So I didn’t go to an HBCU…


I sometimes wonder where I would be doing with my life had I gone to Hampton University in VA instead of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in NC. When I was applying to college, I knew that I wanted to go to the South, try someplace new. I had gone on those HBCU college tours and visited Hampton. We went to Howard first and I just knew I couldn’t be there. It seemed like too much fun, too distracting. I wasn’t confident that I could focus at Howard. Hampton seemed like Howard-lite. HBCU right on the water, quieter campus, nice facilities. I thought I could work with that. I got into all the schools I applied to, it’s just that Carolina took a very long time to send the acceptance letter. Since I didn’t want to wait until the last minute and I had visited Hampton (while I had never been to UNC), I sent my deposit to HU. It didn’t hurt that HU gave me a full 4-year scholarship (incl room, board and a computer). After I sent my deposit and got a roommate assigned, the letter from UNC arrived. I told my grandfather I wanted to go to Carolina and even though the deposit at HU was non-refundable, we kicked out another couple hundred dollars to send to UNC. A few months later, sight unseen, I rolled down to Chapel Hill for four years.

In retrospect, I don’t know why I wasn’t TOLD to go to Hampton. I mean, a full ride? I had a great financial aid package at UNC. I went there with a scholarship from my high school in addition to receiving a number of grants and awards. I still had a family contribution of nil so I guess it was no big deal. I never expected my family to be able to contribute to my college education and I would have taken out the entire thing in loans to be able to go where I wanted to go. Luckily I didn’t have to do that. So why would I turn down a cushy scholarship at a decent HBCU?

I just loved Carolina. I know, I know, I had never been there before. But I was sucked in by the beautiful viewbook they sent. You should have seen that thing. I think I had two. The pictures inside, the way the campus looked. The students. I was also into basketball at that time and I loved cheering on the Heels. It was such a well-known school. When I talked to my teachers and guidance counselor about it, they all seemed to be impressed. The school was in North Carolina and was more southern to me than VA, geographically and culturally. Most importantly, I didn’t know of anyone from my school in the few years before I graduated who had ever gone to UNC. Not a single person. People were always going down to Virginia for school. I didn’t want to go to college with people I went to high school with. I wanted to be different and blaze a new path. I wanted Carolina.

Fast-Forward to last weekend. I was at a beautiful wedding, having a great time. The groom went to Morehouse for undergrad and some of his college buddies were at the wedding. Somehow, I get in a convo with one of the guys that ends up with him telling me I didn’t go to an HBCU because I hate Black people. EXCUSE ME? Granted, he was tipsy and could have been making a lame attempt at a joke. However, that wasn’t the first time I’d heard someone say something along those lines. Then today, I was reading Ta-Nehisi and he flat out said, “I think anyone who didn’t attend Howard is deranged. While this mostly applies to black folks, you aren’t exempt white people,” and linked to that VA Tech study about the economic impact of HBCUs. Now, Howard alums are notorious for being fall down drunk with school pride (as they should, it’s a wonderful place), but the point still comes across: HBCUs are better than everywhere else and if you’re Black and didn’t go to one, something is wrong with you.

I never felt like I was depriving myself of THE “Black experience” by going to UNC. When I got there I was actually surprised by how visible and numerous the Black students were. Active in all aspects of campus, you hardly feel like the minority or that your interests are being ignored. Besides, UNC was in a great area for colleges. This was really a big drawing point. In 15 – 45min, you can be at North Carolina Central University, Shaw University, St. Augustine’s University, North Carolina A&T, and Bennett College, all HBCUs. You can get to Dook Univeristy (ok, Duke), Meredith College, Peace College, NC State, UNC-Greensboro, Elon University and probably a few other predominately white institutions (PWIs) in the same amount of time. UNC was uniquely situated in a hotbed of college activity. Yay!

I will concede that I deprived myself of A “Black Experience” by not going to an HBCU. Just being 15 minutes away, visiting there, partying there, and joining in BGLO activities doesn’t give you the entire experience. However, I’m alright with that. I didn’t feel the need to go to Hampton because I was thirsty for Black culture or history or whatever. If anything, I hadn’t been around enough white people growing up! I wanted to learn more about interacting with people of other cultures and backgrounds. Trust me, I received a great education academically, but the social education as just as valuable.

I wonder what things would have been like had I gone to Hampton. Would I have majored in something different? Traveled to different places? Would I have gone to law school? Where? For sure I wouldn’t have met the same people, the great people who have shaped my life and who I am right now. I can’t say if things would be better or worse, but certainly different.

My sister is graduating high school next week. Then she’s heading to Utica College. I tried to get her to apply to UNC. She didn’t. I really wanted her to apply to a HBCU. Even though I didn’t go, I believe that would have been a good environment for Vanessa. She grew up differently than I did. More sheltered, less culture, way less people of color. She NEEDS an HBCU. I think she’d have so much fun there and finally come out of her shell. She’d meet people from all over the world! But no. She wants to go to Lame University with the same people she went to Lame High School with. LOL.

I’m glad I went to Carolina and I’d do it all over again. That Hampton scholarship though… what was I thinking?!



Filed under Routine Ramblings

9 responses to “So I didn’t go to an HBCU…

  1. i, too, wonder what my life would be like if i’d attended some of the other schools i’d been accepted to, like NYU or univ. of MD.

    i also wonder what my life would be like if i kept playing my trombone instead of putting it down once i saw how much of a corny subculture it was in college.

    shit, imagine if i went to NYU *and* played my trombone. i wouldn’t even be typing this comment! i’d be passed out in a scottish hotel, wearing only a pair of burberry briefs, a pair of yellow socks, and some oversized shades!

    oh well.

    morgan st. univ.
    c/o 2002.

