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College Admissions for LGBTQIA+ Applicants

A graduating senior with the LGBTQ flag on her graduation cap.

Applying to college isn’t merely about finding the right academic fit. If you’re one of the hundreds of thousands of students applying to a residential college this year, you’re also joining a community. Your classmates will also be your neighbors, teammates, colleagues, and friends. So, it stands to reason that you would like to attend a school where you’ll find a supportive community.

For some LGBTQIA+ students, this particular concern can be a source of additional anxiety. Finding a college where you’ll feel safe, supported, and included is hugely important, but it’s not always obvious from a campus information session. Further, given the systemic barriers that gay, lesbian, transgender, bisexual, intersex, asexual, genderqueer, and other gender-diverse students face, additional obstacles to the college admissions process can arise, too.

In honor of Pride Month, we want to take a moment to address some concerns specific to LGBTQIA+ college applicants. Amid all the usual questions about how to choose a college, we know you may have additional considerations as a queer applicant. Here, we’ll answer some big questions and provide further resources for the application process.

Frequently Asked Questions

In addition to the general questions all students have about applying to college, here are some other things LGBTQIA+ applicants often consider as they navigate the admissions process:

What Should I Be Looking For?

While many schools tout their inclusivity, it’s important to see what life is really like on campus. As you visit colleges, keep an eye out for signs that the school is truly committed to fairness and equality for its students. Do you see Safe Space stickers in the buildings? Flyers for LGBTQIA+ events on bulletin boards? Be sure to also check college websites for LGBTQIA+ centers, student groups, designated spaces on campus, and other gender-diverse activities.

What About Classes and Professors?

No matter what you study, looking at the academic offerings can also help you determine how LGBTQIA+-friendly a campus is. Does the college offer courses in gender history, studies, and theory? Even if you’re planning to study something totally different, those course listings can show a school’s commitment to gender inclusion. You can also see how involved faculty members are in LGBTQIA+ resources and spaces on campus, or if they are out themselves.

Do I Need to Go to School in a Big City?

There’s a perception among some college applicants that schools in the middle of big cities provide friendlier and more tolerant spaces for queer youth than smaller or more rural schools. While it’s absolutely true that large urban schools can provide vibrant LGBTQIA+ communities on and off campus, you certainly don’t have to attend them to find a supportive community. Many small schools dedicate space, resources, and advising to their gender-diverse students.

Do I Have to Discuss My Sexuality in My Essays?

The short answer: absolutely not! Students with marginalized identities often feel pressured to discuss the particular challenges of their race, religion, or sexuality in their essay, and while that can lead to a strong essay, it’s absolutely not a requirement for success. Your application essays should discuss your intellectual and personal growth—in any area of your life! It is completely fine to write about something other than your sexuality.

How Does Title IX Apply to Me?

Title IX refers to the section of the 1964 Civil Rights Act that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in federally-funded educational institutions, which includes almost all public and private universities in the United States. That means you are entitled to the same protections against harassment, discrimination, and assault based on your gender identity. As such, watch out for schools that are trying to circumvent these protections!

What Are My Housing Options?

While everyone worries about getting along with a first-year roommate, housing can be a serious matter for queer youth. In recent years, some campuses have begun to offer students a choice of sharing dorm space with LGBTQIA+ roommates, living in gender-neutral housing, or settling into a nearby campus apartment. You can check out this list of schools with gender-neutral housing, or discuss options with your admissions representative.

What If I’ve Had a Falling Out with My Family?

Not having your family’s support, for whatever reason, can make the college application process that much more difficult. If coming out to your family has resulted in a loss of financial support or even basic resources, you can turn to people in your community or organizations like PFLAG. Furthermore, if you’re concerned that your parents won’t support you financially, you can also look into applying for a FAFSA dependency override.

Additional Resources for LGBTQIA+ Applicants

Campus Pride is a central hub for resources and information about applying to and attending college as an LGBTQIA+ young person. There, you can find their signature Campus Pride Index, which rates schools based on how inclusive they are of gender-diverse students and issues.

Additionally, many PFLAG chapters around the country offer scholarships to outstanding students who are members of the LGBTQIA+ community. Some colleges also offer their own academic scholarships to LGBTQIA+ students; Campus Pride notes these in their Index.

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