Now that your student will be on their own at college, it’s a comfort to know that they’re in an environment that has infrastructure in place to protect and support the school’s population. For students in the LGBTQ community, concerns about health and safety may be more significant when it comes to their choice of which college to attend. Here are some pointers for parents and students as they navigate this specific aspect of their college search criteria.
Get started with your research. Some colleges will have a specific page on their website explaining the resources they have available for LGBTQ students, such as safe sex materials and mental health counseling. Study the student code of conduct and other policies put forth by the school to see if sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression are protected by the school’s internal nondiscrimination policies. Look into what state-mandated protections are in place as well.
Explore the course catalogs in addition to the schools’ official protocols. Is there a Women and Gender Studies program? Are there queer theory classes available? If so, consider contacting the professors in these departments to see if they have any insight into the school’s LGBTQ community and how well they’re supported by the wider school population, including other faculty and administration.
There may be an official organization on campus for members of the LGBTQ community. If they have their own contact information, reach out to a representative of the club to discuss their experiences at the school and any advice they might have for your student. Additionally, some schools have an LGBTQ-specific alumni network, a member of whom could also potentially provide you and your student with an insider perspective.
Reiterating previous advice, Strategies For College encourages parents and students to take full advantage of campus visits and ask pertinent questions during tours. Make note of flyers advertising student-led LGBTQ clubs and events, areas clearly marked as “safe spaces,” gender-neutral bathrooms, etc. Visit the student health center and see if they have any handouts or other available information about LGBTQ resources.
The Campus Pride Index provides a “national listing of LGBTQ-friendly colleges and universities” with a search option and a detailed “report card” of specific criteria for more than 400 schools in the United States. They also have a section on their website dedicated to evaluating schools’ athletic departments and whether those environments are specifically LGBTQ-friendly. Even websites like Reddit frequently have unofficial online communities dedicated to individual colleges and universities. Though these responses should be taken with a grain of salt because there’s no way to verify whether users really attend the school, this could also be a platform to explore an inside view of the campus experience.
Ask your student what their concerns may be when moving on to campus and encourage them to do their own research in addition to any investigations you make together. This subject has the potential to be difficult or controversial, but what ultimately matters is your student’s safety and their mental and physical wellbeing—everyone, especially your student, deserves to get an education in an environment that accepts them for who they are.