We met with student Sydney Wade to discuss her decision to attend an HBCU, the schools that she chose to apply to, her choice to attend North Carolina A&T University in the fall, and advice that she offers students applying to college. Enjoy!
Sydney Wade and Karina Macosko dive deep into HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) as they discuss all things college. Sydney will be attending North Carolina A&T State University in the fall as a freshman with almost a full scholarship. She was accepted into many of the top HBCUs and received scholarships from them as well, so she had to compare each of the schools and now gives her take on the top HBCUs for future students. Sydney offers advice to students considering the HBCU “side” and shares what her college application looked like. Trying to decide if you should attend an HBCU? Sydney breaks down her college application and shows students what can help them become better applicants.
North Carolina A&T State University is a highly-ranked HBCU based on the influence of their faculty and alumni. A&T is ranked:
Are you interested in finding out more about HBCUs? Discover which schools are the most influential HBCUs in America.
If you are specifically interested in an online college degree, check out the Best Online HBCU programs.
For a fascinating look at the history of HBCUs in America, check out our look at back at the critical role HBCUs play in higher education.
(Editor’s Note: The following transcript has been lightly edited to improve clarity.)
Karina: Hi, my name is Karina Macosko from Academic Influence, and today I am super excited for our guest, we have Sydney Wade, who is my graduating class’ student body president, and is not only going to one of the largest HBCUs, but she is also going on almost a full scholarship. So I am really excited to talk to her. She’s a friend of mine, and I think this will be a very fun interview, so first, Sydney, we wanna hear going into this college process, what was kind of like your top five schools.
Sydney Wade: Going in, I knew I wanted to go to an HBCU. Yeah, like that was out of the question. But my top HBCU was actually Hampton and it had been for a long time, and then I would say... I wanna say maybe it was... I wanna say A&T then Howard then Spelman. It just really did not matter. The other order did not matter to me as long as Hampton was number one, I just wanted to go to Hampton, so. Yeah.
Karina: Yeah, exactly. Which spoiler alert, you are not going to Hampton in the fall, which is also something I wanna talk to you about because I remember when you were trying to decide... I mean, you had a good problem to have... You basically, you got into all of them and you received scholarship from all of them as well. Did not you?
Sydney Wade: Yeah, yeah.
Karina: Yeah. And so this is why I am super excited for this interview because you went around and you toured basically every school on your list and you really had to compare them, and so people going into this process, if they are looking to go to an HBCU or maybe considering it, it might be good for them to have this comparison for you, so Hampton was number one and when did that kind of switch?
Sydney Wade: Oh, I would say... Oh, so we were going through Howards, like major list and stuff like that, and they had this one major, it was like legal communications, strategic legal communications, and I was like, I do not have to go into political science, and this will give me the best of both worlds of not doing just strictly political science, but also getting like the communications field, so I will not be stuck in political science field. And so then I fell in love with Howard, and then they had like a BAJD program, so it was like, Oh, I have to do this, so Howard got to the top because of that.
Karina: Okay, and so for people who do not know, you wanna be a lawyer. Right?
Sydney Wade: Yes.
Karina: Yes. So that was also part of it. It is like considering the majors that they had, and so then you went and you actually went on campus and toured all of them, so can you kind of just give us the rundown of, obviously, this is just your opinion and other people may like different aspects of a college, but in your opinion, when you toured them, give us like a brief summary of each one.
Sydney Wade: Well, I did not get to tour Hampton because by the time I toured Howard and the others, I was like, yeah, Hampton’s out of the question. But I would say when I went to Howard, I was more... I was excited and then the excitement just dwindled. Because the tour just for me was not... It just was not my favorite tour, I do not know, it just... We did not go in any buildings or tour any buildings. And even though I got to talk to the director of the department I was gonna be in, I just was like, no, this still isn’t... It wasn’t... It did not have our heart and DC did not make me love it. So I was like, yeah. And then we went to Spellman, Spellman I really liked, but they just... A&T gave me more money, so.
