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How to Find an LGBTQ+-Friendly College or University

Last updated October 19, 2023

When you're in the process of searching for colleges, it's important to consider the factors beyond the academic programs and financial fit. One aspect to take into account is the campus culture. College is a time for you to not only pursue your education - it’s also an opportunity to freely explore your identity, values, and beliefs as you connect with individuals who bring different perspectives, cultures, and experiences. This is particularly important for LGBTQ+ students, who often face unique challenges in addition to navigating college for the first time. Being on an inclusive and supportive campus can truly make a difference in their college journey.

The good news is that many colleges and universities are recognizing the importance of inclusivity and are expanding their practices to better support LGBTQ+ students. So whether you identify as LGBTQ+, or you’re an ally looking for an environment that celebrates diversity, there are tools and strategies available for you to find a college that aligns with your values and provides a supportive community. We’ll give you some tips on how to search for LGBTQ+-friendly colleges and share important factors to consider as you begin your search.

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How to Search for LGBTQ+ -Friendly Colleges

There are a few tools and strategies that can help you get started on your college search. Online resources like Campus Pride Index offer a free and comprehensive database of LGBTQ-friendly colleges. This tool allows you to easily search for colleges based on their location, state, type of institution, and more. Each college listed is ranked on a system that ranges from 1 to 5 stars, which reflect the college's commitment to improving the academic environment and campus life for LGBTQ+ students.

You can also explore the college or university’s website to search for LGBTQ+ student organizations, campus centers, and resources offered to LGBTQ+ students. Another approach is to join online student groups or forums where you can engage with current students or alumni who identify as LGBTQ+. Their perspectives can provide invaluable insights, helping you make an informed decision about which college will best suit your needs.

Screenshot of the Campus Pride index search database. The is a map of the United States in rainbow colors on the left, and search criteria on the right. Clicking on the photo will link to the Campus Pride Index page.

Factors to Consider

When looking for LGBTQ+-friendly colleges or universities, take into account the following factors:

Availability of LGBTQ+ Student Clubs and Organizations

Look for the availability of LGBTQ+ clubs and organizations, as they can offer a safe and supportive space for LGBTQ+ students within the larger college community. These clubs offer a chance to connect with other students who share similar experiences and can lend their support as you navigate through your college journey.

It's also important to keep an eye out for campus centers or physical spaces where LGBTQ+ students can study, socialize, or access staff and faculty who can provide resources specifically for LGBTQ+ students. These student clubs and campus centers are not only a way to find a sense of belonging, but can also encourage you to participate in activism and inspire social change.

Inclusivity Policies, Programs, and Initiatives for LGBTQ+ Students

A college's student code of conduct is a set of rules and guidelines that students are expected to follow, outlining expectations for behavior and conduct while on campus.

Look for a college or university that explicitly states in its student code of conduct that discrimination or mistreatment against LGBTQ+ students is not allowed or tolerated. This shows that the college is dedicated to fostering an LGBTQ+ friendly environment where all students are respected and valued.

It’s also important to look for campus initiatives that aim to improve the lives of LGBTQ+ students. One example is the availability of inclusive campus facilities, like gender-inclusive housing or gender-inclusive restrooms. Another example is gender affirming healthcare or counseling services for LGBTQ+ students, with knowledgeable providers who understand their unique needs. Colleges that support updating student records for transitioning students and provide options to indicate pronouns and/or gender identities on official forms is another initiative that supports LGBTQ+ students.

LGBTQ+ Representation in Academic Programs

In addition to the campus culture, also consider the college’s academic environment to determine if it is LGBTQ+-inclusive. Look for LGBTQ+ faculty members and explore the course catalog for majors or courses exploring LGBTQ+ themes, like gender studies or women's studies. Subjects like sociology, psychology, history, and political science may also offer LGBTQ+-focused courses. Even if you don't plan on majoring in these subjects or taking these classes, their existence shows that LGBTQ+ research is valued within the campus community. These departments may also provide information about internships and scholarships available to LGBTQ+ students.

Researching colleges can be an overwhelming process, and no school will be perfect or meet every expectation. But with intentional research, you will get closer to finding a school that best aligns with your values. You deserve to be in an environment where you can feel safe, respected, and celebrated for who you are!

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