Students give all sorts of reasons for selecting colleges. Some always knew they wanted to attend the Ivy League. Others knew they wanted to attend college near home or a college that offered certain academic or athletic programs. But students of color often have to take other factors into consideration when choosing a college. It’s common for minority students to report feeling alienated on mostly white campuses. Fortunately, these students can take steps before they enroll in college to make sure they end up on a campus on which they feel they belong.
Know The College’s Demographics
The university that’s caught your eye may have an excellent academic roster, but does it have a diverse student body? Before selecting a college, do some research to find out what the school’s demographics are. What percentage of students share your ethnic background? What percentage of students come from minority backgrounds generally? A diverse student body doesn’t necessarily mean that the college in question is right for you, but it can signal if you’ll be an anomaly of sorts on campus.
Attend College in a Diverse Area
You may not mind if the college you attend has a diverse student body. However, the greater community in which the college is located may concern you. Is it a rural, suburban or urban area? How diverse is the city that the college calls home? Are you likely to connect with people who share your ethnic background in the city or will you likely be one of the few people around with your background? If you want to increase your chances of attending a diverse university, consider attending college on the East or West Coast. According to lists published by both Forbes magazine and U.S. News and World Report, the most diverse schools in the nation are concentrated on America’s coasts. Rutgers University in Newark, N.J., is the most diverse school in the nation, according to both lists.
Choose a College That Offers Ethnic Studies Courses
One way to tell how committed a college is to multiculturalism is the course offerings available there. Colleges and universities that value diversity typically reflect that commitment in the classroom. Look for universities that offer black studies, Chicano studies, Asian American studies, etc. Such courses will allow you to learn more about race and culture and to connect with other students interested in doing so as well.
Pick a College With Diverse Professors and Administrators
No organization is truly serious about diversity if it doesn’t have a staff of diverse individuals to help operate it. A university with a multicultural agenda should have a variety of professors, administrators and other officials from diverse backgrounds. Visit the college’s website and scan the professors in the academic department in which you plan to take the most classes. Are any of the professors in the department minorities? Professors of color shouldn’t just be relegated to the ethnic studies departments either. A university truly concerned about diversity would aim to employ professors from a range of disciplines. Find out how many administrators or trustees of color are associated with the college as well. As decision-makers, they can determine a college’s future, which will inevitably shape what the climate on campus is like.
Select a College With a Variety of Ethnic Clubs
One way to tell if students at a college care about multiculturalism is to find out how many ethnic student organizations a university has. It takes time and commitment to run groups such as the Black Student Union or M.E.Ch.A. (Movimiento Estudiantil Chican@ de Aztlán). The presence of ethnic clubs on campus signals that students are interested in exploring issues of racial identity and that you will have a space on campus to discuss these issues as well.