Karina: Yeah. And that is part of it too.
Sydney Wade: Yeah. A&T I think it was a build up... The tour was okay. I liked the tour, but I think if I am going to homecomings and since my parents, my dad’s an alumni, it is like, Oh, I know this place, and it was... It is home.
Karina: Yeah, it just felt like home. Exactly. And so, like I said, this will be different for every person because maybe some people will receive more scholarship from Spelman than they do at A&T, and maybe some people really like that DC area, but that is also good to keep in mind. We have heard a lot of college admissions counselors and deans of admissions say like the school that is good for one person is not always good for another student, so I am glad we have this perspective, and so A&T you went to Admitted Students Day or no? You went to school orientation right and what was your first impression of being on campus? Being at an HBCU?
Sydney Wade: It was definitely fun, it was definitely like, oh, I do not know, I am a school spirit type of person, so I was like, Oh, this is my school. Like, I have no shame. This is my school, I do not care. Everybody is gonna hear it. And so, yeah, it felt like I was like, Oh yeah, everybody is fun here, everybody was so like, Oh hey da da da and, it just makes you extremely excited to be there and go in. Then they help you and have you do things that you feel like you are actually in college in that moment, so you are like, Yeah, this is a pretty good space to be in, so.
Karina: Yeah, and the school spirit thing, I can definitely attest to that, because I think any event that we had in high school, like Sydney Wade was gonna be there. Okay, so we talked about your personal college experience, and obviously that is gonna be different for everyone, but let us talk generally about HBCUs because I remember you saying something to me that really kind of stuck with me and you said, Okay, I am gonna mess up this quote, but you said basically like, you want to help kids in high school, students in high school know about HBCUs because a lot of times they just do not even know, they maybe have heard of Howard and then the one in their city, but they really do not know about HBCUs, so kinda talk about that for a second, ’cause I thought that was really interesting.
Sydney Wade: I would say, I just... I do not know. It is... Majority of my family has gone to HBCUs, and the only person that I know who has not is my mom, and I know, sometimes she talks about how she just wishes she went, and people like that I know that now know they are like, "Oh, I just wish I went." And I do not know. It is like it is cool to know that you are basically surrounded by Black people that wanna be successful and successful Black people, and they all just want the best for you. And I am not saying PWIs cannot give you that, but it is something about being where... You are in a class, and you do not... There is not like five Black girls in the class, and the rest is 100 White kids. You are in a class where it is just Black people on top of Black people, and it is like... I do not know. I wish... I want people to experience it just because I hear how fun the stories are from my cousins and stuff, and I am like, "I want that." And then I do not know. Like you make life-long friends and you are like, "Oh yeah, I remember when we did this at Boulevard," and it is just... I do not know. Everybody needs to experience that, so I feel like you always gotta just at least push people to be like, "Hey, this is HBCU," so.
Karina: Yeah, absolutely. And there is kind of... Like, if you are going to HBCU, you have to know beforehand that that is something you wanna do, because I remember you also saying like, unlike a PWIs, they are not gonna come out and be like, "Hey, come to our school." Like, "Hey, come to this orientation, or just come on a tour." And so speaking to that, if kids are about to apply to college or they are in high school and they are not sure if they wanna go to HBCU or they are kinda like, "What’s the draw?" Since they do not ever... Well, not ever, but since they do not send out those mass emails like a lot of PWIs do, this is your chance to kind of do that mass email and be like, "Guys, you should go to HBCU if this is something that you are looking for." So if you were to send out one of those emails, what would you say?
Sydney Wade: I would definitely say... Talk about how you can talk about, you do not feel uncomfortable. And I feel like when I go to... I love Reagan, but when I am in Reagan and I was like, "It is only me and this other Black girl. The whole class is White," it is cool, but it is like... I love how when I go to class this year, that it is gonna be like... I do not have to worry about that. And it is... Yeah, I would say like if you wanna be with your people and you wanna see successful Black people and build connections, then you just gotta join HBCU side. I do not know. I just... It is like...
