If you are finding college choice to be a challenge as an LGBTQIA+ student, you are not alone. In addition to weighing tuition costs, admission requirements, degree programs offered, and financial aid packages, you may also be factoring in things like supportive and inclusive learning environments and affirming resources in order to ensure you are able to get the most out of your college experience.
You want college to be a place where you can find a supportive community, especially if you are part of the 33% of LGBTQIA+ youth who choose to go to college away from home to get space from their families. But, will you feel any more comfortable being yourself in college? According to a 2022 study, nearly 20% of LGBTQIA+ students reported being bullied or harassed on campus, compared to 5% of non- LGBTQIA+ students. This is why the decision of which college to choose is equally as important as your major.
Thankfully, many colleges, universities, and organizations are prioritizing the safety and mental well-being of LGBTQIA+ students. We’ve compiled some of these vital resources to help you navigate challenges and thrive in your academic career, which include on-campus support, online groups, and financial assistance. Whether you’re starting out on your college journey or a veteran student looking for more ways to connect, these resources can help you foster a more inclusive and supportive higher-education experience.
On-Campus Resources for LGBTQIA+ Students
You need resources that will help you succeed in multiple areas of life: mental health, academics, social life, and physical health. On-campus resources will help you achieve success and experience enjoyment in college. These might include LGBTQIA+ student organizations, resource centers, and support groups. On-campus organizations can provide a sense of community and support, as well as opportunities for activism and advocacy. Below, you’ll discover some of the ways that on-campus resources can benefit LGBTQIA+ students and find a list of organizations and resources that exist to support you.
Where to Look On-Campus for Support
LGBTQIA+ Student Organizations
LGBTQIA+ student organizations play a crucial role in supporting students on campus. They provide a safe and welcoming space for students to connect with one another, share experiences, and advocate for their rights. Through meetings, events, and activities, they also foster a sense of community and belonging. These organizations may offer mentorship programs, leadership opportunities, and educational workshops to support the personal and academic success of LGBTQIA+ students. LGBTQIA+ student organizations are a way to find community and support.
Campus Health Center
The campus health center is a valuable resource for LGBTQIA+ students. Many of these centers provide a wide variety of services, such as STI testing and hormone therapy for transgender and non-binary students. These services are provided in a confidential and nonjudgmental environment, which can be especially important if you feel uncomfortable accessing care elsewhere.
Student Counseling Center
Rates of depression and anxiety in LGBTQIA+ youth are extremely high. Many universities have a counseling center with counselors who are trained to provide inclusive care, able to provide identity-affirming therapy, and understand the unique challenges LGBTQIA+ students face. They can help you navigate coming out, address internalized homophobia or transphobia, and assist with coping strategies. The counseling center is a confidential space, and seeking support is a sign of strength. Don’t hesitate to reach out if you need help managing your mental health.
Student services can provide support and guidance on a range of issues, including academic, personal, and financial matters. You can access services such as academic advising, career counseling, disability services, and financial aid. Some student services even offer LGBTQIA+ specific resources, such as LGBTQIA+ focused events, workshops, and support groups. Explore what student services are available at your institution and to take advantage of these resources to ensure you have the best possible college experience.
On-Campus Resources for Success
- Alpha Pi Delta: A national sorority for lesbians focusing on high standards of cultural and educational programs as well as community service.
- Campus Pride: Provides resources and tools for LGBTQ+ students and allies for their college search, including a national college search database and a virtual community for LGBTQ+ students and allies with Campus Pride Connect. This online resource can help you find needed support on your campus.
- Consortium of Higher Education’s LGBTQ Center Map: This interactive map allows students to find campuses with LGBTQ centers across the United States.
- Delta Lambda Phi: A national social fraternity for gay, bisexual, and progressive men that promotes friendship, leadership, and personal growth. Focuses include community service, social events, and leadership development.
- Gamma Rho Lambda: a national social sorority for people of all genders, with a focus on creating a supportive and inclusive community for LGBTQ+ individuals.
- Gender and Sexuality Campus Center: UW-Madison’s GSCC provides resources, education, outreach, programming, and more to make the university an inclusive, celebratory space for all. Similar offices exist at numerous other universities.
