Experience Is Knowledge

Getting advice from parents who have already gone through the process

Although books and guides can help you begin your college search, sometimes the best place to get advice is from your peers. Talk to other parents who have already helped their children find the right college or university. We interviewed Stephen Haynes, a parent of an HBCU alumna, to provide you with one parent’s experience and advice.

When you began helping your daughter select school, were you only considering BCUs? If not, what other kinds of schools were you considering and why?

We initially considered all schools but had a restriction on the number to which she could apply. Our list was narrowed to five that included both public and private universities. Additionally, we were interested in the large schools because we felt there would be more opportunities upon graduation.

Did you attend any college fairs and/or college-sponsored activities with your student?

Yes. We attended several college fairs sponsored by the colleges in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. We also attended financial aid seminars sponsored by the high school.

Did you visit many colleges before you selected one? Do you have any advice for other parents visiting colleges?

We visited approximately three colleges together before we made our selection. My daughter attended a college tour of HBCUs as well. I would recommend that parents narrow down the list of colleges that they allow their child to visit.

Additionally, I would suggest they do a comparison of the schools and compile a list of strengths and weaknesses for each school. This list will help to determine if those identified weaknesses will hinder their ability to reach their goal.

As a parent, what were your top priorities when you were deciding on a school?

My top priorities were cost of education, quality of the institution, and safety of the campus environment.

How did you narrow your choices and select one school?

We visited each of the universities and toured the dormitories, classrooms, and student activities center. We also spoke with students currently attending the school, as well as alumni who had attended the institutions.

you look into financial aid and scholarship opportunities? If so, what advice do you have for parents seeking financial aid assistance?

We pursued all financial aid and scholarship opportunities for which we were qualified. I would tell parents to not waste precious dollars that could go toward tuition paying someone to do the financial aid and scholarship research that they could do themselves. The library and Internet are valuable research tools that are underutilized by many people.

What opportunities do you feel your daughter had at an HBCU that she would not have received at another university?

She was afforded the opportunity to grow amongst people who had similar goals and interests. She had the opportunity to learn from professors who have attained or exceeded the same goal that she was striving toward. She had the opportunity to learn in a family environment and to form new lifetime friendships. In addition, she had the opportunity to attend a university that has a great history and tradition.

How has the HBCU experience helped in planning her future?

She has returned home as a very grounded, focused, and mature young lady. She knows what she wants to do and now has the tools necessary to assist her in reaching the next plateau in her life. Also, she has had the opportunity to see firsthand how hard work can pay off.

Do you have any advice for parents who are helping their child prepare for his/her first year at an HBCU?

Ensure that their children understand that they are about to embark on a wonderful opportunity and to make the most of it. Continuously remind them to work hard and stay focused on their goal. Help them to understand that sacrifices now will mean a better life later if they apply themselves. Last but not least, stay interested and involved.


This article was written by Stephen Haynes

Stephen Haynes is the father of Stephanie, a 2004 graduate of Hampton University. Stephanie graduated with a degree in finance and is currently employed by Citigroup in the operations management program.

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