a roommate, or find a profile for a roommate that meets your criteria.
Health Care and Counseling for LGBTQ Students
College is a time of personal growth and self-discovery for many students, and for some this may require additional counseling and support. Students may have experienced discriminatory behavior from health care providers in the past, so they may want to check with a prospective school to ensure that counselors and practitioners will welcome them, respect their privacy, and treat them with dignity. Similarly, students should check with the health clinic to confirm the facility can address any specific health care needs. If not, they may be able to refer students to a clinic off campus.
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Studies
Finding schools that have queer studies as a major, a few classes, or part of the curriculum may be a priority for some LGBTQ students. Even if it isn't the top choice for a major, the option to take a few classes in related subject areas might be a benefit. What is or is not included in classes and majors can also be an indicator of campus climate and institutional support.
Online School for LGBTQ Students
Even students who plan to take all or most of their classes online should still consider these characteristics before choosing a school. If students aren't able to visit the school personally before making a selection, Haddock recommends looking at the school's website and printed materials carefully. "Representation matters," they said. "Online students need to see that their identities are being affirmed in the materials they're given."
Finding the Most LGBTQ-Friendly Colleges
The Campus Pride Index publishes a list of the best colleges for LGBTQ students each year, based on colleges' self assessments of how well they support gay, trans, gender nonconforming, queer, and other students under the LGBTQ umbrella. Criteria include policy inclusion, institutional commitment, academic life, student life, housing, safety, counseling and health, and recruitment and retention for LGBTQ students.
The Best Schools for LGBTQ Students
|Mid-Atlantic ||University of Maryland ||MD |
|Mid-Atlantic ||Montclair State University ||NJ |
|Mid-Atlantic ||Hofstra University ||NY |
|Mid-Atlantic ||Ithaca College ||NY |
|Mid-Atlantic ||Lehigh University ||PA |
|Mid-Atlantic ||The Pennsylvania State University ||PA |
|Mid-Atlantic ||University of Pennsylvania ||PA |
|Midwest ||Kansas State University ||KS |
|Midwest ||Southern Illinois University Carbondale ||IL |
|Midwest ||Indiana University, Bloomington ||IN |
|Midwest ||Kent State University ||OH |
|Midwest ||Kenyon College ||OH |
|Midwest ||University of Wisconsin Eau Claire ||WI |
|Midwest ||University of Wisconsin Green Bay ||WI |
|Midwest ||University of Wisconsin Milwaukee ||WI |
|New England ||University of Vermont ||VT |
|New England ||Tufts University ||MA |
|New England ||University of Massachusetts Amherst ||MA |
|Southeast ||Northern Kentucky University ||KY |
|Southeast ||University of Kentucky ||KY |
|Southeast ||Elon University ||NC |
|Southeast ||University of Virginia ||VA |
|Southwest ||Texas Tech University ||TX |
|Southwest ||University of Texas at Dallas ||TX |
|West ||San Diego State University ||CA |
|West ||University of Colorado at Boulder ||CO |
|West ||University of Northern Colorado ||CO |
|West ||Southern Oregon University ||OR |
|West ||University of Oregon ||OR |
|West ||Washington State University ||WA |
Location can also play a big role in how welcoming a community will be. Going to college in an LGBTQ-friendly state like New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, or Vermont may be a better option for gay, trans, nonbinary, and queer students.
Common Barriers for LGBTQ Students and How to Overcome Them
Both educators and organizations within the LGBTQ community have conducted studies to identify the most common obstacles faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, gender nonconforming, and queer students. Haddock has observed some of these problems firsthand, and offers the following suggestions for overcoming them:
Depending on where they live and go to school, feelings of isolation, not belonging, or not being visible can be common for LGBTQ students, especially withought a strong queer community on campus. A 2021 study conducted by the Trevor Project showed that 75% of LGBTQ youth have experienced discrimination at least once in their lifetime. This situation can be even more pronounced if a student has chosen to attend a college with a particularly conservative administration, student body, or faculty.
Haddock urges LGBTQ students who feel as if they don't fit in to make the effort to find a community where they feel welcomed and respected. Haddock admits that resources, such as an LGBTQ office or center, may not be immediately visible so it may take some effort to locate these on campus. Students may need to ask peers or faculty members or search the school's website to find resources. They also note that some schools have established safe zones. "When individuals see those safe zone stickers around campus, they know that that individual is a safe, affirming person to talk to."