What They Don't Tell You About Attending an HBCU

I grew up in an environment where a PWI education was a determining factor of success. I’m the product of “get it out the mud” parents, and as alumni of Boston and American University, they believed that enrolling me in PWIs would better prepare me for the real world. However, after thirteen years of infiltrating white spaces, I was tired of dealing with daily microaggressions, blatant racism, and discrimination. I needed a change in environment. Now, as a sophomore at Howard University, I have had numerous new experiences - some that I was prepared for, but others that I definitely did not expect! Here are five things no one told me about attending an HBCU:

  1. 1. Soul Food Thursday?!

    Cafeteria food is no home cooked meal by any means - ask anyone - but for the next nine months, that’s all you’ll have. While the food is certainly an adjustment, it will grow on you. Plus, soul food at an HBCU hits different. Some yams, greens, and cornbread after a long day of classes will always get you right. Try to get to the cafeteria early on soul food days, because there’s always a line.

  2. 2. May the Odds Be Forever in Your Favor!

    To be frank, HBCUs are competitive. At your high school, you might have been valedictorian, class president, or your sport team’s MVP. That’s great, but keep in mind that everyone at your new institution was too. As soon as you step on campus, none of that matters, and the playing field becomes leveled. 

     

    However, because the culture of HBCUs is so competitive, getting involved in anything is extremely difficult. Remember that a “no”is not the end of the world. Just because one door closes, does not mean a better door won’t open. Stay the course. Do not get discouraged. You will find a spot that’s meant for you. 

     

    P.S. It’s not always what you know, but who you know. Networking is essential.

  3. 3. You Need a Side Hustle.

    Being broke in college is no joke, and sometimes, a few dollars will be the only thing standing between you and a good meal, or a night out with the girls. For this reason, find something that you’re good at and enjoy doing, and make it a business. Makeup, hair, nails--it doesn’t matter. It’s always good to have an extra few dollars for a rainy day. Plus, the best thing about a side hustle is that you can make it fit your schedule.

     

    Here’s a list of Howard Hustlers:

     

    https://twitter.com/tenixola/status/1292242415575851008?s=20

  4. 4. Let Them Hate.

    Regardless of where you go or what you do, there will always be someone who has something to say. That’s simply the nature of the world. What no one told me, though, is that some people will be bothered solely because of the institution you attend. More often than not, there are frequent debates about Black people attending PWIs vs HBCUs. Within the HBCU community, there are clear divides between institutions. School pride is important, but some people take it too far. Don’t get caught up in the names of the schools. I promise, regardless of the institution, the value of an HBCU education is unmatched. 

  5. 5. Family Matters

    Despite respective differences or rivalries, attending an HBCU automatically makes you a part of a family. 

     

    Because it’s a family, it operates almost identically to one. HBCUs already receive enough criticism as is. For that reason, whenever there is dirty laundry, it is imperative that it always stays in the home. 

While the HBCU experience may not be for everybody, it is certainly unforgettable. The friends and memories you will make will stay with you for life, and the opportunities and education you will receive will take you far. 

 

I’ll leave you with this: Do not let anyone or anything undermine the value of your degree. If they ever question why an HBCU, kindly remind them of Kamala Harris, Chadwick Boseman, Lionel Richie, Toni Morrison, and Alice Walker - just to name a few. 

 

You are simply the next notable alumna in the making.