The American College Experience: The Differences between a PWI and HBCU

Hello everyone, thanks for joining me! I have an important life update to share: I’m officially a college graduate! As the conclusion of my undergrad HBCU experience came to an end, I decided to do an interview with my cousin about the difference between attending a historically black college and a publicly white institution. My cousin, Taylor Perry, is from Jackson, Tennessee and she attended a publicly white institution for undergrad and is currently attending a historically Black college. Check out our interview below!

Taylor and I !

1. Why did you choose to attend University of Chattanooga ( PWI)?

I chose the University of Chattanooga at Tennessee because it was the perfect traveling distance away from home to explore things on my own as well as return home to see my family and friends. I’m originally from Jackson, TN a smaller town and Chattanooga, a larger city, gave me the chance to adjust and learn a larger city. It has always been my dream to live in metropolitan areas. I felt that this was a great step to get me there. I loved the possibility of having access to explore my interest for outdoor activities such as hiking and canoeing. Jackson, TN has a flatter landscape whereas Chattanooga has more mountains and is connected to the Tennessee river. UTC also had a newly renovated campus with a beautiful library, student Union,and student-housing. I felt that this was the perfect campus to start my new chapter because it put me in a fresh and clear environment that aided in my ability to focus not only on academics,but building new relationships and hobbies with people who have similar interest in trying new things. It was the perfect place for me at that time because I not only wanted a school that believed in campus upkeep but a school in a city that could serve my personal interest to destress from academics as a biology pre-professional major and chemistry minor.

Taylor in band at UTC

2. Why did you choose to attend Meharry Medical College for graduate school (HBCU)?

Since my freshman year of undergrad, I began researching medical schools. Initially when selecting undergraduate colleges/universities, I have always wanted to attend an HBCU. Social media played a huge impact in influencing me to attend an HBCU. It is one thing for people to tell you an HBCU is needed for all black and brown young adults . However it is another thing to watch the marching bands and majorette dancers and feel instantly immersed into our culture and our vast talents. I knew Meharry would not only surround me with great opportunities but with faculty and staff who knew me by name and shared similar cultural experiences with me. In addition, Meharry aligned with my values of helping underserved communities by providing efficient and effective services to all mankind. My university not only strives for equity but it forms plans and puts forth action to ensure equity is served.

Taylor at Meharry

3. What are the major differences between the two?

UTC is a larger university than Meharry Medical college. My class sizes have shifted from 50-30 students per class to approximately 15-17 sized classes. This allows me to firm closer relationships with classmates and instructors, especially since we are virtual/hybrid at the moment. UTC has granted me the exposure to different cultural ideas in various parts of Tennessee such as middle Tennessee and East Tennessee as well as the South. Meharry Medical College has provided a more intimate setting of meeting people from multiple countries and states who have not considered life-long residents of the south. Since Meharry is graduate level, my instructors have heavily focused our syllabus and community involvement opportunities to align with the institution’s mission statement to inform students of how disproportionately low socioeconomic, black, and hispanic communities are affected compared to the majority. UTC has aided in forming the building blocks to succeed in academics While Meharry has given me the tools to use that information and address and execute plans to help underserved communities.

Taylor’s Honors Society Induction

4. What is your favorite thing about each school?

UTC shaped me into the person I am. Like most undergraduate students, you transform dramatically from your first day on campus to your graduation day ceremony. I had the chance to fail, succeed, regroup, and transform within four and half years. I like to consider my college experience as an adult-simulation program. It changed my mindset to see that there is more than one way to approach a situation in order to achieve your desired goals. These are things you are not fully able to accomplish under your parents supervision. I’m grateful this university gave me the chance to test my potential and capabilities. On the other hand, Meharry has given me more direction on how I want to help others. By surrounding myself with individuals whose goals are similar to mine to mend the gap in healthcare services. I’m learning the power of collaboration and support. I consider my Meharry classmates to be my future healthcare family. Instructors and classmates genuinely want you to succeed and advocate for students to be healthy mentally, physically, and spiritually in order to perform well in their academics. My professors are down to earth and understand that life is not always linear and more than willing to work with students during their time of need. I believe that is very important when choosing an academic institution for any field.

Taylor’s graduation

5. What advice would you give to students deciding between the PWI and HBCU experience?

I would advise future students to do what is best for them academically and financially. Ask questions about your program of interest such as the department’s accolades/ranking and additionally ask schools about their graduation and transfer rates. This can be very telling on how the majority of their students can succeed on campus. College is expensive so it is vital to ensure a university has resources to help students in their time of need; this implies counseling/mental health resources, abundant scholarships, and reasonable payment plans. Although you may have parental support, it is still important to look into these concepts for unforeseen circumstances. I would also like to advise students to look at the city outside of campus. Are there abundant opportunities for your future career? For instance, If you’re an aspiring physician, are there local hospitals that allow pre-med volunteering? Are there clinics that allow shadowing of physicians? Are there opportunities available for research? Also choose a university that heavily aligns with your personal interest such as student involvement or other activities off of campus. Although College is mainly focused on academics, networking and forming relationships with others is essentially a successful college experience to keep you balanced and grounded. A step further would be to see which post-baccalaureate programs an institution may offer if it is required for your future career. Most importantly choose a school that will get you a step closer to the future version of yourself that you’ve always envisioned.

Taylor with friends

To read more about my college experience, check out my Blavity U articles below:

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