How to Choose a Gay Friendly College
April 24, 2011 § 9 Comments
A time teeming with excitement, nerves, and seemingly endless possibilities, the months preceding college admittance and “committance” can be a stressful one especially for lgbtq students. As May 1st, the final day to commit and send in deposits for incoming college Freshman, quickly approaches – I see myself still undecided between two universities; having gained knowledge on how to find an lgbt friendly college that I wish I had two years ago when I began this process. I am certain both my universities will be solid fits. What follows below is a guide containing a collection of resources, tips, and my personal favorite search terms to help you find an lgbtq friendly college that is right for you!
1. Where to begin?
Start off by pinpointing schools which contain majors that you are interested in. There is no point in going to a college that is gay-friendly if they don’t offer what you want or need academically. If you’re unsure of your college major, try looking at larger schools which offer more courses and opportunities to test taste what satisfies your intellectual desires. Also consider other college values which are important to you such as: weather, proximity to a city, internship opportunities, distance from home, athletic division DI DII DIII etc…
2. Keep an open mind and research research research!
After selecting a few colleges (or 25+ like I did) try looking them up at CampusClimateIndex, a site which will tell you if your college has lgbt specific courses, gender-neutral housing, lgbt student organizations, non-discrimination policies which protect lgbt students, and so much more! The Campus Climate Index receives its information from universities which fill out a questionnaire also available for your viewing pleasure here, and the ratings seem to hold up pretty well.
While on my college search I was shocked to see Georgetown, one of my top choices and a school known for a somewhat conservative climate, to have a 4 out of 5 star ranking – little did I know how much they offered lgbt students! Because of this, no matter what you have heard about a school and their lgbt climate – be sure to research. What do you have to lose?
3. Verify what you learned and dig for more information and proof of a supportive climate!
After finding out your college’s CCI score, or if your college of choice isn’t listed on the CampusClimateIndex, begin contacting the leaders of lgbt organizations on campus. Lgbt campus has a directory which contains contact information for most college’s lgbtq resource centers. Email them and inquire what services they offer to students – especially incoming Freshman, what type of lgbt clubs they have (be sure to get their leader’s contact into!) and what the lgbtq climate is like. You can continue your research by contacting the lgbt club leaders and inquiring about their programs or by looking them up online.
4. Check their website
Colleges with strong lgbt representation will typically have an lgbt resource website which you can find by searching “College name + lgbt” or by searching for your school’s lgbt resource center, gsa, pride alliance etc…
Things to look for in an lgbt website are:
- A list of lgbt organizations and events – one lgbt group on campus appears to be the norm now, but be sure to investigate how many events the lgbt group holds. If they seem to sponsor only 1 event a year and have very little to say about it on their website, chances are the lgbt group is not a strong fixture of their college community.
- Faculty support with names, emails, contact info – this is of the utmost importance! If professors are willing to write there names down as active participants in supporting the lgbtq community, you can assume your college has a somewhat positive outlook on lgbt students. The longer the list is – the better, and this is a perfect resource to search for professors in your area of study. Knowing you have a support system before you enter school can make all the difference.
- Information on how to get involved – the more opportunities they provide or information they share on how to get involve, the stronger the lgbt group is and the easier it will be for you to become a part of the community!
- Classes pertaining to lgbt/gender studies – while not every school has a gender studies major, many offer courses which focus on sexuality, gender studies, and lgbt. For schools that do offer such courses, you can expect a more accepting climate.
- Recent updates/photos – the more recently updated the website, the better! A recently updated website with event photos or even just news shows a healthy lgbt group which is active and productive.
- Newsletter to sign up – some schools even have an lgbt newsletter which you can sign up for. If you have any doubt about your potential school’s climate, why not sign up for the free newsletter and learn more about it? This will allow you to see who the more active students and faculty are, what their purpose is as a club, and if they are a proper fit for you.
5. Consider the surrounding community and schools
Depending on where you college is located, there are some safe havens which may be available to you even if your college is a little too conservative for your taste (read: not as gay pride centric as you had hoped – not as in anti-gay). Try searching your college town/city for local gay groups, lgbt focused non-profits, gay bars etc… as they show a visible presence which can support a more positive outlook on lgbt students. Schools in cities such as New York and DC normally have an accepting student body and are good examples of this.
Also check out neighboring schools to see if they have strong lgbtq support systems. If they do, email them and inquire about your school of choice and find out if they ever work together. If not, ask them if they would be willing to. Just because your school doesn’t have an epic lgbt group now does not mean that they can’t in the future, and having successful programs in other local schools can help you on your way to creating/bettering yours.
In closing, here are two more things to look out for
When going on a tour, take note of any rainbow flags hanging around campus or in your college town. Visible support is always a plus on any campus.
If attending an over night stay, be cognizant of the language used – if there are any homophobic slang or slurs being thrown around, take them with a grain of salt at first. If these comments are repeatedly used, perhaps the campus isn’t the right fit for you.
And thanks to reader JC for this great insight:
I would consider adding one thing. Make use of social networking sites and ask if there are current or recent alumni that can share their experiences at whatever college you’re looking at. For instance, Outsports, which has been very supportive of this site, has discussion boards with a nationwide following; I’m sure if you were to post asking about specific colleges and their lgbt communities you would get some additional insight. Other sites have similar boards.
If you have a helpful tip or online resource that you would like added to this guide, please let me know via email or in the comment section below !
To the community: What do you feel is important for a college to have in order to be gay friendly? Let us know in the comment section below!