Monday, Jun. 17, 2019

The concept of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) was born at a time in the United States when American citizens were treated differently based on their race. African Americans were often not allowed to attend traditional colleges and universities, so higher institutes of learning were established with the specific focus of educating black students. The remarkable success of these institutions have allowed HBCUs to remain prominent fixtures in American postsecondary education. To aid in the college search process, UniversitySpot has complied a brief question-and-answer feature highlighting a basic overview on HBCUs.

What is an HBCU?

The Acronym HBCU stands for Historically Black Colleges and Universities. According to Title III of the Higher Education Act of 1965, there are three specific components that qualify institutions of higher education as a Historically Black College and University (HBCU):

  1. An institution with the principal mission of educating of black Americans.
  2. An institution must be accredited by a nationally recognized accrediting agency or association determined by the Secretary of Education.
  3. An institution that was established before 1964.

What are the benefits of picking an HBCU over a traditional college or university?

Research conducted on black students that chose to attend an HBCU over a traditional college or university shows that students that decide to attend an HBCU have unique advantages. The United Negro College Fund (UNCF) states that "HBCUs, because of their unique sensibility to the special needs of young African American minds, remain the institutions that demonstrate the most effective ability to graduate African American students who are poised to be competitive in the corporate, research, academic, governmental and military arenas."

Here are a few key accolades of HBCUs and their students:

  • A 2007 study at Virginia Tech University found that black men who graduate from HBCUs achieve higher lifetime earnings than black men who go to traditional four-year colleges and universities.
  • More than half of all African American professionals are graduates of HBCUs.
  • More than 50% of the nation's African American public school teachers and 70% of African American dentists earned degrees at HBCUs.

How do I know if an HBCU is right for me?

There are many factors to consider when deciding which institute of higher learning to attend: location, size, academic programs, financial aid, etc. When making the tough decision between attending an HBCU versus a non-HBCU, it is important to think about your future. Historically Black Colleges and Universities pride themselves on being able to offer students an environment rich in celebrating cultural identity, traditions, and history that will nurture and strengthen students through their quest for a college education. With any school you attend you will be immersed in the school's unique environment for the next couple of years. Try to view the pros and cons of your decision objectively, as happiness is definitely a crucial factor in the success of your educational experience.

Which HBCU is right for me?

There are many resources on the web to help you find the HBCU that is right for you. Recently, President Obama and the U.S. Department of Education have renewed the White House initiative on HBCUs. To help the beginning stages of your HBCU search, check out the U.S. Department of Education’s extensive list of HBCUs organized by state. The site offers links to each HBCU's website where you can find more information about the schools. offers profiles on a wealth of higher education institutions around the country, including accreditation information. UniversitySpot has compiled a list of the Top 10 Historically Black Colleges and Universities ranked by U.S. News and World Report. Use our profiles to help spark your college search!

How Do I apply for an HBCU?

Applying to an HBCU in most cases is no different than applying to any other institution of higher learning. After putting together the list of colleges that you are considering, and researching and touring the campus (physically or virtually), the next important step to the college process is applying. Visit the website of the schools that you wish to apply for and look for the prospective students, undergraduate admissions, or graduate admissions tab on the website to find the admissions application along with instructions. Be sure to read each application thoroughly, as the application process for each school is a little different. Most schools request additional attachments to the admissions application including official transcripts, ACT and/or SAT scores, letters of recommendation, a personal statement, etc. For more tips on the application process, see our list of resources here. If you have any questions, contact the admissions department at your school of choice, and one of the advisors will be happy to assist you. Good Luck!

--Camaree Turman

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