Originally Posted: May 13, 2011
Last Updated: Apr 3, 2019
As you search for the right college or university, you’ve probably already heard something like this: “Choosing a college is one of the most important decisions you will ever make.” And it’s true. Your college choice will influence many facets of your life, from the day you enroll onward. It’s important to approach this decision as a search for colleges and universities that truly fit you—those that offer strong academics and extracurricular activities, career placement and a social atmosphere, that work for you. It’s about finding a college that will help you thrive and reach your academic and personal potential.
If you’re a young woman looking for a school that offers opportunity, support, and challenge, and women’s colleges are not on your list, then you may be missing out.
The “right college” may surprise you
Studies comparing the experience of students at women’s colleges with women at co-ed private liberal arts colleges and co-ed flagship public universities find the students at women's colleges are more likely to experience high levels of academic challenge, engage in active and collaborative learning to a higher degree, and take join activities that provide opportunities to integrate their curricular and cocurricular experiences. Students at women's colleges also tend to thrive studying subjects such as science and math—subject and career areas in which women are traditionally underrepresented—and, later, pursuing graduate studies and careers in these fields.
Women's colleges offer notably distinctive options, including women-centered pedagogies, curricula, and environments—from female role models to leadership opportunities to alumnae networks—that are focused on you: your education, your personal and professional development in the many different roles you will assume in life, and your advancement in an ever-changing world.
Research shows that a women’s college education:
• Proves its value over a lifetime. Graduating from a women’s college, versus a co-ed public or private college or university, significantly increases a woman’s chances of earning a graduate degree. Women’s college graduates succeed in entering a range of career fields and graduate programs, regardless of their undergraduate major. More than 95% of women’s college alumnae believe the financial investment in their education was worthwhile and that the intellectual and personal capacities they gained are extremely important to them.
• Develops critical skills for life and career. Studies repeatedly underscore the need for critical thinking, global knowledge, intercultural competence, and real-world abilities. Women’s colleges surpass public and private colleges in helping students learn to think analytically, bring social and historical perspective to issues, relate to people of different backgrounds, work as part of a team, write and speak effectively, make sound decisions, gain entry to a career, prepare for career change or advancement, and be politically and socially aware.
• Enables students to engage with top faculty and resources. Women’s college graduates attribute their success to interaction with a high-quality, teaching-oriented faculty. They report strong benefits from mentoring, small classes, and personal interaction with professors. At women’s colleges, all of the resources, from sophisticated research equipment to preeminent athletics facilities to internship and fellowship funding, are focused on and available to female students.
• Creates leaders, communicators, and persuaders. Speaking out and speaking up—key components of leadership and civic engagement—are capacities actively developed at women’s colleges. Women’s college alumnae report more in-class experience with making presentations than their peers at other institutions and are more likely to gain leadership experience in student government and campus media.
Why does women’s education—your education—matter?
Ret. Lt. General Claudia Kennedy, the first female to reach the rank of three-star general in the U.S. Army, says, “Women not only see things differently from men, but they see different things. That only adds strength to an organization.” Imagine the possibilities at women’s colleges, where students come from all racial, ethnic, cultural, socioeconomic, religious, and age demographics. They come from nearby, across the country, and around the world. Some students are the first generation in their family to attend college. Some students attend part time so that they can also fulfill family and work obligations. Some are transfer students who transition to a four-year college from a two-year college.
From the East Coast to the West Coast, from the North to the South, women’s colleges are located in the hearts of cities and deep in the country. Each women’s college has its own distinctive identity and culture. What women’s colleges have in common is an unequivocal commitment to your education and advancement. Women’s colleges are about you and your success.
Don’t just take our word for it.
Visit campuses and meet with students—especially those with whom you share a family or educational background or similar interests. Attend classes and spend a night. Check out the Women’s College Coalition’s website at www.womenscolleges.org to see what students, alumnae, faculty, the media, and researchers have to say about the benefits of attending a women’s college. Answers to your questions about how a women’s college feels, finding people like you and making friends, and social life and fun, as well as about academic rigor and excellence, research and leadership opportunities, role models and mentors, campus diversity, student services, and safety will help you make the right decision about the right college for you!
We asked one student about her experience at a women’s college, and here’s what she had to say:
“The best part about attending a women’s college is the opportunity to build sisterhood relationships without the need of sororities. I think what female students look for in sororities is the support, leadership, and experiences that I have already encountered at Mills College. When I joined the soccer team, I found teammates that were passionate about soccer and were supportive of each other regardless of whether we won or lost a match. When I joined our student government, the Associated Students of Mills College (ASMC), I found women who showed amazing leadership drive to make changes that were needed on campus and made sure to represent the voice of the student population. I met friends whom I’ve sung karaoke with on a dorm porch, gotten lost with while exploring the San Francisco Bay Area, and had many shoulders to cry on during stressful times. I have been fortunate to find it all at Mills College.”
— Dolores Molina ’09, Mills College, Oakland, California