How to Find a Welcoming College if You Are LGBT

Thankfully, many colleges today have programs for the LGBT community, but it's not always easy to find the programs you want.


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    Ignore college ranking lists, including and especially ones related to LGBT acceptance. It's usually a complete mystery how a particular organization chooses the rankings for colleges on any list, and while you should be on the lookout for obvious red flags, many top ranked schools are rated based on how well they treat their LGBT faculty and employees, but not necessarily on what it's like for students who attend there. Marriage benefits and the like are certainly nice if you're a tenured PhD, but if going there as an undergrad, that's not going to have much of an effect. Student attitudes on LGBT issues are often not measured, and a school can get by with simply having an LGBT group.
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    Disregard what colleges may say about being uniquely isolated from their surroundings and pay close attention to the area your potential school of choice is located in. The local culture always influences and permeates a college situated within that culture.
    • Does the state you're looking to go to school in have same sex marriage or civil protections for gay people? Is the locale it's in particularly conservative? Did the legislature go out of its way to vote an anti-gay religious mandate into their constitution? Is it not a safe place for gay-identified people? These are really important things to consider, more so because schools tend to attract students from the same region.
    • If your school is considered a premier Southern/Midwestern intellectual institution, it will probably have a lot of conservative (excuse the need for generalizing) Southern or Midwestern students who will be your peers and the people you live with for awhile. On top of that, part of the reason to go to a college is for the connections it has established in your field of study, and often those connections are in the same geographical area as your school or with people of a similar mindset, so make sure that doesn't end up limiting the number of places you'd feel comfortable working at, volunteering with etc.
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    Don't take the brochure's word for its proclaimed LGBT friendly campus. Visit and try to see if the climate is right for you. Descriptors people use for places, (i.e. liberal, conservative, open) are highly subjective so you should try to see what it feels like for yourself and talk to the students there as well. Remember that ideally it will be a place where you can come out, find supportive friends, learn more about yourself, etc. If it turns out to be a hostile environment, these important processes can be stunted.
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    Do not by any means assume that because the student body of your school is more intelligent or accomplished than average that they will accept LGBT people or be welcoming. Unfortunately, many people wrongly assume that being intelligent precludes being anti-gay or mean, but there are many homophobic people out there who are highly intelligent. In general, according to social psychologists, it's just a bad idea to assume a person or group holds a specific belief because of a more general belief. Being anti-LGBT is largely a learned thing and seems to defy logic, much like many religious beliefs. Make sure that the campus of your choice actually will be an accepting place.
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    Check that there is an LGBT organization at the college and see if you like the people in it or can get along with them. First, it's vitally important that you have some sort of LGBT organization you can go to, but secondly, you want to make sure it's made up of people that you can get along with. The LGBT community in any larger community is usually small, and you don't want to end up alienated from them.
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    Make sure your potential school has protections for LGBT students and/or a non-discrimination policy. College is difficult, but it shouldn't be discriminatory and it's important for places to take an active role in preventing discrimination, especially since society at large is quite often unjust to minorities.
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    If your college has a religious affiliation, check that religion's stance on LGBT people. Some religious institutions expel students if they are revealed to be LGBT.


  • Some colleges have religious LGBT-friendly programs, so check them out.
  • If the college is a "bad fit," tell your parents, and ask them to help you find a "friendlier" environment.


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Categories: LGBT