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Feminspire | April 24, 2014

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In Defense of Women’s Colleges

In Defense of Women’s Colleges

As I’m applying to college, the east coast’s women’s schools are at the top of my list. There are a lot of things that draw me to an all-girls school. These women are said to be more willing to seriously pursue their interests and be more confident in their ability to do so than their co-ed counterparts. My mom, a women’s college alumna, has always encouraged me to consider her alma mater as well as the other sister schools. My mom really liked her experience at a women’s college and feels like it prepared her well to enter the male-dominated working world. She made good friends and set up connections that she’s maintained for decades, and having such a good connection with such strong and amazing women is something I’ve always admired. However, it’s slowly becoming clear to me that I’m probably the only girl at my school that has all five of the east coast women’s colleges on her list.

Women’s schools aren’t really respected in my town. And this idea is sort of everywhere, with no sense that a counter argument exists. If I mention that I’m applying to any of the women’s colleges, friends will tell me that they can’t imagine being the kind of girl that could go without boys for 4 years or they will tell me that their parents would never let me go to “one of those dyke schools.” Even friends that are more accepting, say that they need to have guy friends because girls are too much drama.

But luckily, women’s colleges don’t attract people with this kind of mindset. They attract motivated women, with a passion for learning and intelligent discussion. Not to say that you couldn’t find women like that at co-ed schools, but there’s an awareness at women’s schools that is unique. Women cannot be forgotten or subtly pushed aside. And most people there are aware of gender issues, extending to the trans community. (For example, Smith’s bathrooms are divided by male-identified and female-identified, instead of just male and female.) It’s unfortunate that so many people don’t recognize the importance of having a school that focuses on recognizing that sexism is still a real problem as well as empowering women.  And it’s even more unfortunate that that kind of education is stigmatized.

But are women’s colleges still necessary? Originally, they were made because all other forms of higher education were reserved exclusively for men. And now that colleges are (for the most part) co-ed, women’s college may seem to be dated. So maybe they’re not necessary. But the community they create is incredibly important for women who want to go in to a male-dominated work force. The support and welcoming community that women’s colleges create protects women from being ignored and treated as less than. And that environment is something I see as being very necessary.

What do you think about women’s colleges? Did you, or would you go to one? Share with us in the comments!

Written by Madeleine Minke

  • Louisa

    I am from Germany and unfortunately
    there are no women’s colleges here. Not a single one. I think that’s a shame
    and I would definitely have loved to attend one, had I had the chance. 
You are
    so lucky to have this kind opportunity! I wish you all the best for your time
    at college and am hoping to read an article about your college experience in
    the future.
Judging from your pictures, your first choice would be Wellesley,
    and I can totally see why ;)

  • Alanna

    Is Russell Sage College on your list? I’m in my second year at RSC!

    Truth be told, a women’s school DOES have its ups and downs. Your friends are absolutely correct that there is less contact with men. I have never felt this was a problem, but I was acquainted with a few women who transferred to attend classes with men their age.

    RSC is not 100% female despite being a women’s college–we do have a few male theatre majors! Seriously, though, if anyone here needs male companionship, the
    male-dominated Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is but a few blocks away.

    What sets our curriculum apart from co-ed schools (and even our sister school in Albany) are the general education classes that focus on women’s rights and the state of women in the world. There were definitely parts of the required freshman classes I disliked, but in retrospect they were excellent courses. The equivalent class at a co-ed school would only be offered as part of a women’s studies curriculum.

    I like the all-female environment. Male students tend to receive more attention than female students (studies have shown this). For me it is nicer to learn in an environment where that competition is eliminated. I am happy as long as I don’t think about the tuition costs for attending a private school–hello student loans!

    The other college I got accepted into two years ago was Bay Path College, another women’s school. It elicited negative responses from friends and family that both my options were all-female schools. Don’t let it discourage you, though, because your life and education will be just as complete as they would be if you attended a co-ed school!

  • axel

    I currently attend haverford college which is part of a tricollege consortium that includes Bryn Mawr college which as you probably know is one of the seven sisters (where i happen to major haha). Bryn Mawr is a lovely place and i promise you, if you ask the average Haverford student how happy they are with their college experience, social life, classes etc. anything any of them will have to say will pale in comparison to the glowing review you’ll hear from the average Bryn Mawr student. Women’s colleges do wonderful things for young women, I’ve seen it with my own eyes!

  • Runa

    I just graduated from Chatham University, an all-women’s college in Pennsylvania. I loved the people I met there, and I definitely learned a lot about social dynamics and became prouder than ever to consider myself a feminist during my time there.

    Not a school I would recommend to anyone, though, because it’s an organizational disaster. Smith had been my first choice, but I was rejected.

    I think it is interesting how a lot of women’s colleges do have to go co-ed because of financial issues. At Chatham, the graduate school is co-ed, and I have heard that some undergrad departments are also slowly drawing in male students.

    I think what really helped me was that Chatham is in the middle of a huge city, so even though it was really easy to get sucked into the so-called “Chatham bubble”, in two minutes you could be off campus with a bustling public transport system and a huge city full of people and opportunities to explore.

  • Sung C.

    I went to Scripps College in California and it was a transformative experience, albeit a bit heavy on the overprivilege (as is the case with most private colleges). So much of who I am today as a woman came from my experience at women’s college, and Scripps in particular. I’d hate for women’s higher education to end in the US like it has in the UK (I think there’s only one left now).

    Best of luck to you! I recommend formulating a snazzy comeback to those comments from friends and acquaintances, you may be getting them for quite awhile.

  • Ariela

    I go to Mount Holyoke College (if you’re considering it, you should keep looking into it because it is fabulous) and I was definitely one of those people who thought that I would not end up at a woman’s college. But now that I’m there, I couldn’t be happier that it’s where I ended up. It truly is an incredibly valuable experience.

    An all-women’s college allows women to gain the confidence and expectation that they can do anything, because at the school they are the ones doing EVERYTHING. When you get out into the real world there is no mental block about certain jobs or activities being for men only because you are constantly encouraged and given opportunities without consideration to gender. All of my classes have included a perspective into women’s roles in the respective subjects, which has been fascinating because it is a side that is generally ignored. It is incredibly empowering to be surrounded by women who are achieving and doing incredible things with their lives and who completely understand where you are coming from because they too are women.

    If you want to meet guys, there are ways to find guys. And certainly an all women’s college is not the experience for everyone. But if you are the least bit interested, it can be invaluable.

  • Honey

    I attend Cambridge University in the UK, and I attend one of the remaining all girls colleges there. I don’t think I would have gone to university had that option not been available. I was so shy, and scared after previous experiences with men, that living with a group of them terrified me.

    The environment is so supportive, friendly and welcoming. I can’t imagine going anywhere else!

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