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. Since 2021, in the US, there’s been a record number (over 250) of anti-LGBTQ+ bills filed — almost half of those anti-trans. In the first 6 months of 2022, there have been over 100 pieces of anti-trans legislation at the state level. These are scary times for many in the queer community, and especially among our trans brothers and sisters and non-binary and genderqueer siblings.
I mean applying to college is stressful enough, but worrying about whether a state is actively legislating against you and whether a college is going to have your back can make it especially tough. Like everything 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.
But now more than ever, it’s becoming essential for you to not only look into how accommodating the school is for you as a trans or queer student, but also it’s necessary to investigate the state laws. As of right now, these states appear to not have any current legislation against trans or other queer students, so for now, I’m considering these “Safe States,” but these are tumultuous times and this list could easily change:
Hawaii, Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico, New York, Connecticut, Vermont, Maine, Massachusetts, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, Nebraska, Illinois, Kansas (I know…), Wisconsin, and Washington DC. In my research, I’m also not finding any current anti-trans state legislation in Indiana and Kentucky, but you need to be really careful and do your own research.
🏳️🌈 Suggested Trans-Friendly Colleges: I’ve heard from trans students or parents of trans students that these colleges are Trans 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, Rhode Island, Louisiana, and Ohio all have current anti-trans legislation pending or passed, eliminating some of my favorite colleges to suggest on this list. :
Massachusetts: Babson, Tufts, U Mass Amherst, Clark U, Hampshire College, Northeastern, Simmons, Smith
New York: Ithaca College, Vassar, SUNY New Paltz, Bard, The New School, Sarah Lawrence, Skidmore
Connecticut: U Conn, Weslayan
Virginia: Virginia Commonwealth U
Wisconsin: Lawrence, Beloit
Colorado: CU Boulder
Washington: Washington State, U Washington, Evergreen, U Puget Sound, Western Washington, Whitman, U Puget Sound
Oregon: U Oregon, Pacific U Oregon, Oregon State, Lewis and Clark, Reed
California: Claremont McKenna, Pitzer, USC, UC Santa Barbara, Occidental
🏳️🌈FIVE Quick Tips:
- If you’re a trans applicant, 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 note from a parent of 2 transgender students, u/teresajs: “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.”
- 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 etc 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 last summer that I attended.
- Research Sources to Find LGBTQ + Friendly Colleges: In addition to websites like Campus Pride Index, make sure you research more local sources:
- Local LGBTQ+ Center: https://www.lgbtcenters.org/LGBTCenters
- Local PFLAG chapter: Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) — https://pflag.org/find-a-chapter
- Campus Centers — https://www.lgbtcampus.org/find-an-lgbtq-campus-center
- City Rankings — Municipal Equality Index 2020 – HRC
- School Participation in local pride events
- College’s Mission Statement
- LGBTQ+ Campus Groups who are funded by the school
- If possible, visit the school and meet with the LBGTQ+ groups and organizations. Reach out to them if you can’t meet in person.
- Investigate State Laws: From u/McNeilAdmissions: To follow up on the state laws bit, here’s a resource you can use to get a better picture of the legal landscape: LGBTMAP.org provides an overview of hate crime laws across the US with detailed data if you click thru: https://www.lgbtmap.org/equality-maps/hate_crime_laws
- More places to research state laws and legislation:
- Ask Questions: Be sure to ask colleges these kinds of questions when doing your research or reaching out or on tours/visits/info sessions:
- Do they have sexual identity and gender-inclusive housing?
- Do they have a nondiscrimination policy for trans/queer 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?
🏳️🌈 Should you write about being LGBTQ+ in your essay? More thoughts and resources:
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 queer. But I def 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?
As far as your parents go, you don’t have to let them see all of your applications, but if they have total access and you worry they’ll see it, then you can always submit a paragraph later by email or in the upload section if necessary. Of course, I think it’s good to be open and honest with your parents, but I know that’s unfortunately not always the best option for everyone.
- Should I come out in my college essay? College Essay Guy has a three-part series that’s well worth reading!!!
- 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
- 10 Great Example Essays by LGBTQ+ Students
🏳️🌈 More Helpful Resources for Finding Schools That Work for You!
- Here’s my post from last fall, where I have a list of about 50 colleges that I’ve heard from people first-hand that are friendly to LGBTQ+ students, particularly trans students.
- Last spring, a few private consultants and I created an infographic for Trans Applicants in Texas, but many of the points will be more global (and some are already here in this post).
- www.CampusPrideIndex.org – This is the site where you might want to spend the most time on their rating cards, tips, indexes, etc. Look for their college fairs!
