In general, colleges are consistently becoming more LGBTQ+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer/Questioning) friendly. Young people are more accepting of different sexual orientations and gender identities, and those attitudes are reflected at a growing number of U.S. colleges.
However, there are still many college campuses that have reputations for not being inclusive or safe for members of the LGBTQ+ community. If it's important to you to be at a school with a vibrant LGBTQ+ community, you should consider looking at specifically LGBTQ-friendly schools.
In this article, we'll do the following:
- Define an LGBTQ-friendly (or LGBTQ-accepting) school
- Explain why you should consider an LGBTQ-friendly college
- Provide lists of LGBTQ-friendly colleges and universities
- Give advice for how to use those lists and do effective research to determine if a school is LGBTQ-friendly
What Is an LGBTQ-Friendly College?
An LGBTQ-friendly college makes its LGBTQ+ students feel safe, accepted, and comfortable on campus. It offers plentiful resources to provide support and counsel for LGBTQ+ students.
Furthermore, the students (and faculty) at LGBTQ-friendly colleges are accepting and supportive of members of the LGBTQ+ community. LGBTQ+ students feel at ease expressing themselves around non-LGBTQ+ students, and the student body treats LGBTQ+ students with tolerance and respect.
If you're looking for a specific orientation, like lesbian or trans-accepting colleges, the good news is that an LGBTQ-friendly campus will likely provide the environment you're looking for. When we say a school is LGBTQ+ accepting, it means they'll be welcoming of people who identify as lesbian, trans, or any part of the queer community as well.
Why Should You Consider an LGBTQ+ Friendly College?
If You're an LGBTQ+ Student
If you go to an LGBTQ-friendly college as an LGBTQ+ student, you'll be in a more accepting, supportive environment. Being in an inclusive place can have a positive impact on your quality of life and academic performance while you're in college.
Also, you'll be around more LGBTQ+ students who are out. LGBTQ+ students at less accepting colleges may not feel comfortable coming out and expressing their sexual or gender identities.
Perhaps most importantly, at an LGBTQ-friendly college you'll have more support services, organizations, and programs designed to help you as a queer student. You'll be able to befriend other LGBTQ+ students and have access to mentoring and counseling resources. Many LGBTQ+-friendly colleges even have orientation programs specifically for queer students to help them get acclimated to college life.
If You're Not an LGBTQ+ Student
Generally, people tend to be happier if they're in a community with others who share their political and social views. If you support LGBTQ+ rights, you're more likely to be around like-minded people at an LGBTQ-friendly college. Many college students believe it's important to support equality for and acceptance of LGBTQ+ people, regardless of how they personally identify.
Even if you're not an active ally of the LGBTQ+ community, you can benefit from attending an LGBTQ-friendly college. Ideally, the college experience should broaden your horizons and expose you to diverse people and communities. At an LGBTQ-accepting college, you're more likely to learn about issues that affect the queer community and interact with queer students, which may give you some new perspectives on the world.
Lists of LGBTQ+-Friendly Colleges
I'm providing you with two lists of LGBTQ+-friendly colleges from two different sources. Both have clearly defined criteria for their rankings, and they're both very reputable.
The first list from Campus Pride is more reflective of the available resources for LGBTQ+ students. The second list from Princeton Review is more reflective of on-campus attitudes and treatment of members of the LGBTQ+ community.
Campus Pride is a non-profit dedicated to creating safer, more inclusive LGBTQ+-friendly colleges and universities. The Campus Pride Index includes over 400 colleges and universities, and allows students to search for a school by region and ranking.
The top 40 LGBTQ+-friendly colleges are based on scores from the Campus Pride Index. The Campus Pride Index includes more than 50 self-assessment questions sent to colleges that correspond to eight different LGBTQ+-friendly factors:
- LGBTQ+ Policy Inclusion
- LGBTQ+ Support and Institutional Commitment
- LGBTQ+ Academic Life
- LGBTQ+ Housing
- LGBTQ+ Campus Safety
- LGBTQ+ Counseling and Health
- LGBTQ+ Recruitment and Retention Efforts
The top 40 LGBTQ-friendly colleges as identified by Campus Pride are listed below.