- GLSEN: A national organization dedicated to creating safe and inclusive schools for LGBTQ+ students. Offers resources, research, and programs for K-12 and college students.
- Omicron Epsilon Pi Sorority: A sorority for lesbian women with the primary goal of uplifting the community and creating a haven through promoting sisterhood, diversity, pride, and unity.
- Theta Delta Sigma: A national gender inclusive and multicultural organization dedicated to public service, education, charity, relief, and advocacy.
- UC Davis LGBT Resource Center: This office provides support and resources for LGBTQIA+ students on campus. They offer events, advocacy, job help, and community.
- Queer Alliance at UCLA: Clubs like this one seek to create communities on campus that are safe spaces for all. QA at UCLA specifically works to cultivate a self-sustaining community that promotes understanding and respect.
Online Resources for LGBTQIA+ Students
If you are an LGBTQ+ student enrolled in online college courses, you may feel like you don’t have access to the same resources and support as on-campus students. While colleges and universities have made significant progress in creating inclusive and welcoming environments for LGBTQ+ students, there are still many barriers that can make it challenging to find the support you need. From online forums and groups to national organizations, there are numerous online resources available that can provide you with community, connection, advocacy tools, and educational aids. Use these resources to access the information and support you need to thrive as an LGBTQ+ student in an online learning environment.
Where to Find LGBTQIA+ Student Support Online
Online classes may make you feel isolated or disconnected from campus life, but online forums can offer a sense of community and connection. Online forums can provide a way for you to connect with peers and instructors and engage in meaningful discussions about course content and related topics, even in an online environment. Additionally, forums can be a source of information and support for LGBTQIA+ students navigating online learning and its unique challenges.
While online forums can offer an aspect of community and connection for LGBTQIA+ college students, online groups can offer an even more intimate and supportive environment. These groups provide a space to connect with others who share similar experiences and identities in a more personal way. Online groups can offer a variety of benefits, including peer support, resources, advocacy, and social activities.
National organizations have a broader scope of opportunities offered to students. In addition to opportunities for connection and community, national organizations frequently also offer chances for advocacy, policy change, and community-building efforts. Whether you are looking for educational materials, career resources, or community connections, these organizations can provide needed support and information for LGBTQIA+ students. By using the resources and opportunities available through national organizations, LGBTQIA+ college students can feel empowered and connected to their communities.
Online Directories and Databases
Directories and databases offer broad sources of information and often include helpful search features. These resources can connect students with local LGBTQIA+ groups, events, and resources, as well as national organizations focused on advocacy, education, and community-building. Online directories can also help students find LGBTQIA+-friendly healthcare providers, counselors, and other professionals. They can be especially helpful for students who are new to a particular city or region, or who are seeking specialized services. By accessing these resources, LGBTQIA+ college students can feel empowered, informed, and connected to a wider network of support and resources.
Online Resources for Success
- Advocates for Youth LGBTQIA+ Resources: Provides resources and support for LGBTQ+ youth, including information on health, advocacy, and leadership programs. Offers a comprehensive list of campus-based LGBTQ+ groups and organizations across the country.
- Asexual Visibility and Education Network: Largest online community of asexual individuals and sizable library of resources. The organization works to foster honest discussions about asexuality among both sexual and asexual people.
- CenterLink: Nonprofit organization dedicated to connecting and strengthening LGBTQ community centers. Provides a directory of over 250 centers across the United States.
- GLAAD: A media group dedicated to inclusivity and representation. Also provides a database of media resources and LGBTQ+ organizations across the United States.
- Human Rights Campaign: Offers resources and information for LGBTQ+ individuals, including advocacy tools, community events, and education and workplace equality programs.
- LGBT Youth Resources from The Trevor Project: Offers crisis intervention and suicide prevention services for LGBTQ+ youth, as well as resources and information on mental health, advocacy, and community-building through TrevorSpace.
- National Center for Transgender Equality: Advocacy organization focused on advancing transgender equality. Provides resources and information on policy issues, healthcare, and legal rights.
- National LGBTQIA+ Task Force: Advocacy organization focused on advancing LGBTQ+ rights and equality. Offers resources on policy issues, activism, and community-building.
