Do I Regret Earning My Degree From a PWI Over a HBCU?

HBCU: Historically Black Colleges and Universities

PWI: Predominately White Institution

I know what this already looks like. A post graduate complaining about how difficult its been to land a job in their field of study; pessimistic and regretful about the entire college experience, due to little pay out. I admit, I am slightly resentful of the fact that a corporate career in retail buying was not as accessible to me as I thought it would be after graduating. I suppose I could have networked more, been more consistent with my personal brand, and sent in more internship applications. Somewhere along the way, the motivation and drive to work corporate retail has dissipated. I’ve discovered, and re-discovered that I am an individual, with an entrepreneurial spirit. Honestly, I could have skipped college, stayed home to work, saved money, and jump-started my career as an artist. I did what I thought was right at the time. At age 18, skipping college wasn’t even an option. I was ready to leave home; and my mother was adamant about me going to school.

I didn’t know what it meant or felt like to be celebrated and centered as a black college student.

I enjoyed my time in college. I graduated from the University of North Carolina Greensboro, a predominantly white institution. Though, there was a hefty portion of black students on campus, there was a certain type of college experience that could only be afforded to a black student attending a Historically Black College University. Often, I wish I had gone to an HBCU. The idea of being surrounded by mostly black people did not appeal to me before. Not the way it does now. I value the significance of marching band/ drum line performances at football games, homecoming, black Greek culture, probates, and step shows. I didn’t know what it meant or felt like to be celebrated and centered as a black college student. I was only able to dabble into those activities as a spectator because I had close friends who attended North Carolina A&T State University. I’ve had a few conversations with them; listened to their observations of how black students who attend an HBCU generally differ from black students who attend a PWI.

PWI’s don’t have certain social norms in place to dictate how one should carry themselves, or interact on campus, so black kids at UNCG are more like, individualistic, rebellious, and carefree.”

“Ya’ll just think and act totally differently than we do.”

Charisma & Taylor

Now You See Me by Zaenab Mabifa

I found their observations to be quite interesting. I have the most “alternative” appearance and tastes in music. I’m the only non-hetero, non-Christian. I would definitely agree that I am more rebellious and individualistic than most of my friends. I thought about pledging a sorority, but quickly accepted myself as someone not meant to be boxed or grouped. On the other hand, a few friends that I grew up with also attended UNCG and we totally differ in the way we carry and express ourselves. When we try to group each other into a binary of what it means to be “PWI black” vs. “HBCU black,” we’re forgetting that we as black people have the astounding ability to create layers around ourselves that make us well-rounded people. We can adapt and fit in anywhere. Even with my “carefree” demeanor and favorable “otherness”, I know there would have been a safe space for me at an HBCU. I see myself as a flower grown from concrete. I can thrive anywhere.

With our proximity to whiteness and non-black people, I had access to so many different types of personalities.

It goes without saying that I am not invalidating my friends’ opinions. Much of what they said deserves a closer look and a deeper conversation. Who knows what type of person I would have grown up to be had I not attended UNCG? With our proximity to whiteness and non-black people, I had access to so many different types of personalities. I also shared space with so many other black people, who indirectly taught me how to navigate through and respond to such a “diverse” environment. I discovered who I was. I understood how to convey emotions and what to stand up for. I picked up the language used to describe what happens around us socially, politically, and economically. This experience aligned me with more knowledge about race and gender issues, as well as differences in ethnic groups and religion. Like Taylor said “We just think differently.”

I also had some of the best moments of my life with friends at UNCG, especially as a freshmen. Relationships, friendships, and partnerships formed that I would not have the pleasure of embracing had I chose a different educational route. We all have regrets. In the end, we all know everything happens for a reason. I believe I had the college experience I needed to have in order to be who I am now. I wouldn’t have changed a thing; except maybe my major. *

Where am I after graduating college? Running my own online art gallery! Visit for prints, posters, canvas work, and more!

4 thoughts on “Do I Regret Earning My Degree From a PWI Over a HBCU?

  1. Yes to this, yes to ALL of this. Sometimes I also get shamed for not attending an HBCU, but I applied to colleges that had strong programs for my academic interests (East Asian studies and Linguistics). To my knowledge, no HBCU has a lot of offerings for such majors, so I would have been academically unfulfilled if I had given into the pressure. Now, if there was an HBCU that DID have that? Boo, def would have least applied. As it stands, I did manage to find my community at Yale and professors who supported me. It just took some extra time.


  2. This was a great read and a topic that’s very near and dear to my heart. Thank you so much for sharing our experiences!

    The first college I attended was Greenville College, which is a small D3 school that is most definitely a PWI. I only stayed there for a year and half a semester before I realized PWI isn’t for me. It wasn’t that I was unfamiliar with whiteness or how to interact in white spaces (growing up, my mom made sure she placed me in white spaces for these very reasons) but being one of the few black faces in a class after class takes a psychological toll on you. When I dropped out I told myself that if I was going to do this whole school thing then I need to be surrounded by people who can relate to my experiences as a black man living in America. That’s when I decided to transfer to Harris-Stowe State University, St. Louis’s only HBCU.

    And let me tell you, that was the best decision I could’ve made. Like yourself, I’m glad I decided to try PWI first and the friends I made at Greenville still hold a special place in my heart. But personally speaking as a black man who’s seen both sides of this coin, HBCU’s are black peoples best route to higher education.

    I’m not saying black students can’t have success in PWI, because that’s clearly not the case. However, I am saying that there’s power in surrounding yourself with educators who understand the societal pressures we black folks live under. This comment is getting too damn long but like I said this topic is really near and dear to my heart because I lived in both worlds, and both worlds shaped me into the man I am today. Thanks again for sharing and I can’t wait to read more!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It’s rare to hear from someone who has been in both worlds. Thanks for sharing! Who cares if the comment a little long? I needed every sentence, fam. It’s a topic near and dear to my heart too.

      Liked by 2 people

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