5 Ways to Get the Most Out of HBCU Homecoming

If you know anything about fall traditions, then you know that it is the season of HBCU Homecoming, a 7-week span that usually runs from late September to early November.

I have literally been to every homecoming at my school for the past 13 years.  Once I became a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., it only increased my Homecoming experience.

As new students, current students, and alumni, homecoming is the event where you can really take pride in your college or university, as well as learn about the historical traditions of Blackness and social engagement on campus.

Many times, Homecoming brings back some of the best and most brilliant alumni and fosters an environment where learning can happen and most importantly, one where networking can occur.  Here are five ways to make the most out of your HBCU experience.

1) Make sure to tailgate.

Tailgating is the pinnacle of Homecoming at a historically Black college or institution (HBCU).  Several things will be happening on that day, similar to a Black family reunion cookout with thousands of spectators in tow.  There is usually a homecoming football game, vendors, music, and my favorite, food at every tent. Tailgating is always a great way to meeting new people, and to reconnect with folks you may not have seen in a long time.  The biggest thing to remember about tailgating is that you need to pace yourself.  There are going to be drinks at every tent and you don’t want to get so far gone that you have to tap out early.

Tip: Make sure that you are pacing yourself throughout the day, so that you can make it out that night!

2) Network, network, network!

If I’ve learned one thing, it is that your network is your net worth.  At HBCU Homecomings, people from all career paths and fields will be in attendance for the festivities throughout the week.  Make sure that you are attending these events and making connections with the right people to market yourself and whatever business you may govern. If you are a vendor, make sure that you have products that are centered around the culture.  These homecomings tend to bring out business owners, celebrities, and more so making sure that you get well connected could be your future career.

Tip: Carry business cards!

3) Make safety a top priority.

I can’t speak on the importance of safety and awareness at Homecoming.  I have heard some terrible horror stories at homecoming including violence and even death that could have been prevented.  When I used to work at an institution of higher learning, I would give several tips to folks to ensure they had a safe night.   The “Buddy system” is one that I always tell people to use.  The people that you came with should be the people that you leave with.  If you are leaving with someone else, make sure that your crew knows who and where you are going.  Knowing your surroundings is also another important one to follow.  If you don’t know where you are or the town you are in, be sure to do your research before going to places you may not want to be. Homecoming is a time of celebration, but there are people out there who many not have that in mind.  So make sure you are doing all that you need to ensure a fun, safe time.

Tip: Travel in groups and keep that cell phone charged and on at all times.

4) Do more than partying and tailgating.

A lot of people think that Homecoming is only for drinking and partying, but there are some pretty amazing things that happen the week leading up to it.  Many HBCUs  will have programming leading up to the big football game such as seminars and sessions around Black history and culture, Greek step shows, civic engagement, and lessons on the past, present and future of the school’s legacy.

Tip: Download the calendar from the school website and check out some of the programs.

5) “Handle your liquor.”

Let’s face it.  As much as Homecoming is about the knowledge, it is also about the partying.  Homecoming parties are usually epic events thrown throughout the city that can move quickly from the sophisticated to the ratchet.  Making sure you “handle your liquor” is critical when partying.  Keep your phone charged and make sure you have several car service apps installed so that you don’t have to do any driving.   Staying hydrated with water and juice will also help with ensuring you don’t get to that level where you are being talked about next day.

Tip: Drink water in between each cocktail.

The most important thing about Homecoming is to have fun! Just do it responsibly.