- PFLAG: A national organization dedicated to supporting LGBTQ+ individuals and their families. Provides resources on coming out, advocacy, and community-building.
- TransPulse: An online community for transgender and gender nonconforming individuals, including a section on college and university resources and support.
- Trans Student Educational Resources (TSER): Provides resources and support for transgender and gender nonconforming students, including advocacy tools, legal resources, and community-building events.
Mental Health Resources for LGBTQIA+ Students
LGBTQIA+ students experience higher incidences of mental health issues compared to their straight or cisgender peers due to various factors such as minority stress, stigma, and discrimination. According to a study by the American College Health Association, LGBTQIA+ college students are more likely to experience depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation. The ACHA study found that 41.7% of LGBTQ+ students reported feeling so depressed that it was difficult to function, compared to 26.1% of cisgender straight students.
This highlights the importance of accessing mental health resources and support on campus. Don’t hesitate to seek out help if you are struggling. Many campuses offer specialized services for LGBTQIA+ students, so it’s important to know what resources are available to you.
Mental Health and LGBTQIA+ students
The stress of coming out or facing discrimination can lead to the mental health issues mentioned above, but you may also experience trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder. If you are feeling isolated or unsupported, this can worsen existing mental health conditions. It’s important to remember that you are not alone and that help is available. Seeking out mental health resources and support groups can provide you with the tools and skills you need to manage your mental health and live a fulfilling life.
Where to Find Help on and Off Campus
LGBTQIA+ students can access mental health resources on campus and off. On-campus resources may include counseling and therapy services, support groups, and workshops. Many campuses also have LGBTQIA+ resource centers that provide a safe and affirming space for students. Individual faculty and staff members may have safe zone signs posted outside their offices to let you know they are willing to talk with you and support you. Off-campus resources include LGBTQIA+ community centers, local clinics, and private therapists who specialize in LGBTQIA+ mental health. It is important to reach out for help if you are struggling with mental health issues, and to explore the resources available to you on and off campus.
When to Seek Help
The sooner you seek help for mental health issues, the better. Remember, it’s okay to ask for help. This is especially important for LGBTQIA+ individuals, who may face unique challenges that can impact their mental well-being. If you are experiencing symptoms of depression, anxiety, or other mental health issues, don’t hesitate to reach out to a mental health professional or utilize the resources available on your campus or in your community.
If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts or behaviors, there is help available:
- The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides free, confidential support 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255.
- Trevor Project’s suicide prevention hotline 1-866-488-7386 or use their online chat feature.
- Trans Lifeline: 877-565-8860
- LGBT National Hotline: 888-843-4564
Mental Health Resources
- Depression Looks Like Me: This organization seeks to help LGBTQ+ people struggling with depression accept themselves and be empowered to share.
- GLBT National Help Center: Provides peer support and resources for LGBTQIA+ individuals via phone, text, and online chat.
- GLMA: Health Professionals Advancing LGBT Equality: A national organization that advocates for health equality for LGBTQ and all sexual and gender minority individuals. They also seek equality for LGBTQ/SGM health professionals in their work and learning environments.
- It Gets Better Project: Offers resources and support for LGBTQIA+ youth, including a video series featuring stories of hope and resilience.
- Pride Counseling: Offers online counseling services with licensed therapists who specialize in LGBTQIA+ mental health.
- Queer Asterisk: Offers counseling services and support groups for LGBTQIA+ individuals in Colorado.
- Society for Sexual, Affectional, Intersex, and Gender Expansive Identities: This organization provides educational and supportive resources to LGBTQ individuals and also advocates for competency on LGBTQ matters among counseling professionals.
- Trans Lifeline: A peer support hotline for transgender and nonbinary individuals, staffed by transgender volunteers.
- The LGBT Community Center: Provides counseling and mental health services for LGBTQIA+ individuals in New York City.
- The Montrose Center: Offers mental health counseling and support groups for LGBTQIA+ individuals in Houston, Texas.
