Wellesley’s unofficial motto is to “educate women who will make a difference in the
world.” And if there’s one thing a Wellesley education will give you, it’s a sense of empowerment
that you have the skills, confidence, and know-how to succeed at anything you choose.
Consistently ranked among the top five liberal arts colleges in the nation, Wellesley
offers its students a serious intellectual environment combined with a fun, all-women atmosphere.
It’s not uncommon to find friends gossiping until early morning, baking cookies together while cramming for an exam, or crowded around the dorm television on Thursday nights for a
Wellesley is a college where the emphasis is on you. You’ll never be a number at
Wellesley; all of your professors will know you by your name and the quality of your work.
Student opinions not only count but are actively solicited, from determining which professors
receive tenure, to selecting your commencement speaker, to campus and dorm governance
My first year at Wellesley, several students were chosen to help select the
next president of the college. And our input didn’t stop there! The new president
asked us to call her by her first name, Diana, and always said hello when we saw
her walking across campus or jogging around the lake. She also came to many
of the college’s activities, from attending school plays, soccer games, and student
body meetings, to greeting trick-or-treaters at her home on Halloween. She gave
us the feeling she really cared, and she did.
Part of Wellesley’s charm also comes from its surroundings. Nestled in the suburb of
Wellesley, Massachusetts, twelve miles outside of Boston, the college is located on a 500-acre
campus that boasts one of the most spectacular settings in New England. Students often spend
their weekends canoeing on Lake Waban, reading on Green Beach, or “traying” down
Severance Green in the snow.
But during the week, students focus almost exclusively on their work. Wellesley is a
teaching college rather than a research university, so students receive plenty of individual
attention. Professors hold extensive office hours and some will even bake brownies for class or
have students over to their homes. Every professor assigns and grades papers and exams; no
graduate students compete for your attention or evaluate your work.
English, psychology, and economics are among the most popular majors, although
students dabble in everything from economics of Third World countries to sports medicine
to Greek art. Many students choose to double-major, while others will select a minor, often a
foreign language. Students can take only fourteen of their thirty-two credits in their major, so
they are forced to broaden their education beyond a few departments.
Outside of the classroom, students spend much of their time participating in sports, college
government, music groups, dee-jaying at the college radio station, and exploring Boston.
Although Wellesley women are diverse in their interests, backgrounds, and personalities,
all of them share the experience of having attended the top women’s college in the country.
Wellesley offers its students the opportunity to expand their minds, challenge their limits, and
learn to be meaningful leaders in a changing world.
Wellesley women share more than an education, though. From Flower Sunday in
September, when sophomores give their “little sisters,” or first-year students, a daisy as a sign
of welcome and friendship, to commencement, when seniors pop champagne corks together,
Wellesley develops in its students a sense of sisterhood, a camaraderie that can only be shared
at a women’s college. While students may complain about a lack of social life during their four
years there, they will also revel in the chance to study without distraction and to be completely
in the company of a group of outstanding women. As a favorite campus saying goes, “Not a girls’
school without men, but a women’s college without boys.”
The campus is also a sanctuary, a safe and secure atmosphere, where you will find yourself
enveloped by the beautiful Massachusetts environment.
Professors are there to offer a hand as well; many of them have been known to spend an
hour or more with each student during office hours. As a student, you’ll not only learn facts
and figures, but how to analyze and apply that information to other problems. Your professors
will challenge you to become active thinkers and participants in and out of the classroom, by
sharing your enthusiasm and success, offering advice, and also becoming lifelong friends.
Wellesley is a college where you will be known by your first name, whether you’re the
college president, a professor, or a student. You can also choose whether to be the student body
president or just a member of the student body. You become empowered because you make the
decisions and you shape your future.
If you have a preconceived notion of a women’s college, chances are it’s not true at
Wellesley—the college is not a bastion of lesbianism, nor a stronghold of left-wing, radical feminism.
It’s also not a place for meek-mannered women. What Wellesley is, is a supportive environment
that gives its students a sense of self-esteem, accomplishment, and the ability
to apply that knowledge and confidence elsewhere. What Wellesley does is to successfully
educate women who do, time and time again, make a difference in the world.
One of the best things about a Wellesley education is the opportunity to study a broad
array of topics. Wellesley’s curriculum offers up a plate of anything and everything, but leaves
the choice to you. The college provides major and minor programs of study in more than
thirty departments and programs.
