Attending an institution of higher learning is an exciting and life-changing event. For many, choosing a Historically Black College or University (HBCU) is equally as important as choosing to go to college. At an HBCU, African Americans earn a higher education and gain a sense of identity and heritage, associate with others who are connected to the concerns of the Black community, and experience a nurturing atmosphere.
Many prominent African Americans from a spectrum of backgrounds and professions have graduated from HBCU. Folks like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (Morehouse College), Senator Kamala Harris (Howard University), Andrew Young, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and former Mayor of Atlanta (Howard University), and W.E.B. DuBois (Fisk University) to name a few. In fact, 65% of all black physicians, 50% of all black engineers, and 35% of all black lawyers have graduated from an HBCU. On a per student basis, HBCUs prepare and graduate students better than all other colleges.
With favorable percentages like that, an HBCU may be your best choice for undergraduate college, but for best results in your choice, you need more homework.
A Closer Look
First, do a little homework. Decide whether you would prefer: a large university or small college environment; living close to home or far away; an urban or country setting; a disciplined and structured or loose and unstructured culture; and/or a prestigious, well known institution, or one that has no real claim to fame. The answers to these questions will give you a better idea of which schools to visit.
Now that you’ve decided where to go, you need to decide when. The summer months may be the best time for you to travel, however visiting during the school term will better provide you with all the essential information needed to make an informed decision.
Throughout the school year most schools hold Preview, Transfer, and/or Walking Tour Days, usually conducted by current students. Here, prospective (or newly accepted) students have the opportunity to tour the campus, meet faculty, sit in on classes, visit the dorms, attend concerts and student events, visit the student center, and talk to students and eat in the cafeteria. This is the best time to ask questions of your guide who is knowledgeable and will be candid about both the positive aspects along with the drawbacks. To maximize your time, plan your itinerary to visit schools within driving distance of each other, spend half a day in each, and overnight at local hotels.
Then, whether you’re about to submit your applications or have already been accepted at more than one institution, try to focus on what distinguishes one school from the next. And, ask yourself if you are interested in that college for the right reasons — to party or fill your head with essential knowledge. Lastly, take an honest look at your financial situation to determine what you can afford. Then evaluate your chances of obtaining financial aid or a scholarship. If you will major in pre-med, biology, chemistry, pre-law, business & economics, computers, engineering, its usually okay to take on larger school loans.
College life does not revolve solely around on-campus activities. The surrounding neighborhood will also be a part of your home for the next four years. Do you feel safe here, day and night? Is there a vibrant community nearby? Are good churches/mosques in the area? Is public transportation easy (subway, buses, do you need a car?) Use SoulOfAmerica.com and other resources to learn about restaurants, museums, shopping, cultural events, and recreational activities nearby.
Choosing the right HBCU to further your education is one of the most important decisions you will ever make. When all is said and done, you will be one of thousands who have chosen an HBCU which for generations, has preserved its commitment to recruit, retain, prepare and graduate highly productive students and citizens. Good Luck!