Should You Attend An All-Women’s College? I Did!
People are always shocked when I tell them that I go to a women’s college! Typically they raise their eyebrows, look at me like I’m crazy, and judgingly follow up with: “Why?” For some reason, there’s a stigma around women’s colleges that has been around for years, and its deterring young women from even considering them during their college search. I would know; I believed it and almost let it keep me from my dream school! In fact, when I was a senior in high school, my current school (Sweet Briar College) sent me a promotional card in the mail. I took one look at it, told my parents, “Oh it’s an all-girl’s school? Gross, I’m not going there!” and then completely ignored it. It wasn’t until my friend sat me down at a computer and forced me to apply that I even considered it as an option. Once I got over my initial judgment and opened up to the possibility of going to one, I learned about all the wonderful things that women’s colleges have to offer and how they can help develop you into a stronger, more confident woman and a more powerful member of society.
Throughout their lives, men are encouraged to speak their minds, they’re taught that their opinions are valued, and they are constantly involved in important discussion. Meanwhile, women are constantly overlooked, discouraged from speaking up against things, and not taken seriously in an academic setting. In fact, at a large, a co-ed university, male students are called on 80% of the time in class. And according to The Undergraduate Experience in America, a study done by the Carnegie Foundation, “Not only do men talk more than women, but also what they say carries more weight, the professors will make eye contact with men more, ask them more questions, and even remember their names more often than the women.” At a women’s college however, male students are taken out of the picture completely, and female students are always encouraged to participate in class discussions. This gives students a unique opportunity to learn how to express themselves orally, build their confidence, and learn to be assertive.
On top of teaching women to speak up, women’s colleges can also provide more opportunities for leadership positions for women. On large co-ed campuses, men hold 8 out of 10 of the top leadership positions whereas, at a women’s college, 100% of student leadership positions are filled by women. Since they don’t have to compete with their male classmates, students at a women’s college are more likely to put themselves into these positions and acquire the skills and experience that they need to make themselves marketable in the competition for internships and jobs.
Students at women’s colleges are also more likely to be encouraged to go into male-dominated fields like physics, engineering, economics, biochemistry, math, etc. and can be given individual attention and counseling by faculty, deans, and administrators. Since students in these fields are going to be competing with mostly men after graduation, they need to know how to fight for opportunities and feel confident in their abilities. A fully female student population provides them with the opportunity to really hone their skills, feel confident in their abilities, and build a tenacity to pursue goals without the negativity that comes from men dominating the field.
Women’s colleges also provide a unique atmosphere that co-ed institutes can’t. Since the student population is fully made up of women, fun, school-wide traditions are more prevalent, and a unique degree of camaraderie is formed. For example, my school has a tradition where we get together with our class, rewrite the lyrics to popular songs, and sing them to each other. Somehow, I doubt this kind of tradition would be so popular if our students were both male and female. It is this kind of positive interaction between classes that can help students form lasting friendships and a great support network for after college.
After almost four years at Sweet Briar College, I can honestly say that I’ve noticed and experienced all of these aspects of being at a women’s college. Even after my first year, I could see a difference in how I acted, how much more confident I felt, and how much stronger of a leader I had become. I wasn’t as afraid to talk to people, I felt like I knew and understood what I was doing in class, and I just generally felt more positive about myself. Throughout my time at college, I’ve been able to grow out of my initial opinions of women’s colleges, and there has not been a single day where I regretted choosing to attend one. One of the best and most influential decisions I’ve ever made was choosing to attend a women’s college so I could focus on myself and grow my own skills rather than letting societal preconceptions steer me in the wrong direction.
If I had to do my college search again, knowing what I do now, I would absolutely look into more women’s colleges. So if you’re thinking about what colleges to apply to, learn from my mistakes: don’t let other people’s judgements stop you from finding the college that will help reach your highest potential—and most definitely look into women’s colleges!
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Learn More About Sweet Briar College
Established in 1901, Sweet Briar College is a private liberal arts and sciences college for women of consequence. The College’s unique community and campus life foster strength and resilience in every student by surrounding her with excellent faculty, coaches, and staff who challenge her to bring her best self forward—and to own it with confidence, courage, and grit. In 2018, U.S. News & World Report named Sweet Briar among the nation’s Most Innovative Schools.