Seize Your Advantage: Study at a US University

by Jilly Warner, College Goals’ Counselor

If you take a deep breath when someone asks you where you are from; if you report the temperature in Celsius and the distance in kilometers; if you have friends from over 20 different countries, then chances are, you are a Third Culture Kid!

Being a TCK is cool, especially in the world of US higher education.  With a more than 40% increase in international students in the US now as compared with 10 years ago, and admissions officers who understand educational systems from schools all over the globe, US universities have truly embraced an international outlook.  How does this benefit a TCK?  Considering that almost every US college has experienced a significant uptick in the number of international students on their campuses, and given that most TCKs may have lived in many foreign countries, the result is a rich, diverse, interesting and more familiar environment for their college years.

Third Culture Kids are likely to have one or two American parents who experienced a US college education at a time when the application process was very different.  Now, there are more details to manage, more requirements and regulations to understand, more important documents to gather and all is now handled online.  US parents living overseas may find their child’s school doesn’t offer university admission counseling to students applying outside that country and students may feel lost in the process.

Because of these challenges, more US students living overseas and wishing to return ‘home’ to the US for college are seeking the guidance of an independent college counselor for the college search and application process, which takes a year or more.  These professionals offer a broad array of knowledge, resources and experiences upon which to draw, all perfectly designed to support both family and student eager to enter the exciting world of higher education in the US.

Gaining admission to a top US university is now far more competitive.  Overseas students with a US passport bring a wealth of global knowledge and international insights that resonate with colleges today.  These dynamic young people may be considering colleges in the UK, Europe or the US.  What’s the big distinction?

Choice is the difference!  Most young people enter college unclear about their academic paths and career destinations.  As a college student in America, they have the joy of being exposed to multiple options and students with diverse interests.  They benefit from the guidance of faculty and professional advisors who want them to succeed and help them find their own academic passion, even if that means they change their minds a few times.  Whether emerging from a liberal arts college or a pre-professional program, graduates of US colleges are very successful in both job placement and graduate school admissions.

So consider coming ‘home’ to the US for college, and consider the services of a professional counselor to smooth the pathway.  Carefully check credentials and experience before making that important selection but get started as soon as possible.  College Goals provides a full range of services from highly experienced professionals.  To understand our goals, values and skills, check us out online and on Facebook.

Fall 2013 College Fairs

We have compiled information on several College Tour groups and College Fairs traveling during Fall 2013.  Please click on the links to find out if a school you are interested in will be traveling to an area near you.

Also, please be sure to check with your school college admission counselor, your local newspaper, or the admission offices of colleges that interest you to find out if, when and where a representative may be presenting information at a College Fair that may take place in an area near you.

1. NACAC Fall 2013 National College Fair

Parents and students participating in the free National College Fairs meet one-on-one with representatives from colleges and universities to discuss admission and financial aid opportunities at their respective institutions.  Fairs will be held between September 15 and November 14 in the following states: AL, MN, IL, WI, OH, IN, LA, CO, NY, FL, AZ, MO, ID, OR, WA, DC, MD, and NJ.  Check the website for the specific schedule.  Register before the fair to make the most of your time onsite and ensure that colleges can follow up with you.   (http://www.gotomyncf.com/Registration/EventSelectForState?stateName=All)

2. Coast to Coast College Tour, Fall 2013

Dartmouth College, Northwestern University, Princeton University, University of California-Berkeley, and Vanderbilt University collaborate on a series of events across the country designed to educate students and parents on selective admission, financial aid, and the common admission philosophy shared among the five institutions.  Students and parents are encouraged to take this opportunity to speak informally with admission representatives as well as to explore the defining characteristics of each school. This tour takes place between August 25 and October 3 in the following states: TX, LA, AZ, TN, CO, AL, OR, NC, WA, SC, ID, GA.  Click on the link (http://www.coasttocoasttour.org) to register.

3.  Colleges That Change Lives

Each Colleges That Change Lives program begins with a 30-minute panel presentation on completing a college search today, sharing the latest research on specific campus characteristics and learning components that lead to the most successful college experience.  Immediately after the panel presentation, the college fair begins, lasting approximately 1.5 hours. Students and families will be able to collect information from and speak directly with admission representatives from the colleges and universities that inspired noted education reporter and former New York Times education editor Loren Pope to write the book Colleges That Change Lives.  The program schedule and locations for 2014 will be posted on the website (http://www.ctcl.org/events/programs) early in the new year.

4.  The Claremont Colleges Information Sessions

The Claremont Colleges will host an information session by admission representatives from Claremont McKenna, Harvey Mudd, Pitzer, Pomona, and Scripps Colleges. Admission officers will discuss the benefits of attending each individual college, as well as the advantages of participating in one of the strongest and most cohesive college consortia in the nation.  The program will include a media presentation, individual college information presentations, a general question-and-answer session, and time at the end of the program for you to speak individually with each college.  Check the website (http://www.cmc.edu/admission/ccr.php) in early 2014 for a schedule of Claremont Colleges receptions and registration information.

