Jeremy Caldwell ’18, Tufts University
The college search can be draining. There are so many questions to ask: do they have the major I want? Do I like the location? Is it too big or too small? The good news is, many colleges overlap in what they offer, so there might be multiple right answers for you.
However, for LGBTQ+ students, it’s important to ask a few extra questions. It’s one thing to find the right academic or social fit, but you also need to find a college that has resources to support you, and a student body that supports you, too. This doesn’t have to be intimidating, but it can be challenging if you aren’t out to everyone yet. Don’t worry – we’ll help you figure out the questions to ask and the way to find a positive college experience.
Check the score
Campus Pride Index creates a list of the top LGBTQ+ friendly schools in the country. This can be a great place to start in your college search, but take it with a grain of salt. Their list is a sort of checklist – does the college have clubs for LGBTQ+ students? A support center? These are great resources, but they don’t necessarily account for your entire college experience. So start with checking, but then do your own research to figure out what it would actually be like to attend that school.
What to research
Knowing what to ask can be especially tricky. A few good places to start:Do they have gender-neutral bathrooms?
- Do they have gender-neutral housing options?
- Are you allowed to select your name and gender pronouns?
- Do they have health resources for LGBTQ+ (specifically transgender or gender non-conforming) students?
- Do they have an LGBTQ+ student center? Is it lumped in with a larger “diversity center” or is it actually tailored to your needs?
- What clubs are available to LGBTQ+ students? Are there support groups as well as social clubs?
These last two can be really important. Many colleges set up “diversity centers” as a nod to their minority students, but these centers might not be well-funded, or might not have the resources to actually serve all different groups. It’s also important to find groups of students you can rely on for support, not just administrators and adults.
Talk to students
The best way to get answers is to talk with a student. There are a few ways you can do this:
- Go on a tour. If you get to pick your own tour guide, try to find a student that works with the LGBTQ+ center. If not, still ask questions. If your tour guide has no idea what life is like for LGBTQ+ students on campus, there might not be a very open LGBTQ+ student life on campus.
- Send an email. If the college you’re looking at does have an LGBTQ+ student center, or even a diversity center, they probably have a phone number or email address listed. Feel free to contact them and ask to speak with a current student. This is a great way to get your questions answered by someone who is probably in the same position as you, rather than an employee of the college who will give you simpler, potentially less genuine answer.
This might feel like a lot of work, but it’s a good way to make sure you’ll be comfortable and happy wherever you choose to go to school. College is a matter of fit, and you’re too good to go to a school that won’t support you for who you are. No matter what, don’t be afraid to ask questions and be yourself. You’ve got this.