Being able to go to college is a blessing—whether it’s at a predominantly White institution (PWI) or a historically Black college or university (HBCU). A college degree is crucial in today’s job market. Plus, the knowledge, resources and lifelong friends that come along with your diploma are well worth the investment, regardless which school you choose.
But I’ll let you in on a little secret: I really wish I’d taken HBCU’s more seriously when I was applying for colleges. Don’t get me wrong; I received a great education at my alma mater, Fordham University, that’s given me a competitive edge in the workforce today. I met many of my closest friends there. I even consider some of my old professors to be my most important mentors and confidantes despite the fact that it’s been years since I’ve sat in class with them. My career just wouldn’t be what it is today if I didn’t study at Fordham and work for its student organizations while I was on campus.
Still, I think I would have been far happier going to an HBCU than at a school where I was a racial minority many times over. On the surface, I love studying Black culture and history so I naturally would have fit right in. However, here’s a few more reasons why I wish I’d gotten to experience going to an HBCU for my undergraduate career:
1) The Networks Roll Really Deep
Every person I know who went to an HBCU speaks at length about how close they are to their old classmates, as well as to people who attended college in the years immediately before and after them. Young Black people know just how hard it is for us to get ahead because we’re generally competing against other that are more privileged in their racial identity or have more wealth and resources to help them get ahead.
As a result, people who went to HBCUS are really great at harvesting their own networks. They know that powerful things can happen when Black people work together to build our own opportunities, and it shows in HBCU graduates’ careers. Plus, as the saying goes: “It’s not just what you do, it’s who you know.”
2) HBCU School Pride Is Out Of This World
Since young Black professionals understand the importance of sticking together, it’s no surprise that they are often really excited about their schools and are eager to bond with others who graduated from HBCUs as well. Liking where you go to school makes a huge difference in what you get out of your time on campus. If you buy into that school pride, you’ll have the time of your life.
3) It’s Easy To Find People You Can Relate To
This is the core of why I think HBCUs are so fun and enriching for their students. You’re almost guaranteed to find other students that will share your experiences in growing up Black (whether in the States or in another part of the world). As a result, you’ll meet plenty of people who will share your interests and concerns, too. There’s something validating about bonding with people who had similar upbringings or frustrations as you do. Also, going to an HBCU will most likely shield you from the ignorance and discrimination that you would potentially witness or experience firsthand at a majority White institution.
4) But You’ll Meet People Who Are Different From You, Too
Just because HBCUs have virtually all-black student populations, it doesn’t mean that these students aren’t diverse. You’ll meet people all over the African Diaspora by going to a Black college. Sure, these students will all share Black heritage and they’ll largely be able to relate to each other because of this. But each person has her own thoughts and experiences on what it means to be Black, and each student will identify with their race a little differently than the next. You can learn a lot about yourself and your fellow Black classmates from being in that kind of environment.
5) You Can’t Beat The Turn Up
You have not lived until you’ve gone to an HBCU homecoming. Students always put together some of the most impressive, widely-anticipated events around and each year’s celebrity guest appearances are really high-profile. Even when it’s not homecoming weekend, there’s lots of fun, year-round parties and events to get excited for. Like I said, HBCU school pride is through the roof, so you know your classmates would constantly be going out and having a good time when class isn’t in session.