Girls who express interest in attending women’s colleges are often rumored to be cynical academics, lesbians or, at best, raging feminists. When I first realized that my interests align with what many of America’s women’s colleges have to offer – intimate class sizes, a strong sense of community, activism and female empowerment – many of my friends and family members felt skepticism. I’ve been asked questions such as “What, are you a lesbian or something?” and “How are you going to meet guys?” President Donald Trump’s campaign manager Stephen Bannon referring to students who attend the Seven Sisters colleges as “a bunch of dykes” didn’t help my case, either. Despite the ill-conceived stereotypes that surround women’s colleges, their multitude of benefits should not be overlooked. As juniors begin to narrow down their college lists, I encourage those who self-identify as female to consider applying to them.
Most of society’s glass ceilings were cracked, if not completely shattered, by women who attended women’s colleges. The first female CEO of a fortune 500 company, Katharine Graham, attended Vassar (30 years prior to it becoming coed). Drew Faust, the current and first woman President of Harvard, attended Bryn Mawr College. The first female secretary of state, Madeleine Albright, attended Wellesley College, and America’s first democratic presidential nominee, Hillary Rodham Clinton, also attended Wellesley. Graduates of women’s colleges comprise more than 20 percent of women in Congress and 30 percent of women rising in corporate America, according to Businessweek – a fact that is significant considering only two percent of American female college graduates attend women’s colleges.
Women who attend women’s colleges are also more likely to earn their Ph. D. than women who attend coed colleges, and twelve times as likely to major in math and hard science studies than their co-educated counterparts. Further research conducted by the Women’s College Coalition (WCC) demonstrates that women attending women’s colleges participate more actively in classes, interact more with faculty and take more rigorous courses than women attending co-ed colleges. Women’s colleges facilitate female intellectual growth and empowerment that simply cannot be attained through attending a coed school.
The argument that single-sex colleges leave students unprepared to face real-world environments is far from true. Attending a women’s college can be compared to playing soccer. A team’s success depends on the skill of its players, and these skills simply cannot be developed by only playing scrimmages. Instead, players isolate ball dribbling, passing and shooting skills in separate practices in order to become stronger, more confident players. Then, on game day, players combine their perfected skills to form a team that is undefeatable.
At women’s colleges, the entire learning environment is tailored to empowering women to reach their full potential without being interrupted by men – a trait necessary to excel in a male-dominated society. Female students hold top positions in every club or society on campus, preparing them to take on top leadership positions in the real world. While some students may balk at the thought of attending a single-sex college, citing fear of missing out on the true “college experience,” most women’s colleges are also closely affiliated with top universities, ensuring no lack of males. Students enrolled at Barnard College may dual-enroll at Columbia University, students at Wellesley can cross-register with MIT and students at Bryn Mawr can also enroll at the University of Pennsylvania, Haverford College or Swarthmore College.
Attending a women’s college may not be for everyone, but for those who do it offers an unparalleled opportunity to take on the workforce more confident and prepared to tackle gender-inequality than anyone else.