Editor’s note: In honor of the movie Dear White People, a satirical drama about race and culture at a fictional Ivy League college, we decided to ask two black students to explain why they love or hate their experiences at a predominantly white institution of higher learning. Read part 2 here. Dear White People opens Friday.
Attending a predominantly white institution was not an unusual decision to make in my family. Out of all of my immediate family members, only my grandmother attended an HBCU.
When I was deciding on which institution to attend, my “best fit test” weighted culture and postgraduate opportunities heaviest of all. I had been on many college tours from early on in my high school career and learned that the culture at many PWIs fit my personality better than the cultures at the HBCUs to which I considered applying.
I attended a public high school on the South Side of Chicago that was more than 80 percent black, and during the summers I spent my time studying at the University of Chicago through the Collegiate Scholars Program, where racial and ethnic diversity was abundant. I wanted to get out of my racial comfort zone and within my academic and social comfort zone.
When I was applying to colleges my senior year, diversity was not my main priority, but I did have a personal cutoff. I knew I would not attend a school that had a population less than 6 percent African American. I knew that going into the field of economics would limit the number of brown faces I saw in my classes, and I did not want that limit to extend into my social life.
After I discovered Wellesley College early in my senior year of high school, it instantly landed among my top choices of colleges to attend. I was floored by its incredible alumnae network and its beautiful campus.
Choosing Wellesley has been one of the greatest decisions of my life. The college has fostered my intellectual growth, and I have found a space where my competitive personality thrives and is balanced by my desire to help and work with others.
I have grown socially at school as well. I have had some of the most interesting and inspiring conversations around the dinner table or late at night on the floor of a dorm room. I have found my home and family in the Shakespeare Society; my residence of four years, Severance Hall; my siblings at Ethos, an organization for students of African descent; and my on-campus job as a Center for Work and Service intern.
This isn’t to say that Wellesley does not have its flaws—it has many. But despite those flaws, deciding to attend a PWI was the best choice for me.
Arlevea Freeman is a senior studying economics at Wellesley College.