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Sisterhood and Success: Exploring Women's Colleges

Jamie Kirby March 01, 2024

Womens Colleges

In 2019, for Women’s History Month, we explored women’s colleges in our blog post Is a Women’s College Right for You?

Five years later, much has changed in the world, but women’s colleges continue to be a strong option for students. Join us as we revisit the benefits and explore 5 women’s colleges that we love.

As we noted in our earlier post, a number of impressive women have graduated from women’s colleges:

So, aside from a list of pretty impressive graduates, what are some of the things that continue to make these schools special?

Academic and Career Opportunities

Women's colleges often have a strong focus on academic excellence and provide resources and support tailored to women's academic and career goals. A classroom atmosphere that’s not co-ed often allows for greater participation, less inhibition, and increased academic challenges. With typically smaller class sizes, women's colleges can offer more personalized attention and support from faculty and staff.

Focus on Women's Issues and Perspectives

Women's colleges often offer a curriculum that highlights women's contributions and addresses gender inequalities, providing a more inclusive educational experience. By providing an environment that promotes gender equality and empowerment, women's colleges prepare students to thrive in a diverse and ever-changing world. 

Safe and Inclusive Environment

Women’s colleges can offer a safer and more inclusive environment for women, free from some of the challenges and distractions that can be present in coeducational settings. That’s not to say that there aren’t any male students on these campuses. Many all-women’s colleges belong to consortiums of schools that allow cross-registration and social opportunities. Some schools also admit men on a graduate level.

Empowerment and Leadership Opportunities

Women's colleges often provide a supportive environment where women can develop leadership skills and build confidence without gender biases. The expectation is that in the all-women’s environment, students will step up and take chances they might not if competing in a co-ed situation. The Women’s College Coalition notes that alumnae of all-women’s colleges are almost twice as likely to complete a graduate degree as those from co-ed public universities. 

Sense of Community and Networking

As all-women’s college graduates go out into the world, many speak of the benefits of having alumnae networks to obtain post-grad and job opportunities. A continual theme of these schools is how the environment inspires tight-knit groups of friends, creating a lifelong network of supportive peers and mentors.

While there are fewer than 40 women’s colleges remaining in the United States - compared to a peak of over 280 schools in the 1960's - they continue to be a popular choice. For those seeking a unique opportunity to advance in an all-women’s environment, these schools could be the right fit.

Here are 5 women’s colleges we love:

  • Agnes Scott College (Decatur, GA).  One of the Colleges that Change Lives, Agnes Scott offers a rigorous academic program with a focus on empowering women to become leaders in their communities and professions. The college is known for its strong commitment to diversity, inclusion, and global engagement, providing students with opportunities for experiential learning, research, and internships. The SUMMIT program is an innovative approach to the core curriculum disbursed throughout students’ four years.  Agnes Scott's campus is renowned for its historic architecture and beautiful gardens, providing a picturesque backdrop for a vibrant academic community.

  • Barnard College (New York, NY).  At Barnard, students benefit from a college experience that offers small, intimate classes in a collaborative environment dedicated to women, along with access to the vast academic resources of Columbia University, just across the street.  Barnard has a reputation for academic excellence and a commitment to empowering women in a rigorous and inclusive environment. The college offers a wide range of programs and majors, with a focus on the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences. Barnard's location in the heart of Manhattan provides students with unique opportunities for internships, research, and cultural experiences, contributing to a vibrant and diverse campus community.  

  • Mount Holyoke College (South Hadley, MA). Mount Holyoke College is the oldest member of the Seven Sisters colleges, a group of prestigious women's colleges in the Northeast. In 2014, it became the first member of the Seven Sisters (other than Vassar College, which is now co-ed) to introduce an admissions policy that was inclusive of transgender students.* Mount Holyoke is known for its strong academic programs, particularly in the fields of science, mathematics, and international relations. The college is committed to diversity and inclusion, and its campus boasts a rich cultural and intellectual environment. With a focus on empowering women to lead and excel, Mount Holyoke offers a wide range of opportunities for research, experiential learning, and personal growth.

  • Saint Mary’s College (Notre Dame, IN). St. Mary's College is a Catholic women's college. St. Mary's offers a wide range of undergraduate programs in liberal arts, sciences, and pre-professional fields, and students can participate in clubs and activities on both the St. Mary’s and Notre Dame campuses. The college is known for its strong sense of community, commitment to social justice, and emphasis on leadership development. With a focus on empowering women to become leaders in their fields, St. Mary's provides a supportive and enriching environment for academic and personal growth.

  • Spelman College (Atlanta, GA). Spelman College is one of only two all-women, Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). Spelman is dedicated to academic excellence in the liberal arts and sciences and is committed to empowering women of African descent to become global leaders and change agents. With a focus on social justice and community service, Spelman provides a supportive and intellectually stimulating environment for its students, emphasizing leadership development, critical thinking, and cultural awareness.

Explore additional women’s colleges through the Women’s College Coalition Search Page.

*A Note Regarding Transgender Students at Women’s Colleges:

As of the writing of this post, there are 23 women’s colleges that have formal policies stating that they will admit transgender students...though perhaps not ALL transgender students.  If you are interested in learning more about policies at specific institutions, check out this piece on Campus Pride

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Tagged: college admission, Women's College, single-gender, Jamie Kirby

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