Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) are experiencing a renaissance. Over the past few months, The New York Times, NPR, and Forbes have reported that applications to HBCUs are skyrocketing even as the overall number of college applications is falling. The HBCU application spike shows that students realize the many benefits HBCUs continue to provide their students.
These applicants probably want to know more about what it’s really like to attend an HBCU. To answer this question, we asked some recent HBCU alumni about their HBCU experiences. Here’s what they had to say.
College is not just a time to learn. It’s also the time that most young adults work on discovering who they are and who they want to be. HBCUs help students with that task. Mariyah McCaleb, a 2021 Jackson State University grad, said that her time at JSU “helped me gain a sense of self and find new groundings and values in my life.”
HBCUs also help students identify with their culture. Diamond Jordan, a 2018 graduate of Spelman College who works as a therapist said, “At Spelman, I had the time and space to refine my character and understanding of the world from the perspectives of Afrocentrism and global solidarity.” Dr. Leandra Caver, a psychologist who graduated from Hampton University in 2012, noted that her time at the Virginia campus gave her “a sense of pride and confidence in my culture.”
It’s a Family Affair
Our interviews showed that HBCU alums see their HBCU as more than a school. The word most often used to describe the HBCU community was “family.”
When asked to state the best things about his HBCU, Russell J. Hamlett, a 2014 graduate of Lane College and housing inspector for Kent County, Michigan, said, “It’s a family.” In response to the same question, Dr. Caver said, “With my fellow alumni, you’re always family.” Aysha Peterson, a 2022 Morgan State University graduate added, “While there is so much to say about the great Morgan State University, the best thing for me is the sense of family.”
These responses show that for those who choose to attend an HBCU, your fellow students will be more than classmates or competitors – they will be your family.
Points of Pride
The HBCU alumni also spoke glowingly about the legacies their schools had created. Ashley N. Roby, who received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Tuskegee University (in 2012 and 2016, respectively) noted that Tuskegee is the only university (HBCU or otherwise) to be named a National Historic Site as well as the sole HBCU with a veterinary school. Eien Williams, a captain in the United States Air Force and 2013 Tuskegee grad, noted that the history of the school, particularly “continuing the legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen,” made him proud to have attended.
Historic legacies were not the only sources of pride for these grads. Lauren Cache Campbell, a 2021 graduate of Prairie View A&M University, noted that “The Prairie View Marching Storm brought entertainment to the campus during football season.”
Crafting a Career
Of course, the primary goal of a college education is to build a successful career. HBCU grads told us that their HBCUs did a lot to help them thrive and survive in the business world.
When discussing job opportunities, HBCU alums gave their schools high praise. Ms. Cache Campbell said, “So many great companies wanted to interview me and offer me a job based on my resume from Prairie View.” Capt. Williams also noted that the Tuskegee network had helped his career.
The graduates also recognized the intangible advantages their HBCUs had given them. Ms. Jordan said that Spelman helped her “discover her drive.” Ms. Roby said that her time at Tuskegee gave her the ability to “make the best out of any situation, think on my feet, and adapt to any environment.”
Beyond their own schools, the alumni we spoke with also appreciated connecting with graduates of other HBCUs. They noted that when you attend one HBCU, you become part of a larger family that encompasses all HBCU alumni. As Ms. Peterson stated, “It’s a sense of family and connection. HBCUs have many different conversation starters that help you connect with anyone who attended an HBCU. We want to hear each other’s stories and goals.”
Encouraging the Next Generation
When asked what they would say to a student who is thinking about going to HBCU, the alumni were unanimous in their responses:
- Ms. Cache Campbell – “It will be an amazing experience.”
- Dr. Caver – “If you are Black, you should 10000% consider various HBCUs as a place to call home.”
- Mr. Hamlett – “Don’t hesitate. Go for it!”
- Ms. Jordan – “Go for it!”
- Ms. Mccaleb – “Go.”
- Ms. Peterson – “Do it, do it, do it! It will be one of the best experiences.”
- Ms. Roby – “You should definitely attend an HBCU.”
- Capt. Williams – “I wouldn’t be the man I am today without my experience at and degree from Tuskegee.”
There is no ambiguity – these alums love their schools and love HBCUs.
HBCUs provide an educational experience like none other. The pride that these alumni have for their schools is real and shared by millions of other alumni across the nation and the world. Here at The Home Depot, we understand that pride. We created The Drill to celebrate HBCUs and feature the important work that they and their alumni do to make America a better place for everyone. Keep visiting The Drill for more HBCU highlights and insights!