Karina: Yeah, and I...
Sydney Wade: And just, in a way it is kind of like, I am not mass... I am like, "I am not even good for the mass email, ’cause I am kind of just like, "If you know, you know."
Karina: You know, yeah. Yeah, exactly. And so a lot of that comes from knowing people who went to an HBCU, hearing their experiences. And so, yeah, I am so excited that you can come on here and talk because I do think a lot of people kind of like... If you do not have anybody in your family who went to an HBCU and you are kind of looking at it, there is not a lot of places that you can go to hear about the experience, except for just asking people who also went to one. And we talked about this earlier, but I guess TikTok is kind of helping with that because they kind of brought up the hype of A&T. What do you say? [chuckle]
Sydney Wade: Yeah, I would say definitely like what persuaded me a little was like when I was on the fence about what school, I was like... A&T TikTok, so just picked me on there, and I would be like, "Oh, you want me to go there, do not you?" Like, "This is my school. This is my school," so.
Karina: Okay, well, I am so excited to see what you do at A&T. I think the next four years are gonna be really fun. And also, I am so glad that you could come and talk to people in here, because also, I have heard a lot of people say to you like, "You are not gonna make it at an HBCU. You are not gonna like it," and I am thinking of one person in particular, but we are not gonna say their name.
Sydney Wade: Yeah.
Karina: And so I think it is good for people to hear about kind of what goes down, what you went through in your process, and hopefully, this is helpful to them. Is there anything else that you wanna say to people, maybe just about college admissions, because we have both been through it this year or anything in between?
Sydney Wade: I think I would say just keep doing your work, keep pushing, and I know the essays and the scholarships are hard, but just keep going [chuckle] ‘cause it will be over. Well, the scholarships parts will not be over, but it will be over, and once you pick that school and go to the Orientations, and the Admitted Students’ day, you will realize like, "This is a great pick for me," so, yeah.
Karina: Oh, absolutely. [chuckle] Yeah. No, it is true. And actually, there, I just remembered one more thing that I wanna ask you, but it is so true, like the college process can be stressful, but I think when you are at this point in the year and you know what school you are going to, everything’s just exciting. You can get excited regardless of what school it is. And so another thing that people might be curious about, you do not have to give us all your stats, but like what you did to be able to be such a good applicant for an HBCU or any school in general, that you could get scholarships from all of these top HBCUs. So just break it down a little bit for us. You do not have to go into detail about what classes or anything, but kind of like extracurriculars, kind of what your grades looked like and stuff like that.
Sydney Wade: I would say my stats were... I did the test optional route, so I did not submit ACT or SAT. What were... Okay, I had a 4.0. And mostly my extra-curriculars probably, or... And my essay was like... The topic was about the... What topic consumes you to where you do not... Like, you cannot leave or like... I cannot even remember what the topic was, but...
Sydney Wade: And mostly, I did a lot of my extra-curriculars, I think, too, because I did like Student Government. What else? I was in track, indoor and outdoor. I had Queen’s Club, we had [chuckle] school improvement team. What else was there? I know there is more than that. Yeah, and then a whole bunch of volunteers.
Karina: Spirit Club?
Sydney Wade: Yeah, Spirit Club. Yeah. So I think, like... I am trying to remember any more clubs. I feel like there are, but I cannot remember. So yeah, mostly those, just... And good recommendations I think, but I do not know.
Karina: Yeah. And I think that is the biggest message from a lot of these student interviews. It is like, "There is no cookie-cutter model to get into a school or to get scholarship from a school, but just get involved, do something fun, make good connections with your teachers and have a good high school experience." So thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me. It was really fun. And yeah, I hope this helps some people, helps them see a different side of HBCUs, so [chuckle] thank you so much.
Sydney Wade: Thank you.