When I was a first-year student at Wellesley, my parents told me they
had a few requirements of their own: I should take art history, economics, history,
and a course in Shakespeare while in college. I put them off until junior
and senior years—what a mistake! I regretted not minoring in history. And now
when I go to art museums, I understand so much more—the time period, the
artist’s purposes, and color schemes.
Before students can graduate, they must meet some basic requirements. All students
must complete thirty-two units of credits (usually one credit per course), at least eight
of which are in your major. You also must maintain a 2.0, or C, average. In addition, all students
must elect nine courses drawn from eight substantive and skill-based categories; a
multicultural class; an expository writing course; one year of physical education; and demonstrated
proficiency in a foreign language. Students must also complete four 300-level, or the
most specialized, courses, at least two of which are in your major, to ensure you have indepth
knowledge in several subjects. If this all sounds daunting, it’s not. Remember, you
have eight semesters to spread these classes out. Most professors would advise, however,
that you complete these courses during your first two years at Wellesley, so you can concentrate
on completing your major and travel abroad during your junior and senior years.
Beyond the requirements, though, you can break your own academic path at Wellesley,
including devising your own major and the courses needed to complete it. It’s wise to experiment
with a wide variety of offerings; many students find they have strong interests in subjects
as different as English and physics, and love spending hours poring over books in the Reserve
Room, but also relish nights spent stargazing at the Observatory. The college offers many
courses without prerequisites, so you don’t have to be a whiz at something before you walk into
The course load at Wellesley is not easy, but it is manageable. You can expect to stay up
late reading Chaucer, spend your Sunday afternoons in the laboratory running chemistry
experiments, and devote your mornings to practicing French in the language lab. But you’ll
be surprised at how much you come to enjoy each of these experiences, and you’ll still have
plenty of time left to participate in extracurricular activities and enjoy a healthy social life.
After their first year, Wellesley students are allowed to elect up to five courses a semester;
they can also audit classes and take courses pass/fail. The college’s Honor Code allows students
to schedule their own exams at the end of the semester. While this option allows you to
take finals at your own pace, self-discipline in studying is a must.
For those who want to dive deeper into a particular academic area, the college offers an
honors program for seniors. Provided students meet a high GPA in their major and
choose an appropriate topic for study, they can work with several professors to complete a
year-long thesis, thus qualifying for departmental honors. Students can also qualify for
Latin Honors, based on their grade point average, which are recognized at graduation.
Wellesley offers many opportunities for students to study outside the campus borders—
ranging from cross-registering for a course at MIT to spending a year or semester at
a university in Mexico, Korea, or France. Other programs include exchanges at Spelman
College in Georgia, Mills College in California, and the Twelve College Exchange.
A number of intensive courses in other countries are offered during the three-week
January winter session.
Most Popular Fields of Study
As Wellesley’s profile has risen in recent years, the percentage of students admitted has
declined from fifty percent to about thirty-four percent. But if you have a strong academic
record, are motivated and enthusiastic, and know you want to attend a top school, Wellesley
should be an easy choice.
Since the college believes a diverse student body is important, Wellesley seeks to bring
together a group of individuals who enrich the school by their different experiences, races, ethnicities, religions, geographic backgrounds, and interests. Approximately forty-four percent of
the student body is white, twenty-five percent is Asian, and thirteen percent is African
American, Latino, and Native American and eight percent are international students. While
sixty-four percent have attended public high schools, the other thirty-four percent have gone
to private schools and one percent have been home-schooled.
The college offers three decision plans for prospective students, each with different
deadlines and each geared toward a different kind of applicant. All, require the standard application fee of $50, although the fee is waived for online applicants and in cases of
- Early Decision is designed for women who are sure they want to attend Wellesley; about
one-fifth of incoming students are accepted under this plan. If you think you might fall into
this category, it’s best to visit the college early, attend a few classes, meet some professors,
and arrange an overnight stay with a student in her dorm room. The Early Decision deadline
falls on November 1, so you must take the SAT or ACT by October. The advantage of
this plan is that you’ll know by the winter holidays whether you’ve been admitted or
deferred to the regular application pool. The only disadvantage is that the decision is binding,
so if accepted, you must withdraw your applications from all other schools.
- For students who are strongly considering Wellesley but aren’t sure they want to commit to
the Early Decision program, the Early Evaluation plan has a deadline of January 1. You’ll
receive a letter by the end of February that indicates your chances of acceptance, but the
final decision is not sent out until April. Early Evaluation is a smart plan for people who
want to know how realistic their chances of admission are without having to pledge to one
- Finally, Wellesley offers a Traditional Regular Decision plan. Applications are due January
15, so you can take standardized tests through December of your senior year. Again, the
Board of Admissions will notify you of its decision in April. Students placed on the wait list
will also be notified at this time.
