Oh, spring! The time of flowers, birdsong and, for many of us parents and our children, college visits. My own son went through the college admissions process a few years ago. While I’m by no means an expert on the subject, I thought I’d share a few things we found useful.
Visit widely and virtually. Most campuses are open again for in-person tours, so take advantage of them if you can, but supplement them with virtual tours if you can’t, or to get a first feel for a place. Also, take notes during visits, virtual or not; after seeing a few spots they may start to fade. I tried to write down a lot so my son could just focus on the experience of being there, although he also took some of his own notes.
Know that you are not the first. The media often gives the impression that LGBTQ+ parents are a novelty, but there have been LGBTQ+ parents since the mid-20th century, with several generations of our children reaching adulthood and many applying to college. You may still be one of the few LGBTQ+ families going on a college tour, but you’re not the first to go through this process. Your child is just as worthy of being there as anyone else.
Let your child lead and know that having LGBTQ+ parents may not be the part of them they want to lead with, whether it’s when meeting people on college tours or in his admission tests. This does not necessarily mean that they are ashamed of their family; it may, in fact, mean that they take it so much for granted that it does not feel worthy of special mention, or that they want to define themselves first by another aspect of their identity. Alternatively, perhaps they will want to introduce themselves wearing a “Queerspawnand request a tour of the campus LGBTQ+ center. Either way, it’s their decision and we parents have to respect that.
Take advantage of free tools. Many high schools offer their students free access to one of the many online college planning platforms. These are invaluable for finding colleges that match specific characteristics (including the amount of financial need typically awarded), finding scholarship opportunities, and much more. They can also help students manage application-related documents, such as teacher references, depending on how the school has chosen to use the service. Whether or not your child intends to take standardized tests (more and more universities are doing them optional), another good starting resource is the College Council website (collegeboard.org), in particular its BigFuture university research section.
Track things yourself. While many of the above services allow students to make lists of colleges they are interested in, along with deadlines, etc., it may also be a good idea for your child to keep their own separate records, especially if there are has specific details they want to track beyond what the platforms allow. My family used a shared Google spreadsheet, but a paper notebook could also do the trick.
If your child wants to find LGBTQ-friendly colleges, the annual Campus Pride Index (campusprideindex.org) is useful, although as with any university ranking, it should be supplemented by what you learn on your own during university visits. You may also want to watch HRC Scholarship Database (hrc.org/resources/scholarships), which lists scholarships for LGBTQ+ students as well as others interested in studying or advocating for LGBTQ+ equality (although obviously not all children of LGBTQ+ parents fit into these categories).
Some essay tips: There are many online resources for writing admissions essays (search “college essay help”) by people more experienced than me; my only main comment is that essays should not be a restatement of your child’s academic achievements, but rather should focus on showing who they are as a person. This can be difficult for students used to writing impersonal, objective essays for high school classes – reading sample essays online and thinking about possible topics for themselves can be helpful.
Additionally, although many colleges use the Common application Where Coalition app trial prompts, many also require their own additional trials. Before you start writing, it is also helpful for your child to collect all the prompts from where they want to apply so that they can plan to show different parts of themselves in the additional essays than the Common one. /Coalition, for colleges. which require both.
Start working on essays early. It is helpful for students to begin writing admissions essays in the summer before their senior year. Once school starts in the fall, it may be more difficult to find the time, especially if they are interested in applying through early action or early decision options, which are often due to November 1 – this deadline is growing rapidly. Regular admission deadlines, usually in January, offer more time, but can create busy vacation periods if there is still work to be done. Your child should also set aside time to get feedback on their essays from other trusted people, such as guidance counselors, teachers, parents, or friends who have been to one of the places they postulates (or a similar place).
Assessing and applying to colleges can be stressful. However, it’s also a time to celebrate how much your child has grown, who they’ve become, and the new possibilities that are opening up for them. Keep this in mind if the process starts to get tedious for you or your child.
Congratulations on reaching this milestone!
Dana Rudolph is the founder and publisher of mom (mombian.com), a GLAAD Media Award-winning blog and resource directory with a searchable database of over 900 books, media, and more. on the LGBTQ family.