By Lauren Martin, 17, St. Bernard HS
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Lauren Martin is strongly considering attending Clark Atlanta or Southern University at New Orleans.

When I first started thinking about college, I thought that I would just stay in California and go to Cal State Dominguez Hills or Cal State Northridge. I had visited those schools with Young Black Scholars, an academic club at school. But I wasn’t thrilled about them. I knew that I could get in but they weren’t where I really wanted to go.

Then my mom found out about a tour of historically black colleges in the South. At first I didn’t really want to give up my summer vacation. I also had some stereotypes. I thought that going to an all-black college would be so ghetto. My cousin, who went to UC Berkeley, told me that I would just go down there and party and come back pregnant. At first I agreed with her, but my mom convinced me to take the tour anyway.

The week that I spent in Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Florida, I visited seven schools. When I got down there I realized that it wasn’t as ghetto and crazy as I thought it was going to be. Instead, as I looked around the beautiful campuses and tidy brick buildings, I saw groups of students talking quietly. I really enjoyed being in the South. Everywhere we went, there was farmland. Life moves more slowly and peacefully, and the people are really friendly.

Compared to the Cal States that I visited, the black colleges are a lot smaller and more supportive. I liked the fact that I’d be in a different environment, meeting new people and making a lot of new friends. After coming back home from the tour, I was faced with the decision of which schools to apply to—there are nearly 200 black colleges and universities. Many people encouraged me to apply to Howard or Spelman because of their excellent academics, but I knew they weren’t the schools for me, although they are very nice. I was the one who had to be at the school for four years, so I didn’t care what everybody else thought.

When it came to applying, I had already prepared an essay for a school assignment that I could use for my applications, though some did not require an essay. I asked for my high school transcripts and got recommendations from two teachers and a counselor. The paperwork was a breeze. I finished five applications in a day and was done by November 1. I paid $200 for five application fees—not bad when you consider that many schools charge more than $50 to apply. Here’s some info on some of the black colleges I looked into:

1) Clark Atlanta

University Atlanta, Georgia
3,864 undergraduates
$21,932 annual costs
Average GPA of freshman class: 2.98
Moderately selective

Walking on campus and seeing the beautiful brick buildings surrounded by the plush greenery, I was immediately drawn in. It has a friendly staff and faculty, and four sororities and four fraternities. For the non-bookworm, there’s the band, dance, drama, a radio station and sport teams including varsity football, cross-country, basketball, baseball and numerous others.

2) Florida A&M University

Tallahassee, Florida
11,212 undergraduates
$16,048 annual costs
Average GPA of freshman class: 3.18
Moderately selective

It was much too big to walk around in one day, so we got back on the bus and drove around. And it was wonderful, it had every building, major and subject you could imagine. It reminded me of UCLA only prettier. Besides having a good reputation and friendly staff, they have everything on campus that you’d need for four years. You would never have to leave. Although I liked the school very much, it was too big and overwhelming, so I decided not to apply there.

3) Howard University
Washington, D.C.
6,841 undergraduates
$18,750 annual costs
Average GPA of freshman class: 3.2
Moderately selective

I didn’t get an opportunity to visit Howard on the black college tour, but I do know that it has an excellent academic reputation and is known for being one of the most competitive black universities. It has famous graduates such as author Toni Morrison and choreographer Debbie Allen. Living in Washington, D.C. does not appeal to me because it’s too fast-paced. But for those who love living in the city, this would definitely be the school for you.

4) Southern University at New Orleans

New Orleans, Louisiana
3,351 undergraduates
$15,000 estimated annual costs
GPA: Not available
Minimally selective

At this school, you show up and you automatically feel like part of the family. During the tour, it started to rain so we went to the cafeteria for lunch. Everyone turned to look at us strangers. Then a whole table of people walked up and introduced themselves and started talking to us. They were so friendly, it made me feel really confident about putting this school at the top of my list. I could see myself going to football games and cheering the team on. Although some students told me that the food was nasty, I was won over by the school spirit. It’s still a school that I could see myself attending.

5) Spelman College

Atlanta, Georgia
2,080 undergraduates
$23,225 annual costs
Average GPA of freshman class: 3.37
Moderately selective

Spelman is one of the most popular liberal art schools for black women. Don’t think that you’ll never see guys if you go there, though. The dorms are same sex, but Spelman students attend classes with students from neighboring Morehouse, an all-male African American college well-known for such graduates as filmmaker Spike Lee and Martin Luther King, Jr. Spelman’s reputation for academic excellence has been breaking down stereotypes since 1881, making it one of the most competitive black colleges in the country. Walking onto the campus and looking at all the tall well-manicured buildings and beautiful lawns, I was expecting a wonderful and very informative staff, but I was somewhat blown away by hostile and abrupt attitudes. The representative who told us about the school was rude, as if we were imposing on her. After leaving I decided that Spelman is a great school that gives its students a superb education, but it wasn’t the school for me.

6) Tuskegee University

Tuskegee, Alabama
2,608 undergraduates
$19,312 annual costs
Average GPA of freshman class: 3.2
Moderately selective

Driving up to the campus made me a little apprehensive, because of all the empty space around it. Although its surroundings are kind of isolated, the school is gorgeous. The well-kept buildings and cozy atmosphere give you all the comforts of home. It was a nice school but I decided not to apply because it’s in the middle of nowhere and freshmen are not allowed to have cars.

Note: Costs include tuition, housing, books and personal expenses. Data is drawn from the College Board Guide to Colleges and

If you’d like to take a black college tour, check out:,1687,0,0,1,0