After you’ve chosen which plan is right for you, it’s time to think about assembling your
Wellesley requires its applicants to take either the ACT (with Writing) or SAT and two
SAT Subject Tests (recommended one to be quantitative). In a recent incoming class,
first-year students typically scored between 600 and 700 on the Math section and between
600 and 800 on the Verbal section of the SAT I.
Of course, standardized tests are only one part of your Wellesley application. High school
grades are equally, if not more, important. Ninety-five percent of incoming students were in the
top quarter of their class; all ranked in the top half. You’ll also need two academic teacher
recommendations. It’s best to choose teachers who know you well from the classroom and
extracurricular activities, and who can easily talk about your abilities, development as a student,
personality, and potential as a Wellesley woman.
Along with the regular admissions paperwork, Wellesley requires a personal essay. The
essay is one of the most crucial parts of the application because it tells the admission board
who you are, what you think, and why you would make a good candidate for Wellesley. It’s also
a chance for you to stand out from everybody else and tout your achievements. Remember,
students, professors, and admissions officers are reading your essay, so your chances are best
if you gear it toward a general audience.
Finally, Wellesley recommends, but does not require, an admissions interview. Try to have
the interview on campus, so you can get the flavor of the school. Remember, the interview is not
just a chance for the admissions officers to learn more about you, but for you to learn more
about Wellesley. If you can’t make it up to Boston, you can meet with an alumna in your area.
Applying to college seemed like a daunting process, but the Wellesley
students and professors I met were so encouraging I felt as though they really
wanted me there. The admissions office also went out of its way. When my parents
and I arrived late for the campus tour, a student took us individually to our
tour group and showed us sights along the way. The experience was actually
symbolic of my years at Wellesley—everyone makes an extra effort to help each
other out and is always supportive.
A few other points: AP credits (up to a total of four credits) are accepted, provided you
score a four or five on most tests. Interviews are required of transfer students, as are high
school and college transcripts, and SAT scores. Students applying from abroad must take the
college boards and submit scores from their native countries’ college entrance exams.
Furthermore, a TOEFL exam is strongly recommended for students whose native language is
College these days is expensive, but one of Wellesley’s most important priorities is maintaining
its need-blind admissions policy. More than half of Wellesley students receive some
form of financial aid. In 1999 the college boosted its financial aid program by offering more
grants instead of loans.
A Wellesley education costs about $42,000 per year, including tuition, room, board,
and the student activity and facilities fees. Students in Massachusetts must enroll in a health
insurance program. The average yearly financial aid package was recently close to $28,000.
While a financial aid award depends on a student’s need, the college provides aid for
about sixty percent of first-year students and fifty-nine percent of all students.
Wellesley offers three payment plans to help students pay for their education:
- The semester payment plan allows students and their families to pay tuition and other
expenses twice each year; this program is generally recommended for parents who are
using savings to pay for college or have loans guaranteed at very favorable rates.
- The ten-month payment plan assists families who are using current earnings to pay for
tuition in five installments.
- The prepaid tuition stabilization plan allows families to pay the entire cost of a Wellesley
education upon entrance to the school. This program sets the cost of tuition at the firstyear
rate and will not reflect any subsequent increases during the course of the student’s
Students who are interested in obtaining financial aid must submit their most recent
income tax returns, along with the FAFSA or Wellesley’s own financial statement. The deadline
for financial aid applications is January 15.
Working on Campus
To raise money for their education, many students work on campus in activities ranging
from being a guard in the college’s Davis Museum and Cultural Center, to working as an
assistant in one of the departments, to working in a dining hall. The average annual intake
from these jobs is about $2,000. It’s also a great way to meet fellow students, work alongside
your professors or administrators, and spend time enjoying the campus.
Loans and Grants
Wellesley also offers four types of loans to incoming students: the federal Stafford Loan,
the federal Perkins Loan, the Wellesley College Student’s Aid Society Loan, and the
Wellesley College Loan program.
The federal Stafford and Perkins loans are repayable starting six months after graduation.
While the Stafford Loan has a variable interest rate that is set each summer for the
upcoming year, the Perkins Loan has a set interest rate of five percent and is available to
students who demonstrate high financial need.
