By Eddie James
The Spring Semester has just begun, which means that many college students and high school seniors are thinking about their plans for next year. Will you transfer to a new school? Go to a college in your home state? Go off to an exotic foreign university?
With over 7,000 community colleges, universities, trade schools, and four-year institutions to choose from in the United States alone, picking just one college can be tough. And for queer students, finding a gay friendly campus can be even more difficult. It's a major decision. One you may have to live with for four years. But there is help.
In addition to turning to guidance counselors, teachers and parents, there are is also Christopher-David, an educational consulting firm based in the San Francisco Bay area that specializes in helping queer students find campuses in which they will feel at home.
Christopher-David offers the following tips for queer students when choosing a college:
Comparison-Shop. For high school seniors and college students planning on transferring to another school important selection criteria such as location, size, academic programs should be carefully looked at and the field should be narrowed down to around 5 institutions.
Apply to Schools. Now that you've narrowed the field, it's time to send out those college applications. It is a good idea to send an application to at least one college that you know you will get accepted to, as well as to your short list of ideal schools.
Get those Financial Aid Forms In! Financial aid applications should be completed and in the mail by mid-February. For more information on financial aid see related article and take a look at the last section of this column.
Visit the Colleges. If you haven't visited the colleges in which you are applying, do it now. During the visit, get a feel for the place. Observe. Read the student newspaper. Eat in the dining hall. Check for rainbow stickers on cars. Absorb the personality of the college, and find out if you feel comfortable there.
Talk to People at the Colleges. Talk to as many people as you can, but don't rely on everything that college admissions personnel tell you. Do your own research. Review more objective information like the college's non-discrimination statement, the academic catalog (to check the diversity of courses offered), and a list of student clubs (looking for a gay student association).
A word about gay student organizations: Make sure that they are active. Just because it's listed in a catalog doesn't mean it is a vibrant and positive force on campus.
Check out the Local Community: Is it a conservative or liberal town? Is it safe? What are crime and hate crime statistics like? Has it been influenced by diverse opinions, experiences, and ideas? Is it accepting of gays and lesbians?
Depending on how "out" you are, ask the tough questions to admissions personnel and have them identify counselors and preferably students that you can talk to. If they have trouble answering your questions or pointing you in the right direction for answers, this isn't the school for you.
More information can be found on Christopher-David's web site at www.christopher-david.com.
ADMISSIONS RESOURCE. If you are looking for the skinny on gay-friendly campuses, a good place to start is The Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Students' Guide to Colleges, Universities, and Graduate Schools. Published in 1993 by NYU Press, this little book lists general information on queer life on about 200 institutions. Although it does help narrow the possibilities, it's not very thorough in its coverage and some of the material is now dated. The cost is $14.95 and you can order it on the Internet at amazon.com or barnesandnoble.com.
STUDENTS TESTED, BUT NOT TAUGHT. Almost 39 percent of college students nationwide have taken the HIV antibody test, according to a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey of almost 5,000 students. But only 41 percent reported receiving any formal instruction about HIV in their college classes and only 49 percent reported receiving any information in college at all about how to prevent HIV infection. And even less (30 percent) reported using a condom in their last sexual encounter. Not surprisingly, another survey, released by Yale University in December 1996, showed that 87 percent of young people do not believe they are vulnerable to HIV.
FINANCIAL AID ALERT! The Lesbian, Bisexual, Gay and Transgendered United Employees at AT&T (LEAGUE), the nation's oldest and largest Gay workplace organization, has founded a new scholarship program for graduating gay high school seniors. The scholarship is in the amount of $1000.
"With all the attention about young people in the gay community, we thought we had to contribute in some way," said John Klenert, director of The LEAGUE Foundation, based in Washington, DC. "There was no national scholarship program to help youth in our community, so we wanted to send a message to young people that there is support for them as they go out into the world."
Applicants must identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgendered, maintain at least a 3.0 out of 4.0 grade point average, and be an active participant in community service. Applicants must also be accepted to an accredited two- or four- year college.
Applications are due by February 28. For more information, call (703) 713-7820 or visit the LEAGUE's web site at http://www.league-att.org.
Do you have any tips for our readers? Any issues that you would like to see addressed in this column? Anything interesting going on at your school? Got any gripes, kudos, etc.? Send them to Eddie James at email@example.com.