Hannah Morgan > Sophomore > Journalism > University of Maryland, College Park
With deadlines looming for fall 2011 college applications, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual (LGBT) students have to factor a relatively newly-recognized component into their college searches. And with recent LGBT collegiate issues abounding, have certain schools developed reputations with the LGBT community?
“I do believe that certain schools have an LGBT tolerant stereotype,” said Andrew Hor, a sophomore international business major at George Washington University. “Each school has its own unique vibe and attitude, just like a person would.”
So, where do LGBT students start when looking for colleges? What factors go into the decision?
As expected, factors like cost, location and size play a huge role, but ultimately it may be ais a gut decision made by each student individually.
“For me, personally, LGBT tolerance was extremely important when looking at colleges,” said Zoe Travis, sophomore at Smith College, one of the most “predominantly queer schools” in the country.
“College is the only four years of your life where you have so much control over what environment you are in,” said Travis, “and I [knew] that I wanted my ability to express myself to be my least concern while at school.”
Schools that offer liberal arts educations tend to portray liberal, political and social college atmospheres to potential students.
“I was picking schools I knew I could be out at, so I was looking at really liberal schools,” academically, socially and environmentally, said Andrew Reighart, a sophomore public policy major at St. Mary’s College who didn’t choose to come out until college.
Additionally, schools in cities, where more people live closer together and where there are more culturally diverse events, present more opportunities for diversity, and therefore have more liberal atmospheres.
“As I spent my high school years ‘in the closet,’ I had always fantasized of moving to a big city where I had the freedom to really explore my identity in a setting that made movement between social groups easy,” Hor said, “I feel that most LGBT students crave a change of pace and location.”
Hor said these reputations weighed heavily into his final decision of GWU. Except for one northeastern campus, Hor exclusively applied to urban schools.
“In general, urban areas tend to be more liberal, typically you will find more registered democrats there and democrats are more willing to be tolerant,” of many social issues, including LGBT tolerance, Reighart said.
Stereotypes of schools vary from student to student, however, and Reighart emphasizes that it is impossible to accurately label each school. The existence of LGBT-oriented clubs and organizations is a good indicator of a school’s LGBT population and community.
“Being out at GW has been an incredible experience. Everyone I have encountered has been more than overwhelmingly accepting and supportive,” Hor said. “GW is unique in that I do not feel that I need to partake in the larger LGBT community to seek legitimacy in my relationship- it is acknowledged by everyone.”
Finding the right college is a different journey unique to each student, regardless of sexual orientation. It’s important to keep an open mind when looking at prospective schools, and to listen to a gut reaction about the feeling of a place—oftentimes it could be a deciding factor.
Good luck class of 2015!
Images courtesy of ucla.edu and justmeans.com.