  2. I wonder this too… but in the reverse. I mean Hampton was an amazing experience but there were better scholarships elsewhere. At the same time I couldn’t imagine my life had I not taken that path. I’m glad for the experiences but I don’t judge people that chose different. I had my reasons for choosing HIU just like other folks had their reasons for not choosing it.
    I’m just glad to see folks getting an education and having choices about where to go to school. The rest is just a bunch of minor details.

  3. I went to your sister rival school (Virginia) and I don’t even play into the “I missed out,” mind-set. Growing up, I was an ‘Oreo Cookie,” so I never really felt accepted by blacks in the masses; therefore I didn’t embrace the concept of emerging myself in the “black experience.” To be fair, I never felt fully accepted by whites in the masses, but I found my comfort in the other blacks who were on my minority status. In my experience at a PWIs, I gained a great appreciation for the black experience sans the “I hate whitey,” mentality b/c “whitey” was my friend and helped me get where I am today. I’m sure somebody is gonna look at me sideways with my comment, but ehh – to each his/her own.
    What’s good in Philly during the 4th of July weekend? I’ll be up there!

  4. bubblin' brown shuga

    hell i thought anything below the mason dixon line was an HBCU by default.

  5. eli

    is it wrong to assume that you mostly associated with blacks at UNC while in college? i go to an hbcu so i may seem biased but if you go to a PWI and end up with mainly blacks anyway, why would one stray from a hbcu, where you can receive more opportunities that will cater to you specifically. from what i see of blacks at PWI’s, a lot is segregated. i had the same predicament as you choosing between a PWI and hbcu but i chose the latter. it enhances your confidence and individuality, something exempt from a PWI. glad to hear you’re satisfied with your decision!

    • Bourgie, JD

      Well my roommate freshman year was a white woman, who also was my roomie years afterward and a good friend today. This is not an “I have white friends” kind of statement. I point it out to show that from the beginning I had an integrated experience.
      Sure most of my close friends were Black but I didn’t segregate myself or limit myself.
      I’m totally for people getting what they need out of an institution and for some ppl that’s an HBCU.
      I didn’t feel like I needed a special boost in confidence or individuality so UNC was just fine.

  6. Leo

    I came across your blog and I just wanted to comment. I am a college grad from Washington DC who DID NOT attend an HBCU- and here is why. In researching for my job market I found the majority of HBCUs that I applied to were totally lacking in their undergrad departments. I mean books that had not been updated in years- Facilities that were below basic. I visited and asked questions of my older friends that attended schools like HOWARD, and HAMPTON- they even told me that if they had another option they would not have chosen the HBCU route. As soon as I enrolled at my chosen University I understood why. I would talk to my friends at HBCUs who were freshman along with me. They didnt realize HOW MUCH the school was lacking until they got there. And because they had someone one on the outside to compare it to (being me)- they were shocked. I obtained numerous internships, started working in my major by my junior year and am very happy I didnt choose an HBCU. I didnt miss out on any black experience because there where a lot of black people at my chosen university along with other races. (The world isnt all black) The majority of my friends who DID attend an HBCU are honestly having a hard time in the job market. Now I am all for an HBCU- I totally understand why they were established etc-BUT I need for them to not BOAST and BRAG when alot of them (in my friends opinions) are offering a second class education. Howard calls itself the MECCA- is that in the realm of HBCU’s or Universities overall?

  7. Firesnaps

    I really love this blog. I’m attending an HBCU right now and I feel the same way about them as you do. I think what people don’t realize is that most HBCU’s are more focused on helping people deal with the real world. I grew up in Brooklyn,NY and later moved to a redneck boondocks in GA for High school. I was very shy around people. When I first got there everyone was shockingly very nice and there was always mixers, clubs, forums and groups you can join to make friends. I do admit HBCU’s aren’t for everyone but, if your shy and/or grew up sheltered I think it would be best to go to an HBCU. It’s like a big family here.
    @Leo honey, I’ve been getting internships since sophomore year so that assumption does not apply to everyone. Next year if things work out, I plan on interning for Disney. If your friends are not getting work now there is something wrong with them not their education. Life after college is what you make it. My neighbor just got her masters and bachelors at a PWI and she’s still struggling in the job market. I have a friend who just graduated from my school and she’s been working at her current job (entry level job at a local accounting firm ) since she was in school. Most people who don’t have a job after they’ve attended an hbcu were more than likely flunkies in college who partied continuously or had that, “I’m just getting by attitude”. Personally, I feel like I’ve met more arrogant PWI graduates than HBCU graduates. I’m a proud HBCU student. I wouldn’t mind going to a PWI and I don’t look down on anyone who attended or is attending one. I don’t know if I felt it right but the tone in your comment seems a bit jealous and bitter because you never attended one. At the end of the day it doesn’t matter where you went it’s about what you did while you were there.

  8. I would like to point out my affection for your kind-heartedness in support of persons who actually need help with the topic. Your special commitment to getting the message across has been pretty important and has specifically encouraged others just like me to attain their dreams. Your entire warm and helpful recommendations implies a whole lot a person like me and even further to my fellow workers. With thanks; from each one of us.

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