Finding a College Friendly to Minority Students: Ten Tips

If you come from a diverse cultural background, it’s essential to select a college where you can find support and community. Whether you identify as African American, Jewish, gay, Asian, Latino, or any other minority, you’ll want to find a school that will meet your social needs in addition to your academic needs. Here are some tips for researching and selecting a college if you are a student of diversity.

Finding a College Friendly to Minority Students – Tip 1. Get the real numbers.
Diverse students should definitely investigate the makeup of college’s student body, including the percentage of minority students on campus. This data is readily available in many college guides, but not all schools report their numbers in a clear way. A college might say that 22% of their campus residents are “students of color,” yet that does not necessarily mean they have a high percentage of African Americans. Some schools actually inflate their percentage of black students by including those from other countries, even though their backgrounds and experiences are markedly different from those of domestic black students. Ask for clarification from admissions representatives.

Finding a College Friendly to Minority Students – Tip 2. Talk to current students.
Without a doubt, the best way to understand what the experience is like for minority students is to talk with folks who already attend. When meeting admissions representatives, ask them to put you in touch with students whose backgrounds are similar to your own. While you’re on campus, find out first-hand how minority students are perceived and what the subculture is like. If you can’t visit, ask to correspond via email with current students.

Finding a College Friendly to Minority Students – Tip 3. Look into coursework.
Most schools offer courses in literature, art, history, and other cultural aspects of diverse groups. If you are interested in taking these types of courses, be sure they are available on a regular basis. While you’re at it, see if you can assess how diverse the faculty is.

Finding a College Friendly to Minority Students – Tip 4. Consider the local area.
Even if you feel comfortable within the confines of a college, make sure the surrounding community is also someplace you want to live. For example, some gay and lesbian students might find an open-minded college in a rural area, but the small town environment off-campus may be less welcoming, presenting fewer social options than an urban setting.

Finding a College Friendly to Minority Students – Tip 5. Seek out cultural centers.
Nearly all colleges have one or more cultural centers that cater to students of diversity. These places may be staffed by professionals, students, or both. Be sure to visit these hubs of activity, as they are often centers for a campus subculture. Universities commonly have special centers or staff for African Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans, Native Americans, GLBT students, Jewish students, Muslim students, and international students.

Finding a College Friendly to Minority Students – Tip 6. Learn about student organizations.
If there is no cultural center, there should at least be a student organization (or several) geared toward students who share your background. Find out what the organization is like. Is it primarily a social group, or does it focus more on activism and education? Is the group well-established? Some schools unfortunately make their diverse student organizations seem more active than they really are.

Finding a College Friendly to Minority Students – Tip 7. Ask about mentoring programs.
Many colleges pair incoming minority students with upperclass mentors or even diverse faculty. If this is something you’d find helpful, ask whether it’s available.

Finding a College Friendly to Minority Students – Tip 8. Read the campus newspaper.
College newspapers tend to reflect campus attitudes on a wide range of topics. If you skim the latest editions, you may learn more about the environment for diverse students. Look for campus political debates and cultural news.

Finding a College Friendly to Minority Students – Tip 9. Don’t be swayed just by photos.
Some colleges and universities fill their viewbooks and web pages with disproportionate images of visible diversity – notably students of color. If a school is truly welcoming and diverse, you’ll notice the real thing when you visit campus. Don’t rely on public relations departments, as they tend to skew reality.

Finding a College Friendly to Minority Students – Tip 10. Trust your instincts.
There’s a lot to be said for intuition. Especially if you have grown up outside the conventional power groups in society, you can probably sense a good fit. If you get even a subtle a vibe – positive or negative – pay attention to it.

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