For youth within the LGBTQ community, finding a school with a supportive environment is essential, but it’s even more important for LGBTQ teens going into college. College can be overwhelming initially, so finding the right mental health support is vital. Incoming students should do their research on the college that’s right for them and make sure there are plenty of resources available before choosing to attend. Here are some tips on navigating your college search and taking care of your mental health as an LGBTQ student.
Where to Live and How to Pay
Deciding where to live during college is an important step in finding the right school. You can either live at home with your parents, stay in a dorm, or find your own place to live off campus. Staying with your parents may be the cheapest option, but many LGBTQ teens aren’t able to because of rejection from family members.
Staying in a dorm room can be a great way to meet new friends at college and become more social. If you’re staying in a dorm your freshman year, check out these tips from rtor.org. For example, unless you’re staying in a single room, you’ll want to find a roommate who’s a supportive ally and accepts those within the LGBTQ community.
However, staying in a dorm room can also be very expensive, and can add to an already pricey semester. Adding a dorm room on top of tuition and book costs can become a financial burden for you, so it’s important to weigh your options and see what the most affordable option is. There are also apartments off-campus available to students, but they can be even more costly.
Many people take out student loans, but that can mean excessive debt and money spent on interest over time. According to the website forsalebyowner.com, “As of the second quarter of 2018, there was $1.53 trillion in outstanding student loan debt across the United States, a 6.25 increase from the year before.”
Another good thing to keep in mind is that there are many other college options you can choose from instead of a typical four-year university. For those who want to spend less time in college and have a career-focused type of training, attending a trade school is a good option to consider. However, no matter where you live during college, you’ll want to make sure the school you choose is a supportive and welcoming atmosphere for all LGBTQ students.
Finding the Right College
- Find an LGBTQ Group on Campus: Life during college can sometimes be isolating for LGBTQ students, but joining a community support group on campus can be a great way to meet other people just like you. Looking for a school with an active LGBTQ group on campus can be a great way to narrow down your options. Consider their presence on campus and the size of their membership. These groups can give LGBTQ students the opportunity to share similar experiences with their peers and meet new friends.
- Get a Feel for the Campus: Walk around the campus you’re touring and see if it’s an atmosphere where you can feel comfortable with your sexuality or gender identity. Look for rainbow pride flags or LGBTQ event posters around campus.
- Talk to Other Students About LGBTQ Life: Try asking students and faculty if there are any pride events on campus and if they think it’s a welcoming environment for LGBTQ students. This can be an intimidating thing to do, but it can help in figuring out whether or not a university is a safe fit for you.
- Look for Inclusion Statements and Anti-Discrimination Policies: Ask students and faculty about the amount of diversity at the college and whether or not there are anti-discrimination rules in place.
- Search for Gender-Neutral Bathrooms: Finding gender-neutral bathrooms on campus can be a great way to tell if your college is friendly to transgender students. Many trans people have to use the bathroom of the gender they were assigned to at birth due to fear of discrimination or harassment. Gender-neutral bathrooms allow for a more comfortable and easier situation for transgender students.
- Find Out What Campus Security Is Like: Unfortunately, LGBTQ students are at a much higher risk of discrimination and harassment because of their sexuality or gender identity. Do research on what campus security is like on campus and what local law enforcement resources are available to you so you can stay safe and worry-free. Asking police officers about the number of discrimination incidents on campus is a great way to get a feel for how safe your university is for LGBTQ students.
- Consider How Much Tuition Is: It’s essential to weigh the cost of certain schools against the cost of others so you pick the most affordable university. If you need to take out loans in order to pay for tuition, then it’s important to know the difference between federal loan and private loan refinancing so you make the right financial decision.
Mental Health College Resources
College can be a daunting experience at first, especially for those who are away from home for the first time. There are many positive mental health tips for college students heading into their freshman year. With LGBTQ students at an increased risk of discrimination, harassment and isolation, it’s vital for them to seek the mental health resources they need. Talking to counselors at your college can be a great way to improve your mental health, as well as becoming more involved socially on campus.
There are many safe spaces on campuses across the country, which provide students with an opportunity to feel comfortable speaking to someone with confidentiality and privacy. Some professors may have ally stickers on their office door, which can be a helpful resource to utilize. Getting involved in an LGBTQ group on campus is a great way to stay connected with a supportive community and feel appreciated during stressful times.
These resources can help LGBTQ students thrive in their college career and maintain a optimistic outlook on life. If you’re struggling during college, try these 5 Lifestyle Changes to Help You Succeed at College. By applying these tips and resources to your college experience, you’ll have a rewarding education and create lasting memories for years to come.
Author Bio: Nick Rudow is a freelance writer from Boise, Idaho and a graduate from the University of Montana’s Journalism School. His main writing focus is on issues affecting the LGBTQ community and mental health treatments.
Photo by Tyler Nix on Unsplash
The opinions and views expressed in this guest blog do not necessarily reflect those of www.rtor.org or its sponsor, Laurel House, Inc. The author and www.rtor.org have no affiliations with any products or services mentioned in this article or linked to herein.
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