Even though women's colleges provide an amazing environment where young women thrive, these colleges are often overlooked for one of two reasons. Sometimes, college-bound high school girls don't realize that a single-sex college option exists; and when they do, many buy into the various myths about women's colleges that ensure these colleges remain on their "do-not-consider list."
Although a women's college is not for everyone, I simply can't accept the myth that women's colleges are no longer relevant or that young girls are not interested in attending one. Having graduated from a women's college many years ago, I thought I might be out of touch with today's high school girls, so I decided to contact incoming college students to see why they decided to attend one. Their response was overwhelming. And my hunch is correct. Teenage girls are passionate, excited, and thrilled about choosing a women's college for their higher education.
Consider Jenni Miller. She selected Stephens College, and here is why she chose a women's college:
I learned about my college, Stephens, before I really looked into women's colleges. I knew they existed but never thought about going to one. When I began considering them, I was more worried what my classmates would say about me choosing an "all girls school" than I was actually attending one. It was when I started looking into what Stephens offered that I realized I wouldn't be attending an all girls school but a women's college. Where I'm going, women are strong and opinionated, and that's okay.
On the first visit I could already feel the support being given. The students at a women's college don't care about what you're wearing or what state you're from; they care about who you are as a person and intellectual. I've never felt judged while walking around campus, and I've never had to worry that I won't fit in. My friends like to joke that I'll never see boys and that I'll become a crazy feminist, but I'm not worried about any of that. Education is something I value, and I know that by choosing a women's college I won't be pushed to the back burner for leadership opportunities and that when I graduate I will be standing alongside some of the strongest and most driven women in the country. The bottom line is that I wanted an institution that would give me the chance to focus on my education and future career, and Stephens does just that.
Briana McCall decided upon Sweet Briar College; she says:
I never decided that I wanted to attend to a women's college; I decided I wanted to attend Sweet Briar College. My riding instructor, Sarah Stanton, first introduced me to the school. As a little girl I thought that the school was unreachable and amazing. Then I started to get older and figured that I really wouldn't want to go to a women's college. I wasn't mature enough to realize the benefits of a women's college. I went through the "ew a women's college" stage in Jr. High. I grew out of it in high school. Many girls as juniors and seniors are stuck in that same stage I was in when they begin their college search. A women's college is not for everyone, but often high school girls are too close minded to consider it at all.
Allison Chi-Tsen Wu will be attending Smith College, and she says:
Initially I wasn't even considering a women's college. It wasn't until I heard Smith students and professors discuss the advantages of an all-women's education that I reconsidered.
I told a Smith professor that I didn't have any problem speaking up in classes with guys and therefore didn't think I needed an all-female classroom. The professor said she understood and that I might be interested in studies that showed men spoke the majority of the time in a normal conversation between men and women even though both the men and the women thought the time was equal! This made me realize there really could be a different dynamic if a classroom was all-female.
Jocelyn Mosman decided to attend a co-ed college until she visited Mount Holyoke College and explains:
I found myself falling in love with the Mount Holyoke campus and community. It was exactly what I was looking for in a college campus. Every person, whether it was a teacher, staff member, or student, was very friendly and encouraging. The winning factor, however, was the students I was able to meet. All of the women at Mount Holyoke welcomed me with open arms, even before I was accepted. I decided at that point that I belonged in that community, where women were allowed to build each other up instead of being torn down by social standards.
I'm glad I took the time to understand what's motivating the incoming class of 2017 because these young girls are simply amazing -- they have big dreams and high expectations. They're bright, creative, and passionate; they want to connect deeply with the college they attend and with who they are before they embrace a career. They intuitively know they must first get to know who they are in an environment where women are the focus -- one without the typical co-ed distractions. They're looking for both high-quality education and a supportive environment. They know that college is not just a learning institution, but a giving, supportive community. They are seeking leadership opportunities in college. They realize that a women's college will give them an enhanced learning experience.
Women's colleges prepare women for various occupations from accountants to zoologists, as well as leadership roles in society; they also serve as springboards for pursuing advanced degrees. If you're a high school girl who's thinking about going to college, I encourage you to consider women's colleges; perhaps you too will be pleasantly surprised after a campus visit. For a listing of women's colleges within the Unites States, see the list on my blog.
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