A while back I wrote an article about the mantra that’s becoming more and more popular. “College isn’t for everyone.” As I stated in the article, while I tend to agree with the statement overall, I do believe it is an overstated one particularly in communities that have historically low college attendance. In tribute to the H.O.P.E. Scholarship and to my further renewed belief that college is for more people than we’d like to admit, I offer a few reasons why high school students should consider a collegiate education, with specific attention paid to the experience one has at a Historically Black College or University.
1. A collegiate education is a chance to learn about yourself. It sounds cliché but it is true and for people of African descent, a HBCU is the best place to learn about you. HBCUs are one of the few places that your skin color takes a complete backseat to everything else about you. As a high school student, particularly for those of you that were minorities in your school, you may have felt pressure to participate in ethnicity based organizations. While those organizations may have been a source of comfort and are certainly worthwhile groups, they often stress a monolithic experience that you may or may not completely align with. At HBCUs however, you participate in social, political, or community service organizations that are relevant to you, your interests, and your beliefs, race notwithstanding. You like to skateboard? Join the skateboarding club. Are you a newly minted card-carrying Republican? Join the Young Republicans of *insert university here.* While race may often be the topic of discussion on the Yard and in the classroom, the conversation takes on a whole new light when one doesn’t feel the need to represent a greater group.
2. A collegiate education gives you room for error. College is the formal beginning of your adult life, with a lot more room for mistakes. It provides you with a great stepping stone between high school and the so-called “real world.” Going straight from high school into the work force is a difficult feat and I applaud those who have the ability to do so successfully. These days many students have to work to offset bills and/or provide them self with the discretionary income they need, but your primary job is your education. Few are endowed with a generous trust fund, the majority of your life but sooner or later you too will be a part of the work force. Any time that your job is “to learn” is one of the most fortunate privileges you will ever have.
Learning at an HBCU is the “chocolate” icing on the cake. You learn from students, professors and alumni who may have had similar experiences as you and can provide you with insight on how to navigate future pitfalls.
3. A collegiate education is an opportunity to receive a well-rounded education. You willl master accounting in the classroom and oratorical persuasion through student government. You will balance equations in Chemistry and balance your budget through the issue of your Financial Aid package. You will meet your athletic match on the football field and possibly your romantic match in the cafeteria line.
Some criticize college because it represents what some believe is an alternative universe, but in many ways it is a microcosm of what to expect outside of your university’s gates. The people that attend college are represented in the real world; college just gives you a head start on how to work with, socialize, learn with these individuals in a less pressurized world than Wall Street. To those that question HBCUs’ ability to prepare its students for the real world because of a lack of diversity, they should consider that many HBCUs host students from across the world. Some students are from working class families while others are from wealthy backgrounds. Honestly, the only thing that most HBCU students have in common when entering a HBCU campus is the complexion of their skin; students’ traits are as diverse, if not more so, than your local state university.
College is more than academics, an escape plan from your hometown, or an overpriced opportunity to meet people from diverse socio-economic, ethnic and religious backgrounds. It’s a chance for you to share a somewhat common experience with people while paradoxically learning what makes you uncommon. When your parents aren’t around and you don’t feel the pressure to represent a certain group, you have time (at least four years) to really think about who are you and who do you want to be? If you do it right, college will help you find the answer.
Live HOPE. Give HOPE.
Crystal Marie Grant
About the Author
Crystal Marie is a proud graduate of Howard University and a graduate student in communications at the University of Southern California. More of Crystal’s writings can be found at A Word or Three.