I have always liked Barnard for various reasons including great academics and small class sizes in an urban setting but it once again reminded me of what a great choice the women’s colleges can be for the right student. The problem is that the right student often refuses to even consider colleges like Barnard simply because it is an all women’s college.
Contrary to popular believe, women’s colleges are not meant for the mild and meek female student who is seeking an escape from reality. Most of the women I have met who attend all women’s colleges are in fact very strong willed and focused on their education.
In fact the evidence of studies of women at co-ed colleges compared to all women’s colleges show that women at single sex colleges tend to be more engaged and more likely to engage in higher level thinking than women at other colleges. For more information about the documented benefits take a look at the womenscolleges consortium.
I can hear you right now saying “but I want to be where there are guys around.” Fair enough. Do you know that the majority of women’s colleges have a close relationship with a co-ed college? Many women’s colleges have men on campus taking classes on a regular basis. Besides Barnard’s relationship with Columbia there is Bryn Mawr with complete cross registration with Harverford, and Smith and Mount Holyoke with cross registration with Amherst, U Mass Amherst and Hampshire. And this is just the tip of the iceberg.
Besides getting a great education with a focus on women’s needs, the admissions rates to most of the women’s colleges is substantially easier than for comparable quality co-ed institutions. The reason is obvious. First, half of the college going population can’t apply to the women’s colleges. Second, even the women who can apply often don’t because of their failure to understand the benefits of these colleges.
Let me tell you a quick story about my oldest daughter who I encouraged to at least consider several all women’s colleges. She flatly refused despite my best efforts. Several years later our family was visiting Smith College with my younger daughter. After the tour my oldest daughter, at that point a junior at a co-ed college, admitted that if she had visited the campus before she applied to college she may very well have applied to Smith.
Give the all women’s colleges a chance. You never know when you might just find out that your perceptions need to be changed.