Choosing a College as an LGBTQ Student
Photo Above: Abena Atiemo, a 2019 Charlotte Pride Scholar, speaks from the 2019 Charlotte Pride Festival main stage. (Photo Credit: Francisco Vasto.)
Surveys show that approximately 10 percent of undergraduate students identify as LGBTQ. Despite this, not all educational institutions are designed as well for LGBTQ students as they are for straight, cisgender students. Here are a few things to consider when choosing a college as an LGBTQ student.
As an LGBTQ student, you deserve a safe, comfortable space to be yourself and learn just like everybody else. Unfortunately, that means that you might have to do a little extra research. It may be difficult, but remember that what you’re doing is worthwhile for you and the culture. Be strong, be brave and be educated.
What Does the College Offer?
You’re going to want to see what your college has to offer you as a prospective student. First, you should make sure that you are protected under its nondiscrimination policies. Title IX safeguards LGBTQ students at many institutions, but not all, so make sure that you are looking at colleges with clear protections specifically for LGBTQ students. Secondly, you should see if there are mental health services that are friendly to LGBTQ people. Remember that most healthcare providers are bound by doctor-patient confidentiality, so don’t be afraid to share information.
Where Is the College?
If you’re moving out of state, it’s important to look into the culture of the place you’re moving to. Is it safe for LGBTQ+ people? Are people generally accepting? Are there legal protections in place for you? Things can vary drastically from state to state and even more from city to city, so just make sure that you’re moving to a place where you can learn in peace. You’ll have enough to worry about between papers and exams. Don’t let the culture bring you down. This is doubly true for QTPoC. Unfortunately, you may run up against intersecting systems of oppression while trying to learn. If you can, keep those distractions to a minimum by doing as much research as you can beforehand.
If you can’t get into a university that is safe for LGBTQ people, don’t worry. There are other options available. You could try taking classes online, for example. If you decide to choose an online university, then make sure you choose one that has the proper accreditation and isn’t just a for-profit college. Real online universities require accreditation and the United States Department of Education has put together a list of colleges that are accredited. Don’t let yourself be taken advantage of, but don’t be afraid to try alternative options either.
More information: The Best Online College Programs from US News
A variety of organizations across the U.S. offer scholarships for LGBTQ students, including Charlotte Pride. Each spring, we open applications for scholarships of up to $2,500. Students from the Charlotte metro area are eligible if they are attending or planning to attend a two- or four-year college or university. Click here to learn more about the Charlotte Pride Scholarship Program and be sure to sign up for our email list so you can get announcements when the applications open in Spring 2020. Want to learn more about other LGBTQ scholarships? Click here to view the Human Rights Campaign’s database of LGBTQ student scholarships.