5.  NACAC Performing and Visual Arts College Fair

Parents and students participating in the free Performing and Visual Arts College Fairs interact with admission representatives from a wide range of post-secondary institutions.  Fairs will be held between September 23 and October 29 in the following states: PA, MA, NY, DC, FL, GA, LA, MI, MO, IL, MN, OH, CO, TX, NV, CA, OR, and WA.  Check the website for the specific schedule.  Register before the fair to make the most of your time onsite and ensure that colleges can follow up with you.  (http://www.gotomypvafair.com/Registration/EventSelectForState?stateName=All&grdSelectEvents-page=1)

6. 2013 College Days/Nights in Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean

The Council of International Schools, AMIDEAST, College Council and The Fulbright Commission have announced the dates of the Autumn 2013 College/University Student Recruitment Events in Europe and The Eastern Mediterranean. These events, each organized by leading non-profit educational organizations, provide opportunities for students to meet with representatives from colleges and universities to discuss the admissions process. Contact the email addresses listed for more information.

Date Name Sponsor Contact for More Information
September 27/28 USA College Day in London The Fulbright Commission collegeday@fulbright.co.uk
September 29 CIS Paris College Day Council of Intl Schools (CIS) tomlepere@cois.org
October 1 Brussels College Night The Fulbright Commission adviser@fulbright.be
October 2 CIS Geneva College Night CIS tomlepere@cois.org
October 3 CIS Zurich College Night CIS tomlepere@cois.org
October 7 Athens US University Fair The Fulbright Commission edadthes@fulbright.gr
October 8 Nicosia US University Fair Cyprus Fulbright Foundation anna@fulbright.org.cy
October 11 American College Fair in Cairo AMIDEAST hal-hawary@amideast.org
October 12 American College Fair in Alexandria AMIDEAST rrateb@amideast.org
October 14 Munich International College Day College Council info@college-council.de
October 16 Berlin International College Day College Council info@college-council.de

7.  Study Life USA

Click on this link for a list of international education fairs taking place during Fall 2013:

http://studyusa.com/blogs/studylifeusa/international-education-fairs-schedule-for-fall-2013/

 

An Introduction to College Goals

COLLEGE GOALS is a highly qualified university admission consulting practice specializing in counseling families interested in higher education opportunities in the United States. We accept both U.S. and international students from around the globe.

Students benefit from the collective knowledge of a veteran Ivy League Associate Dean; two professionals each of whom has worked for more than a decade as associate directors in admission at major American universities, coordinating the review of international applicants; and an educator trained in test preparation with extensive experience in supporting homeschooled and alternatively-educated students, and who advises on college-aware preparation for younger students.

We share our knowledge about every aspect of college admission. Our focus is on our students’ academic success, and on their personal satisfaction.  Our students not only get in, they thrive.  Our Internet and phone-based counseling offers students and parents maximum flexibility and rapid, responsive, personal guidance through every step of their college search and application process.

COLLEGE GOALS is ready to help exceptional young people, from any part of the world, who are eager to take up the challenge of personal and global responsibility that the privilege of an excellent higher education invokes.

Whether your interest is in neuroscience or playwriting, economic modeling or environmentalism, the choices and decisions you will make, shaped by the learning that you are seeking, will influence society and the globe itself.  That is such an awesome privilege and opportunity!

We are here to help you develop and articulate your dreams, and forge a path to build the skills to match your goals.

www.CollegeGoals.com                           info@collegegoals.com                          401-454-4585

Stronger than Barbie: women’s colleges and the education of girls

On the campus of Mills College. Credit elisa_piper via Flickr

On the campus of Mills College. Credit: elisa_piper via Flickr

This week I attended a Share, Learn and Connect meeting arranged by WACAC, the Western Association for College Admission Counseling of which I am a member. The event took place on the lovely campus of Mills College in Oakland, and for many counselors this may have been their first visit to a women’s college. It was not only the beautiful campus that struck many, but also the reminder that women’s colleges like these are still very much alive and thriving. Started in 1852, Mills College has in fact grown up alongside the state of California itself – it claims to be the oldest women’s college west of the Rockies.

 

Women’s colleges were established in the US in the nineteenth century to prepare young women for the roles society thought them fit: as wives, mothers, teachers, and sometimes as social reformers in movements to abolish slavery or promote temperance. Whatever the intent, these colleges helped to expose young women to fields of science, mathematics and law from which they had been excluded (and a commitment to social reform remains very much alive at many). They are scattered across the country, from Scripps in California to Sweet Briar and Mary Baldwin in Virginia.

 

As more educational opportunities opened up for women, however, enrollment at women’s colleges suffered. Yale, Princeton and Harvard became co-educational in the late 1960’s. Women’s colleges faced economic and political pressure to do the same, and indeed many did. California’s Pitzer College became co-educational in 1970. Radcliffe College began a slow merger with Harvard while Vassar, another prominent member of the Seven Sisters colleges, opted to admit men rather than move and merge with Yale.

