Rainbow Road to College
Our College Admissions Hub for LGBTQ+ Students
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Welcome to the Rainbow Road to College — our comprehensive guide for LGBTQ+ students navigating the college application process. Applying to college can be an exciting and daunting endeavor, and if you identify as queer, trans, nonbinary, or gender nonconforming, you might have additional questions about finding an inclusive campus.
But don’t worry – we’ve got your back.
In this guide, we’ll provide you with the resources, tips, and guiding questions you’ll need to feel empowered as you embark on this next chapter of your life. Given uneven legal protections for LGBTQ+ students, it’s becoming more important than ever to find a campus home that will support queer students in their fullness! So – whether you’re wondering how to research LGBTQ+-friendly colleges, how to find scholarships for queer students, or how to suss out if your dream schools are truly gender-inclusive, we’ve got you covered.
PART I: Questions to Consider
Every LGBTQ+ student has different values and needs. Let us help you figure out what matters to you.
Below, we’ve amassed a list of questions to help you figure out your personal priorities as you seek out a queer-inclusive campus. After all, not all LGBTQ+ students are alike! For some LGBTQ+ students, a gender-inclusive locker room for the basketball team might be a “must”; for others, housing options that allow students to live with other queer students will be the priority. Given that your needs will vary, here are some questions to consider to determine your own priorities before we get into the weeds of evaluating colleges.
Do my dream schools’ institutional priorities reflect a commitment to gender diversity?
- Does the school’s nondiscrimination policy posted on their website include sexual orientation and gender identity?
- Does the campus have an active LGBTQ+ student group — or multiple groups? Do those groups sponsor events for LGBTQ+ students?
- Is there an LGBTQ+ resource center on campus?
- Does this school have out queer, trans, or gender nonconforming faculty members?
Does that commitment persist in the details?
- Can students easily list their preferred name and pronouns for official school use?
- Do professors list their pronouns in their email signatures?
- Do professors use and encourage gender-inclusive language in class?
- If you visit campus, do you see posters advertising organizations and events oriented towards LGBTQ+ students?
- If the school has a center or office dedicated to supporting queer students, is it exclusively student-run? Or do paid staff members also play a role? (Hint: the presence of paid staff members can indicate a significant institutional commitment to LGBTQ+ students!)
Can I incorporate my queerness into my studies?
- Is there an LGBTQ-specific academic degree program? If not, are there LGBTQ-specific courses offered within other degree programs?
- Is there an extensive collection of LGBTQ-related offerings in the campus library?
- Does my dream school regularly invite queer guest speakers to campus?
Are there gender-inclusive housing options and living spaces?
- Does my dream school offer gender-neutral, gender-inclusive, or all-gender on-campus housing?
- Does my dream school allow for students with same-sex partners to reside together in campus housing?
- Do students have the choice of sharing living space with LGBTQ+ roommates?
- Are there gender-inclusive bathrooms? Locker rooms?
Are there opportunities for vibrant LGBTQ+ student life?
- Beyond the existence of an LGBTQ+ resource center, are there clubs and extracurriculars that cater specifically to queer identities? LGBTQ+ Greek life? Queer engineering club? LGBTQ+ Muslim Collective?
- Is there visible, active LGBTQ representation and/or leadership roles in a variety of student groups?
Is LGBTQ+ students’ well-being supported through affirming counseling and healthcare?
- Are there LGBTQ-supportive counseling services, with a trained staff that understands the needs and experiences of gender-diverse students?
- Is there a support group(s) that assists students in the process of acknowledging and disclosing gender-diverse identities?
- Can students easily access free and anonymous STI testing on a regular basis?
- Does at least one student healthcare plan cover hormone replacement therapy? Hormone blockers?
Are there scholarships specific to queer, trans, or gender nonconforming students?
- Especially for students whose queerness might have caused a falling out or a loss of support from their family, does my dream college offer opportunities for financial support specifically catering to LGBTQ+ students?
PART II: Resources
Practical tools to help you find the college that feels like home.
Now that you have a better sense of what’s important to you as a queer, trans, or gender nonconforming college student, it’s time to move on to the practical stuff — which of the schools on your list reflect those values and priorities? In other words, we’ve gathered below a list of resources to help you answer the questions above with regard to specific colleges. Wondering whether your dream school has gender inclusive bathrooms? Try the Trans Policy Clearinghouse. Curious about whether a school has a well-funded LGBTQ+ Center? Check out the Campus Pride Index. And if you have a specific question that isn’t explicitly or thoroughly covered in one of these resources, don’t be afraid to reach out to us — or ask an admissions officer directly!
