First, what does HBCU mean?
'HBCU' stands for Historically Black College and University. These are colleges that were formed before 1964 with the sole intent of educating Black students. HBCUs catered to Blacks who wanted to go to college because at the time, African-Americans were not allowed to attend many of the white institutions across the U.S. HBCUs have a rich history and a relevant place in American society.
Who can go to HBCUs?
Today, while still attended mainly by Black students, all are welcome to attend an HBCU. Admission is not determined by race. There are, however, gender-specific HBCUs like, Morehouse College, a men's college in Atlanta and Spelman College, an all-women's college, which is next to Morehouse.
Today, there are 96 HBCUs, according to the U.S. Department of Education. They continue to produce talented alumni through a number of ways, including:
Encouraging a high level of student and faculty interaction,
Employing diverse faculty,
Hands-on advising and high-impact practices, and
Helping students develop a strong sense of identity and cultural competency by using African-American culture to facilitate student success
HBCU Grad Schools
In addition to serving the undergraduate population, there are many HBCU graduate programs. If you want to attend an HBCU for grad school, you have plenty of options. From top HBCU law schools to top medical schools, there's a cultural fit for you beyond your undergrad years.
Visiting HBCUs + HBCU College Visits
If you're planning an in-person or virtual tour of an HBCU, make sure you're prepared to make the most of your time with the school's representatives. Here are 5 college visit questions to ask during your HBCU tour:
What's your graduation rate? This number is a percentage of students who graduate within 6 years from the institution. The higher the number, the better to help gauge how well the school is retaining, teaching and graduating students.
What's your job placement rate? This number is a percentage of students who have graduated and are working in a role relevant to their major. For example, a nursing student is expected to be working in a medical role.
What types of internship opportunities are available to students? Asking about internship opportunities will give you an idea of the school's career service department. Hopefully, if you're considering a school in a big city, they've created a pipeline with local and corporate businesses for student internship opportunities.
What type of student support services are available? This covers advising services to make sure you're on the right track with scheduling and course requirements and other services which are covered by tuition costs such as a writing center, math tutoring center, laptop/hardware rentals, etc
How do students get involved on campus with student life and other activities? This will help you understand what students do outside of class. How are they engaging with other students, exploring their creativity, leadership, athleticism and personal development and growth.
How do I know if an HBCU is for me?
Knowing yourself is key to understanding the best school for you, HBCU or otherwise. After you reflect and consider who you want to be as a contributing adult to society, you can leverage listings that detail rankings and listings of colleges, think "best of..." type lists. For example, here is a list of the top HBCUs.
Hear more about HBCUs
I sat down with former HBCU First Lady and HBCU alumna, Irene Johnson to discuss all things HBCUs. She answers questions like. "What makes a university an HBCU?", "Are all HBCUs private?" and the benefits a student may have as an HBCU attendee.
Check out the full video below!
Going on a college visit? Don't go empty-handed. Purchase my guided journal, The College Visit Journal: Campus Visits Demystified online now!