Black seniors face demographic challenges when choosing a college

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Graphic by Charlotte Guy

Mia Heyward

Searching for the right college is always a challenge, but for Black seniors the college search is limited. For many, there are only two choices: attending a Historically Black College and University (HBCU) or a Predominantly White Institution (PWI). With these two choices, Black students are stuck: should they attend an HBCU with fellow Black students or be the minority at a PWI? The choice isn’t so simple.  

For senior Phoenix Taylor, picking between Spelman College and Barnard College, both liberal arts women’s colleges, has been stressful. “I really like that both Spelman and Barnard are all women’s colleges, so I’ll be in a learning environment surrounded by women, which is really appealing to me,” Taylor said. The only difference is Spelman is an HBCU, while Barnard has a six percent Black population. “But the benefit of Spelman is not only will I be surrounded by women, but I will be surrounded by Black women, [whereas] Barnard is [affiliated with] an Ivy League and closer to [New York], the city I want to be in,” Taylor said. “I want college to be a way for me to explore my racial identity, and become more secure in my Blackness,” which is an experience she does not think she might have if she attends a PWI. 

Senior Carlings “Sean” McPhail Jr. has had a slightly different experience as a football player. “I’m looking for a college that is flexible for different people and they can help me find what I’m able to do once I graduate,” McPhail said. “If I get a chance to go to [HBCU] I would take it into consideration, but I don’t really just focus on just HBCUs necessarily.” McPhail’s main focus is on sports. “It’s just whoever is willing to give me a chance. I’ll take it and use it to my advantage.”

Senior Allison Holmes intends to apply to mostly PWIs. “Honestly I would love to attend an HBCU, but [if I did], I feel like when I graduate and do end up getting a job, I wouldn’t be comfortable being in an industry surrounded by white people,” Holmes said. She believes that the experience at a PWI will prepare her for professional life, and will be different, but not in a bad way. “I will enjoy my college experience no matter where I go… and I’ll definitely be joining the Black Student Union at whatever school I attend.” 

Despite the challenges of picking a college as a Black student, every senior knows what’s best for them and their education.