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The Pros and Cons of Attending a Women’s College

If you think women's colleges are a thing of the past, think again. While the number of women-only institutions has fallen from the heydays of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, there are still dozens of active women's colleges in the US, many of which carry prestigious academic reputations. So what are the pros and cons of choosing a single-sex education? Read on to find out more about women's only colleges.

Sep 6, 2023
  • Student Tips
The Pros and Cons of Attending a Women’s College

What do Gloria Steinem, Nora Ephron, Diane Sawyer, and Hillary Clinton all have in common? They all graduated from women’s colleges. Female-only education in the US has a long history stretching back to the teaching seminaries of the nineteenth century, and at a time when women were rarely allowed to matriculate at universities, institutions like Bryn Mawr, Vassar, and Wellesley were havens for women seeking higher education. But women's colleges aren't limited to the Seven Sisters, nor did they fade away once colleges and universities became inclusive in the twentieth century. So why should you consider enrolling in a women’s college? Here are the pros and cons.

Pros:

1. Expand your career options

Career choice options - student thinking of future

A large percentage of women’s college evolved from early nineteenth-century teaching seminaries, but it’s been a long time since women-only education was limited to teaching and art history. Modern women’s colleges offer a wide range of programs and degrees, and graduates from women’s colleges work in every sector and field. Women’s colleges also give students the opportunity to study and learn from exceptional women, which means that whether you’re studying psychology or physics, you’ll work with women who excel in their field.


2. Explore Unique programs

Six Teenage Girls Celebrating Successful Exam Results

Many women’s colleges are liberal arts institutions, but individual schools provide unique programs and often have a specific focus. Some students gravitate to women’s colleges because they create bespoke programs that cater to women’s issues or learning styles. Other schools work to encourage women in fields like entrepreneurship or engineering.


3. Enjoy high standards

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If you want the benefits of a small, liberal-arts college with the reputation of an Ivy League, then you should consider a women’s college. Some colleges, like those in the renowned Seven Sisters, are as well highly regarded as much larger, co-ed schools. And many women’s colleges partner with other colleges and universities, which gives students even greater access to resources, classes, and other programs. The bonus? Although some women’s colleges are highly ranked and competitive, they often have higher rates of acceptance than co-ed institutions.

Cons:

1. Limited male competition

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As you may expect, women’s colleges are (for the most part) for women, which means that your entire class cohort will be female. This has its benefits (see above), but some women’s college graduates worry that they’ll be ill-prepared for co-ed workplace dynamics and male competition in the workforce. If you want the benefits of a women’s college but are concerned that the single-sex environment will be detrimental to your education or career prospects, you could consider a women’s college that allows male applicants. Or do like many women’s college graduates and seek out a male mentor in your field.

2. Less-active social life

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Of course, one of the biggest differences between women’s colleges and co-ed institutions is in the social scene. For some women, the prospect of a single-sex environment seems very limiting for socialization and romantic prospects, and contrary to popular belief, women’s colleges aren’t an automatic hook-up for lesbian and bisexual women either. Women’s colleges tend to be less party-oriented than traditional co-ed institutions, but that doesn’t mean that single-sex schools are completely devoid of social interaction. What women’s colleges lack in the heterosexual dating scene is often made up for by the close-knit network of women that graduates establish during their studies.