Financial Resources for LGBTQIA+ Students
Financial resources play a crucial role in LGBTQIA+ students’ college success. These students often face unique challenges that can affect their financial stability. According to a 2019 report by the Ohio State University, “62.3% of TGNC [transgender and gender nonconforming] students reported that they experienced academic issues due to financial concerns, compared with 48.4% of cisgender students.” Financial assistance in the form of scholarships, grants, and other free money options is vital to reduce the debt burden. With financial support, LGBTQIA+ students can focus on their education and career goals without the added stress of financial insecurity. All students should file the FAFSA and check out our financial aid page in addition to exploring these other ways of earning money toward college.
Financial Support for College as an LGBTQIA+ Student
College scholarships are crucial for LGBTQ students who are striving to pursue higher education. Scholarships offer financial assistance to students regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, which is particularly important for LGBTQ students who may be facing additional financial barriers. Scholarships can help alleviate the financial burden of tuition fees, textbooks, and other college expenses, allowing LGBTQ students to focus on their studies and achieve academic success. Ultimately, scholarships can open doors for LGBTQ students to attend colleges and universities they might not have been able to otherwise.
Grants are often crucial for college students who may not have the financial resources to pursue higher education. Unlike loans, grants do not need to be repaid, making them a valuable source of funding for students. Grants can cover tuition fees, textbooks, living expenses, and other college-related costs, allowing students to focus on their studies without worrying about financial stress. Since grants often target students from low-income families or those facing other barriers to accessing higher education, they can empower individuals to overcome difficult circumstances. Grants play a vital role in making college education more accessible and affordable for students.
Work-study programs provide college students with opportunities to work part-time jobs on campus, earning money to help pay for their education and living expenses. Work-study programs can help students reduce the amount of debt they accumulate while in college, as they earn money to cover some of their expenses rather than relying solely on loans. Some college campuses may offer LGBTQ-specific work-study jobs or internships through their LGBTQ resource centers or diversity offices. These jobs may include organizing events or programs that support LGBTQ students, conducting research on LGBTQ issues, or serving as a peer mentor for LGBTQ students. These work-study opportunities can provide valuable experiences and connections for LGBTQ students and allies, while also helping to build a more inclusive campus community.
Employer Tuition Assistance
If you’re looking to further your education while still working, employer tuition assistance can be a great option. Many companies offer this benefit to employees, which can help cover the costs of tuition, books, and other educational expenses. Not only can employer tuition assistance help you save money, but it can also help you gain new skills and knowledge that can benefit your career. Take advantage of this benefit and talk to your employer about available opportunities to continue your education while on the job.
- The Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice: Offers funding and support to organizations working towards LGBTQ+ rights, as well as scholarships for LGBTQIA+ students.
- Campus Pride LGBTQIA+ Scholarship Database: A database of scholarships specifically for LGBTQIA+ students.
- The Human Rights Campaign Foundation Scholarship Database: A database of scholarships for LGBTQIA+ and ally students.
- PFLAG National Scholarship Program: Provides awards to LGBTQIA+ and ally students who are either graduating high school seniors or currently enrolled college students. Scholarship amounts range from $2,500 to $5,000.
- The Point Foundation: Provides scholarships, mentorship, and leadership training to LGBTQIA+ students.
- Pride Foundation: An online community for LGBTQIA+ individuals and allies, including a section on college scholarships, resources, and advocacy.
- Queer Foundation: Offers scholarships for LGBTQIA+ high school seniors who have written a winning essay on LGBTQ+ issues.
- The Rainbow Scholarship: Offers scholarships for LGBTQIA+ students studying abroad.
- Stonewall Community Foundation Scholarship Program: Provides scholarships to LGBTQIA+ students who are residents of New York City or attending school in the New York City metropolitan area. Scholarship amounts range from $2,500 to $10,000.
- The Transgender First Scholarship: This national scholarship is exclusively offered to transgender students.
- Traub-Dicker Rainbow Scholarship: Offers scholarships to LGBTQIA+ women-identified students who are actively working to promote LGBTQIA+ rights. Scholarship amounts range from $1,500 to $3,000.
Additional Resources for LGBTQIA+ Students
Some of the resources we’ve gathered don’t fit neatly into the other sections, so we’ve included those resources for LGBTQIA+ students here. From organizations seeking to provide connections to those advocating for better sex education to those dedicated to ending violence and supporting survivors, this list will allow you to delve deeper into your community and find support and connection.