The Wellesley College Student’s Aid Society Loan is a low-interest loan that must be
repaid within five years and nine months of graduation. The Wellesley College Loan program,
which is geared toward international students, requires payments twice a year following
Wellesley also offers grants from the college’s funds and from the federal Supplemental
Opportunity Grant Program. In addition, students who think they may be eligible for state
grants and the federal Pell Grant should contact the financial aid office, which verifies
students’ enrollment and eligibility.
Finally, financial awards from outside organizations are calculated into the workloan-
grant program administered by the college. The Students’ Aid Society also provides professional
and winter clothing, emergency loans, and supplies for students receiving aid.
Student Financial Aid Details
From the rugby team to the Canada Club to the more traditional activities such as the
campus newspaper and student government, it’s all yours for the taking at Wellesley.
Wellesley prides itself on offering just about any activity its students could want.
If you’re a dancer or singer, a literary lover, or a philosophy guru, there’s a club for you. In all,
Wellesley offers about 170 student groups and most have no membership requirements or
dues—those are included in your annual student activity fee.
While these clubs will take as much of your time as you let them, they will also comprise
some of your fondest college memories. You’ll share the experience of running an organization
together, from top to bottom, and learn both management and organizational skills far superior
to those you’d get out of most internships. Few Wellesley students participate in no clubs at all;
on average, students participate in at least one or two groups each year.
Wellesley encourages first-year students to participate in all activities. Most clubs thrive
on the energy and enthusiasm new students bring; they’re also a great way to meet Wellesley
women of all ages. A student activities’ night is held at the beginning of each school year, so
you can check out clubs that sound interesting. The new Wang Campus Center is the base of extracurricular life, although most activities take students everywhere from campus to the
entire northeast corridor.
As a resident advisor my sophomore year, I was both the leader on my
floor and part of a management team that arranged activities for my fellow dormmates.
When the resident advisors met each Wednesday night, we’d talk about
our individual problems and successes, and the direction we wanted to help take
the dorm in. It was a wonderful chance to be a team player, see the impact our
decisions had on our peers, and learn from their feedback.
While clubs and sports are a great way to meet other students, dorms provide the most
natural setting for getting to know your Wellesley sisters. Almost all students live in
the dorms, and on-campus housing for four years is guaranteed, with most juniors and
seniors living in single rooms. Some students live in co-ops, cooking their own food and
living in a relaxed residential system. In most dorms, though, resident directors, house
presidents, first-year coordinators, and resident advisors plan activities, from showing
videos to having leaf-jumping parties, to holding study breaks complete with café lattes and
Milano cookies. A favorite activity of the year is Holiday Dinner, where seniors dress in their
gowns, students gather to sing songs, and the dining halls prepare a fabulous feast, complete
with the college’s own peppermint stick pie.
Wellesley does not have a Greek system, but students with interests in art, music, and
Shakespeare can join one of the four society houses on campus. The groups arrange campuswide
lectures and events, as well as provide another social outlet for members.
Keep in mind that Wellesley is not a party school, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t
parties on campus. The opportunities also are there if you want to attend parties on
campus or at Boston area colleges and universities each weekend, go clubbing, or be a sister
at a fraternity house. While many first-year students do all of the above, older students
often spend weekends on campus, listening to comedians and musicians at Punch’s Alley,
the campus pub; taking advantage of the college theater; seeing classic 1980s movies at the
Film Society; and just enjoying each other’s company. As with most other things at
Wellesley, you create the path you want to take.
Student Enrollment Demographics
Student Graduation Demographics
Wellesley also offers a variety of sports teams that compete with other Seven Sisters and
regional schools, including soccer, basketball, volleyball, swimming, lacrosse, golf,
softball, cross-country, and tennis. The college prides itself on graduating well-rounded individuals,
so students are encouraged to take part in sports, whether on a varsity or intramural
level. And with the Nannerl O. Keohane Sports Center on campus, that’s not hard to do. The
Keohane Sports Center, named after Wellesley’s eleventh president, includes an indoor
track, pool, sauna, basketball and tennis courts, and weight room. In the fall and spring,
students also canoe on Lake Waban and row on the Charles River in Boston.
Chances are you’ve heard of some of Wellesley’s most famous graduates: former First
Lady and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, former Secretary of State Madeleine
Korbel Albright, and screenwriter/director Nora Ephron (of When Harry Met Sally and
Sleepless in Seattle fame), to name just a few. But in truth, whether they’re famous or not,
most Wellesley alumnae are very successful at (and very happy with) what they do.
