Finding the Perfect College as a Minority
As a college student who checks MANY diversity boxes (Black, Latina, woman, first-generation student, etc.), there are some things that I did (or wish I did) when I was looking for a university to attend. Feeling like you attend a school who actually cares about its diverse population and not just the statistics is a great feeling.
So, here’s a checklist to help you, as a minority, find the perfect college that supports everything you bring to the table:
Mission, Vision, and Value Statements
A mission statement reflects what the organization does today/ already incorporates in its daily functioning.
Read the mission statements for different schools. Mission statements provide an outlook of the general purpose of the school/university. Does it mention diversity or providing an inclusive space “for all?” If so, you can count this as a plus. The words “for all” are good to look for, but it is a little better if the statement explicitly says “diversity” or “inclusion” or something to that nature. Since the mission statement tells what the university is already doing, this is important. Here’s an example of a mission statement that doesn’t have those words (from NC State University, bottom), and one that does (from UNC Asheville, top).
A vision statement tells what the school hopes to encompass in the future.
If the school doesn’t seem to have a great diversity effort at the moment, check out their vision statement. Does this one check off some of the inclusivity boxes? If so, it’s a good sign, if not, it’s probably best to keep looking at other schools.
The values are the principles and ideals the school holds.
The same things to look for in the mission and vision statements apply to the values. I’d say that the values are the most explicit in saying exactly what the schools deems the most important to it. This, in my opinion, is the best one to find a mention of diversity and inclusion.
Diversity Statistics/Student Body
The websites of schools should include a statistics page. In this, you should find stats about the diversity of the campus. It’s usually broken up into race, gender, and probably the number of different countries the student body is from. It’s important that the school has this information on its own website! Many other sites like CollegeFactual.com have the diversity stats for schools, but if the school itself doesn’t have it, it may not be a great sign. Here’s an example of what that might look like (from UNC Charlotte):
Number of Minority Faculty
As much as the number of diverse students is important, having a large population of professors and faculty is equally as important. It’s critical that students are learning from people who have different experiences and styles of teaching. Learning from only one group of people can hinder students’ ability to connect in a largely diverse world. This information may be harder to obtain; not many schools include this information. For schools that do include it, don’t expect a very high percentage of diverse professors. The number of non-white professors is still much less than the number of non-white students.
In high school, all of my teachers were of the same demographic, with the only diversity being gender. When I came to college and saw that the entire departments of some subjects were filled entirely with minority professors, I was AMAZED. The most shocking thing was how some professors from other countries teach. I’m so used to boring PowerPoints and hour-long videos. The most engaging classes I’ve had were taught by people from other countries.
Tip: If you can’t find photos of the professors to tell whether or not they are minorities, you can usually tell by a person’s last name! Using Rate My Professors is a great help too.
Clubs and Organizations
I cannot STRESS how important this tip is! It is so important to make sure that a school has groups made up of people like yourself. If the school has a search bar on the clubs and orgs page, type in some of your statuses (i.e.: Indigenous, LGBTQ+, Women, etc.)
I found many clubs on my own university’s website that were targeted toward people from shared groups. It wasn’t until I was already living on campus that I learned that most of those organizations hadn’t been active for years. I had gotten my hopes up with finding people similar to me. Try to avoid this if possible!
This tip kind of couples with the tip about clubs and orgs. After ensuring that the groups you find are in fact active, check out some of the events they host. Are they recent? Are they related to the organization at all? You can usually find events on the club’s page on the school’s site, or by searching the club’s Instagram or Twitter!
I met some of my best friends at the events hosted by the organizations I did join. Attending the events is a great way to mingle and find others you have in common with.
Even if the school has a good number of minority students… are they a part of the people making decisions? Are they influencing the things that go into how the school operates? Just like how we need minorities in government to help better the experiences of other minorities, the same is needed at universities. Check the school’s student government (SGA) page and look at the officials. There should be a good balance of students that represent a diverse population!
Reviews from Students & Alumni
This is the BIGGEST tip I wish I did a lot more when searching for colleges. Read reviews from current students as well as alumni who attended the school. I used the Niche.com college search tool. It includes stats, costs, scholarships, and reviews from real students and alumni. Do a deep dive into these and look for ones that mention the experience of minority students.
Doing these tips will help you find a college or university that you love, and that actually loves you back. Try to research diligently when looking into these! The more you can find out about the schools’ efforts and minority student experience, the better!