Until the 1960s, the United States was home to over 200 women’s colleges. Today, less than 40 remain, a statistic that suggests single-sex colleges are on the brink of extinction.

Despite what this dramatic 80% drop implies, the few remaining women’s colleges have sustained a steady rise in application numbers in recent years, a fact that can be attributed to their reputation for offering forward thinking, cutting-edge educational experiences. To help you gauge the value of women’s colleges, here are 8 reasons why these institutions deserve your attention in the college search:

    1. Women’s colleges offer an empowering learning environment and better outcomes. In an environment dominated by women, the psychology, language and attitudes are firmly fixed on women, their achievements, their leadership, etc. Most of the teachers are women, every leadership position is filled by women, and the valedictorian year after year are all women. As such, the general ethos is to support women in achieving their greatest potential, and research shows that students at women’s colleges are more likely to graduate in four years than those at co-ed colleges.
    2. Women’s colleges tend to be smaller institutions with less than 3,000 students. This translates to more meaningful interactions with professors, alumni, administrators, and peers, and often results in relationships that last a lifetime.
    3. The applicant pool for most of these colleges is smaller than similarly sized co-educational colleges, making admissions less competitive. For instance, Wellesley College had an acceptance rate of 16% in 2021 compared to similarly sized and ranked Bowdoin College’s 9% and Swarthmore College’s 7% acceptance rates in the same year.
    4. Many women’s colleges have partnerships with other nearby educational institutions allowing students to take classes in co-educational environments, like Bryn Mawr College’s partners Haverford College, Swarthmore College and the University of Pennsylvania, and Scripps College and the Claremont College Consortium (made up of Claremont McKenna, Harvey Mudd, Pitzer and Pomona colleges). Students not only have access to subjects not found at their college but this also provides them with more diverse social opportunities. Many women’s colleges are also members of The Women’s College Coalition (WCC) which conducts extensive research, hosts admissions advocacy programs, and encourages these institutions to collaborate and explore issues in higher education
    5. Women’s colleges emphasize leadership and design their core curriculum to support the development of these skills. These colleges have adapted a wide range of programs and degrees to women’s learning styles with particular focus on topical women’s issues. Students are strongly encouraged to excel in their fields of interest and, as a result, women

coming out of these institutions have the reputation of breaking glass ceilings in their chosen careers. In fact, alumni from women’s colleges are well represented in corporate boards, halls of Congress and other significant positions of authority and leadership. For example, first woman Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, a graduate of Wellesley College and the inventor of the FORMAC programming language, Jean E Sammet, a graduate of Mount Holyoke College.

  1. Graduates of women’s colleges typically have a strong connection with their alma maters giving current students the opportunity to benefit from their experiences. This is evidenced by their high alumni giving rates (percentage of graduates that donate to their alma mater). In addition to donating, it is common practice for the alumni to support current students and recent graduates with internship opportunities, mentorship, and career guidance.

  2. Research done by the Women’s College Coalition
    shows that women graduating from women’s colleges are statistically more likely to earn their PhDs, attend medical school and achieve degrees in mathematics and hard science, especially compared to women in co-educational schools who started their college careers with similar intentions. Women’s college students are also more likely to major in non-traditional fields or those most commonly dominated by men, such as STEM subjects.
  3. Women’s colleges tend to have diverse student bodies. Most women’s colleges have representation from across the 50 states as well as from around the world with significant portions of the student body identifying themselves as students of color. Additionally, despite the exclusivity the term “women’s college” suggests, these colleges have adapted their admissions processes to include individuals who identify themselves as part of the LGBTQ+ community. These colleges pride themselves in providing socially-progressive, welcoming, safe spaces for various gender identities.

Women’s colleges are often on the receiving end of heavy criticism that undermines their credibility as educational institutions. Critics claim that the students attending these institutions are not gaining realistic experiences to prepare them for life because the real world is not made up of a female majority. Despite this regularly shared condemnation of women’s colleges, these institutions hold strong to the belief that their students graduate armed with a stronger sense of self-worth and more confidence to take on the world around them. With the number of successful women’s college graduates involved in politics, commerce, and various medical and academic disciplines, it may be hard to argue with that!

As always, we recommend doing your research and reaching out to discuss your interests and options. You can start by checking out this firsthand account from our student attending Barnard College, a highly-selective women’s college with close ties to Columbia University. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you would like to learn more about women’s colleges.