When Penn State University sophomore Zach Davis, who is openly gay, was looking for a college he researched how comfortable he might feel on campus.
He checked out Campus Pride, a national nonprofit organization conducting the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender-friendly Campus Climate Index. The index rates college and universities on LGBT-friendly policies, programs and practices.
Penn State was ranked in its top 10 at the time, he said.
He toured the university, discovering its LGBTA Student Resource Center, and also tapped into the university's environment through Penn State Pulse student surveys.
While still recognizing the turmoil taking place on campus recently, he said socially he thrived his freshmen year, joining 12 campus organizations. He is co-president of the student organization LGBTA Speak Out.
"Absolutely amazing," he said of his freshman year at the school where he "absolutely" feels accepted.
It's no wonder then that Penn State topped the Campus Pride index again for 2012.
Penn State University received five out of five stars for its overall campus climate score and made the 2012 Top 25 List of LGBT-Friendly Colleges and Universities, Campus Pride announced Tuesday in partnership with the Huffington Post.
The ranking is "pretty accurate," said Davis, who represents Penn State as a board member for the Pennsylvania Student Equality Coalition, a statewide youth-led and youth-run advocacy organization.
"Penn State students are very proud of this recognition as in years past," PSEC Executive Director Jason Landau Goodman said. "This is not only an opportunity to celebrate acceptance in the Penn State community, but a call to action for further support at Penn State and schools across the commonwealth."
Goodman gives credit to the administration, students and staff.
"It's really wonderful," Penn State's LGBTA Student Resource Center Director Allison Subasic said.
"We are continuing to improve by offering educational trainings on campus, bringing in educational speakers, and working to improve our resources and support for transgender and gender variant student, staff and faculty," Subasic said.
Improvement is still needed in campuses nationwide.
Penn State University associate professor and research associate Susan Rankin was the lead researcher and co-author of the 2010 State of Higher Education for LGBT People report.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual and queer respsondents "were significantly more likely to experience harassment" than their "heterosexual counterparts," the report said.
Only 7 percent of universities offer some type of support for LGBT students, she said.
Penn State wasn't always so friendly either.
A group called Homophiles of Penn State, or HOPS, sued the university to have itself recognized as a student group in 1971, Subasic said.
Making the list doesn't make students immune to harassment. A story published in the Daily Collegian in March said several students had reported being called homophobic slurs while holding hands and walking with their partner on the street.
The current LGBT-friendliness at Penn State extends to the university's outlying colleges such as Altoona, Subasic said. She provides outreach and consulting to campuses.
Policies such as domestic-partner benefits are available "across the board," she said.
Though Goodman said acceptance at other Penn State campuses is behind.
"There is a great deal more work to be done across the Penn State system," he said. "While University Park boasts nationally recognized services and policies, much of the acceptance culture has yet to reach other Penn State campuses."
But the other schools seemingly have only to look to its mother university for guidance.
"Penn State's leadership on advancing LGBT acceptance is felt across the state," Goodman said.
Among the LGBT-community friendly attributes listed in the index, Penn State has a safe-zone program, provides funding for the Commission on LGBT Equity and includes sexual orientation and gender identity in its non-discrimination policies.
It offers domestic-partner benefits to its staff. The university's student health insurance plan has offered coverage of hormone therapy to transgender students since 2006. In 2009, the university began offering a minor in Sexuality and Gender Studies.
The university has positives going for its LGBT community, and that is due in large part to the support of its administration, Subasic said.
The climate has changed for the better, which is in line with other colleges and universities, she said.
There is more "knowledge and acceptance in society" today, she said. "The younger generation is much more accepting and positive in general" when it comes to sexual orientation.
But there is still work to be done, and Penn State is striving to deliver, Subasic said.
"There is still a great need to educate about LGBTA issues and concerns, and Penn State works hard to provide education, advocacy and resources for all of our students, staff and faculty," Subasic said. "Some students may come to campus not having been supported around issues of gender diversity and sexual orientation, and being at Penn State gives them that support, if they are looking for it."