General Resources for LGBTQIA+ Students
- Advocates for Youth: An organization that provides sexual health education and advocates for LGBTQ+ rights.
- The Ali Forney Center: A New York City-based organization that provides housing, medical care, and other support for homeless LGBTQ+ youth.
- The Anti-Violence Project: This organization seeks to empower LGTBQIA+ individuals to end violence through education and also to support survivors.
- The National LGBT Health Education Center: Provides educational resources and training to healthcare providers to improve healthcare for LGBTQ+ patients.
- The Sylvia Rivera Law Project: Provides legal assistance and advocacy for transgender and non-binary individuals, including help with name and gender marker changes.
- The Center for Black Equity: Provides resources and support for Black LGBTQ+ individuals and organizations.
- The Center for LGBTQIA+ Economic Advancement & Research (CLEAR): Offers financial education and resources to LGBTQ+ individuals and families.
- The National Queer and Trans Therapists of Color Network: A directory of therapists who are queer-identified and people of color, providing culturally responsive care for LGBTQ+ individuals.
- SAGE Advocacy and Services for LGBT Elders: Provides resources and support for LGBTQ+ elders.
- The Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund: Provides legal assistance and advocacy for transgender and non-binary individuals, including help with name and gender marker changes.
- The Williams Institute: Conducts research on LGBTQ+ issues and provides data and analysis to policymakers, researchers, and the public.
- The You Can Play Project: Works to create inclusive and safe athletic environments for LGBTQ+ athletes, coaches, and fans.
Interview with an Expert
We sat down with Rosemary Martin, the president of Beta Omega Beta, or BOB, at Truman State University in Kirksville, MO. BOB is a non-Greek social sisterhood with the mission to offer an organization which allows anyone who is not a cisgender man to fit into a group without fostering elitism or exclusivity. BOB aims to offer fellowship and fun while eliminating the posturing, conformity, and peer pressures of fitting in that can be prevalent in Greek organizations. She is transgender and pansexual and loves to support her community in any way that she can.
1. What are some common challenges that LGBTQIA+ college students face, and how can institutions support them?
I would say one big struggle that is faced by the LGBTQIA+ community on a college campus comes not from the university itself, but the students. Most organizations would not vocally support bigotry, but plenty of students certainly would. Institutions should support LGBTQIA+ students by taking real action to shut down any bigotry, having any perpetrators face genuine consequences.
2. What should an LGBTQIA+ Student consider when choosing a college or university to attend?
The most important thing I can recommend is to check out the organizations on campus! It’s great when schools talk about how accepting they are of LGBTQIA+ students and offer them scholarships and the like, but what really makes or breaks the college experience (at least socially) are organizations and groups where one can feel safe and comfortable among their peers.
3. How can universities ensure that LGBTQIA+ students feel safe and included on campus?
The biggest thing a university can do to make LGBTQIA+ students feel safe and included is to provide them with ample resources and opportunities such as a resource center or scholarships. If any hate towards the community should arise, the university should deal with it swiftly and harshly, punishing the perpetrators and letting everyone know that that kind of behavior does not fly.
4. What resources are available to LGBTQIA+ students who experience discrimination or harassment at their university?
The Title IX office is a great resource for any LGBTQIA+ students who experience discrimination or harassment.
5. How can universities provide mental health support that is specific to the needs of LGBTQIA+ students?
The best way to help LGBTQIA+ students with their mental health is to hire LGBTQIA+ counselors and other professionals. While people outside of the community are still able to sympathize with our struggles, having a counselor who is truly able to understand us will always be more helpful.
6. What role do student organizations and support groups play in creating a welcoming environment for LGBTQIA+ students?
A student run organization is always going to feel more welcoming than some faceless message from the university. The university’s role is to provide funding and support, but the actual environment and action should be totally left up to the students.
7. How can students connect with other LGBTQIA+ students on campus and find supportive community groups?
Put yourself out there! Social media is a phenomenal tool to get connected with other LGBTQIA+ people and organizations. The university’s website should also be a great resource for discovering organizations. Additionally, organizations are constantly advertising themselves through physical means such as flyers or an activities fair.