LGBTQIA Scholarships Empowering Students & Encouraging Equality

Meet the Expert

Dr. Christopher W. Tremblay LGBTQIA Advocate & University Administrator Read bio

Written by…

Katy McWhirter Read bio

Many organizations and foundations offer scholarship awards specifically for LGBTQIA students to ensure lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning, intersex and asexual students have the opportunity to pursue higher education. But these scholarships also empower students and foster equality on college campuses across the country. Find scholarships for LGBTQIA students and allies and get expert tips on how to increase your chances of winning an award.

LGBTQIA Scholarships by State

There are tons of scholarships available to LGBTQIA students. Some opportunities are exclusively for LGBTQIA students, while others may be open to ally and questioning students as well. These awards help students achieve their academic goals while also encouraging diversity and equality on college campuses. Use the search tool below to find scholarships in your state.

Scholarship Application Tips

Applying for scholarships is a time-consuming and sometimes overwhelming process for any student, but some LGBTQIA students may feel additional stress when filling out applications, such as those who haven’t come out to their friends or family. Dr. Christopher Tremblay, LGBTQIA advocate and administrator at Michigan State University, offers the following scholarship application tips for LGBTQIA students and allies.

Get involved with the LGBTQIA community early on

One of the most common requirements of LGBTQIA scholarships is a proven history of serving the community, fighting for equality and demonstrated leadership. Long before scholarship applications are due, LGBTQIA students and allies should focus on building these experiences. An example of how to get involved would be starting or joining a GSA club at your high school.

Make sure you’re comfortable with the winning stipulations

Lots of scholarships have legal language written within the fine print that state how and where your information can be used if you’re chosen as a scholarship recipient. Students who aren’t out may want to pay close attention to this language. “With such language, you may be granting permission to use your name and other information publicly, with which you may not be comfortable,” says Dr. Tremblay. “Some awards may include a celebration event on campus, while other schools list previous scholarship recipients on websites. Find out before signing on.”

Find out how the scholarship will be listed on your financial aid award letter if you win

Some scholarships have names that clearly identify them as serving LGBTQIA students. If you’re not out, this could be a concern. “Because all scholarships appear on your financial aid award letter, pay attention to the names as these scholarships will be visible to your parents,” says Dr. Tremblay. “You may want to contact the college office administering the scholarship to see how it is listed.”

Follow the instructions

Every scholarship has unique instructions and requirements, so read through everything carefully before applying. Some may only require you to be a self-identifying member of the LGBTQIA community, while others want to see a demonstrated commitment to LGBTQIA interests. “Review the criteria to make sure you meet all requirements for maximum consideration,” says Dr. Tremblay. “For example, some require you to be admitted to the university first and take part in organizations, while others base their decision on high school involvement.”

Read scholarship descriptions carefully

Dr. Tremblay says students who want the best chances for receiving multiple scholarships need to do their homework and research carefully, especially because not all opportunities will look as if they’re for LGBTQIA students at first glance. “When looking for LGBTQIA scholarships, keep in mind that not all of them have ‘LGBTQIA’ in their name,” he says. “You may have to search deeper and read descriptions – especially for scholarships that bear someone’s name.”

Build relationships with teachers

“Be sure to have been building relationships with teachers and staff that can support your application and discuss your LGBTQIA activism and involvement,” recommends Dr. Tremblay. Some scholarships require letters of recommendation so you’ll need to find someone who can speak to your accomplishments and abilities. For students who aren’t out, look for someone you trust and are comfortable with.

Ask for help

Applying for scholarships is an involved process that requires lots of mental and emotional stamina – especially when asked to write personal essays about your experiences as an LGBTQIA individual and community member. To ensure you’ve expressed yourself clearly and professionally, don’t forget to ask for help. “Ask an LGBTQIA mentor to review your scholarship application responses to ensure professionalism and appropriateness,” says Dr. Tremblay.

