While this is a month to celebrate diversity in gender and sexuality with our rainbow apparel and flags – and in my case a huge inflatable rainbow in my front yard – it’s not all rainbows, sunshine, and unicorns when thinking about applying to college as part of the queer community. In 2023 alone, in the US, there were a record number (around 500) of anti-LGBTQ+ bills filed — almost half of those anti-trans. These are scary times for many in the queer community, especially among our trans brothers and sisters and non-binary and genderqueer siblings.

If you’re queer, trans, nonbinary, genderfluid, otherwise LGBTQ, or the parent or loved one of an LGBTQ+ student, I have no doubt you are more than aware of the anti-trans legislation sweeping across the US in record numbers this spring. This NBC news article highlights the worries, thoughts, and feelings so many LGBTQ+ students and their parents and loved ones are feeling about moving forward in their lives. Like everything college admissions, I encourage you to ask questions and learn as much as possible about admissions, campus safety, and the culture and vibe on campus. See, even in these dark days, by taking some time and learning more with intention, you can find a space where you can thrive. Many college campuses are overwhelmingly supportive spaces, and you can find places to grow and live the life you want to live. But your safety comes first.

Like everything in college admissions, I encourage you to ask questions and learn as much as you can about admissions, campus safety, and the culture and vibe on the campus. By taking some time and learning more with intention, you can find a space where you can thrive. College campuses are overwhelmingly supportive spaces and you can find places to grow and live the life you want to live.

I think, first and foremost, it’s essential you find schools that are safe and that openly accept queer students. And I think you should consider being open about it in your application — especially if you’re trans and planning to transition while in college — using the additional information section to explain your situation, whether you’ve already transitioned, for the most part, are in the process, or are planning to in the future. Trans students have to be aware of some practical concerns that could have an effect on their college experience, like the dorm and bathroom situation. Are you applying with the transcript of one gender, but know you plan to transition while in college? In that case, you might want to look for schools that have mixed-gender floors and bathrooms.

Many liberal arts colleges are particularly safe and welcoming to the queer community. You can find out by snooping around their website, going on a visit and asking students or the admissions office, or checking out their LGBTQ clubs and groups online and seeing how active they are. If you can visit, definitely stop by and check any services or LGBTQ+ centers they may have for you. Or reach out to them online or by phone. Ask if there is one; if there’s not, that might be a sign that the school wouldn’t be particularly welcoming.

So, I think, first and foremost, you must find schools that are in safe states and then look for colleges that openly accept queer students. Many liberal arts colleges are particularly safe and welcoming to the queer community, where you can fully embrace your queer and trans joy. You can find out by snooping around their website, going on a visit and asking students or the admissions office, or checking out their LGBTQ clubs and groups online and seeing how active they are. If you can visit, definitely stop by and check any services or LGBTQ+ centers they may have for you. Or reach out to them online or by phone. Ask if there is one; if there’s not, that might be a sign that the school wouldn’t be particularly welcoming.

🏳️‍🌈 Start Here – State Laws

Now – more than ever – it’s essential for you to not only look into how accommodating the college is for you as a LGBTQ+ student, but also it’s necessary to investigate the state laws. I’m using this list (last updated on May 20, 2023) from Erin Reed, who‘s on Instagram as ErinInTheMorning and TikTok and Twitter as Erininthemorn, to create my lists of “Safest and Safer States.” I subscribe to Erin’s substack email list, where she sends super helpful information. If you’re a parent, advocate, or loved one, I recommend subscribing to her email list. She gives amazing up-to-date news, insight, and info. A note: These are tumultuous times, and this list could easily – and quickly – change:


Washington, Oregon, California, Colorado, Illinois, New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, Washington DC, Minnesota, New Mexico, New Jersey, Maryland, Hawaii


Nevada, Arizona, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maine, Rhode Island


Missouri, Tennessee, Florida, Texas, Louisiana, Montana, Idaho, Utah, South Dakota, Iowa, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Indiana – and I’d also steer clear of Nebraska (but keeping my fingers crossed for that one!) and Kansas

If you are interested in learning more about the anti-trans legislation that happened this spring, I have summaries of some of the legislation that happened in 15 states over the last several months and how it can affect our trans and other LGTQ+ students. I’ll be happy to share it with you. 

