Going to college is a life-changing experience that is equally exciting and terrifying. You have the joys of finding a place to stay, making new friends and choosing your extracurricular activities, all while trying o make it to class on time.
For members of the LGBTI+ community, the decision on what school to go to becomes even harder, because it can feel like a shot in the dark trying to find a LGBTI+ friendly school, or at least one that doesn’t tolerate homophobic behavior. To make that search a little easier for you, we’ve pulled together a list of the best LGBTI+ friendly colleges in the country (in no particular order).
- Cornell University, Ithaca NY
This Ivy League school has had a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Resource Center since 1994 and has spent the last 23 years working to make a safe and welcoming environment for LGBTI+ individuals. Their goal is to create an atmosphere that eliminates all discrimination that is based on gender identity or sexual orientation.
- University of Pennsylvania
The University of Pennsylvania has one of the oldest LBGT centers in the country. It’s also one of the most active centers, and has been a resource for the Pennsylvania LGBTI+ community for more than three decades.
- Indiana University of Bloomington
If you prefer the country around Indiana, you’re in luck — Indiana University in Bloomington is one of the highest rated colleges for LGBT friendliness. There are 11 LGBTI+ groups, as well as LGBTI+ friendly sororities and fraternities for students attending the college. This college is a great option for students who want to be active in the college while still feeling safe.
- University of Washington
Heading to the Pacific Northwest, the University of Washington is a fantastic option because of its active LGBTI+ community on campus. The Q Center is home to mentoring and advising services as well as some policy advocates. There is even a Queer 101 focus group that you can take for a couple of credits as part of the Comparative History of Ideas Department. There’s also a newsletter that comes out every month to keep you informed on campus events.
- Tufts University, Massachusetts
Tufts University is one of the few that offers dedicated LGBTI+ housing, known as the Rainbow House. Their LGBT center was founded in 1992 and while their mentoring program, Team Q, is a fairly new creation, it is taking great strides toward becoming one of the best friendly campuses in the country.
- University of Massachusetts at Amherst
The Stonewall Riots are often referred to as the beginning of the Pride movement, and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst is home to The Stonewall Center that was founded in 1985. They’ve been working to create a LGBTI+ friendly campus for the past 30 years, and offer cultural programs, educational programs and peer training for students.
- San Diego State University
There’s nothing like a little California sunshine, especially if you’re looking for an LGBTI+ friendly school. San Diego State University is actually one of only two schools in the country that offer LBGT Studies as a degree major, with options to take it as a minor degree or graduate certificate. The school also hosts a Lavender Graduation ceremony specifically for all students who identify as LGBTI+.
- University of California at Los Angeles
We’re gonna hang out on the Pacific Coast for a little bit longer. The UCLA is home to more than 20 LGBTI+ student groups that are designed to support and help all the students attending this school. The UCLA LGBT Campus Resource Center is home to friendly counseling, resources and library materials, as well as education and advocacy. There is also an LGBT studies minor that you can take that is spread across multiple disciplines and contains 7 courses.
- Montclair State University, Montclair NJ
With more than 20,000 full time students, Montclair State University in New Jersey is home to some of the most diverse student populations in the country. The college’s LGBTQ Center was specifically created to enable the school to offer a safer and more welcoming environment for its LGBTI+ students. The school even hosts a Pride Awards Ceremony to honor those individuals who make contributions to the LGBTI+ community on campus.
- Portland State University, Portland OR
Portland is a great city known for its diverse population, and the Queer Resource Center at Portland State University is one of the best in the country. The college offers all sorts of resources for the physical and mental health of its LGBTI+ students, as well as a lounge and safe area for studying, reading or just hanging out.
The number of LGBTI+ friendly campuses is growing every year and this list encompasses only a small number of those fantastic schools. Before deciding on a college, consider taking a look at the many online resources, such as Campus Pride and the Southern Poverty Law Center, that offer round-ups of schools and campus organizations that are LGBTI+ centered, as well as other resources for those wanting to get involved in the Pride movement at their school.
Hopefully in the years ahead, we won’t have to rate schools anymore. An ideal future sees all schools making a strong effort to establish tolerance and unity on their campuses. For the time being though, just make sure to stay informed. If you’re looking for something a little closer to home, just do some research and see what your local schools offer. It might be worth it to stray a little further from home though, if it means you can have a safe and supportive college experience.