Benefits Of Attending A Women's College

Numerous studies show that graduates of women's colleges achieve higher rates of success than their counterparts at coeducational institutions.

Did you know that despite the fact that only 2.5 percent of the women attending college attend women's colleges, their graduates account for 24 percent of our U.S. Congress members and one third of the female board members of Fortune 1000 companies? Considering the rough start women's colleges got, that's impressive.

In the mid- to late-1800s, when all-male colleges refused to open their doors to women, women opened their own colleges. It wasn't easy. Resistance to women's education was rampant. Opponents argued that such colleges could not prepare women for professions or deliver the high quality of education that men's institutions did. Further, women's ability to meet the rigors of academic study, due to their biology, was called into question. Many thought that overstudy would give women brain fever.

All protest aside, supporters won out over adversaries and since the founding of women's colleges students and graduates of those institutions have thrived""academically, professionally, and even physically. Not one case of brain fever due to overstudy has ever been reported.

In fact, numerous studies show that graduates of women's colleges achieve higher rates of success than their counterparts at coeducational institutions. There are a number of reasons for this""reasons a young woman might want to be aware of when making her college decision.

According to the Women's College Coalition, research shows that students attending a women's college enjoy these five benefits:

1. They are given the opportunity to participate more, in and out of class, due to small class sizes which create a more positive learning experience because of greater individual attention.

2. They have measurably higher levels of self-esteem than other achieving women in coeducational institutions""9 out of 10 women's college graduates give their colleges high marks for fostering and developing self-confidence.

3. They get greater satisfaction than their coed counterparts from their college experience academically, developmentally, and personally.

4. They are more likely to graduate, and more than twice as likely as graduates of coeducational colleges to earn doctoral degrees and to enter medical school.

5. They earn more after graduation because they often choose traditionally male disciplines, like the sciences, as their academic major, in greater numbers. Women's colleges continue to graduate women in math and the sciences at 1.5 times the rate of coed institutions.

Initially, the primary objective of women's colleges was to train women to be better wives and mothers. But as women became more educated, their roles broadened and women's colleges evolved to prepare them for their changing domain.

These institutions went from emphasizing the expectation that "a woman's place is in the home" to the expectation that "a woman's place is anywhere she wants it to be," including places once occupied by males only. And, based on the five measures above, students are meeting the expectations being held up for them by women's colleges.

But there are other advantages that go deeper than academics and beyond the scope of quantitative evaluation. Andrea Lee, IHM, is the president of the College of St. Catherine in St. Paul, Minnesota, the nation's largest women's college. She credits these colleges with helping women to thrive in ways that they probably wouldn't at a coeducational campus. "[Women's colleges] give women the opportunity to look through multiple lenses at themselves as women and develop a deeper sense of themselves as human beings and what that's going to mean in their lives," said Lee.

"By allowing women to take their ability and talent and shape it through education gives them power and an economic base. It gives them voice. It gives them a chance to participate and shape the decisions that affect their lives in many ways.

"They will come out of here with a first rate education and a real sense of personal power, as well as a sense of responsibility to use that power constructively. That doesn't mean that those things can't happen in coeducational institutions, but the likelihood of it happening [at a women's college] is pretty high."

There are 78 women's colleges in the United States. To make a cyber campus visit to almost any one of them, log onto the Women's Colleges web site to see the opportunities they offer.

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