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Articles / Applying to College / Pros and Cons of Historically Black Colleges & Universities?

Nov. 29, 2008

Pros and Cons of Historically Black Colleges & Universities?

Question: Is there anything wrong with attending a Historically Black college/university? Will my degree be looked upon differently?

Depending on your current preferences and your goals in life, choosing a Historically Black College or University (HBCU) could turn out to be a big plus. For instance, if you decide to apply to graduate school, you may find that admission officials are especially interested in you because of your atypical undergraduate experience. Most grad school admission committees seek students who come from a range of undergraduate backgrounds, so the fact that you attended an HBCU might help you stand out in the crowd.


Also, there are a number of alumni associations that welcome graduates from all HBCU's, which can be a great way to take advantage of social and career networking opportunities once you're out of college. Sure, individual colleges and universities of all sorts usually have their own alumni groups, and many of these are also great ways to make and maintain connections, but as a member of the broader community of HBCU alums, your network will be even wider.

Keep in mind that there are some HBCU's (e.g. Spelman and Morehouse colleges, Howard University) that are quite renowned and draw their students from across the country and beyond. Other HBCU's enroll mostly local or regional students and are not so well known--or as academically challenging. So, depending on where you matriculate, you can expect that some people will nod with understanding and approval or simply stare at you blankly when you provide your college's name. Of course, this is true whether you attend an HBCU or not ... some schools are familiar to many; others are obscure.

As with most colleges, too, there are pros and cons to attending an HBCU. I've known some students who missed the racial diversity that they had in high school so they transferred out of an HBCU, but there are also many who relished the support that an HBCU provided. I've also known African-American students who attended primarily white high schools and valued the chance that an HBCU provided to make strong ties with others who shared their own racial background.

So, the short answer to your question is that there is definitely nothing "wrong" with attending any Historically Black College or University. But, as with every college choice, the key is to find a school that seems to be the right fit for you, and even among the 100+ HBCU's there is a lot of variety, so choose wisely.

Written by

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone knows the competitive and often convoluted college admission process inside out: From the first time the topic of college comes up at the dinner table until the last duffel bag is unloaded on a dorm room floor. She is the co-author of Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions; The Transfer Student's Guide to Changing Colleges and The International Student's Guide to Going to College in America. Sally has appeared on NBC's Today program and has been quoted in countless publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Weekend, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, People and Seventeen. Sally has viewed the admissions world from many angles: As a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years, an independent college counselor serving students from a wide range of backgrounds and the author of College Confidential's "Ask the Dean" column. She also taught language arts, social studies, study skills and test preparation in 10 schools, including American international schools in London, Paris, Geneva, Athens and Tel Aviv. As senior advisor to College Confidential since 2002, Sally has helped hundreds of students and parents navigate the college admissions maze. In 2008, she co-founded College Karma, a private college consulting firm, with her College Confidential colleague Dave Berry, and she continues to serve as a College Confidential advisor. Sally and her husband, Chris Petrides, became first-time parents in 1997 at the ripe-old age of 45. So Sally was nearly an official senior citizen when her son Jack began the college selection process, and when she was finally able to practice what she had preached for more than three decades.

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