Campus Pride Index
The Campus Pride Index is a free, online tool for evaluating institutional commitment to LGBTQ+-inclusive policy, program, and practice.
- Colleges are rated on a scale of 1-5 for overall LGBTQ+ friendliness and given more detailed subscores for LGBTQ+ friendliness with regard to academic life, student life, counseling and health, and more.
- Colleges are also given a thorough report card detailing the presence or absence of key services to support gender inclusivity, like regular LGBTQ+ social activities, active recruitment of queer staff, and more.
- You can search for a specific school’s evaluation or scan through the full list of colleges.
Trans Policy Clearinghouse
The Trans Policy Clearinghouse is the premier resource for students seeking to learn more about trans-inclusive policies at colleges.
- Allows you to specifically search for:
- Colleges with Nondiscrimination Policies that Include Gender Identity/Expression
- Colleges that Cover Transition-Related Medical Expenses Under Student Health Insurance
- Colleges that List Campus Gender-Inclusive Restrooms on Their Website
- Colleges that Provide Gender-Inclusive Housing
- Colleges that Allow Students to Use Chosen Name and Pronouns on Campus Records
- Colleges with Trans-Inclusive Athletic Policies
- Women’s Colleges with Trans-Inclusive Admissions Policies
ACLU Map of Anti-Trans Legislation
Scroll down on this page for a heat map of states in which anti-trans bills or bills targeting LGBTQ+ rights are on the docket. Of course, not all of these bills will become law, but it still might provide useful information for students looking at colleges within a specific state!
HBCU Clearinghouse for LGBTQ+ Inclusion
Interested in applying to HBCUs Check out this comprehensive index of HBCUs in the United States, in which each HBCU is accompanied by a detailed evaluation of their queer-inclusivity.
Resources for Queer College Students
Use this resource provided by BestColleges.com to learn about some of the most common issues faced by LGBTQ+ college students, as well as tips on how to navigate Greek life as a queer student, how to find queer mentorship, and more.
College Scholarships for LGBTQ+ Students
Check out this database of scholarships established for LGBTQ+ college students, available from many public and private organizations, as well as from individual donors. Of course, if you’re seeking a scholarship for LGBTQ+ students, you should also research opportunities at the individual colleges on your list, as well as consult with your guidance counselor or college admissions coach!
Individual school-specific research
It’s internet sleuthing time! You can learn a lot about a school’s and priorities by digging into their public-facing online image, as well as connecting with online groups of current LGBTQ+ students.
- On the school’s website, look at their list of student groups on campus to check out how many LGBTQ+ groups there are — and what they do! You can usually filter student groups by topic on lists like these.
- Use Instagram (and other social media) and search for terms like “queer” + the school’s name. Some colleges have social media accounts run by students dedicated to queer life on campus, like @qsa.tulane (Tulane Queer Student Alliance) and @umassbpq (UMass Bi/Pan/Queer Collective).
- Do a deep dive on Reddit and Discord threads — you can look for threads dedicated to prospective/admitted students to a specific school, or you can check out A2C’s Reddit & Discord communities. On these platforms, you can search by key terms to see if other prospective or current students have asked similar questions that you have to help crowdsource information.
Ask people on campus directly
While it’s a great idea to do your research to ensure LGBTQ+ students are represented and celebrated at the colleges on your list, don’t forget to ask the school communities directly — whether that means sending your admissions officer an email or popping by the LGBTQ+ center during your school visit.
- Ask school reps your tough questions! It is the admissions officers’ job to answer questions of prospective students and families, so use their office as a resource. Ask them, “What resources and opportunities does this university have that particularly support LGBTQ+ students?” or “Can I be put in touch with a current student who identifies as LGBTQ+ to ask about life on campus?” Or, ask them specific questions that arise in your research!
- Ask folks at the school’s LGBTQ+ center (if they have one) about their experience of queerness at college. Do they feel supported? Do they feel that they have community?
- If you have friends or acquaintances at the school in question, tap into those networks to ask about their perceptions or experiences of the on-campus queer community. If your friends don’t happen to know much about the school’s LGBTQ+ resources, you can always ask to be put in touch with another student who does!