Women’s colleges often offer classes that can’t be found at a typical co-ed university.
Ladies, would you ever consider attending a college void of men?
In high school, Rebecca Collins, 21, said she was “the last person in the world” anyone expected to go to a women’s college.
But after three years at Philadelphia’s Moore College of Art & Design — the first and only women’s arts school in the nation — she is very happy that she did the unexpected.
“I think maybe there’s a stigma with any women’s college, that it’s a man-hating, bra-burning place, but it’s not like that at all,” said Collins, a fashion and design student. “It just puts you in an environment where you’re a lot more focused on what you’re learning and your future career.”
Women’s colleges have held a long-standing and respected tradition in the United States. The Sisters colleges — Barnard, Bryn Mawr, Smith, Mount Holyoke, and Wellesley — are highly selective liberal arts women’s colleges, often compared to Ivy League institutions.
Founded between 1837 and 1889, in order to offer “women the same rigorous educational opportunities being provided to men,” these women’s colleges may be viewed by some as irrelevant in 2012; many women never even consider applying to them.
But before you count the possibility out, consider this:
There are more men on and around campus than you might think
Most women’s colleges have affiliations with other surrounding co-ed universities, allowing men to take classes at a women’s college, and vice versa.
Barnard, for example, is affiliated with Columbia University. So students can enjoy the intimacy of a small, liberal arts college, while having the chance to take classes and meet students from a much larger, Ivy League institution.
Christina Perry Sampson, 25, graduated from Barnard in 2009 and said she never found it difficult to meet male friends, especially because the college is located in New York City.
Collins also said because her college is also in a big city, she never felt isolated by women.
“I go to Temple to party, I have friends at Penn and I go to Penn State a lot,” she said.
At Bryn Mawr, students can take classes for credit at Swarthmore or Haverford, which are only a short distance away from the women’s college.
And at Mount Holyoke and Smith, women can take classes at Hampshire College, UMass Amherst and Amherst, which are all part of the Five College Consortium in western Massachusetts.
You can stay focused on your academics and experience unique academic opportunities
Collins said her decision to attend Moore College had little to do with the fact that it was a women’s college, and much to do with the fact that it combined art, design and business all into its fashion program — and that was exactly what she was looking for.
She said the school is very career-minded, and the non-male atmosphere helps students focus on their goals and their academics.
“While it’s very competitive, it’s not catty competitive,” Collins said. “Other people support you and are happy for your successes, which makes you work harder.”
When Alexandra Norton transferred form New York University to Bryn Mawr, she also wasn’t specifically looking to go to a women’s college. Norton, 24, who graduated in 2009, just wanted to find a smaller college closer to home, and Bryn Mawr ended up being the right fit.
She said there were many classes that “catered to women” that probably couldn’t be found at a typical co-ed university.
For a final project in one of her courses at Bryn Mawr, “two girls stripped completely naked and swapped clothes,” making a statement about representations, Norton said.
That’s a presentation that could probably only be found in a classroom full of women!
It’s a different classroom environment
After graduating from Mount Holyoke in 2009, Sarah Rowley said she was “shocked” at what she witnessed in one of her graduate school classes: All of the men were sitting in the first two rows of the classroom, while all the women were sitting in the back.
Coincidence or not, Rowley, 25, said her classes at Montclair State University were difficult to adjust to after four years at Mount Holyoke.
“It’s a completely different atmosphere than a co-ed classroom,” Rowley said. “When I was in a co-ed class, the girls never really talked. You didn’t even really notice it until you were in an all-women’s environment.”
Rowley raved about her experience at Mount Holyoke and said from the minute she stepped on campus, it felt like “home.”
But women’s colleges may not be for everyone. The only way to know for sure is to take a visit, Rowley said.
“Listen to your gut,” she said. “When you step on that college campus for tour, if you feel uncomfortable, you’re going to feel uncomfortable going to school there.”
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