🏳️‍🌈 More info and resources about States

🏳️‍🌈 Suggested LGBTQ+-Friendly Colleges:

I’ve either met with these college admissions folks to discuss LGBTQ+ issues, or I’ve heard from counselors who work with LGBTQ+ students, or trans students or parents of trans students that these colleges are LGBTQ+-Friendly in the states listed above (who do NOT have anti-trans legislation currently passed or pending (as always, you must do your own research here – things are changing quickly). I’m always looking for more suggestions, so please feel free to make suggestions based on your research or your experiences. Sadly, Louisiana, Virginia, Nebraska, and Ohio all have current anti-trans legislation pending or passed, eliminating some of my favorite colleges to suggest on this list:

Arizona: Northern Arizona U

California: Claremont McKenna, Pitzer, Scripps, Pomona, USC, UC Santa Barbara, Occidental, UCLA, Cal Berkeley, UC Santa Cruz, Cal Poly SLO, UC Riverside, UC Irvine, UC Davis, CSU Long Beach, Cal State San Francisco

Colorado: CU Boulder, Colorado State, Fort Lewis, U Denver

Connecticut: U Conn, Wesleyan, Yale, Connecticut College; Illinois: Knox, Augustana, UIUC, SIU Carbondale, Bradley University, Northwestern, Columbia College

Maine: Bowdoin

Maryland: Goucher

Massachusetts: Babson, Tufts, U Mass Amherst, Clark U, Hampshire College, Northeastern, Simmons, Smith, Wheaton College, MIT, Harvard, Brandeis, Babson, Boston U, Mount Holyoke, Brandeis, Salem State University, Emerson, Springfield College, Lesley U, Bridgewater State, Berklee School of Music

Michigan: CCS Detroit, Alma College; Minnesota: Macalester, Carleton

Nevada: UN Reno

New Jersey: Rutgers, Princeton, Drew, Montclair State

New York: Ithaca College, Vassar, SUNY New Paltz, SUNY Purchase, Bard, The New School, Sarah Lawrence, Skidmore, NYU, Columbia, Barnard, Cornell, Rochester Institute of Technology

Oregon: U Oregon, Pacific U Oregon, Oregon State, Lewis and Clark, Reed

Pennsylvania: Allegheny, Swarthmore, U Penn, Muhlenberg, Dickinson, Ursinus, Carnegie Mellon, Juniata

Rhode Island: Brown, RISD, Johnson and Wales; Vermont: UVM, Bennington, Champlain, Northern Vermont University

Washington: Washington State, U Washington, Evergreen, U Puget Sound, Western Washington U, Whitman, Seattle Pacific U, Pacific Lutheran U

Washington DC: American

Wisconsin: Lawrence, Beloit, UW Madison, UW Eau Claire, UW Milwaukee

🏳️‍🌈 SIX Tips for LGBTQ+, Trans, Nonbinary, and Genderqueer Applicants

  1. SELF–CARE: First and foremost, please take care of yourself. Here’s what I know: Trans people are magic. Embrace your joy, your sense of who you are, your ability to see beyond the 

binary, and the ways you understand the world around you. I know it feels awful and overwhelming and scary right now – I’m truly scared right now, but you are so much more than that fear. I have lots of posts about mindfulness and dealing with the stress of college admissions, and some of that will work for you for sure if you allow yourself to try it. But, my 

number one piece of advice to you to make it through these roughest of times is to hold on to you who you are, embrace your joy, share your magic, and know that there are people out there 

who love you and care about you even if you don’t know them – and you are not alone. Hug your loved ones –even if it’s just a teddy bear. Find someone to talk to in a safe space. Parents and caretakers, show your kids you are there for them. Talk to them. Hug them.

