Resources for the College LGBT Community
A Note About the Acronym: We at College Choice realize that the LGBT acronym is often lengthened to include all those who identify as asexual, intersexed, queer, questioning, and more. Our use of the shorthand—LGBT—is not to exclude such identities but is a choice of consistency. Finally, we also use the word “queer” synonymously with LGBT to connote one whom identifies outside the societal gender or sexuality norms.
Meet the Expert
Cate Mackenzie’s writing has been published in numerous journals, magazines, and on websites covering LGBT culture and issues. She has also worked in book publishing for ten years. In that decade she has marketed, copy edited, proofread hundreds of books while also witnessing a dramatic change in social and digital media. Despite the flux, a certainty remains: people long to learn, and Cate loves making the path to learning as accessible and rewarding as possible. Cate has a BA and MFA in writing, lives in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, and wishes there was a LGBT resource when she was applying to college.
Many gains have been made in LGBT equality, but legislation is not necessarily synonymous with awareness, inclusivity, and intersectionality. Those colleges and universities that strive to not only welcome a diverse population, but create a campus environment that reflects and nourishes that community, can be difficult to find through word searches and hopeful clicks alone. Which is why we’ve done all that work for you. In this guide you’ll find absolutely everything you need to know about applying to and succeeding in college as a LGBT identified person. We have the definitive list on the friendliest LGBT schools, which scholarships you should apply for, a trans chapter, and many more resources for you.
A Safe and Welcoming Campus
The statistics on LGBT high school teens are staggering. GLSEN (the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network) came out with a seminal study in 2011 that reported 82 percent of LGBT youth were bullied because of their sexual orientation and gender identity and 64 percent felt unsafe at school. Corresponding statistics about suicide, substance abuse, homelessness, and disciplinary issues are, sadly, not surprising. But there’s good news, the Human Rights Campaign reports that 77 percent of LGBT youth know things will get better. This is where and when college comes in. College can provide the affirmation, community, support, and resources that LGBT people need to not only survive, but thrive. It’s the very reason we’ve created this resource for you. Research and applying for college is hard, and it is that much harder when you’re LGBT.
Below are some fundamental factors that make a campus welcoming, and, even more importantly, nourishing.
LGBT Resource Center
Perhaps the most important facet of a LGBT friendly campus is the resource center. While some LGBT centers stand alone, others work in collaboration with other student or diversity centers. Either way, the resource center is the nucleus of queer student life, providing not only a safe space but access to resources and services designed specifically to promote LGBT presence and participation on campus. From discussion groups and mentorship programs to Pride events and lavender graduations, the resource center works in dual directions, for the university and for the student, bridging the gaps that can make school difficult for LGBT students. For a comprehensive list of colleges and universities that have LGBT resource centers, check out the College Equality Index.
Naturally, each university’s queer calendar looks different from another’s, but those schools that made our list of best LGBT friendly colleges and univerities (see below) offer a combination of weekly and annual events celebrating and honoring their LGBT students. Some examples of LGBT events you may want to look for when researching and applying to college include:
- Welcome back picnics or barbeques
- Celebration of LGBT History Month in October
- National Coming Out Week in October
- Transgender Day of Remembrance on November 20
- Lavender Graduation, a ceremony celebrating LGBT graduates
- LGBT leadership retreats
- AIDS/HIV walks and runs
- Queer proms
Queer or LGBT studies, often integrated in the Women and Gender Studies departments, is an increasingly popular field of study, and the demands for diversity experts is growing exponentially. To learn more about queer studies, see our section below, where we’ve detailed the colleges and universities that offer LGBT-related degrees or concentrations. We’ve also explained how best to utilize such a degree in the work force.
