The college search process is unique to every student. You might be seeking a cutting-edge major or a school that boasts unique clubs and student organizations. Or maybe that perfect size and campus location. You’re weighing and comparing what feels like a million different factors. And when thinking about choosing a college campus that affirms the LGBTQ2S+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Two Spirit) community, there are other considerations. Although you might not need to think about everything on this list, you can use it as a starting point to determine what is important to you as you select colleges to apply to.
A Note on Interconnections
Campus policies and resources can tell you a lot about how a university values and cares for its student population. Therefore, you should research the available campus-wide educational initiatives and training sessions for students, faculty, and staff. An inclusive campus will offer educational resources not only on LGBTQ2S+ identities but also on other topics. For example, disability, immigration status, and race.
The LGBTQ2S+ community is vibrant and diverse. Therefore, campuses that support all forms of diversity acknowledge that students hold multiple identities. Moreover, they understand the importance of ensuring that all members of their community feel supported and valued.
Whatʼs more, inclusive campuses will have divested from the prison-industrial complex and other exploitative practices that impact our community and loved ones around the world. In the words of Murri visual artist, activist, and academic Lilla Watson, “If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” A campus invested in the liberation of its LGBTQ2S+ community will be equally invested in all forms of justice and liberation.
An LGBTQ2S+ community is not a community without solidarity with other marginalized communities on campus. This includes students and faculty who are impacted by institutionalized racism, ableism, and other forms of oppression.
Campus Culture: Pride Month Every Month!
Campus culture is an important factor of the college search process. The available student organizations will reflect the culture. Are there multiple clubs offering opportunities for community building? Are there affinity groups or events focusing on subcommunities within the LGBTQ2S+ community? These include groups and events for LGBTQ2S+ students of color or people of faith. How about LGBTQ2S+ organizations related to an intended profession or major? Are there LGBTQ2S+ groups for international students?
Does the college offer accessible programming for LGBTQ2S+ students, including sober social events, in settings accessible to students with a wide variety of needs? Beyond supporting student groups, check to see if the university regularly hosts LGBTQ2S+ speakers, artists, musicians, film screenings, and other cultural events. A university’s willingness to support LGBTQ2S+ cultural life on campus is crucial. It speaks to a university’s commitment to a sense of belonging on campus.
Residential Life and Wellness: Well, What?
Transgender and nonbinary students in particular will want to look into the university’s policies regarding residence halls and roommate preferences. Check that the college offers all-gender housing options and all-gender restrooms around campus. If a college does not offer all-gender housing options, look into policies regarding roommate selection. Does the college require you to live with someone who has the same legal sex as you? Does the college allow you to live with roommates who share the same or similar gender identity, regardless of legal sex?
Every college student needs a living space that is comfortable and safe for them. After all, your room should be the last thing you need to worry about when juggling classes, extracurriculars, and a social life! In addition, LGBTQ2S+ students should look into the available health and wellness services. Does the student health center and counseling center provide services that meet the needs of a diverse student body? All service providers should be well-educated and experienced with LGBTQ2S+ needs.
Pride in the Classroom
As someone who majored in Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies at my undergraduate alma mater, I recommend browsing the course catalog of your potential university. Do they offer majors or courses related to LGBTQ2S+ history and culture? It might have been unavailable to you in high school, but taking a course about your own history can be invaluable. Investing in LGBTQ2S+ academic disciplines and hiring faculty and staff who are openly LGBTQ2S+ are ways a university demonstrates respect for our community. Every student should have the opportunity to take coursework that reflects their heritage and work with mentors who they can see themselves in.
How to Do Your Research
At this point in the article, you might feel like I’ve given you more questions than answers. And that’s OK! Now that you have questions, here is how you might find some answers.
- Browse the university’s website to learn more about the diversity and inclusion offices and resources that are available to students. For example, NYU has an Office of Global Inclusion, Diversity, and Strategic Innovation, which leads campus-wide educational initiatives. You should also be able to find the university’s mission statement, any nondiscrimination policies, and housing and residential life information.
- A list of clubs and student organizations: look for affinity groups or clubs that will help you build your community.
- Contact the LGBTQ2S+ student union (or any similar organization).
- Reach out to the admissions office! Admissions counselors know a lot about the university’s student life and culture. Plus, they might be able to connect you with current students who identify as LGBTQ2S+.
- Utilize third-party resources, such as the Campus Pride Index or GLAAD.
I hope this article has helped you to consider what might be important to you as you continue your college search! If you have any questions or concerns about the college search process for LGBTQ2S+ students, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.