  1. Reach out to the School’s LGBTQ+/Campus Pride Organization: Ask questions. 

If possible, visit the school and meet with the LBGTQ+ groups and organizations. If you can’t get on campus, educate yourself about the environment on and around campus:

  • Have they had instances of anti-trans, anti-queer, anti-gay violence or bullying?
  • How do LGBTQ+ students mix with others?
  • What kind of support do they provide for your community, especially during these tumultuous times?
  • What kind of school participation is there in local pride events?
  • Are there LGBTQ+ Campus Student Groups that are funded by the school
  1. Talk to Admissions. Ask Questions: Be sure to ask college admissions offices these kinds of questions when doing your research or reaching out on tours/visits/info sessions:
  • Do they have sexual identity and gender-inclusive housing?
  • Do they have a nondiscrimination policy for LGBTQ+ students?
  • Do they allow students to change their names on campus records?
  • What resources and opportunities do they have to support trans/queer students?
  • Do the schools’ health clinics and health plans cover trans medical care if that’s something you are interested in? Here’s a list of colleges on the Pride Index of colleges that offer gender-affirming care: https://www.campuspride.org/tpc/student-health-insurance/
  1. Think about your Essays: To come out or not to come out? You don’t have to write about being trans or gay or queer, in your essays, but you certainly can if it’s a story you want to tell. If you’re worried it might hurt you in admissions, ask yourself this question: Do I want to

attend a college that would deny me because of who I am? Below, I’ve linked to College Essays Guy’s great posts that are based on a workshop he held that I attended.

  1. Keep up with the forms: While many colleges ask for your preferred name, you may still need to use your birth name if it hasn’t been legally changed yet so that all your paperwork and files won’t get lost or disorganized. 
  • A piece of advice from a parent: “If you choose to use your preferred name (on your application and/or at college), your college may use that name when contacting your parents. For instance, I’ve gotten emails from colleges my youngest child applied to that used their preferred name and had a student employee call from my eldest’s college during a fund drive who used their preferred name. If you aren’t out to your family, you may not want to officially use a preferred name at school. The method for asking for gender-neutral housing, signing up to use a preferred name, and getting support is different at each school. In most cases, the best point of contact seems to be the school’s LGBTQ+ organization.”
  • Common App Updates for 2023 from commonapp.org
  • Added “X or another legal sex” as an option for legal sex question 
  • Expanded the account creation section to include a question asking if students would like to share a different first name that people call them 
  • Added a question asking for students to indicate their communication preferences with Common App 
  • Common App will not share a student’s answer to this question with colleges, recommenders, or third parties 
  • Added “Which name should Common App use when addressing you in the app or via email?” question to the communication preference section 
  • Selection will update the display name shown within the student’s Common App account and student-only Common App communications
  •  Common App communications to other parties (e.g. parents and recommenders) will continue to use the student’s legal name
  1. Research Local Sources to Find LGBTQ + Friendly Colleges: In addition to websites like Campus Pride Index, make sure you research more local sources, and like I’m a broken record, I’m gonna say it again, make sure you’re researching state laws:

🏳️‍🌈 10 College Campus Red Flags for LGBTQ+ Students and Allies

Here’s the link to the doc. from (collegetorch.com).

  1. You don’t see yourself joining at least one LGBTQ or intersectional group on campus.
  2. There is almost no overlap between athletics and the LGBTQ+ Community
  3. Bathrooms are a huge campus topic. Bathrooms should be easy
  4. They don’t offer LGBTQ+ housing options
  5. You can’t find explicit LGBTQ+ language in mission statements and non-discrimination policies.
  6. You don’t find a lot of out-Trans/LGBTQ+ faculty and staff
  7. You don’t see pride symbols around campus except at the LGBTQ center
  8. You don’t feel much of a connection at the LGBTQ center
  9. The health center isn’t aware/can’t answer your questions about trans and nonbinary topics
  10. The school requested or received a Title IX exemption – Run away!