But even if you’re not planning to allocate your education strictly to LGBT studies, we encourage you to find a college that infuses their curriculum—across disciplines—with the voices of and contributions from lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals. Knowing which schools intentionally and attentively incorporate the use of LGBT writers, scientists, scholars, psychologists, and leaders in technology and business into their curriculum can be daunting at best, nebulous at worst. So here’s what to look for:
- Courses offered on feminism, gender, and queer theory
- Syllabi peppered with works from women, LGBT folks, and people of color
- Institutional statements on pronoun language
- Emphasis on multi-disciplinary approach to education
- Out LGBT faculty, administrators, and staff members
- A LGBT specific library
Policy and Institutional Support
All the schools listed on our Best LGBT Friendly Colleges and Universities ranking (see below) have substantive non-discrimination policies; it reflects a fundamental and necessary priority on student protection and service. Some schools even post their policies online. Campus Pride provides a full checklist of what to look for, but we’ve listed here some of the key factors indicating that a campus has legislated institutional support and inclusive policy:
- Non-discrimination (including both gender and orientation) statements
- Students can change their name and gender identity on university forms
- The existence of a LGBT advisory committee
- Employee health insurance covers issues specific to being LGBT
- Health insurance coverage extends to the same-sex partners of faculty and staff
- Paid staff who work in a resource center and are responsible for LGBT services
The importance of a positive—that is, inclusive—residence life, especially for incoming students, cannot be overstated. Home is where you should feel safe and the most yourself! And the fact that many students have yet to experience a safe and welcoming home life only compounds the need for a school to prioritize their LGBT students’ residence life. The best colleges and universities—namely those in our definitive list—will offer the following:
- Roommate matching, so you can find a LGBT friendly roommate
- Gender-inclusive housing for new and returning students
- Resident Assistants and Directors who are trained in LGBT issues
- Numerous gender-inclusive (or single occupancy) restrooms and showers
- A safe space, such as a LGBT resource center
Faculty/Staff Training and Workshops
Safety is, without a doubt, a crucial element to a welcoming and friendly campus, but safety can be understood and experienced is diverse ways. Universities should have, at the very least, a procedure for reporting crimes and incidents against LGBT students. But beyond this, schools should promise to train their faculty and staff—especially campus police—on issues specifically related to gender and sexual orientation. Similarly, universities should train all employees on bias, use of language, trans inclusivity, hate crime prevention, and more. Many LGBT Resource Centers offer free trainings and workshops. For example, the Rutgers LGBT leadership go into classrooms to teach about language, nonconforming identities, and building inclusive communities. And at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee, faculty can host workshops on privilege, ally intervention, transgender identities, or request something else entirely. Endorsed by the college or university and implemented by the LGBT community on that campus, workshops and trainings reflect a community committed to awareness, inclusivity, and shattering bias.
College and university LGBT Resource Centers are unequivocally a place to connect, through group meetings (see below) or hosted events (see above). But many now offer the opportunity for even closer connection through peer mentoring programs. Especially for first-year or transfer students, getting involved in mentoring is a critical first-step to involvement in the larger LGBT community. Mentors act as a positive role model, as those who know the cultural nuances of the campus. They provide support, guidance, information to resources, and answers to your questions on what it means to be LGBT at your school.
Groups and Organizations
Social groups are the nucleus of a vibrant LGBT resource center. A particularly active and high-functioning center will accommodate groups and organizations that align with various identities and needs. The examples below reflect a sampling of student groups one can find through a university LGBT resource center, and are, in fact, pulled from our list of Best LGBT Friendly Colleges and Universities:
- Gay and straight alliance
- Trans and gender-nonconforming groups
- Reading and discussion groups
- Queer athletes
- Questioning groups
- Queer people of color
- Faith-oriented LGBT students
- Asexual and non-binary groups
- Womyn’s group
- Fraternities and sororities
Holistic health for LGBT students includes mental, physical, and emotional care. Most universities and colleges offer health insurance and have a healthcare facility on campus, but only some cover the range of needs specific to its queer population, especially its trans students (for more on trans health, see our section below on being a trans or gender-nonconforming student). Here’s what to look for when researching a college’s health services:
- Guaranteed confidentiality
- LGBT trained doctors, nurses, counselors, and staff
- LGBT specific counseling and support
- Free and anonymous HIV/STI tests
- Health insurance that covers hormone therapy and gender reassignment surgeries
- Voice modification programs
- Resources on safe sex and contraceptive care
- Respect to and use of a preferred name
Tip: For more on what makes a campus safe, welcoming, and nourishing for LGBT students, we recommend visiting Campus Pride.
