College is a time of change, which can make it a source of anxiety and excitement! LGBTQIA+ students in particular often face new challenges, but they also experience new freedoms in this first chapter of adulthood. There are so many things to look forward to in this next stage of your life. Spending time planning for things that may be hard is a part of setting yourself up for success, but it is also important to take the time to think about what great opportunities may lie ahead for you!
As you plan and get ready for college, try to cut yourself some slack about the anxieties you may have and be proactive rather than demonizing or invalidating those feelings. Figure out what you can do now to make things easier for later. Making plans for how to deal with certain challenges, reaching out to your school to make yourself aware of the policies and protections you have as a student, and talking through your fears with people you trust can all help ease your fears and set you up for success in college. Entering adulthood will mean learning to advocate for yourself more, and while it may be scary at times you will learn the power your words and actions have to create a better world for yourself and your community. While self-advocacy is important, remember that being an adult doesn’t mean you have to do everything alone, and there are people who want to support you and do what they can to make this transition as easy as possible.
For LGBTQIA+ students college can bring a lot of exciting firsts, new freedoms, and meaningful moments you will look back on for the rest of your life. Every person’s experiences before and during this time will be different, so think about what you personally are looking forward to.
For some LGBTQIA+ students college will be the first time they come out to anyone in their lives. If this is your first time showing the world the real you, that’s amazing! Think about what being able to openly embrace your community and live as your authentic self means to you and how you may want to go about it. What parts of your journey will you want to share with different people in your life? Do you want to experiment with or change the kind of clothing you wear, what name or pronouns you go by, the people you have relationships with, or any other part of yourself that you haven’t felt fully able to explore before? Give yourself the time to mentally prepare for this fantastic new step in your life!
If you are already out in all or some parts of your life, college is still a great time to continue to explore different parts of your identity. Coming out is not a one-step process, and in a world that always pushes people to fit into certain boxes, it can take a long time to really get to know yourself. You may spend years (or your whole life) figuring out different parts of your identity and what they mean to you, and it will be time well spent getting to know the nuances of who you are.
For many students, college is the first time they can choose who to form friendships with without feeling like their choices are limited to a small group of people they have known and gone to school with their whole life. You are about to meet a big group of new potential friends, so think about what makes a person someone you want to be a part of your life. Are there things you were willing to brush off when your childhood friends did them that you don’t want to accept in new friendships? Do you want to prioritize making friends who directly relate to your experiences? You deserve to have friends who treat you well, and while setting boundaries or making hard decisions about who you want in your life isn’t always fun, it will allow you to build a life where you are surrounded by people who love, respect and support you.
As well as new friends, college may be a time when you meet potential new partners. College may be the first time (or one of the first) you have a chance to explore relationships and partners you are interested in, but it is important not to let that excitement cloud your judgment. Just like with friends, it is important to think through what you really want in a partner and make sure anyone you have a relationship with is treating you well. Romantic relationships can be complicated and confusing, but they can also be beautiful, fun, silly, and a wonderful part of this next stage of your life.
You will likely have a lot more opportunities in and after college to be in LGBTQIA+ spaces and groups than you have before. This may be because you have access to organizations and events at your school, have more autonomy to make decisions about where you spend your time, are old enough to be in spaces or support/community groups for adults, are living in a new area, or any combination of the above. Think about what types of community or events you may want to find and take part in and look into what groups your school has for LGBTQIA+ students, if there is a pride center in the area, and what other spaces and support/community groups will be available to you.
Entering college will mean a lot of changes and new experiences, and while some may be hard others will help you start to see what the amazing adulthood ahead of you will look like. In the coming months while you are dealing with the logistics and challenges of entering college, make sure you are also taking time to think about all the new opportunities, beautiful moments, wonderful friendships, and personal growth that are right around the corner.
Each month I am sharing information and advice for a different aspect of college life for LGBTQIA+ students! Next month I will be focusing on good self-care practices and creating a routine for your specific needs.