The List for Urban Black Kids Going to College: PWI Edition
Going to the University of Virginia for undergrad was the first time in my life that I consciously felt my Blackness and my socioeconomic status at the same darn time. I mean, the Boogie Down Bronx raised me in all its melanin and hustle, I could always depend on seeing my reflection wherever I went.
So in 2010, UVa gave me some firsts...
It was the first time I felt the reality that White people are the majority in the US
It was the first time that I took classes where I was the only Black person
It was the first time that I felt self-conscious about sticking out in photos
It was the first time that I saw the N-word scribbled in public places, "er" and all
It was the first time I met non-urban Black people who came from money, two-parent
households and a plethora of experiences
It was the first time I felt less-than
So, for those of you urban, Black students aspiring to go to some of these elite, but predominantly White schools, let me give you some advice I wish I had 10 years ago.
Tips for the Urban Black student going to a PWI
Understand that you are a minority within a minority; be proud of the representation you provide ✊🏽
Never seek to compare your education or world exposure to those around you, that isn't fair to you. Remember, while you worked hard for this, some of your peers did not.
(I mean, look at Lori Loughlin's kids)
Don't change just to fit in with the White/wealthy crowd. Go ahead and wear your timbs (if seasonally appropriate) and continue to be the sneakerhead you are.
Go home at least three times a year and make sure to help those who are coming up after you (unless home is toxic, of course).
Start building your network, with peers, professors, intern recruiters, etc. by going to as many functions as you can.
Find a good mentor at your University who understands where you come from, and sees it as an asset to be worked with, not a liability.
Don't be intimidated by the way people look or talk; most of the time, they are just as nervous/ worried/ clueless as you (or more)!
Travel abroad, preferably on the school's dime (if low-income programs are available, apply!).
Search websites for scholarships even after your first year in school.
Get a work-study job that allows you to study while earning a dollar (working a real job and going to class is hard! Remember, the grades have to come first; investing in school now leads to a high paying job later).
Know Your Worth. You may not know what your major will be, or who your friends will be, or if you will join that sorority/fraternity or not, but no matter what the outcome, don't challenge your worth and who you are. You are a jewel... hard stop.
Be selective with who you decide to label as a friend.
Do not isolate yourself.. we all need somebody to lean on; it takes a village.