Pay it forward

Once you’ve won a scholarship, don’t forget to give back and help those who are going through – or will be going through – the process you just conquered. “Be sure to pay it forward later by making donations to scholarship funds that support the financial needs of LGBTQIA students after you graduate,” says Dr. Tremblay. “Every little bit helps.”

What to Look for if You’re Moving Away from Home

It’s hard to leave people, places and memories that you’ve grown accustomed to, but it helps tremendously if you’re moving to a place that provides support, encouragement and a sense of community. If you’re thinking about moving away from home, Dr. Tremblay offers these tips for what to look for in a college and a new city.

  • Look for the presence of gender identity/expression and sexual orientation in the non-discrimination policy/statement of the college university. These documents communicate the level of LGBTQIA-friendliness of the campus.
  • Pay attention to whether preferred first names and preferred pronouns are used in the college admissions application process and beyond.
  • Check to see if there’s an LGBTQIA student organization on campus. Does the group seem to be active and flourishing? What types of activities do they do and how often do they take place?
  • Does the school have an LGBTQIA Center on campus? If so, how many staff members does it have and what type of services does it offer?
  • Ask about bathrooms and housing. Does the campus offer gender-inclusive restrooms and/or gender-inclusive student housing?
  • Check in with the student counseling center and ask whether there’s an on-staff counselor who has experience with or specializes in working with LGBTQIA students.
  • Check to see if the city has an LGBTQIA Resource Center or Community Center. If so, contact the director or a representative to learn more about the climate of the city and the college you’re considering.
  • Find out whether the LGBTQIA Resource Center or Community Center offers services for young professionals. If not, check to see if there’s an LGBTQIA Chamber of Commerce or young professional’s council.
  • Google “LGBT” and the name of the city to see what comes up in the news feed. Students should pay attention to both positive and negative news that comes up.
  • Check out the Human Rights Campaign’s Municipal Equality Index to see if the city you’re thinking of moving to is on the list and, if so, how it rates.

4 Good U.S. Cities for LGBTQIA Students

There are several U.S. cities that foster and encourage inclusivity. Four examples of such cities include:

How Parents Can be Supportive from Afar

Parents of LGBTQIA students only want the best for their children so it’s natural to worry about their health, safety and happiness once they leave for school. Dr. Tremblay offers a few tips for parents who want to support their children from afar.

Help them find support resources

“Parents should make sure their student knows about all support systems for LGBTQIA students on campus,” says Dr. Tremblay. “Help them find out if there’s an LGBTQIA Center, student organizations or out faculty and staff who can keep an eye on them during their time of transition to higher education.”
When checking in with kids, ask about their friends to make sure they’re making connections. “Parents should ask their kid if they have made any friends on campus,” says Dr. Tremblay. “You can also ask if they’ve friended any fellow LGBTQIA students, as this creates part of their support system.”
“If a student is being bullied, parents should empower the student to make a report utilizing all university procedures and individuals,” states Dr. Tremblay. “For students not sure where to start, they can meet with the college’s Ombudsperson, a neutral person on campus designed to help resolve issues.”
“If a student is struggling to find community, parents could reach out to the Parent Office/Association to request guidance,” he says. “Parents can offer suggestions about exploring membership in some student organizations or doing things with roommates/floor mates in a residence hall.”
Though college is a time when students are learning how to be independent, sometimes they’ll also just want to talk with you and hear about what’s going on at home. Be there to provide a listening ear when they need it.
Everyone loves mail and college students are no exception. Consider creating a care package with a few local treats, notes from friends and family and updates on what your child’s GSA club has been working on since they left high school.
While it’s important to give students the space they need in college to establish their identity away from home, it’s also important to ensure they don’t feel too lonely in their new surroundings – especially during the first couple semesters. If their new school isn’t too far, try to visit during parent weekends or other times when they don’t have too much homework or many activities taking place.
Many students may feel a lack of confidence when first setting foot on a college campus and adjusting to being the new kid can take time. For LGBTQIA students, these feelings can be compounded as they look to find accepting, inclusive communities. Remind your child of their accomplishments up to this point so they don’t lose sight of what they’re capable of.