Every year, U.S. News and World Report puts out an informative piece listing the top-performing HBCUs, breaking down the statistics about resources, amenities and, of course, the biggest factor for many, cost. Still, there are some other points to consider when determining the institution where a teen will spend the next four-plus years of his or her academic, professional and personal development.
Undergraduate school is a place where young adults get their first taste of freedom and responsibility. It’s also the time period where they start utilizing imparted life skills—coping mechanisms for stress, money management, delayed gratification, sexual partner selection, etc., on their own.
As the deadlines for many college applications approach, this holiday season is a great opportunity to have a very real discussion with teens about all of the factors that go into selecting an institution for higher learning, and why a well thought out decision is important. Be sure to include the following in your talks:
1. How far away from home do you really want to be?
Some teens will say they need to get as far away as possible from their parents, while others desire to be very close. The best way to really determine a good fit is to visit the campuses of interest and have a candid talk about how often the student can travel back and forth, and how he or she will be traveling (bus, train, plane or car) to paint a very realistic picture of what life would be like.
2. What kind of academic environment works best for you, big or small?
Talk about class and student body size with your youngster. Explain the difference between a college (smaller and typically liberal arts-based) and a university (larger with an array of schools within), and what that means for the academic experience. Colleges tend to have more intimate class sizes while universities may have enormous lecture hall-styled spaces for more courses. In addition, at a university a lot of other things will be jumbo-sized, such as dormitories, cafeterias and libraries.
3. What kind of surrounding environment complements your professional goals and personality?
Even the busiest student will venture off campus at some point. The town or city a school is in will be another character in his or her budding academic tale. Applicants should consider whether they will feel lost or ready to explore in a big city—or bored to tears in a rural town. Another major consideration should be what type of setting offers access to career support, such as places to intern depending on a student’s major.
4. How many scholarships or programs have you applied for, and what’s your financial plan?
Now is a great time to get teens financially invested in their higher education. Break down how much the schools they are interested in cost and what you are willing to contribute, then go over how they plan to invest in their education. What work is he or she willing to put in to attend his or her dream school?
5. Have you taken a career aptitude test, and do your top choices have programs that match your current interests?
A lot of teens have no idea of what they’d like to do professionally or how their talents and interests connect to a career path, yet they are selecting places for higher education. A career aptitude test is a great starting point to begin connecting the dots between how the things we like to do translate into business paths.
6. Do your top schools give you room to grow if you elect to change your major?
The great part about undergraduate school is that it is an opportunity to explore some of your interests, so students shouldn’t go in with the expectation that they’re married to a major. With that in mind—after taking the career aptitude test—consider whether a college choice(s) gives the options (classes/majors) to grow in more than one direction.
And in case you want a cheat sheet of the report, here are the HBCUs that made the top 10 list this year:
10. North Carolina A&T State University, Greensboro, North Carolina
9. Claflin University, Orangeburg, South Carolina
8. Fisk University, Nashville, Tennessee
7. Florida A&M University, Tallahassee, Florida
6. Xavier University of Louisiana, New Orleans, Louisiana
5. Tuskegee University, Tuskegee, Alabama
4. Morehouse College, Atlanta, Georgia
3. Hampton University, Hampton, Virginia
2. Howard University, Washington, D.C.
1. Spelman College, Atlanta, Georgia
Love the HBCU lifestyle? Be sure to check out EBONY’s Annual Campus Queens Competition and vote for the Queen from your favorite HBCU.