“To come out, or not to come out?”
I wrestled with that question frequently on my college applications and scholarship essays.
I built a high school resume as a gay-straight-alliance coordinator, activist and blogger. Regardless of all I had achieved, I was worried that whoever was going to be reviewing my application (regardless of Title IX implications at each university I applied to) would write off these accomplishments as invalid because of their own homophobia and/or transphobia.
Supportive high school counselors and college admissions representatives told me the choice was up to me whether to put these accomplishments in my essays, and that most colleges and foundations value diversity. However, if you are LGBTQ+ and out, there are many scholarships and schools for which you don’t have to ask that question!
As a senior in high school, I was able to apply and receive money from three foundations that grant scholarships to LGBTQ+ persons applying for higher education! With more positive LGBTQ+ visibility in the media, even more organizations have made it possible for LGBTQ+ students to pursue higher education.
That’s an important thing. As a transgender and gay student in high school, I experienced bullying and victimization from both students and administration about my gender expression, identity and ability to use the school restroom I preferred. I had planned to attend college ever since elementary school but LGBTQ+ students who have experienced victimization are “twice as likely to report that they did not plan to pursue any post-secondary education than those who experienced lower levels (10.0 percent vs. 5.2 percent),” according to the GLSEN National School Climate Survey.
So college readiness and resources for the LGBTQ+ community are crucial and out there to help, despite victimization and past negative experiences!
Here’s some information about the scholarships I applied for in my senior year of high school and how they can help you!
Point Foundation is a nonprofit organization that funds scholarships for LGBTQ+ students in higher education (both traditional universities and community colleges), pairs them with mentoring opportunities, and holds leadership conferences that suit their needs as both LGBTQ+ students and scholars in their individual fields. In order to stay with Point Foundation throughout my college career, I must create and facilitate my own community service project each year and keep up my GPA. This isn’t too much of a challenge considering that with Point Foundation, I’ve been able to have supplemental funding for tuition for all four years of my undergraduate college career and I am motivated by my network of other LGBTQ+ scholars, mentors and annual conferences.
How do I apply? You may apply if you are already in college or just entering into higher education. The application is web-based and on Point Foundation’s website.
If you pass the first application tier, you will be sent instructions to complete the rest of your application through short answers and essays. After a few more processes, you may be chosen as a semi-finalist to fly to Los Angeles (all expenses paid) to interview and discuss your career plans and work within the LGBTQ+ community.
PFLAG is an organization with over 400 chapters nationwide that helps parents and families support and understand their LGBTQ+ youth through meetings and various events. My hometown’s chapter in Louisville, Ky., held scholarship opportunities each year and had an application on their website.
Similar opportunities may be available in your hometown (or college town if you are already in college!) The scholarship ceremony was held as a gathering of parents and families in the community. There were three scholarships given out that night and all of us got the chance to give our thanks and speak to the community about our plans for higher education and community activism.
When can I apply? Find your local PFLAG chapter here.
League Foundation is part of AT&T’s LEAGUE organization: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender United Employees at AT&T. This scholarship gives out over 12 awards annually in different tiers, according to service and extracurricular involvement through high school. I was a proud LEAGUE recipient in 2015!
To apply, LEAGUE requires materials to be uploaded online through their application in early spring, including two personal essays (the topics vary each year), two recommendation letters, a high school transcript, and a listing of community/ extracurricular involvement.
When can I apply? On the LEAGUE foundation website by early spring 2018.
Of course, the three organizations I mentioned are not the only regional and national scholarship organizations out there.
Each college or university you apply to may also have their own scholarships from their own Pride Centers just as my university, Cal Poly Pomona does! Finding other organizations and schools that can help you pursue your education can be as easy as googling or checking out the National Scholarship Database at Campus Pride.
Good luck, and go pridefully into the next step of your career!