Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students on campuses across the country will celebrate National Coming Out Day on Oct. 11. If you're a high school or college student and you're taking your first steps out of the closet – or if you've been out and proud for years – this is also a great time to take a look at the scholarships and financial aid resources that can help you get through college.
The following resources can help LGBT students, as well as those studying issues that affect the gay community.
In addition to specific scholarships, there are excellent websites that provide an overview of the college landscape for LGBT students. CampusPride.org covers financial aid issues and also features college fairs, guides to gay-friendly campuses, advocacy facts and more information that can help you pick, apply to and pay for your dream school.
[Learn about colleges that meet full financial aid.]
The FAFSA is a crucial part of any financial aid application, and gay students and families face some unique questions in filling it out. FinAid.org has an excellent guide for children of same-sex couples, students in same-sex marriages and more.
Make sure to check with your financial aid adviser, too, as FAFSA guidelines for same-sex parents have recently changed.
Finally, the Human Rights Campaign does a ton of work on behalf of LGBT students and families. Their scholarship database collects local and regional scholarships and sorts them by state.
If you're a high school student, you can apply right now for Pink Ink 2014, the Queer Foundation's ninth annual high school senior essay competition. Applicants should be planning to enroll full-time next year to study queer theory or a related field at a U.S. college or university. Your essay must be inspired by playwright Bertolt Brecht's quote, "We write not only about different things, we also write differently."
[Follow these tips to make your scholarship essay stand out.]
Gay men at any stage of their education should check out scholarships from the Gamma Mu Foundation. Originally started as a gay men's professional organization, Gamma Mu funds grants and scholarships for undergraduate, graduate and postgraduate study.
Preference is given to students who live in or are coming from rural areas, and to students who have overcome discrimination and marginalization in their communities. Applications open at the beginning of each year and are due by March 31.
[Get detailed information on additional LGBT scholarships.]
While a number of LGBT-focused professional associations in specific fields offer scholarships, few are as comprehensive as those from the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists' Association. The organization offers aspiring and current college journalists scholarships, as well as internship and summer project opportunities, a national journalism award program and local chapter networking.
Finally, when it comes to specific scholarships, there are a few major national programs that no LGBT student should miss out on. The Point Foundation, Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays and the League Foundation are all excellent organizations that offer prestigious and lucrative scholarships to LGBT students.
Coming out is a big step – and paying for college is a big deal. These programs can help make it happen.
Matt Konrad has been with Scholarship America since 2005. He is an alumnus of the University of Minnesota and a former scholarship recipient.