As a high school counselor, you want to help every student find the best college match, but what information would be most helpful for LGBTQ students? How can you help them find a safe, welcoming environment where they will thrive? And how do you know which students need this guidance, when some may not come forward to ask? We were pleased to speak with Admissions Outreach Coordinator Richard Daily at Soka University of America, who shared advice on supporting LGBTQ students.
• Become knowledgeable about which colleges and universities offer support to LGBTQ students, and which do not. For example, campuspride.org provides a “Campus Climate Index” to help prospective students learn how LGBT-friendly a campus is. This is a great way for students to learn about schools of all sizes and types.
It can also be helpful for students to know if there are Pride or gay/straight alliance groups on campus, as well as what other support services are available to them. Tip: Not all students are going to be comfortable joining a group, so it’s good to know what support there is on campus in addition to social clubs. For example, it’s important to know about LGBTQ inclusion policies, campus safety, counseling & health, and more.
• Create a safe space in the school. For example, you can post a pink or rainbow triangle on your office door so students who identify as LGBTQ can come forward and know they have someone who will listen and be welcoming. “Make an outward expression that you’re accepting,” said Richard Daily. “It can be comforting to a student when others tell them it’s ok to be themselves.”
• Help students find the right balance between academic and social needs. “Some LGBTQ students may not have a dating life in high school, and might be looking for that first relationship in college,” said Daily. “Some students may assume that they need to be in a larger city campus to find the dating population, but have academic needs that would be better served by a smaller campus setting. Be sure to advise them on campus size, climate, and location in order to find the best fit for that student, not just the best name.”
• Let students know that their conversation with you is confidential. Some students are not out to their parents or classmates. It’s important for them to know both that they have an advocate, and they have someone they can talk with who isn’t going to share the conversation with their parents.
• Provide financial aid resources. Sadly, some students will not have the support of their parents if they come out. It can be very helpful for them to know what financial aid resources are available to them if this scenario occurs and they need to pay for college themselves. Also, make them aware of scholarships that are given exclusively to LGBTQ students. Campus Pride, in partnership with the Point Foundation, also has a scholarship listing specifically for LGBTQ students on their website.
• Recommend that students visit all kinds of campuses. “Getting tours of a range of campuses – big, little, public, private, etc., will help inform students’ decisions,” said Daily. “They’ll quickly learn what they want and what they don’t want in a campus.”
• Encourage the student to find a mentor. “Some schools on the Campus Pride site actually have opportunities for prospective students to get matched with a student mentor, who’ll help them through the admissions process and let them know what it’s like to be an LGBTQ student on that campus,” Daily said.
• Remind students to be themselves in their college essays. “Many times students get caught up in the subject of their essay, but don’t really talk about how an experience personally affected them,” said Daily. “If a student is going to be identifying as LGBT in their essay, encourage them to talk about what they’ve learned from being LGBTQ or to share a learning experience. The more genuine they are the better.”
To learn more, watch our free on-demand webinar Supporting LGBT Students through the College Admissions Process.