Wellesley graduates about 580 to 620 students each year, with about half of them
choosing to go on to graduate school or other study, and about half going into the working
world. Ninety-three percent of students graduate within six years of enrollment. Many students
choose a career in business, often starting out as a management consultant at a highpowered
Manhattan or Boston firm. Other popular careers include education, law,
journalism, and medicine. Teach for America is the number one employer for recent grads.
More than 150 companies and non-profit organizations, ranging from Microsoft to Smith
Barney, recruit on campus each year. Students find that the recruiting process is a great way
to learn more about these companies, practice their interviewing skills, and, of course, land
that all-important first job. Because Wellesley graduates are so successful, most companies
return year after year.
The college also offers a well-staffed Center for Work and Service to assist students
about postgraduation plans. From advice on polishing up your résumé to helping you apply for
fellowship programs, the center’s employees are knowledgeable and accessible. The center
also pairs up students and mentors for a day-long “shadow” program in January, and keeps
a database with names of alumnae all over the world who have offered to share their
professional insights. The Wellesley alumnae network is extensive, powerful, and accessible.
I went to the mentoring night my senior year, and sat around an
alumna’s living room chatting about our common interest in journalism. One
alum, Jean Dietz, had been a correspondent for The Boston Globe. Another, Callie
Crossley, was a producer with the ABC newsmagazine, 20/20. It was great to hear
about their experiences as successful women in journalism, and they were genuinely
interested in helping me start my career.
The alumnae association provides several programs
for juniors and seniors, too, including a mentoring night,
where students share dinner and conversation with
alumnae in the Boston area who have similar career
interests. In addition, the association sponsors workshops
on buying a car, renting an apartment, finding a
job, and generally making it on your own.
Many Wellesley alumnae have been pathbreakers
in their careers and all of them want to see you succeed;
you’ll find that this support network of more
than 36,000 women worldwide will follow you wherever
you go and is always ready to lend a hand.
Once you leave Wellesley, you’ll find that all your
networks of career support are still available to help
you, and that local alumnae clubs throughout the
world sponsor events, from happy hours, hayrides, and
Sunday afternoon teas to lectures by professors who
are visiting the area and pizza nights with prospective
students. Graduates also serve on the Board of
Trustees, as advisors to various groups, and as admissions
representatives. But the best part of being
a graduate may be taking part in the reunion parades,
where graduates dress in their class colors, take part in Stepsinging—a favorite college tradition—
have a chance to revisit the campus in the spring, and catch up with their friends.
- Madeleine Albright, former U.S.
Secretary of State
- Katharine Lee Bates, Professor,
Author, America the Beautiful
- Michelle Caruso-Cabrera, MSNBC
- Hillary Rodham Clinton, Secretary
- Marjory Stoneman Douglas,
- Wendy Lee Gramm, Former Chair,
Commodities Futures Trading
- Mildred McAfee Horton, Founder
- Madame Chiang Kai-shek,
Nationalist Chinese Leader
- Nannerl O. Keohane, Political
Scientist, President of Duke
- Ali McGraw, Actress
- Pamela Melroy, NASA Astronaut
- Cokie Roberts, Journalist
- Diane Sawyer, Journalist
- Vivian Pinn, Director of National
Institutes of Health
The strongest aspect of Wellesley’s academic life is its professors. The 305 faculty members
are about evenly split between men and women, all of whom hold degrees in their
fields from the top schools. And with a faculty-student ratio of nine to one, you’ll not only
know but most likely become friends with your professors.
Although research is considered a vital part of any professor’s résumé, Wellesley professors
are at the college principally because they want to teach, not because they want to do
research. This means they’ll know you by name and grade your work, and that you’ll have valuable
personal contacts when it comes time to ask for career advice and graduate school recommendations.
They’ll also take an interest in your life outside the classroom: how the soccer
team did, if your family is visiting for Family Weekend, and when your theater production will
be appearing on campus. At Wellesley, the average course size ranges from fifteen to twentyfive
students, depending on the type of class.
My parents recently visited Wellesley and had lunch with one of my professors.
Even though I graduated several years ago, he jumped at the chance to
meet them again and spent an hour and a half reminiscing with them about my
years as a student and sharing personal stories. It was a great experience that I
doubt would have happened at any other school.
Another advantage of such an intimate class setting is that you’ll have a unique chance
to engage in truly intellectual debates that will often last more than the regular seventy minutes
of class time. Professors also go out of their way to bring some of the brightest minds in
their field to campus to meet with students in group settings, answer your questions, and spur