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How to Evaluate the College Experience - Not Just the College!

The college experience at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) is wonderfully unique, making time spent on and off campus about so much more than a degree. Taking HBCU campus life into consideration when evaluating which college is right for you is just as important as considering which field of study to enter. While your goal may be the degree, the real value of your college experience is largely determined outside of the classroom. To help you evaluate which institution has the most to offer you, here are some things to think about.

Look at the Dorms
Where do you plan to spend your waking hours? Look at the co-rec or gym and food or dining plans if you intend to use them. If you’re a mover and shaker, never staying in one place for very long, you may not mind having a cramped dorm room. Some dorms may be co-ed, and some may not. Find out how the college assigns dorms – there are a number of ways they may do this, and you might need to know if you have options or if you get a chance to request and meet your roommate before moving in. Take a tour of one of the dormitories in person or virtually.

Ask Current Students About Their Typical Day
Reach out to a student volunteer or freshman mentor program on campus and ask if you can connect with current students to see what they are enjoying about their college experience so far. They can probably recommend a few places to avoid, activities on the weekends, or offer a heads up on the rites of passage you’re sure to experience as a freshman. This is a great way to network and get to know upperclassmen as they typically have some sage advice and tips to share that will help you navigate the early college years.

Social Clubs and Student Organizations
Most of your time on campus is spent outside the classroom. Student involvement in clubs, Greek life, and extracurricular organizations often helps contribute to academic performance as well. The networks developed within these groups can impact the trajectory of your life and your career. It is important to find a passion and a group of like-minded people and find out what there is to do on weekends.

Consider Transportation Needs
You may be working a job on campus with a student work program or transferring to an off-campus store from a job you’ve held during high school. If you plan on parking a car, you may have to pay by the hour for certain lots on campus or pay for a student parking pass. If you’re not bringing your own car or bike, determine your transportation needs for both social and co-curricular activities. While campus or city buses may run during the week, some have reduced routes or run times on weekends.

Evaluate the collegiate experience by reaching out before enrolling or applying. Visit the college, research online, connect with current undergraduates, and get a feel for the student life on and off-campus. While choosing which HBCU to attend can be difficult, we hope taking these items into consideration will help make the decision a little bit easier.