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Navigate the cost of college as an LGBTQ + student

Navigate the cost of college as an LGBTQ + student

Applying for college is an intimidating time. You get stuck writing essay after essay, you have to w

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Applying for college is an intimidating time. You get stuck writing essay after essay, you have to write exams, pay application fees, and the list goes on and on. But for LGBTQ + students, the list of new challenges may be longer. Finding the right college that meets all of their academic needs and supports their identity is unfortunately more difficult than it should be.

To hopefully make the process a little easier for LGBTQ + students who want to attend college, I have outlined some important steps you can take to ensure you choose the right school.

Challenges facing LGBTQ + college students

LGBTQ + students can face numerous challenges in their college careers, including:

  • Harassment. According to GSLEN’s National School Climate Survey, 90% of LGBTQ + students experience harassment or assault based on personal characteristics, including sexual orientation, gender expression, and gender identity.
  • Security of housing. Some LGBTQ + students face harassment in their housing situations at the university. Transgender students in particular can have a hard time finding housing that matches their gender identity, and it can be uncomfortable to ask the school to change housing.
  • To find fair athletics. College athletics typically falls into two gender categories: men and women. It can get messy for trans and non-binary students who often have to fight to get involved in sports and extracurricular activities.
  • Get proper financial assistance. For students who do not have a healthy relationship with their parents, the FAFSA can be difficult, especially if they cannot qualify for independent student status. A financial aid office that understands that situation and is sympathetic to it is not always easy to find.

Fill in the FAFSA alone

When you apply for college, you will have the same fate as everything that has come before you: You will have to complete the FAFSA. The free application for federal student aid is the number one way to get government funding for your education. This is the first route any student should follow before applying for private loans.

Read more: Money Under 30’s guide for completing the FAFSA

For LGBTQ + students, many of whom do not have family support when it comes to applying to the university, filing the FAFSA can be incredibly complicated, as most of the form involves filling out your parents ‘or guardians’ financial information. LGBTQ + students who may have problems with their families will not have easy access to this information.

One of the only ways to become the parenting part of the FAFSA is to declare yourself an independent student. Emancipated minors, as well as married students and homeless youth can apply as independent students. As this type of file, you will go through the usual FAFSA, but you will skip the parental portion.

Read more: What is an independent student at the FAFSA?

What if I can not declare myself an independent student?

If you do not meet the requirements of an independent student – say, you are not in contact with your parents, but you have never been officially declared emancipated – there is a place where you can report special circumstances to the FAFSA .

Unfortunately, this will not guarantee that you will get the funding you expect, so you will want to make sure you contact the financial aid department at the colleges you are accepted to and ask what they can do, if anything.

Scholarship opportunities for LGBTQ + students

For students who identify as LGBTQ +, there are numerous scholarships available that can help you pay for your education. While many of these scholarships will not cover your entire tuition, any little you can get will help.

Some specific scholarships include:

  • LEAGUE Foundation Scholarships – The League Foundation offers several different scholarships for LGBTQ + students ranging from $ 2,500- $ 4,000. Students must be high school seniors the year they apply.
  • The Out to Innovate Scholarships – LGBTQ + undergraduates and graduates studying in a STEM field can apply for three different scholarship options ranging from $ 2,000- $ 5,000.
  • Pride Foundation Scholarships – LGBTQ + students living in Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon or Washington can apply for the Pride Foundation Scholarships. There are more than 60 scholarship options, but you only need to fill out one application to apply for it.
  • The Aritzia Scholarship – This scholarship, founded by Aritzia, a fashion retailer, offers LGBTQIA students (four per year) one-time scholarships of $ 5,000, which will be paid directly to the schools.
  • Traub-Dicker Rainbow Scholarship – Founded by Peggy Traub and Phyllis Dicker, this scholarship supports students who identify as lesbians in their pursuit of a college degree. Several students receive one-time scholarships of $ 4,000. These bursaries are paid directly to the schools.
  • Little Bird Scholarship – LGBTQ + students who are also undocumented immigrants, refugees and individuals seeking or being granted asylum can apply for the Little Bird Scholarship. Students can receive $ 18,000 to be distributed over two years of schooling.
  • Levin-Goffe Scholarship – LGBTQ + or intersex students who are also undocumented immigrants and are studying in New York City can receive $ 25,000 for up to two years of schooling as long as they finish high school.

This is a small sample of scholarships available. If you are a high school student, ask your counselor to look at other options and they can compile a list. A simple Google search can also lead you to state-specific options.

Read more: Scholarships and grants: how to earn free money for university

Find a queer-friendly college

When you start looking for schools, you are naturally interested in the education it offers and the extracurricular activities you want to participate in. But as an LGBTQ + student, you still have a few factors to consider. You will want to make sure that your school (s) of your choice are queer-friendly spaces.

Some of the most queer-friendly colleges in the country include:

  • Agnes Scott College
  • Bard College
  • Smith College
  • Mount Holyoke College
  • Brown University
  • Atlantic Ocean College
  • Harvey Mudd College
  • Oberlin College
  • New York University

However, you will want to consider a few other factors besides the college’s rating. Look at the discrimination policies at your top picks, and consider the actual location of the university. Is it off campus a place you want to be? Is it in an acceptance zone? You’ll have to venture more into the city than you probably think, so make sure you live in a community you like.

Understand your rights as an LGBTQ + student

Even schools with the best of intentions can be wrong and commit acts of discrimination against students. You have rights in certain situations, including:

  • Freedom of speech – Colleges can not tell you that you can not be outside or discuss LGBTQ + rights on campus. Public colleges must respect the constitutional right to expression.
  • A right to privacy – A college can not evict you without your express permission.
  • Title IX protections – Title IX protects students who are victims of sexual violence or harassment. LGBTQ + students are also covered under this. Schools have a responsibility to respond in a timely manner to acts of violence, regardless of the gender of the offender or the victim. Title IX also protects transgender students’ rights to equitable and equal educational opportunities.

Understanding these rights can help ensure that you get equal and fair opportunities. If you think the financial aid office or any other office at your university has violated any of these rights, you can report them to the ACLU who can help you start a case.

Resources once you are a student

Many colleges have begun to devote resources to the LGBTQ + community, providing assistance to students who have long faced discrimination in higher education. If you look at colleges, the schools that support the most will have the following:

LGBTQ + Resource Centers

Many colleges have LGBTQ + centers designed to help LGBTQ + students live comfortably on campus. When looking at schools, do a quick search and see what the school has to say about a resource center like this.

If you have specific questions, you can even email the contact. In my experience, they answer more than happy questions from curious potential students.

LGBTQ + clubs

Many colleges have clubs for LGBTQ + students. It ranges from support groups to activism clubs. My college had more than a dozen options to choose from, which made me feel much more comfortable as an LGBTQ + student. It made me feel like my university realized the importance of groups like this.

Supporting campus opportunities

College campuses have speakers of all kinds of backgrounds to give students an understanding of different communities. You will want to make sure your school includes LGBTQ + individuals in the mix.

LGBTQ + courses

One of the only core courses required by my college was a social justice class. It is very important to understand other people’s views and to understand social justice issues affecting different communities. Many schools have programs for gender studies, women’s studies and queer studies. If you are interested in studying these issues professionally, find out the exact options your elective schools offer.


LGBTQ + students will want to make sure they choose a college that not only supports their identity, but has the right resources to help students thrive. Make sure you take advantage of the many scholarships available to LGBTQ + students, and understand the rights you have as a student. Also make use of the resources that your school does provide. They are there to help!


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