The Definitive List: 50 Best LGBT Friendly Colleges and Universities
UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA
COLLEGE CHOICE SCORE: 100
COST PER YEAR: $49,536
COLLEGE CHOICE SCORE: 99.90
COST PER YEAR: $50,070
COLLEGE CHOICE SCORE: 97.60
COST PER YEAR: $50,562
HARVEY MUDD COLLEGE
COLLEGE CHOICE SCORE: 96.27
COST PER YEAR: $50,649
COLLEGE CHOICE SCORE: 95.13
COST PER YEAR: $53,000
UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA LOS ANGELES
COLLEGE CHOICE SCORE: 94.95
COST PER YEAR: $25,117
COLLEGE CHOICE SCORE: 94.91
COST PER YEAR: $49,241
COLLEGE CHOICE SCORE: 94.81
COST PER YEAR: $48,212
COLLEGE CHOICE SCORE: 94.50
COST PER YEAR: $50,604
COLLEGE CHOICE SCORE: 94.42
COST PER YEAR: $32,172
See the full list of all 50 Best LGBT Friendly Colleges and Universities here.
Queer and LGBT Studies
While many liberal arts colleges and research universities have a Women and Gender Studies department and a corresponding major, fewer present the option to supplement with a minor in queer or LGBT studies, and even fewer offer a full-fledged major. For those students wishing to concentrate in queer studies, our list of the 50 Best LGBT Friendly Colleges and Universities is a good place to start. However, there are many other programs worth noting in addition to those, so we’ve listed below the colleges and universities where you can earn either a bachelor of arts in queer studies or combine a queer studies minor to another area of study. Finally, are you wondering how a queer studies degree will serve you, what kind of career it’ll afford you? We’ve provided some suggestions and resources below the school listing.
- Bowdoin College – minor in Gay and Lesbian Studies
- California State University, Northridge – minor in Queer Studies
- DePaul University – minor in LGBTQ Studies
- Hampshire College – major in Queer Studies
- Hobart and William Smith Colleges – major in LGBT Studies
- Humboldt State University – BA minor or Certificate of Study in Critical Race, Gender, and Sexuality Studies
- Mills College – minor in Queer Studies
- Northern Illinois University – minor in LGBT Studies
- Northwestern University – major in Gender and Sexuality Studies
- Oregon State University – major in Queer Studies
- Sarah Lawrence University – major in LGBT Studies
- Syracuse University – minor in LGBT Studies
- Temple University – minor in LGBT Studies
- Towson University – minor in LGBT Studies
- University of Arizona – Institute for Queer Studies
- University of California, Irvine – minor in Queer Studies
- University of Chicago – LGBT Studies Fellowship
- University of Toronto – major in Sexual Diversity Studies
- Wesleyan University – course cluster in Queer Studies
- Western Washington University – minor in Queer Studies
- Yale University – LGBT Studies track within Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies program
After Graduation: Careers for LGBT/Queer Studies Students
A degree in LGBT/queer studies may not situate you on an explicit and predictable career track, but rather than see this as problematic or a vocational hindrance, students of LGBT/queer studies should feel confident that their studies have prepared them for a range of career options, and that this scope will set them apart. Education, health, and public policy systems alike actively seek prospective employees with experience and expertise in diversity. In business, media, and philanthropic fields, the need for a queer perspective is of exponential importance. Wherever you decide to apply your academic experience, it’s of crucial importance to know your workplace rights as a LGBT person:
This nonprofit organization is committed to changing law and policy initiatives to advance transgender equality.
A civil rights organization devoted to LGBT equity, Lambda Legal enacts impact litigation, societal education, and public policy to ensure LGBT rights in legislation and the workplace.
Pride at Work is a nonprofit organization that represents and advocates for LGBT union members. They are officially recognized by the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations.
The country’s largest LGBT equal rights group, the HRC lobbies in Congress on behalf of the LGBT community.
Out for Work provides resources and guidance to LGBT students seeking employment opportunities.
Most LGBT Friendly Cities in the U.S.
Tip: To see how hundreds of cities rank across the country in terms of non-discrimination, their relationship with the LGBT community, employer equality, and more, check out the Human Rights Campaign’s Municipal Equality Index.
1. SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA
Naturally, San Francisco is home to the largest LGBT community in the country, with its long history of LGBT activism and its proliferation of queer events, resources, programs, bars and restaurants, and neighborhoods. San Francisco is also notable for having some of the highest rent rates in the country. So, if you’re considering college in the city—and the schools below are definitely worth considering—look into student housing, roommates, or outlying cities such as Oakland.
San Francisco State University’s tuition rates—around $6,000 a year for in-state residents and $17,000 for out-of-state residents—are some of the lowest in the city. The curriculum includes a queer studies minor and the Queer and Trans Resource Center provides resources and information on the school’s LGBT organizations, events, and services.
