College vibe, culture, and community are often on the top of the list of priorities once academics and majors have been identified when researching colleges. Where are the first places to look for clues to discover what a college culture is like? Will it be the offerings of clubs, activities, sports teams, or even community service as an extension of what was available in high school? Will it be something new? All of those aspects are excellent places to begin, and will provide a great jumping off point for another critical part of your search - the people involved in those activities. As a high school student, you may want a like-minded community at your college, or you may be looking to expand your community. No matter what you are looking for, finding “your people” requires dedication to unearth who exactly comprises each community, and is time well spent. Most likely, many people form the wide range of communities that contribute to a university environment, some based on academic interests, shared values, or even demographic origins. Many colleges value and talk about building diverse communities and campus cultures, but diversity can live on a spectrum depending on college location or commitment to programs and students. Seeing beyond college mailers, and knowing what to look for on each college website will be the first step. Once you have done your homework, stepping on campus, and meeting with current students, professors, or alumni will help paint a clearer picture.
So how can students and families find out if a campus is inclusive, welcoming, emerging, or transitioning to embrace LGBTQIA students? What resources will be good indicators of where a university is on the spectrum, and what questions will help you find out? Each college website should provide information and clues. These questions will help you get started, but be sure to create your own list of the essential information you want to know:
What are LGBTQIA groups on campus?
Are there LGBTQIA academic groups? Support Groups?
Are there faculty members that are part of LGBTQIA groups?
Is there gender-neutral housing?
What medical services do Health Services cover?
Are fraternities and sororities diverse and inclusive?
Is there a mission statement on the campus website that reflects the values of the school?
Is there training for faculty?
What academic offerings are there?
You may want to sign up for the school paper if it is online to keep up with what is happening on campus.
When visiting campuses, either before you apply or after you’ve been accepted, visit organizations and pick up materials that explain what resources and support is in place for students.
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