What is an HBCU?

An HBCU is a Historically Black College or University. Prior to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, African Americans were not permitted to attend the same institutions as their White counterparts. As a result, African Americans began to create their own colleges and universities to educate their community. Today, the White House defined an HBCU as “…any historically black college or university that was established prior to 1964, whose principal mission was, and is, the education of black Americans, and that is accredited by a nationally recognized accrediting agency or association.” There are currently over 100 HBCUs across the United States.

Who can apply to an HBCU?

HBCUs primarily educated African American students in the past. Now anyone, of any race, can apply. HBCUs function like regular universities with a rigorous application and admissions process.

Why apply to an HBCU?

HBCUs provide a different experience than attending a Predominantly White Institution (PWI). Many colleges and universities across the country are PWIs, meaning the majority of the student body and faculty is Caucasian. In contrast, HBCUs place an emphasis on diversity and emphasize it in many ways. An HBCU experience provides a culturally rich educational experience and access to a rich alumni network. 

Perks of an HBCU

Aside from a culturally exciting experience, HBCUs offer many opportunities students may want to take advantage of. 

Cost 

In order to be equitable and accessible, HBCUs usually have lower tuition rates than their counterparts. They also offer generous financial aid to students. Not to mention, HBCUs sometimes have financial aid miracles occur at their school like commencement speakers who surprise students by paying off their tuition

Diversity

HBCUs have greater diversity than PWIs. Minority students make up 87% of the student population on an HBCU campus on average. In contrast, students of color make up about 39% across other colleges and universities in the nation. In addition to a diverse student body, HBCUs boast a colorful team of academics. 56% percent of professors are Black, 10% are Asian, and 2% are Hispanic. 

Culture is not only a focus as you walk the halls of your university, it is an emphasis in the classroom. HBCUs equip students for the multicultural, global market by providing students with an “opportunity to associate with different nationalities and to learn about cultural diversities.”  Students interested in learning with a focus on marginalized cultures will thrive at an HBCU. 

Alumni Networks

HBCU alumni are very passionate about their school. Students and alumni of HBCUs are proud of their university and eager to assist fellow alumni. As an HBCU grad, you join a star-studded alumni network that includes Toni Morrison (Howard University), Spike Lee (Morehouse College), Sean Combs (Howard University), Oprah Winfrey (Tennessee State University). Not to mention, Drake will probably name drop your school in a song. 

Scholarships and Grants

There are many financial aid opportunities specifically for HBCU students. For example, the Thurgood Marshall College Fund provides scholarship opportunities to students attending HBCUs. 

Supportive Environments

Studies show that students at an HBCU often have increased levels of engagement. In other words, students are more likely to get involved at school when they attend an HBCU, likely because they feel included by their peers and faculty. Not only do students feel more supported when they are in school, but black HBCU graduates are also 15% more likely to graduate from an HBCU than a PWI. After they graduate, HBCU graduates are more likely to say that their school prepared them for the real world than their counterparts. 

Traditions

HBCUs have “The Divine Nine,” which is part of The National Pan-Hellenic Council, Inc (NPHC). The NPHC was created as an alternative for African American students who were banned from rushing white fraternities and sororities. NHPCs is a group of multicultural fraternities and sororities made up of students from diverse backgrounds. The Divine Nine is made up of the following sororities and fraternities: Kappa Alpha Psi, Omega Psi Phi, Alpha Kappa Alpha, Delta Sigma Theta, and Zeta Phi Beta, Alpha Phi Alpha, Phi Beta Sigma, Sigma Gamma Rho, and Iota Phi Theta. 

In addition, HBCU homecomings are a huge event. Alumni come to visit, sororities and fraternities put on step shows, and there are celebrations galore. As the saying goes, “There is nothing like an HBCU homecoming.” 

What are the most popular HBCUs?

Although there are many HBCUs across the country, the most popular HBCUs are: 

Spelman College

Atlanta, GA

Acceptance rate: 43% 

Spelman is a private, liberal arts women’s only college. In 2020, Spelman was ranked the #1 History Black College University by US News and World Report. As part of the Atlanta University Center Consortium, Spelman partners with Clark Atlanta University, Morehouse College and Morehouse School of Medicine. 

Howard University

Washington D.C. 

Acceptance rate: 36% 

Sitting just two miles from the U.S. Capitol, Howard University is a private university. Howard University has many graduate programs such as those in the School of Business, School of Law, College of Medicine and College of Engineering, Architecture and Computer Sciences. 

“My favorite part about being at an HBCU is how family oriented the school is. The people here truly want to see you succeed and give you all the tools & motivation to keep pushing even when things seem impossible”

Breanna Reeves, Howard University (2023)

Morehouse College

Atlanta, GA

Acceptance rate: 51%

Morehouse is the world’s only private, all men’s HBCU. The school is known for educating black men and preparing them for the world. The school produces the most black male students who go on to doctorates in the country. Political commentator Marc Lamont Hill and President Barack Obama have both addressed the campus community or taught a course

Hampton University

Hampton, VA

Acceptance rate: 36%

Hampton University is a top HBCU. Notable alumni include Alberta Williams King, mother of Martin Luther King Jr.; Booker T. Washington, an influential African-American educator and founder of Tuskegee University; and Wanda Sykes, an Emmy Award-winning comedian.

Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University (FAMU)

Tallahassee, FL

Acceptance rate: 36%

Despite having the name Agricultural & Mechanical in the name, FAMU has 60-degree programs and tracks. FAMU is known for its world-famous marching band and vibrant homecoming. FAMU is also the only HBCU in the Florida State University System. 

“My favorite part about attending an HBCU is the family-like atmosphere that I feel everyday on and off-campus. Everyone from the faculty to the students root for your success and guide you in any way possible. Even though law school is a very competitive and strenuous field, we all look out for each other and make sure we’re all okay, whether it be physically or mentally. I definitely feel like I would not gain this same experience at a PWI law school. From the first day I stepped on campus for my tour I just knew FAMU College of Law was the school that I wanted to attend. I could feel the genuine passion of the faculty ensuring that they would do everything they could to help us not only succeed as lawyers but as advocates for our clients as well as our community. After touring PWI law schools, I felt like they weren’t going to consider whether you succeeded or not. You either sink or swim or you were on your own. I’d definitely encourage any to go to an HBCU. Even if you’re unsure at least go on a tour. A tour changed my life and I couldn’t be happier to be a Rattler. “

Micah Baxter-Miler, FAMU (2021)

HBCUs and You

There are many reasons to apply to an HBCU. From rich cultural traditions and amazing support to unforgettable experiences. Need help applying to an HBCU? Reach out to Prepory. Our expert team of coaches is available to help you through every step of the process.

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