The University of California San Francisco, a major center of health sciences, has an active and vibrant LGBT community, supported by a trans health center, the AIDS research institute, a child and adolescent gender center clinic, the Alliance Health Project, and much more. Tuition rates are between $32,750 and $44,996 a year for in-state and out-of-state residents, respectfully.
The University of San Francisco is a Jesuit Catholic school nestled near Golden Gate Park. Their Gender and Sexuality Center offers workshops, presentations, and a dialogical space to infuse LGBT voices into the community. Tuition rates are around $44,000 annually.
2. PORTLAND, OREGON
Home to the Portland Queer Film Festival and PQ Monthly, this growing city on the border of Oregon and Washington is known for its liberal politics, art scene, enthusiasm for outdoor recreation, and ebullient Pride celebrations. Portland is populated by several small liberal arts colleges, which boast the resources and inclusivity of bigger institutions with the intimacy of small classes and communities.
Lewis & Clark College is a private liberal arts college specializing in arts, sciences, education, and law. They have been lauded for their Gender Studies Program, built on a curriculum already committed to creating gender balance. For more about being queer at Lewis & Clark, check out the Queer Resource Center. Tuition is $45,100 a year.
Portland State University receives excellent marks on their Campus Pride report card, especially for its health services and campus safety. They offer a minor in queer studies as well as a slew of scholarships for those studying gender or queer studies. Tuition is $7,794 for in-state residents and $23,319 for out-of-state residents.
Reed College also makes the Campus Pride Index. A very small (there are only 1,400 undergrads) private, liberal arts college with a forested canyon nature preserve at the center of campus, Reed is known for its interdisciplinary studies program, which includes a consortium on sex, gender, and sexuality. Tuition is $47,760 annually.
3. NEW YORK CITY
Aside from San Francisco, it doesn’t get much gayer or welcoming than New York. With a history of advocacy, the city has programs for LGBT people of all stripes, queer celebrations throughout the year, and countless bars, neighborhoods, and organizations supporting the LGBT community. There are dozens of colleges and universities within the city, but the ones below are especially inclusive and progressive, each making good grades on Campus Pride (NYU is listed above in our best LGBT schools list).
Columbia University honors Trans Awareness Week and Queer Awareness Month, and their LGBT Resource Center hosts leadership retreats, open houses, lavender graduations, and dozens of queer student groups. Columbia is ranked fourth in the nation and costs $51,000 annually.
The College of Staten Island, part of the CUNY system, offers a queer studies program with classes such as LGBT Literature, Black Gay Male Literature, Gender Studies, and more. Tuition rates are notably affordable; in-state students pay around $6,000 a year and out-of-state residents, $12,800.
Pace University nearly made our best LGBT schools list, which is only to say that they are a great school for queer youth. Their LGBTQA Center holds a library of resources, hosts numerous events for the LGBT community throughout the year, and supports alumni among many other services and initiatives. Tuition is $38,000 annually.
4. SEATTLE, WASHINGTON
One of the few cities in the country that can still boast the existence of a lesbian bar, Seattle is home to Dan Savage and his syndicated column, Savage Love, as well as the annual Queer Film Festival, the famous Capital Hill neighborhood, and a LGBT visitors center—one of only a few in the country. The literary, music, and art scenes in Seattle further reinforce the counter-cultural ethos of the largest Pacific Northwest city. Many of the colleges and universities in Seattle reflect this inclusivity and celebration of the LGBT community, notably the University of Washington and Washington State, both of which make our best LGBT schools list. So see above for more on those schools, but if you’re looking to avoid a big city and big school, we suggest Evergreen State College in Olympia.
Only an hour from Olympia National Park, Evergreen State College is an experimental public liberal arts college where there are over sixty emphases to choose from, covering everything from biology and art history to somatic studies and sustainability. Not only is Evergreen considered one of the best colleges on the West Coast, as ranked by The Princeton Review and the U.S. News and World Report, but Evergreen made the Campus Pride best LGBT campuses list, and is one of the more affordable education options with an in-state tuition of $8,200 and an out-of-state tuition at $22,321.
5. AUSTIN, TEXAS
Texas may not be a queer haven, but Austin’s LGBT scene has reason to be proud (pun intended), and is, in fact, quite vibrant since it attracts queers from all over the Lone Star State. There are two Pride parades each year, as well as LGBT sport leagues, youth programs, a handful of gay and lesbian bars, and more.
