In the coming days, Angela Anderson will visit the University of Maryland, Colgate University, Syracuse University, and both of her parent’s alma mater Howard University as part of her Spring Break college tour.
The 17-year old Suitland, Maryland native has been accepted to all of the schools already and earned full academic scholarships to all except Colgate, who offered her a scholarship to cover a significant portion of the tuition for a full fall and spring school year.
“Our first destination is the land of the turtle,” says Angela’s mother Denise Anderson referring to the University of Maryland’s terrapin mascot. Denise is taking four days out of her work week to tour and visit alongside her daughter. The two mount into their Lincoln Navigator and head down to College Park.
The earlier rain has been replaced by a few clouds and plenty more sun. As they step on to the main campus, the first thing Angela notices is that in the middle of the school day everyone that looks like a student is outside doing nothing.
“It’s only noon,” Angela jokes.
“Why aren’t these people indoors learning something? How do you wake up in the morning intending to go to class and end up just chillin’?” Denice says, noticing that Angela is already enjoying what she sees.
“Relaxing better be the last thing you do next year,” an irritated Denise continues. “No matter how much work you get done during your freshman year, there will always be a book to read or something to study. I’m going to be checking on you and when I come I do not want to hear about your down-time. Work, work, and more work.”
“That’s why I’m not coming here, Mom,” answers Angela. “First of all, I don’t want to be this close to home and I certainly don’t want you popping in anytime you feel like it.”
Unlike the regular family visiting a school, they choose not to be escorted around the campus, rather they would like to examine, walk around, and “investigate” on their own.
“If we have a campus guide, then they’ll only show us what they want us to see… all the bells and whistles. We want to know what’s bad about the schools,” says Denise.
They decide to stick their heads into a couple of rooms while class is in session. Quickly, mother and daughter discover a big issue. In what is apparently a math course, there are about 100 plus students with questions. Hand after hand is raised for the professor to pick on. More than half of those confused or inquisitive minds will not be picked within the 50 minutes allotted for the class period.
Maryland’s fall 2007 enrollment for Undergraduate programs was 25,154. Of those, 12.9 percent were Black/African American.
“Enough said,” says Angela. “How am I gonna learn when nobody can help me? There are way too many kids in that class.”
The trend follows as they check on more classes. Denise makes sure that the issue is addressed when they go to the office of admissions. “What are the chances of my daughter being in a reasonably sized class next year as a freshman,” Denise says to a campus official.
“Well, the lower level courses here tend to be a bit crowded, but it gets better as you matriculate,” the official responds.
“Thank you,” says Denise with a smile. “Let’s go, Angela.”
After crossing off UMD from Angela’s college list, the two will take a drive down to “the Mecca,” Denise says with the highest level of pride. She graduated from Howard University in 1988.
Before Angela sets foot on Howard’s campus, her experience is soured.
An elderly homeless woman steps towards her just a block away from campus. “You got some money for me to get a pack of Newports,” she asks.
Angela politely answers with a “Sorry, no.”
“I can’t believe that,” says Angela. “Yo! She just asked me for cash to smoke, not to eat or feed her kids. She wanted to smoke up my money!”
“Hold on, Angela. That’s Georgia Avenue, not Howard,” Denise says.
Angela’s opening experience on the Yard, which is where students enjoy break time between classes and good weather, is the same scene as what she saw at the University of Maryland.
“This is the black version of Maryland,” says Angela. “I might like this.”
“You like this, but what about the classes,” Denise says.
They walk over to the school of Arts and Sciences where Angela will be majoring in English. They enter a freshman English class of about 30 kids, a huge plus in comparison to the wild hundred of Maryland.
Moving on, Angela is beginning to warm up to the idea of attending Howard and Denise is happy that her daughter’s enjoying her experience.
Walking back through the Yard, Angela will be complimented more than once about her outfit (a black Dior tank top, Gap blue jeans, and matching Nike sneakers) by upperclassmen girls. She asks one why she likes being at Howard as opposed to a white school.
Senior Advertising major Ashley Trip’s answer appears to have been rehearsed and recited many times before.
“You are never going to see this many black people that want to be somebody ever again,” she says gazing at the Yard. “These are future lawyers, actors, and businessmen. At a white school, we are the ‘special minority.’ Here it’s regular. I love that.”
Angela is all smiles at the end of the day, still not a 100% sure of where she’ll end up next fall. Just before she enters the truck to head back home she says, “Maybe I’ll pass on my trip to New York this week.”