- Ithaca College (Ithaca, NY)
- Rutgers-New Brunswick (New Brunswick, NJ)
- University of Maryland-College Park (College Park, MD)
- Lehigh University (Bethlehem, PA)
- Montclair State University (Montclair, NJ)
- Penn State University (University Park, PA)
- University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, PA)
- Princeton University (Princeton, NJ)
- Kansas State University (Manhattan, KS)
- Southern Illinois University-Carbondale (Carbondale, IL)
- Indiana University-Bloomington (Bloomington, IN)
- University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire (Eau Claire, WI)
- University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (Milwaukee, WI)
- University of Wisconsin-Green Bay (Green Bay, WI)
- The Ohio State University (Columbus, OH)
- Kenyon College (Gambier, OH)
- Kent State University (Kent, OH)
- Augsburg University (Minneapolis, MN)
- Macalester College (St. Paul, MN)
- Purdue University (West Lafayette, IN)
- University of Michigan-Ann Arbor (Ann Arbor, MI)
- Tufts University (Medford, MA)
- University of Massachusetts-Amherst (Amherst, MA)
- University of Vermont (Burlington, VT)
- MIT (Cambridge, MA)
- Guilford College (Greensboro, NC)
- Northern Kentucky University (Highland Heights, KY)
- Elon University (Elon, NC)
- University of Louisville (Louisville, KY)
- University of Kentucky (Lexington, KY)
- University of Texas at Dallas (Richardson, TX)
- Texas Tech University (Lubbock, TX)
- University of Washington (Seattle, WA)
- University of Oregon (Eugene, OR)
- Portland State University (Portland, OR)
- University of Colorado at Boulder (Boulder, CO)
- San Diego State University (San Diego, CA)
- Southern Oregon University (Ashland, OR)
- Washington State University (Pullman, WA)
- Harvey Mudd College (Claremont, CA)
MIT is LGBTQ+-friendly.
The Princeton Review rankings of the most LGBTQ-friendly colleges are based on students' answers to the survey question "Do students, faculty, and administrators at your college treat all persons equally regardless of their sexual orientations and gender identity/expression?" Schools are then ranked based on how students respond.
Schools are ranked from 1-20 with #1 being the most LGBTQ-friendly school. But keep in mind that every school on this list will be welcoming to members of the queer community.
- Bryn Mawr College (Bryn Mawr, PA)
- Mount Holyoke College (South Hadley, MA)
- Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering (Needham, MA)
- Brown University (Providence, RI)
- Agnes Scott College (Decatur, GA)
- College of the Atlantic (Bar Harbor, ME)
- Reed College (Portland, OR)
- Wellesley College (Wellesley, MA)
- Rice University (Houston, TX)
- University of North Carolina at Asheville (Ashville, NC)
- Nazareth College (Rochester, NY)
- Scripps College (Claremont, CA)
- Pitzer College (Claremont, CA)
- Mills College (Oakland, CA)
- Columbia University (New York, NY)
- Macalester College (St. Paul, MN)
- Emerson College (Boston, MA)
- William and Mary (Williamsburg, VA)
- Wesleyan University (Middletown, CT)
- State University of New York-Purchase College (Purchase, NY)
How Should You Use These Lists?
If you want to go to an LGBTQ-friendly college, you should research the schools that interest you on the Campus Pride or Princeton Review list to determine if you want to apply to them. Keep in mind that some of these colleges have a specific focus. Bryn Mawr, for instance, is a women's college. Also, Emerson is devoted to the study of communication and performing arts.
Besides the school being accepting, be sure to consider the other factors that are important to you when it comes to choosing a college, including cost, size, selectivity, location, and the majors offered.
Look at the school's website, and use guidebooks, college finders, search websites, and other ranking lists to help you in the college selection process. If possible, consult with teachers, counselors, parents, current students, and alumni.
Research colleges to find the right one for you!
What Should You Do if a School You're Considering Didn't Make the Cut?
Just because a school didn't make either list doesn't necessarily mean that it's LGBTQ-unfriendly. If there's a school you're interested in, you can look up its score on the Campus Pride Index. The Campus Pride Index scores schools from one to five stars. Schools that get a five-star rating are the most LGBTQ-friendly. While over 400 schools take part in the Campus Pride Index, many schools still don't. So be sure to check your school’s website for their LGBTQ+ resources as well.
If you're not sure where your school stacks up in terms of queer acceptance, contact a representative from the LGBTQ+ resource center or student group to get more information about the atmosphere on campus. Usually, you can find those contacts on college websites. (Pro tip: if you can't find queer-friendly resources to contact, then the school may not be very accepting.)
Also, you can consult other sources that evaluate how LGBTQ+-friendly a college is. On Niche, you can search for a specific college. Under "diversity" for each school's guide, there is a category called "gay pride" that describes the atmosphere for LGBTQ+ students on campus.
Similarly, on the College View finder, you can search for schools that are LGBTQ+-friendly. Additionally, if you look at a specific college's profile, you can see whether the school has gay and lesbian organizations.
Keep in mind that the U.S. has more than 5,300 colleges and universities, so there will be more LGBTQ-friendly schools than are on this list. Another good place to find schools that are queer accepting is this list of the 28 best liberal arts colleges in the country. Many, if not all, of them will support their queer student population.
Another good resource is this list of the most (politically) liberal universities in the U.S. These schools will have more LGBTQ+ friendly policies than a conservative school will.
Like we mentioned earlier, it's important to choose a safe and accepting college environment for you. But costs can be a concern when picking a college, too. If you're hoping to go to a school that will offer you financial assistance, check out this list of colleges that meet 100% of students' financial need.
Finally, to make sure you get into the college of your dreams, read this post on the important college application deadlines you can't miss.
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Justin has extensive experience teaching SAT prep and guiding high school students through the college admissions and selection process. He is firmly committed to improving equity in education and helping students to reach their educational goals. Justin received an athletic scholarship for gymnastics at Stanford University and graduated with a BA in American Studies.