The University of Texas at Austin not only ranks well academically (52nd among national universities) but the renowned Gender and Sexuality Center has promoted gender and sexuality equality for decades, by way of a queer library, internship and mentorship programs, feminist Fridays, scholarships, and more. In-state tuition is $9,830 and out-of-state tuition is $34,836.
6. NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA
Mardi Gras is only one part of the greater NOLA queer scene. In addition to its huge Pride celebration, numerous LGBT organizations for old and young alike, and a sizeable LGBT Community Center, the city annually hosts an international literary festival that began as way to promote awareness of AIDS/HIV. Gallup has estimated that over 5 percent of the New Orleans population identifies as LGBT (compared with 6.2 percent in San Francisco).
Though many universities and colleges in New Orleans are predominantly private and religiously affiliated, Tulane University makes many rankings for being one of the most LGBT friendly campuses in the country. LGBT History Month, Trans Awareness Week, Pride Week, and Audre Lorde Week are just some of the commemorative events honored by the school. Finally, Tulane is also nationally acclaimed, ranked 41st among National Universities by U.S. News & World Report. You can learn more Tulane’s queer life at their Office for Gender and Sexual Diversity. Tuition is nearly $50,000 annually.
7. LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA
Los Angeles is home to the world’s largest provider of programs and services for LGBT people through the Los Angeles LGBT Center. They offer resources on health, social services and housing, culture and education, and leadership and advocacy. Additionally, varying neighborhoods throughout the LA metro area have upward of 40 percent LGBT-identified people. ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives as well as the Gay Woman’s Service Center are also located in the City of Angels.
The University of California Los Angeles is ranked 23rd among National Universities by U.S. News & World Report and receives 4.5 out of 5 stars on the Campus Pride best LGBT schools list. Their LGBT Resource Center connects students with over twenty queer organizations, health and counseling services, trans resources, and more. Tuition for California residents is $12,753 a year and $35,631 for non-residents.
Tied with UCLA in its U.S. News & World Report ranking, the University of Southern California is California’s oldest private school. Campus Pride gives them high marks for their health and counseling services, queer student retention rates, and resident life. The University of Southern California has a high price tag—tuition rates are around $50,200 annually—but they offer a bachelors degree in gender studies with a minor in queer studies, as well as access to a stellar LGBT center.
8. BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS
Known for its “gayborhoods,” neighborhoods with large and thriving LGBT populations, Boston has a long history of queer rights advocacy and activism; Massachusetts was the first state in the country to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples in 2004. In addition to the dozens of LGBT establishments, Boston is also home to Fenway Health and Institute, a national health service for LGBT communities.
Located in downtown Boston, Suffolk University was founded as a law school and still maintains a reputation for its business and law schools, though it offers dozens of degrees in arts and sciences as well, including a minor in gender studies. Suffolk protects its LGBT students with extensive queer programming, anti-discrimination policies, and two LGBT student organizations: one for the law school and the other for the arts, sciences, and business students. Tuition is $33,934 annually.
Brandeis University is ranked 34th among National Universities by U.S. News & World Report and receives 3.5 out of 5 stars from Campus Pride, namely for their LGBT support, institutional commitment, and academic life. Among their many services, Brandeis has a Queer Resource Center, an Allies Training Program, an Intercultural Center, a Rape Crisis Center, and an Office of Prevention Services. Brandeis’ tuition is $49,598 annually.
Babson College is a private business school located in Wellesley, a city part of greater Boston. Their commitment to the LGBT community is reflected by their many queer events and services and their high ratings from Campus Pride. Babson boasts a 99 percent employable rate for their graduates and tuition is $46,784.
9. SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH
It may be counter-intuitive at first glance, being that Utah as a whole is quite conservative, but Salt Lake City offers a lot to the queer community: a gay magazine called Gay Salt Lake, a booming Pride Center, a thrift store whose proceeds go to HIV/AIDs prevention, and this year Salt Lake City has their first gay mayor. Plus, we would maybe never have The Book of Mormon without Salt Lake. Visit Autostraddle for a queer tour through Crossroads of the West.
