To be female in the 21st century poses extensive challenges and opportunities. Thousands of young women have made the decision to attend a women’s college to better prepare for the years ahead. Many students report that women’s colleges offer outstanding advantages, including being allowed to develop their “truest self.”
All-female schools once were the only option for young women who wanted higher education. Today, at women’s colleges and universities across the country—private and public, small and large, urban and rural—women are finding an ideal environment for learning and developing. There are approximately 60 colleges for women in the United States; most are liberal arts colleges.
Leaders at the Women’s College Coalition state that at a women’s college, you have the opportunity to be “a risk-taker, a barrier-breaker, a change-maker.”
“The college admissions process is about finding the right fit—the college at which you will succeed both academically and personally,” states Susan E. Lennon, executive director of the Women’s College Coalition. “When looking at colleges, in addition to looking at such criteria as reputation, geographic location, size, and cost, young women need to consider criteria such as leadership opportunities and role models as well as the level of student engagement in academic and out-of-class activities.”
At women’s colleges, students report a strong sense of community, multiple opportunities for leadership, and an emphasis on development.
Important research supports the idea that colleges for women do offer particular advantages. The National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) studied random samples of female first-year and senior students from 26 women’s colleges and 264 other four-year institutions. The survey found that women at single-sex institutions were more engaged in effective educational practices and reported higher levels of feelings of support and greater gains in college.
The best way to determine if an all-female school is right for you is to visit the campus to learn about classroom environment, social life, residence hall life, and more. Make sure you take the opportunity to talk to students currently enrolled—not just the tour guides.
If you decide on a women’s college, you’ll be in good company. Alumnae of colleges for women include Emily Dickinson, Pearl Buck, Katharine Hepburn, Sylvia Plath, Meryl Streep, Gertrude Stein, Alice Walker, Madeleine Albright, Gloria Steinem, Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, Diane Sawyer, Sofia Coppola, and Barbara Walters, and thousands of other accomplished women in all fields.