Black woman guiding college tour for group of diverse, varying age students

5 Important Conversations for Students of Color on Campus Tours

As a student of color, finding a diverse, equitable college is all about asking questions that lead to the right conversations. Here's what to ask about!

Choosing a college is nerve-wracking and time consuming. Several factors can influence one’s college decision, including cost, location, academic programs, and extracurricular opportunities. Attending college is a major financial and time investment, so it’s important to do your research to make sure you’ll be on a campus where you feel comfortable and safe.

While the United States is becoming more racially and socially diverse, college campuses are not immune from racism. Students of color report experiences of racial microaggressions inside and outside the classroom, racial profiling from campus security, and harmful threats of violence. These discriminatory incidents can have an enormous impact on a student’s sense of belonging and mental health, their overall college experience, and their likelihood of graduating. Talking to admission counselors, current students, and alumni on college tours is a great way to learn about the campus experience and ensure the chances of you having these experiences are at their lowest. If you’re a student of color and attending a campus visit soon, here are a few important questions to ask and conversations to start.

1. Scholarship and funding opportunities

Many students and families struggle to keep up with rising tuition costs, housing, and other living expenses. But students of color also take on greater student loan debt on average, which has a huge impact on their ability to accumulate wealth, purchase homes, and start families after college. It’s important to understand the landscape of scholarships and funding opportunities at your schools of interest. In addition to completing the FAFSA, it helps to search for additional funding and resources through employment programs, college-specific scholarships, and other campus resources. Ask these questions to learn more on each tour you take:

  • What institutional and major-specific scholarships are available for students of color?
  • What is the most common scholarship that students of color are awarded?
  • Are there specific scholarships associated with job opportunities on campus?
  • Are there book loan programs or funding available for purchasing school supplies?
  • Is there an emergency fund on campus? How do students access it?
  • Are there pantries on campus that provide free food, hygiene products, and clothing?

Related: Infographic: How to Fill Out the FAFSA and Why It Matters

2. Student involvement opportunities

Clubs and organizations like Black Student Union or Latinos Unidos serve as safe spaces for students of color to meet like-minded peers, receive support, plan and enjoy culturally relevant events, engage in social advocacy, and more. These organizations have also proven to play an important role in a student’s sense of belonging and likelihood of graduating. Here are a few questions to ask about student life: He

  • What clubs or organizations are available on campus for members of different racial/ethnic groups
  • What cultural sororities and fraternities exist on campus?
  • Are students allowed to create new groups if something isn’t currently available?
  • Where do opportunities exist for international students to get involved on campus?
  • Are there professional organizations that specifically assist students of color with career connections?
  • Are there scholarship opportunities available for students of color involved in clubs or professional groups?

3. Academics and professors

As a student of color, it’s important to choose your major wisely for the future you’re imagining. Factors like rigor and accreditation may play a role, but it’s also important to ask questions that allow you to fully understand the academic experience and support available to you. Consider the following:

  • What does the diversity of faculty and staff look like: How many full- and part-time faculty of color are there? What about administrative staff?
  • Do faculty and staff of color serve as advisors and/or mentors for students or extracurricular groups?
  • How many students of color are currently enrolled in your program(s) of interest? How many have graduated over the last 10 years?
  • Are there academic departments that focus on race-specific topics such as African American Studies?
  • What are the school’s retention and graduation rates for students of color? Where are there racial disparities?
  • What are the employment rates for graduates of color, and where have most students of color obtained jobs after graduation?

Related: A More Diverse College Search: How to Find Colleges With Strong DEI Efforts

4. Campus equity and safety

Factors like location and the diversity of the student body all play a role in a campus’s climate. It’s important to take note of campus life resources when assessing your potential colleges. Here are a few questions to ask about campus culture and safety:

  • How does the campus handle discrimination complaints and who do you take complaints to?
  • What are the school’s Bias Incident Reporting procedures and statistics?
  • Does the college have a diversity and equity statement?
  • How is student freedom of speech handled on campus? What opportunities exist for community service and social advocacy on campus?
  • What is the student perception of law enforcement and campus security?

5. Learning and mental health resources

On most college campuses, there are plenty of resources that can help in your personal and academic growth. There are also many places to turn to if you’re struggling with mental health or other concerns. Here are a few questions to ask about tailored campus resources for students of color:

  • What academic support programs exist for students of color and first-generation college students?
  • Are there any TRIO programs available on campus?
  • Where can students of color go for mental health support?
  • How many campus mental health counselors and other support staff are of color?

Related: 5 Great Resources to Improve Mental Health for Students of Color

These questions should help give you a jump-start on gathering the right information during your next campus visit. Don’t be afraid to ask questions to your tour guide, admission officers, current students, or anyone else you meet on campus. Your future depends on the answers you find!

If you can’t go on campus visits, that’s okay! You can get a lot of this information from virtual tours, and anything you can’t find can be asked of college admission counselors via email.

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