The University of Utah is the state’s flagship university, ranked well among National Universities by U.S. News & World Report. They provide scholarships for LGBT students, a LGBT Resource Center, lavender graduations, queer mentorship programs, fabulous Fridays, and more. Tuition for residents is $8,239 and $26,177 for non-residents.
10. DENVER AND BOULDER, COLORADO
Denver is the largest city in a 600-mile radius, making it a destination for LGBT folks from all over the middle of the country. Colorado’s GLBT Community Center is based in Denver, as is OUT FRONT media. Denver even has a Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce. Denver’s neighboring city, Boulder, was once a choice destination for progressives and counter-culturals, a reputation that still exists in addition to being a top-ranked city in health, outdoor recreation, art, inclusivity, and celebration of diversity.
The University of Denver is ranked well among National Universities by U.S. News & World Report as well as by Campus Pride for their commitment to their LGBT students. With an active queer population, the University of Denver hosts many events, offers numerous opportunities to get involved or find support, and provides access to scholarships, health services, and more. Check out their Pride Portal for more information. Tuition is $44,178 annually.
University of Colorado Boulder, a flagship university, has a strong academic reputation (89th among National Universities) and a relatively affordable cost: resident tuition is $11,091 and non-residents pay $34,125 annually. Campus Pride awards them 5 out of 5 stars for their queer student life, housing and residential options, campus safety, and counseling and health services. The University of Colorado Boulder is also one of few schools that offer a LGBT & queer studies degree. For more about LGBT life, check out their Gender and Sexuality Center.
11. Hartford, CT
The capital of Connecticut, Hartford is largely liberal and home to a nine-day LGBT Film Festival (Out Film), a Gay & Lesbian Health Collective, a LGBT Chamber of Commerce, and True Colors, a nonprofit serving the needs of sexual and gender minority youth. Hartford is also home to Trinity College, one of the nation’s best liberal arts colleges with an active and vibrant queer scene, earning the school 3.5 out of 5 stars on Campus Pride.
12. Philadelphia, PA
Many Campus Pride-acclaimed schools are located in or near Philadelphia: Penn State Brandywine, University of the Arts, and, of course, the University of Pennsylvania. Philadelphia is known for its history, and its history with LGBT equality is no different. From a mayor who hired twelve queer people to work on his team to the Mazzoni Center, the only health care provider specifically for LGBT people in Philly, Philadelphia’s burgeoning queer community has had a lot of support. The William Way LGBT Community Center, for example, provides innovative programming, social groups, networking events, art exhibitions, and counseling services to the LGBT communities in all of Philadelphia
13. Providence, RI
Rhode Island may be small, but it is mighty, and mighty queer with its reputation for progressive politics, vibrant arts and cultural scene, its proliferation of theaters and museums, and, especially, its slew of both Ivy League and renowned art schools. Brown University and Rhode Island School of Design, for example, are both widely respected for their academic standing, as well as for their support of their queer students. For more on Brown’s LGBT services, check out their LGBT Center. And for Rhode Island School of Design, we encourage you look around their Student Diversity pages.
14. Washington, DC
Nationally ranked both academically (72nd among National Universities by U.S. News & World Report) and for its LGBT friendly campus (4.5 stars from Campus Pride), American University is just one aspect of the effervescent LGBT culture in our country’s capital. The innumerable services, programs, and resources offered through American’s LGBT Center alone solidifies this standing. Washington D.C. is not just the epicenter of progress and politics, it’s home to the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBT advocacy group. As well as Metro Weekly, an award-winning magazine for the LGBT community, several gay and lesbian businesses, and The Gayborhood.
15. Chicago, IL
The Windy City is pocked with colleges and universities of all stripes, several consistently ranked as the most LGBT friendly schools in the country: Northeastern Illinois University, the University of Chicago, the University of Illinois at Chicago, and Southern Illinois University–Carbondale. Chicago has been a center for LGBT culture for nearly a century now, starting with its gay neighborhood—now known as Boys Town—in 1920. Politics are progressive, and Chicago hosts one of the country’s biggest Pride festivals and the Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame.
16. Des Moines, IA
Ranked as third among cities with the Most Out Politicians, Des Moines is small numbers yet high in queers. Attracting LGBT people from across the heartland, Des Moines scores way above the national average for its equality laws, policies, and inclusivity. Iowa’s biggest LGBT organization, One Iowa, is based in Des Moines, working toward equality across the state through advocacy and education. The University Des Moines is a medical school that not only provides safe spaces for their LGBT students, but hosts a LGBT Health and Wellness Conference.
