If you are ever thinking of attending a Historically Black College or University, you must first remember two things. One, don't think of yourself as any less "qualified" than a student at a Predominately White Institution. Two, although iconic, School Daze was just a movie. Campus life is fun, but truly not that dramatic.
When I initially made the decision to attend Southern University and A&M College at Baton Rouge, Louisiana, it was not because I could not get accepted into a PWI. Contrary to fictitious storylines, I did not get wooed in by the fantasies of militant students protesting for change, Greek organization step-show battles, or the all-night homecoming parties.
I made a choice to attend an HBCU because I understand their relevancy. I am a history major, so it is my job to research the past, collect stories, and offer information from past situations and experiences. Reasons African-Americans attended HBCUs in the past are far from the reasons we attend today. Today we can easily enroll at PWIs if we are academically qualified. Education opportunities for blacks have so vastly increased, that if we all applied to PWIs then there would be no importance to maintain HBCUs.
I was never the student that was a minority in a white school, as the schools I attended were either predominantly black or equally mixed. So for me being in the HBCU environment is complete familiarity, no more, no less. I didn't need anyone to teach me how to be black. I didn't enroll intending to learn my heritage from the African incense guy in the courtyard who preaches of revolution. I did not long for some type of culturally defining moment to break my rose-colored glasses. I just wanted to learn the life stories of people who looked like me without having to always hear the "I'm black, woe is me" story. I wanted to surround myself with black students who took a leap of opportunity and appreciated education. I can proudly say, the life stories I learned from my fellow students have contained pure and sincere happiness even through struggles.
I can relate this experience to studying specific types of cultures and people. When you know what a certain group needs, you are more able to help by offering them necessary tools in order to prolong survival. I came with the clear understanding that in the real world my competition will be extremely diverse in race. I know that just because I have chosen to attend a HBCU I must still go above and beyond the required learning because of my skin color. The mentoring that I have been given at my HBCU gives me peace at knowing I am being instructed by those who have overcome race-related adversities.
Overall, my experience at Southern University has been wonderful -- it has furthered my advocacy of reaching black youth in my state to promote their attendance. I truly believe that everyone deserves an education and I make it my purpose to instill that ideology in underprivileged youth. Do I believe the education I have received thus far would have been better if I went to a PWI? Maybe... but to me, deciding upon a HBCU was far more challenging. For the benefit of what I came expecting to learn about others and the determination they possess, I wouldn't change it for the world.