Spelman College | Atlanta, Georgia

HBCU Experience

Where you choose to go to college can be one of the most important decisions you make. There are many different classifications of colleges and universities. There are colleges designated just for women or for men, colleges with religious affiliations, and the list goes on. One type of school we have in the United States is a historically black college or universities, or “HBCUs.” Most of our nation’s HBCUs were founded in the 1800’s as a result of the Civil War’s end and the recognized need for educational institutions for freed slaves and Native Americans. Located mostly in the southeastern portion of the United States, HBCUs have graduated several individuals who have significantly impacted history.People such as Martin Luther King, W.E.B. DuBois and Booker T. Washington, all graduated from HBCUs. You may wonder why HBCUs still exist generations after slavery and years after the civil rights movement. The answer is in the effectiveness of these institutions in graduating students from various backgrounds, particularly African Americans. When asked what it means to attend an HBCU, I usually respond with: “The odds are in your favor.” I was raised in a city with one of the largest predominantly white schools in the nation. By default, I assumed I was to attend that university. It was close to home, and I knew a lot of people who went there. But when it came time for me to select a college, my father took my brother and I for a journey to visit two highly recommended schools, both of which happened to be HBCUs.

The difference in environment and student atmosphere was astounding! I was taken on tours and greeted by students in their dorms. I felt that the faculty wanted me there. Upon returning home from that trip, with applications in hand, I applied to two HBCUs. A few months later, I was accepted to both. I decided to attend Hampton University. There, I learned what it meant to attend an HBCU. I remember the day my parents dropped me off at Hampton University. I almost cried as my parents left me in the hands of a university known to us mostly by its impressive reputation in the black community. I worried about how my parents would have to sacrifice to come up with the tuition and fees to cover my college expenses. However, the odds were in my favor, as my choice to attend an HBCU, along with a fair share of hard work, led to my receiving a full scholarship from a company that specifically recruited minority students from select HBCUs. I didn’t realize there would be benefits such as this when I first decided to attend an HBCU!

One thing you’ll begin to realize once you set foot into that first classroom is that you have no excuse for failure. Being that most of my classmates and professors were black, I knew I was going to at least get a fair chance. Another benefits of attending an HBCU is the fact that most HBCUs have low student to faculty ratios, which means you can try sitting in the front of the class for a change. I have seen students shy away from HBCUs because they are not sure how companies that hire college graduates will view a degree from one of these institutions.

Through experience, I have come to the conclusion that attending an HBCU can be an advantage for minorities entering the work force. Consider the fact that many, if not most, Fortune 500 companies recruit at HBCUs because they value diversity. Also, most HBCUs will have a career center or job-placement office. You can set up on-campus interviews and participate in job fairs that attract companies interested in hiring blacks and minorities. Not only do you have ample opportunities for employment with a degree from an HBCU, you also will be recruited by graduate schools looking for minority students.

HBCUs lead the acceptance rates into medical school and law school among black graduates. For those of you who are concerned about the quality of education or value of your degree from an HBCU, consider the fact that the first college-of-the year appointment by Time magazine was to an HBCU. One of the main reasons I chose to attend an HBCU was because of a sub-conscious awareness I had of the difference in environment at an HBCU versus that of a majority institution.

The history behind our black colleges and some of the HBCU alumni who have contributed to society is beyond impressive. I could have easily attended a community college. But compare the pride of a graduate from Howard or Florida A&M University versus the pride of your local community-college graduate. I could have easily attended the cost-friendly local university, but everyone I knew who went to that university either dropped out or never seemed to graduate. Then I realized the only people in my immediate family who had graduated from college at the time had attended an HBCU! Those that went to other institutions became disinterested in school and dropped out. I thought this might be a coincidence, but I soon found out that it was far from chance. I have come across various statistics that clearly show that HBCUs graduate black students at much higher rates than other institutions.

My gut feeling about attending an HBCU turned out to be one of the best things I have ever done in life. Six years ago, I walked across the stage of our newly constructed Convocation center to receive my diploma. I was most proud of the fact that, due to my hard work in class, my parents did not have to pay for my tuition. Also, I graduated in four years. I am pretty sure if I attended the local university, mine would have been a very different story. The friends I made, the relationships I formed with my professors and the experiences I had in the marching band left lasting impressions on me.

I was in college when I first heard the term “HBCU.” Now the acronym is a common term on television and in college conversation. In the six years I have spent in the technical workforce since graduation, I have met and worked with other black professionals. I quickly learned that more than 90 percent of those black professionals attended HBCUs, like myself. Not only was I impressed with the education that I received from an HBCU, but I was also extremely impressed by my colleagues who graduated from HBCUs as well. Some of the energy and drive that was instilled in the character of myself and fellow colleague Shawn Starks resulted in the creation of www.hbcu-central.com.

How often is it that you are so influenced by something that you spend most of your free time working on it without pay? Well, that is how much influence our HBCUs have had on us. We have designed a Web site that started as a way for fellow HBCU alumni to keep in touch but has turned into an HBCU support system. We want other individuals to benefit from the HBCU experience as much as we did, so we are now dedicated to providing the Internet infrastructure to help make it happen. Expect to see enrollment and overall growth of HBCUs increase. Graduates of these institutions now have the Internet to help spread the good word about their experiences at HBCUs.

HBCUs are also being featured on television and in other high-profile forms of media. This is all due to the fact that there are individuals who can appreciate their worth and their place in history. If you are considering college, why not consider attending a school where the odds will be in your favor? William R. Moss III is co-founder of www.hbcu-central.com.

SOURCE: Reprinted from http://www.nextstepmagazine.com/