17. Baltimore, MD
Several Campus Pride-acclaimed schools are located in or near Baltimore: Morgan State University, the University of Maryland in Baltimore and College Park, and John Hopkins University. Additionally, Equality Maryland, OUTloud Baltimore—an award-winning independent paper for the gay and lesbian community—and a huge, active LGBT community center are all based in Baltimore, a city marked by its arts and foodie scene. Every year, Baltimore’s Pride festival draws over 30,000 and the city’s Mount Vernon neighborhood is the hub of the queer scene, with its numerous gay bars and restaurants.
18. Madison, WI
The University of Wisconsin makes our list of best LGBT schools in the country, notably for its queer student life, support, institutional commitment, policies, recruitment, and retention rates. Read more over at the LGBT Campus Center. Madison, as a city, offers a large LGBT community center with various resources and services, called OutReach, as well as Our Lives, a magazine celebrating the city’s LGBQ culture.
19. San Diego, CA
In addition to boasting one of the best college campuses for LGBT people—San Diego State University—this surfing city also has room to brag about its huge LGBT Center, of which some of its services include discussion groups, volunteer resources, advocacy and civil rights assistance, behavioral health support, as well as services for men, women, and youth. Thousands attend San Diego Pride each year, in addition to numerous other city-held events for the queer population, including an HIV/AIDS run, a Frida Kahlo birthday celebration, and a Harvey Milk Breakfast. The University of San Diego, a liberal arts university ranked 89th among National Universities by U.S. News & World Report, hosts film festivals, Pride celebrations, discussion groups, and much more. Learn about USD’s queer community online.
20. Ann Arbor, MI
Ann Arbor, the second most LGBT friendly city in Michigan, is most notably recognized for being the home of the University of Michigan, a renowned institution that has imprinted on its town its progressive, literary, cultural, health and wellness, and artistic priorities. Outside of academia, this relatively small city has its own LGBT bookstore, called Common Language, as well as the Jim Toy Community Center, a hub of queer advocacy and activity. There are gay restaurants and bars, and numerous social groups specifically for people who identify as LGBT.
Nearly one-third of LGBT high school students drop out as a way to escape the discrimination, bullying, harassment, and violence they encounter in their school halls. The hurdles don’t cease on graduation however. Many LGBT students will seek bigger metro destinations to attend school in a welcoming environment, to connect with other LGBT identified people, and to participate in queer events. This can mean out-of-state tuition. And many won’t receive help, financial or emotional, from their parents. This is why LGBT scholarships can be key to enacting and affording college. We’ve compiled below a definitive list of such scholarships; while some are general, others have specific eligibility requirements. Additionally, a handful of individual schools offer their own LGBT scholarships. We’ve noted that above in our 50 Best LGBT Friendly Colleges and Universities list.
As the nation’s largest scholarship-granting organization for LGBT students of merit,
Point Foundation awards out LGBT high school students with a proven history of community involvement, leadership, and strong academic achievement. Recipients of the scholarship must be enrolled or intending to enroll full-time to an accredited U.S. college or university.
- Categories: General
- Application deadline: January 19
- Award range: $10,000
- Contact Point Foundation
Founded in 1985, the Pride Foundation has awarded over $1.65 million in scholarships. Though there are over fifty scholarships to choose from, covering a wide range of requirements, only one application is required, and students can receive more than one scholarship. However, eligible applicants must be residents of the Pacific Northwest (Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, or Washington).
- Categories: General, Regional
- Application deadline: January 11
- Award range: $3,000–10,000
- Contact Pride Foundation: Gunner Scott
The Stonewall Community Foundation
Though regionally focused (New York City), the Stonewall Community Foundation makes available a number of scholarships to LGBT students across the country, from athletic scholarships to funds covering GED tutoring, work uniforms, legal name changes, college application fees, and more.
- Categories: General, Regional
- Application deadline: April 30
- Award range: $1,500¬–$2,500
- Contact the League Foundation
Last year alone, PFLAG, the organization devoted to uniting parents and families with LGBT people, awarded more than $75,000 in scholarships. Both U.S. and non-U.S. citizens are welcome to apply. Eligibility requirements include demonstrated interest in serving the LGBT community, identifying within the LGBT spectrum, and entering college for the first time.
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