Although single-sex colleges have been around since the origin of universities, currently only about 2 percent of women in America attend women’s colleges. But graduates of women’s colleges make up more than 20 percent of the women in Congress and 30 percent of Businessweek’s list of rising women in corporate America.
So why is it that only a small percentage of students attend these universities? We reached out to representatives at Judson College in Marion, Alabama, who addressed address the pros and cons of attending a single-sex college:
A genuine concern many people have about women’s colleges is a lack of gender diversity and the thought that women won’t be able to meet, mix and mingle with men.
Ashlyn Lane, senior class president at Judson, addressed this common misconception: “While you are here, you do not have to worry about impressing a guy. You can focus on your own personal growth, so that when you leave Judson, you are the woman God created you to be. We have plenty of opportunities to be around the opposite sex, but I assure you, you will love the time to focus on the woman that you want to become.”
Did You Know?
There are 51 women’s colleges, seven of which are Ivy League sister schools known as “The Seven Sisters.”
“There’s something powerful about being a student at a college that you feel was created for you and puts your needs first,” said Susan Jones, Dean of Students at Judson and a 2002 alumna.
When compared to other women who attended a liberal arts or public university, a study from Hardwick-Day, Inc., showed that women who attend women’s colleges develop about 20 percent more self-confidence, are 20 percent more prepared for their first job, and 30 percent more of these students earn their degrees in four years or less.
Students who attend single-sex colleges seem to have an advantage by having their educational experience tailored to meet their needs and by learning how they can succeed as a woman in a fierce job market.
To find out if a women’s college is right for you, pay the school a visit and thoroughly research each institution.
Hillary Clinton, Joan Rivers and Meryl Streep all attended women’s colleges. And so did the first female president of Harvard University (Drew Faust), the chairwoman and CEO of MTV Networks (Judith McGrath) and former Deputy Managing Editor of Time (Priscilla Painton).
“First” Women graduates of women’s colleges:
• Madeleine Albright - First Woman Secretary of State
• Nancy Pelosi - First Woman Speaker of the House
• Katharine Graham - First Woman Fortune 500 CEO
4 Reasons to Consider Women's Colleges
Women’s colleges typically have significantly lower sexual harassment or assault issues than their co-ed counterparts. Meredith College for instance, had no such reports in the last three years. Converse College has “virtually eliminated all crime on campus” with the exception of a few incidents of theft in recent years.
2. Academic Challenge
Studies show that classrooms with only women produce more active learning, higher order thinking and more academic challenge. Students at women’s colleges report more interaction with faculty, and they are more likely to earn their PhD than their co-ed counterparts.
Women’s colleges are steeped in tradition, honoring the history of the institution and legacy of their graduates. For example, since 1915, Judson College students, faculty, staff and alumnae have participated in Rose Sunday, a special worship service held at the beginning of each fall semester. “We all walk together down the street to Siloam Baptist Church, where the founders of Judson College worshipped. Seniors, wearing their caps and gowns and red roses, march through an ivy chain woven together by the freshmen. Each year, as I watch seniors teaching the new students how to weave the ivy chain and explaining the meaning of the tradition, I am reminded of how lucky I am to be part of a long line of women that have gone before me and that I get to be part of the lives of the women who will come after me,” Susan Jones said.
Students and alumnae of women’s colleges celebrate the unique bond of sisterhood they share from their time learning and growing together. “During sophomore year, Agnes Scott hosts a ring ceremony where every sophomore gets a ring with a black onyx. We call it the Black Ring Sisterhood, so it’s pretty cool when we see someone with that ring because we know they went to Agnes Scott, too,” said Kim Vickers, Senior Director of Alumnae at Agnes Scott and ‘87 alumna.
Power Players Athletes Excel at Women’s Colleges
Students that attend women’s colleges don’t have to pass up their athletic dreams. Plenty of women’s colleges have sizable athletic departments that include traditional women’s basketball, softball, soccer, cross country, golf, cheerleading and volleyball teams. Some even offer equestrian, swimming, tennis and dancing programs.
Did You Know?
Judson College established Alabama’s first Equine Science program, and started its Equestrian program, well-known for its Western and Hunt Seat Teams, in the 1920s.
Did You Know?
Participating in an athletic program at a women’s college has its benefits. Sports Illustrated for Women once named the following women’s colleges as among the best colleges for female athletes to attend:
• Hobart and William Smith
Colleges (Geneva, NY)
• Barnard College
(New York, NY)
• Mount Holyoke College
(South Hadley, MA)