🏳️‍🌈 Should you write about being LGBTQ+ in your essay?

As far as writing about it, that will be up to you. My suggestion is to use the “Additional Info” section if you feel like there are issues you’ve had or any circumstances that have affected your application because of being gay, trans, nonbinary, or genderqueer. But I definitely don’t think there’s any harm in discussing who you are in your essay, either. To me, if a college didn’t want to accept me for an essential part of who I am, then I wouldn’t want to go there. So, I ask you, why would you want to go to a college that wouldn’t accept you simply because you’re trans, gender non-conforming, gay, or another gender or sexual minority?

More Resources:

  1. Should I come out in my college essay? College Essay Guy has a three-part series that’s well worth reading!!!
  2. How to Come Out in Your College Essay (In a Way That Will Actually Help Get You Into College) Part 2 of CEG’s series
  3. 10 Great Example Essays by LGBTQ+ Students

🏳️‍🌈 More Helpful Resources for Finding Schools That Work for You!

🏳️‍🌈 I love what u/collegesimp shared on a post asking for advice from one of our transgender friends:

“Campus Pride is a great resource, yeah! They measure by a bunch of stuff, including a general list of inclusive schools, but if you want to assess a school on your own, they also give lists of schools with various trans-inclusive policies that you can look at to check any places you’re considering. Here are a few of the ones that will likely be most useful to you:

Thanks for sharing all your wisdom and experience, u/CollegeSimp!

🏳️‍🌈 Scholarship Opportunities for LGBTQ+ Applicants and Students:

🏳️‍🌈 Follow on Instagram

HRC, PointFoundation, CampusPride, Glsen, HumanRightsCampaign, PinkMantaRay, PrideLiveOfficial, TransStudent, TransLawCenter, GLSEN, MegemikoArt, PFlag, TransEqualityNow, ParentsOfTransYouth, ErinInTheMorning

🏳️‍🌈 What can you do as a counselor, ally, advocate, parent, or loved one?

The best thing you can do is show your support. Acknowledge what’s happening in our country today, and don’t try to diminish your loved one’s concerns. The fear is real. The concerns are real. The danger is real. Educate yourself and learn as much as possible about locations that will be safe for your child, friend, or loved one. Send letters to your state and US Representatives and Senators, letting them know you support the LGBTQ+ community.

If you’re interested, here’s the copy I sent to my senators and representatives recently. I’m not expecting a response. I just want them (or whoever reads my letters) to hear my voice.

I’ll be honest, I didn’t know much about applying to college as a gay, queer, trans, or non-binary student before the last five years or so. When my daughter came out as trans in 2018, I’d worked with a few kids on r/ApplyingToCollege on Reddit, helping them work through issues with applications, but I hadn’t spent a lot of time researching or learning. I try to attend as many NACAC, IECA, and HECA webinars as possible. And I’m trying to follow as many transgender supporting activists as possible to keep up with the barrage of legislation to share with you. However, there’s still so much to learn, and the circumstances are constantly changing – and growing more and more challenging literally by the day. If you’re a junior, ask questions, research, and be your own best advocate. 💖✨💖

“Trans people are extraordinary, strong, intelligent, persistent and resilient. We have to be. And we will not stand for the picking and choosing of rights. We still have hope.” 

~ Grace Dolan-Sandrino (quote from Washington Post Interview)

#MoreLoveLessHate     #TransRightsAreHuman Rights   #QueerStudentsMatter 

XOXO, AdmissionsMom

🏳️‍🌈 tl;dr:

  1. Check state laws and legislation
  2. Reach out to LGBTQ+ centers on campus
  3. Do your research
  4. Ask questions
  5. Be careful with your forms and using your name if you haven’t come out officially
  6. Embrace your trans joy
  7. If you feel like you’re in danger of self-harm or you’re struggling with suicidal thoughts, and you’re in the US, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) or call 988