- College Experience Guide for LGBTQ Students from BestColleges.com
- LGBTQ-Friendly Campuses from Princeton Review
- LGBTQ-Unfriendly Campuses from Princeton Review
- LGBTQ College Culture Guide — highlights LGBTQ learners’ rights, introduces resources for LGBTQ college students, and summarizes the key features of LGBTQ-friendly college cultures.
- MIT’s Blog: Applying While Transgender
- FAQ About Transgender Students at Colleges and Universities
- Campus Pride Trans Policy Clearinghouse (https://www.campuspride.org/tpc/)
- Where do I start? (College Search Resources for LGBTQ+ Students) – College Essay Guy Podcast with Shane Windmeyer, (Founder, Campus Price)
- Minding Your P’s and Q’s to Choose Your Perfect LGBTQ Campus
- Campus Visit Score Card
- Ask the Admission Office: Diversity on Campus
🏳️🌈 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:
- Colleges that provide gender-inclusive housing (meaning you can room with someone of any gender)
- Colleges that allow students to use a chosen first name and pronouns on records
- Colleges that cover transition-related medical costs under the student insurance plan
- If you’re considering women’s colleges, here are some with formal policies to admit trans applicants
- And here is a useful article detailing questions for trans students to ask when considering schools to get a sense of their policies.”
Thanks for sharing all your wisdom and experience, u/CollegeSimp!
🏳️🌈Take a minute to read this article about 20 amazing members of your generation who are creating change: Teen Vogue Presents GLAAD’s 20 Under 20 2021: The LGBTQ Youth Shaping the Future. I can’t find the 2022 version, so I’m guessing they haven’t put it out yet.
🏳️🌈 More Articles:
- The 25 Best College And Universities for LGBTQ Students from Buzzfeed
- How to Find the Right College For LGBTQ from Teen Vogue
- 9 Things For LGBTQ+ Students and Allies To Look For in an Inclusive College
- LGBTQ Friendly Colleges: 14 Schools Doing Great Things For LGBTQ Students
- Key Issues Impacting LGBTQ+ College Students
🏳️🌈 Scholarship Opportunities for LGBTQ+ applicants and students:
- Top Scholarships for LGBTQ Students — blog post from NerdWallet with 9 scholarships for LGBTQ+ students
- HRC Student Scholarship Database — List of scholarships and grants created by Human Rights Campaign
- GAMMA MU Foundation — The Gamma Mu Foundation focuses on rural and other underserved LGBTQ+ populations across the US
- Point Foundation — “Point Foundation empowers promising lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer students to achieve their full academic and leadership potential – despite the obstacles often put before them – to make a significant impact on society.”
- Stonewall Community Foundation Scholarship — From their site “We take education seriously, knowing that it has the power to help LGBTQ people overcome complex social and economic barriers. For nearly 15 years, we have partnered with donors to create scholarships that provide unique opportunities and access to education, both in New York City and throughout the country.”
- College Data had a great post on Instagram listing some regionally specific scholarships.
- TSER Scholarships – Scholarships for Trans and Gender-Diverse Students
- Live Out Loud Scholarships: Scholarships – Live Out Loud
- Pride Foundation: Scholarship Opportunities – Pride Foundation
- Human Rights Campaign — Multiple LGBTQIA Scholarships
- Scholarship Database – Human Rights Campaign (hrc.org)
🏳️🌈 Follow on Instagram
@HRC, @PointFoundation, @CampusPride, @Glsen, @HumanRightsCampaign, @PinkMantaRay
🏳️🌈 Follow on Twitter:
@NCLRights, @StandWithTrans, @ErinInTheMorn, @MrsBriggle, @EqualityTexas, @ItGetsBetter, @ACLU
🏳️🌈 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 couple of years. When my daughter came out as trans in 2018, I’d worked with a couple of kids here on A2C and tried to help them work through issues with applications, but I hadn’t spent a lot of time researching or learning. I’m starting to learn, and while I’m thrilled that there are so many resources available, the hurdles to applying to college as an LGBTQ+ applicant seem to be growing. Last summer, I attended a NACAC webinar with presentations by the Human Rights Campaign and the Point Foundation. I learned a ton, but there’s so much more to learn, so as you’re learning about resources and hints and tips, please share them below! I’ll be sure to add them in. While Pride Month might be ending, your admissions journeys are just revving up, so don’t hesitate to be proactive to find the safest and healthiest environment for you. Ask questions, research, and be your own best advocate. 💖✨💖
And, as always, feel free to ask questions! I’ll try to answer or maybe someone in our fabulous community can help!
“When we’re growing up there are all sorts of people telling us what to do when what we really need is space to work out who to be. “ — Elliot Page
- Check state laws and legislation
- Reach out to LGBTQ+ centers on campus
- Do your research
- Be careful with your forms and using your name if you haven’t come out officially