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There’s never been more support, acceptance, and resources for LGBTQ+ college students in America. But there’s still a lot of room for growth.

According to the Postsecondary National Policy Institute, students who identify as LGBTQ+ comprise an estimated 10% of the college population—that’s more than 2.5 million students. More and more parents and guardians are doing their best to prepare LGBTQ+ high school students to succeed in college. It’s not a small life transition, and unfortunately, for many LGBTQ+ students, the college experience is made more difficult by hateful and non-inclusive cultures. Below are four things to consider when preparing your LGBTQ+ student for college.

1) Mental and Physical Health

A study by the Trevor Project found that 70% of LGBTQ+ young people ages 13 to 24 said their mental health was poor during COVID-19. The same survey found that nearly half of LGBTQ+ students wanted counseling but were unable to receive it. Mental health has rarely gotten the attention it deserves for college students, and LGBTQ+ youth can be especially vulnerable. It’s important to talk to your student about mental health, and help them feel open to reaching out for help when they need it. By normalizing support and treatment for mental health concerns, you can significantly reduce their impact on your student’s college experience.

Unfortunately, physical health can also be a concern for LGBTQ+ students. A 2015 study by the Association of American Universities found that 20% of LGBTQ+ college students feared for their physical safety due to their gender identity or sexual orientation. And two out of three LGBTQ+ college students reported experiencing sexual harassment in the same study in 2019. Again, the best way to reduce these risks is by talking to your student, teaching them to be wise and safe without letting fear prevent them from enjoying their college experience. It’s also good to recommend support. This brings us to our next point.

2) Support for LGBTQ+ Students

There are hundreds of organizations, clubs, and support groups for LGBTQ+ students at universities across the country. This is a dramatic improvement compared to the resources available to LGBTQ+ students in most of modern history, and it can be a great chance for your student to find community at their college. Of course, it’s important to do your research beforehand so you can know what’s available at the college your student is considering. An organization called Campus Pride has put together an index that serves as a database of LGBTQ-friendly campuses and the resources they have available.

Knowing what kind of culture to expect at the school your student is attending and finding the allies and community they need to thrive can make all the difference for your LGBTQ+ student.

3) Consider Bathroom and Housing Policies

Speaking of knowing what to expect, bathroom and housing policies can make a significant difference to your student’s college experience. They can also be a decent indicator of a school’s approach to inclusivity. A number of colleges explicitly require their students to use restrooms that correspond with their biological birth-sex as opposed to their current gender identity. And many schools handle roommate matching differently as it relates to ensuring LGBTQ+ students feel safe and accepted. Again, Campus Pride’s index provides a wealth of information on these issues, but it may also be worth bringing up with admissions counselors before committing to a school.

4) LGBTQ+ Scholarships

If you and your student are considering options related to paying for college and financial aid, scholarships can make a significant difference. There are dozens of scholarships available exclusively for LGBTQ+ students. Here’s a list from scholarships.com with options that range from $500 to $60,000. If you’re interested in general tips for making college more affordable, you can also check out our article on paying for college without student loans.

In the end, your LGBTQ+ student is responsible for getting everything they can out of the college experience. But preparation and support from their parent or guardian can go a long way in setting them up for success.

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About ScholarShare 529

ScholarShare 529, California’s college savings plan, publishes the College Countdown website and articles to provide resources and to ease the minds of parents preparing to send their kids to college. Visit ScholarShare 529.