While everyone’s college experience can be unique, going to an HBCU is quite different than going to a predominantly white institution. If any of the following things happened to you while you were on campus, chances are you were at an HBCU.
Strolling At Parties
After a particularly long week of working on a term paper or knocking out the required lab hours for biology, you and your friends decide to hit up a couple parties that are being held around campus. You get there, ready to blow off some steam, but you can’t dance. Why? Because this sorority or that fraternity wants to stroll through the crowd. Truly getting your dance on at an HBCU party can be quite tricky, especially if there are several sororities and fraternities there because they wind up trying to outdo each other all night.
Social Gatherings At Libraries
Going to the library to study at an HBCU could be like going to a club — especially if it’s during midterms or finals. As soon as you walked in, you’d see someone you knew and instead of buckling down and memorizing the formulas for calculus, you’re gossiping with a friend or just hanging out at a table with a group of people. You knew if you wanted to pass that final with anything more than a C, you would have to do some studying on your own back in your dorm room. The students who actually weren’t at the library were the ones really focused on passing their classes.
You Repped Your School
Going to an HBCU gave most of the students a sense of pride that had to be displayed. Whether it was a sweatshirt, a baseball cap, track jacket and matching running pants, knapsack or duffle bag, HBCU students rep their school hard by rocking school gear from head to toe. Most kids at PWIs don’t understand pride in their school like that.
You LIVED For Homecoming Weekend
Even though, technically, a weekend is Saturday and Sunday — and maybe Friday evening — homecoming weekend would be an entire week of festivities. The amount of money you spent for all of the different outfits and shoes you’d need added up quickly. And that’s without even purchasing tickets for any of the events! Homecoming weekend was a non-stop party that took up far more money and time than a normal weekend would need but it was worth every penny of it.
Classes Were Steeped In Black History
Professors at a HBCU have an unspoken duty to teach their students a lot more than just the subject of the class. Whether it was contemporary art history, political science or American lit, professors would be sure to include the works and contributions of Blacks across the diaspora. While white professors may gloss over what Blacks may have done in their respective fields, HBCU professors would spend a lot of time on unknown or lesser heard of painters, writers and politicians who paved the way but rarely received the recognition they deserved.
Football Games Were All About The Marching Band
Going to your school’s football game was a tradition. But if you had to miss anything because you needed to run to the restroom, you’d do that during the game because you’d rather miss a touchdown or fumble than the main attraction: the marching band and dance team. The bands would have the stadium rocking as everyone did the one-two step in the bleachers.
Friends with Financial Aid Workers
In this day and age, college tuition can run anywhere from $20,000 and up – and that’s if you stay in state! Private schools average around $43,000, and while some people earned athletic or academic scholarships or came from money, many others had to rely on financial aid. A good part of any student’s day can be spent down at the financial aid office filling out forms, telling their story with extra emotion in the hopes of receiving sympathy from anyone who’d listen. The workers at the financial aid offices at HBCU’s were always some of the nicest and most down to earth people on campus and the younger ones would hang out with some of the students after hours.
Constant Fashion Shows
There was no such thing as grabbing a quick bite to eat in between organic chemistry and Eastern African history classes at an HBCU school. Lunchtime was also known as fashion hour. While it would be okay to wander around campus in a thermal shirt and a pair of bottoms from Old Navy, no matter the time of day or night, you had to step into the cafeteria of a HBCU fresh to death. The ladies would wear outfits that could easily be classified as club attire while the fellas would always have the latest exclusive sneakers and a clean line up.
Selecting The Right Sorority
Figuring out what you wanted to spend the next four years studying in order to find a job in that field was a lot easier than figuring out which sorority to join. They may not want to admit it, but there are plenty of us out there who gave far more thought to Delta Sigma Theta or Zeta Phi Beta than what we wanted to spend the rest of our lives doing. While it was easier to switch careers later on in life, picking the right sorority was a decision that could alter your life forever and not something to be taken lightly.
Live-In Barbers And Hairdressers In The Dorm
One of the best things about staying at a dorm that is predominantly Black is you never had to worry about going back home just to do your hair. There was a girl on every floor that knew how to cornrow, braid and sew in weaves and a guy who knew how to do fades and line-ups. On any given late night, the smell of hair being blow-dried or flat ironed would waft down the hallways of a HBCU dorm. If you knew how to do hair or were nice with the clippers, you had a great side hustle at school.
It’s Not Like “A Different World”
Growing up watching “The Cosby Show” instilled many viewers with a sense of Black pride and the dream of one day going to an HBCU. The spin-off show, “A Different World,” inspired many to attend Spelman, Hampton, or Howard, but after you applied to the HBCU of your choice, jumped for joy when you were accepted, and arrived at school ready to embrace the “Hillman” experience, you were slapped with reality. College romances don’t emulate Whitley Gilbert’s and Dwayne Wayne’s relationship and life lessons about racial tension, date rape and hardcore drugs aren’t learned in 30 minutes.
Exposure To All Types Of Black People
Although you grew up in a Black neighborhood, went to schools in urban areas since you were eating graham crackers in pre-K, you’ve never been exposed to the variety of Black people that exist until you’re off to college. At an HBCU, you could come across a 16-year-old child prodigy from Ghana, a biracial flower child who grew up by the shores of California, a Southern gentleman who was raised by his grandmamma or a rich kid that vacations in the Alps during the winter and Martha’s Vineyard in the summer on any given day.
HBCU’s Have The Best Graduation Speakers
How cool is it to have the first Black president to give the commencement speech at your graduation? As you look back on the four years (or more) of your life that you spent running back and forth across campus and the lifelong friends you’ve made along the way, it can be awe inspiring to have Oprah Winfrey or Bill Cosby or First Lady Michelle Obama send you off into the world with wise words and sage advice and leave you feeling like you, too, can do anything you set your mind to.
There Are Black People Everywhere
Did you know there were Black people in Alaska? Or in the great state of Maine? Or in the frigid North Dakota? Go to any HBCU across the country and you’re likely to come across a Black person who was born and raised in a town you’ve never heard of in a state that you thought Black people only drove through on their way to another state they called home, like Michigan or any state below Delaware. HBCU’s have a way of attracting Black people from all across the country and world.
There Was A Sense Of Unity
You go to an HBCU, get your degree and move on into the work place, but no matter how many years have passed, if you meet someone who went to an HBCU, there was an instant connection, even if it was just for a brief moment in time. It didn’t matter the school. HBCU alums are a part of their own exclusive club. The feeling is akin to traveling over to Russia or Japan and meeting another Black person. He or she may be from Chicago but there’s still a sense of home and recognition from a stranger.