Why I chose to apply to an HBCU

Alexia Smith

YES! for Equity, Youth Staff

Being a senior this year, the most critical decision and question that my high school career has been structured around have been where will I be going to college? Sitting through assemblies and meetings with college counselors proposing college decisions and opinions, not one suggested I apply to an HBCU. This wasn’t the most surprising occurrence, as since sixth grade, I have gone to a predominantly white school; however, diversity has been a staple of my educational institution. My school is considered an “international” school, and for an institution priding itself in diversity, my college counselors weren’t giving me diverse options for my future. In the past, my dream schools included UCLA, USC, and Stanford, which were the schools my college counselors presented to me as the “best” schools for my chosen major in political science. This was understandable as those are some of the most acclaimed colleges in the United States. However, a critical question that I felt as though my college counselors were ignorant of was, what would my experience be like as a black girl attending these predominantly white institutions? Ignorance is bliss, and due to them all being white individuals, this wasn’t a question they’ve probably never had to ask themselves. If this inquiry would’ve been on their minds, perhaps they would have noticed that each of these colleges has a black student population of less than 10%. In addition, each of these colleges has a long-standing history of disconnection from their black student population. This stimulated me to add some HBCUs to my “colleges I’m thinking about” list.

As a result of attending a predominantly white school since sixth grade, I wanted to go to an HBCU to feel a sense of community again. Being a minority in my educational community for so long, I felt attending an HBCU would allow me to grow and develop in a protected space. Knowing my experiences aren’t shared or understood by any of my peers left me detached. But hearing stories of the community and friendships my father formed at Morehouse and my other family members created at their respective HBCUs made me long for connections in that capacity. I realized from those accounts that the sense of communalism is a critical part of the HBCU experience. From thriving Greek life to celebrated marching bands, and community-based service opportunities, these are experiences that are exceedingly important to me as I enter the next chapter of my life. They are competitive institutions with long histories of academic excellence, societal impact, and influential alums. This opportunity to learn about African diasporic history and culture, surrounded by cultural pride and bonds, will form me into my most successful self. Black graduates of HBCUs are more likely than non-HBCU graduates to agree that their schools provided adequate support and experiential learning opportunities. In my opinion, attending an HBCU will give me post-college preparation and greater post-college well-being. While right now, I’m contemplating between a couple of HBCUs and deciding where I want to spend my next four years; there’s no doubt in my mind that attending an HBCU is the best possible decision I could make for my future.