Leading Women – Girls Rule At All-Female Colleges
Don’t think that women’s colleges are snooty isolating or outdated. Forget the myths—get the facts!
Home to some of the best and brightest female minds—famous women’s college alumnae include Meryl Streep, Hillary Clinton, Madeleine Albright and Diane Sawyer to name a few. Women’s colleges provide an environment in which girls can easily lead challenge question and solve. They have fun too (even with boys).
Though their numbers have dwindled in the last 50 years the demand for women’s colleges remains strong and their benefits numerous. So before you immediately cross all-female colleges off your list take a closer look at what they have to offer—and what they might be able to offer you.
Dispelling the myths
Unfortunately due in part to their origins women’s colleges still contend with misperceptions and stereotypes. “Some people perceive us as a finishing school for ‘rich girls,” says Ken Huus, dean of admissions at Sweet Briar College. “That couldn’t be farther from the truth. Students have the full college experience here from serious academics …to social activities.”
“While initially the idea of a women’s college may sound limiting students actually have a lot of options,” states Tara Viti, associate director of admissions at Chatham College for Women at Chatham University. “For example students can cross-register and take classes at area schools attend events on multiple campuses and have more opportunities to hold leadership positions both on and off campus.”
Marilyn Hammond, director of international admission at Agnes Scott College points out that many people think women’s college students won’t be ready for the real world. “On the contrary a women’s college prepares women for success in a global environment that is changing rapidly,” she explains.
You may have heard stereotypes about women’s colleges but have you ever heard about the benefits of an all-female education? “Women’s colleges are possibly more relevant today than ever before,” says Huus. “Where better for a young woman to truly focus on her career preparation and planning than in a place that is completely dedicated to her success?”
A recent comparative alumnae research study conducted by Hardwick-Day an enrollment counseling firm revealed that in almost all areas women who graduated from women’s colleges expressed more satisfaction with their college experience than those from coed institutions.
“Our students tell us that our college is a place where they find their voice and they attribute their self-confidence to their experiences at a women’s college,” shares Hammond.
Huus adds, “Recently we’ve become more overt about helping our students prepare for life after college—jobs graduate school preparation—so that they get both a great education and become prepared for the world that will welcome them upon graduation.”
Katherine Knapp Watts, dean of admissions and financial aid at Salem College in North Carolina says, “Our students graduate with much fuller resumes than girls who attend larger coed universities. A women’s college really expands your horizons and broadens your options. Our women usually have three to four internships community service and study abroad experience.”
The right fit
As you determine whether or not a women’s college is right for you start by researching websites viewbooks and podcasts.
“Students should absolutely not rule out a women’s college without doing their research,” suggests Lindsey Brett admission counselor at Chatham. “There are many students who said they initially didn’t want to come to Chatham because it was a women’s college . . . but love it now because it is a women’s college.”
Once your research is complete and you’ve weighed the pros and cons visit the school. Meet with an admissions representative speak with faculty stay overnight and talk to current students. “It’s really not possible to fully appreciate any college’s personality without setting foot on campus,” advises Huus.
Women’s colleges may offer certain advantages and opportunities that coed institutions don’t. While some schools provide courses that focus on women’s contributions in history and society others offer formalized leadership programs or certificates.
Students at Chatham for example can take advantage of the school’s out-reach centers which are focused on issues of special importance to women. These include the Pennsylvania Center for Women Politics and Public Policy which aims to increase women’s political participation and advocacy and the Center for Women’s Entrepreneurship designed to help women think more entrepreneurially in any area of life and to improve the status of women as small business owners.
The Equine Studies Certificate at Sweet Briar College is another unique program providing “a strong liberal arts foundation combined with preparation for possible careers in equine-related enterprises such as farm and stable management and the teaching of riding” according to the school’s website.
Salem College offers a focused Center for Women in Science and Mathematics featuring internships undergraduate research and mentoring by women in the field. Knapp Watts also notes that “the Center for Women Writers and (our) creative writing major give students the chance to learn from celebrated female writers on campus.”
Self-confidence preparation unique programs—it sounds great right? But where do boys fit into the picture? And what’s the social scene like? If these details are among your concerns you can rest easy.
“Social life at Chatham is obviously focused on women and women’s interests,” says Megan Sutton, admission counselor at Chatham. “However those interests are very broad and you can see students participating in anything from sports to the Tuesday Night Edge spa night.”
Hammond points out that Agnes Scott hosts many coed events and students are frequently invited to events on other campuses.
“Young men from local colleges . . . are here rather regularly for dances parties Homecoming Winter Formal Spring Fling and just for a fun weekend,” adds Huus. “The academic environment is all-female but the social environment is virtually coed.”
Knapp Watts a graduate of Salem College herself says there’s plenty to do at women’s colleges. “Many . . . are located in cities with several other coed universities offering a broad range of downtown nightlife and cultural athletic and social opportunities. You can have fun meet guys and make the best friends of your life.”
It’s not just about boys: at a women’s college the focus is friendship. “Students and alumnae from women’s colleges report having deep lifelong friendships not only among their peers but also across generations,” says Hammond.
As you pick and choose the colleges you plan to apply to don’t let false perceptions get in your way. Keep an open mind and explore all of the options out there including women’s colleges. Who knows—it could be your perfect fit!