Women’s colleges—outdated and demeaning or empowering and enriching? Depends on who you ask. Although initially founded during the early 19th century when most colleges and universities didn’t allow women to attend, over half of today’s college students are females.
These days, some women’s colleges are struggling with enrollment numbers, but students as well as educational leaders believe that they still play an important role in higher education in America. We’ve compiled seven potential benefits of attending an all-girls school to earn your degree:
1. Prestige. Many women’s colleges are prestigious, an attribute that can lead to networking benefits and an improved chance of success when job searching time arrives come graduation. Roughly an all-female equivalent of the Ivy League, the Seven Sisters was a consortium of liberal arts colleges for women located in the Northeastern United States. Five of the original seven—Barnard, Bryn Mawr, Mount Holyoke, Smith and Wellesley—are still women’s colleges while Radcliffe has since merged with Harvard and Vassar is now co-ed. (There are plenty of other female colleges in the country, too.)
2. More opportunities. These days, most women’s colleges are affiliated with nearby men’s or co-ed colleges or universities, providing the opportunity to not only interact with males but take classes at two prominent institutions. In most cases, male students can also take classes at the women’s college. For example, Barnard College students can take courses at nearby Columbia University and vice versa. Barnard students can participate in Columbia-sponsored groups and organizations and even live in the same residence halls as Columbia students.
3. Well-known graduates. While following your friends to school or attending a college simply because your mom, dad or other relative went there too is often frowned upon by education experts, all-female schools generally have some very successful alumnae, such as:
4. Successful students. Your chances of running into celebrities or politicians on campus on a regular basis may not be incredibly high, but you’ll still be in good company. Research has found that students at women’s colleges tend to have higher standardized test scores and higher levels of self-esteem.
5. Smaller classes. Most women’s colleges are liberal arts colleges, which are habitually student-centered rather than research-centered. This translates into smaller class sizes and a better chance of student-teacher interaction, as opposed to classes with hundreds of students held in auditoriums and led by teaching assistants rather than professors. Interacting with faculty on a regular basis often leads to ease in finding successful mentors and role models on campus.
6. More student involvement. Over half of women’s college graduates reported regular involvement in student presentations and over 40% were involved in student government or publications on campus, according to a survey conducted by the Women’s College Coalition. These things will most definitely benefit women in the workforce as well as graduate school.
7. Life and work skills. CBS News blogger Lynn O’Shaughnessy writes that today’s employers and workplaces value employees with good communication, analytic and teamwork skills—three factors that are incorporated into programs at women’s colleges thanks to the smaller campuses and classes.
Choosing which college to attend is an important decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Cost and location are two of the biggest determining factors for many students and their families, but the type of school should play an important role as well. Just as some students would feel more comfortable at a smaller school than at a sprawling university, others would prefer a single-sex institution over a co-ed one.
Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.
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