 

But many other women’s colleges chose the stay the course and adapt. Barnard in New York retained its unique relationship with Columbia University even after the latter began to admit women in 1983. Mills College now has an integrated graduate school. Bryn Mawr has a cooperative relationship with nearby co-educational Haverford; Smith is in the Five College Consortium with surrounding colleges such as Amherst; and Scripps similarly belongs to the Claremont Consortium.

 

Women’s colleges argue that their mission remains as urgent as ever. After all, even where women are increasingly in the majority, they still lag behind in wages and leadership roles – in her 2005 Commencement address to the College of Saint CatherineSusan Lennon pointed out that women in business held most managerial jobs but only 16% of corporate officer roles, 10% of executive roles such as CEO, and only about 5% of top earning jobs. Advocates for women’s colleges argue that such disparities underscore the need for educational experiences that seek to empower young women and foster their leadership skills.

 

Several studies have shown how women’s colleges appear to be delivering the goods:

  • study of data drawn from the National Survey of Student Engagement results found that students at women’s colleges “are advantaged in terms of the nature and frequency with which they engage in educationally purposeful activities and in the progress they make in a variety of desirable outcomes of college.”
  • A longitudinal survey of alumnae perspectives and outcomes, commissioned by the Women’s College Coalition, found that the graduates of women’s colleges are as likely as graduates of other liberal arts colleges to study abroad, find internships and have mentoring relationships with faculty. But the survey showed that alumnae of women’s colleges believe more than alumnae of other liberal arts colleges do, that their college experiences allowed them to develop self-confidence and initiative, be involved in publications or student government (while at co-educational campuses women continue to be underrepresented in campus leadership), be prepared for their first job, and learn to be a leader, solve problems, relate to people of different backgrounds, work as part of a team, write effectively, and be politically or socially aware. They are also more likely to hold graduate degrees.
  • Last year at the NACAC conference presenters of a panel on “How to get your girls to consider women’s colleges,” quoted at length from the work of Linda Sax, author of The Gender Gap in College. Sax shows the different impact that a poor choice of college can have on academic outcomes for boys and girls. In a situation where students feel that the professor does not take them seriously, women students are, for example, far more likely to downgrade their sense of well-being, degree aspirations and math ability.

Women’s colleges are not the most appropriate choice for everyone, but the best argument for attending may simply be the experience of women themselves. As a recent graduate of Mt. Holyoke put it in her posting on this blog, “After months at a women’s college, the first time someone treats you like a ‘chick’ and not as an adult with equal intellectual value, it smarts. Sexism is all the more apparent when you’ve fallen out of the habit.” Or as the t-shirt worn by a young woman on a Mills College poster proclaims, “Smarter than Barbie, Stronger than Ken.”

College Goals is Traveling

College Goals’ Joyce Reed will be traveling and available to meet with current and prospective students and families in several locations around the world!  College Goals’ Andrea van Niekerk and standardized test preparation tutor Karen Berlin Ishii will be joining Joyce in Paris and London.

Los Angeles, CA                          March 19-23, 2013

Joyce will be available to meet with interested families.

Asheville, NC                          March 24-29, 2013

Joyce will be available to meet with interested families.

Zurich, Switzerland              April 4-5, 2013

Joyce will be available to meet with interested families.

Paris, France                          April 10-16, 2013

Joyce, Andrea, and Karen will give the following presentations at The American Church in Paris.  Click on the following link for the Paris information flyer or contact Carolyn Comfort at collegegoalsparis@noos.fr.

Friday, April 12, 7-9 p.m.    Overview of U.S. University Experience and Application Process  (free)

Saturday, April 13, 1:30-4 p.m.   U.S. University Workshop for Parents and Students (25€/family, advanced reservations required)

Joyce and Andrea also will be available April 10-16 to meet privately with students and families interested in higher education opportunities in the United States and working with College Goals through the college admission process.

Karen Berlin Ishii will be available to meet with students and families interested in seeking her assistance with standardized test preparation.

London, England                          April 17-24

Joyce, Andrea, and Karen will give a presentation at Trafalgar Hall, University of Notre Dame, in London.  Click on the following link for the London information flyer.

Saturday, April 20, 2-4 p.m.    Choosing an American University Education (£20/family, advanced reservations required)

Joyce will be available to meet privately with interested families April 17-24 and Andrea will be available April 17-23.  Karen Berlin Ishii will be available to meet with students and families April 17-26.

Washington, DC                          April 27-May 7

Joyce will be available to meet with interested families.

 

To schedule a private meeting with Joyce at any of these locations or with Andrea in Paris or London, please email info@collegegoal.com.  To schedule a meeting with Karen in Paris or London, please email karen@karenberlinishii.com.

College searching: what information matters and why

This summer rising seniors and juniors are actively researching colleges in order to plan trips and identify the schools to which they may want to apply. These are indeed important summer activities, and there is no shortage of resources to use – from college guides like Fiske to online search engines and college websites.

But this flood of resources does not tell students why the information they are gathering, matters.  They read about class size and student to faculty ratios, the number of undergraduates and even graduation rates. But none of this means much unless they also know why all those bits and pieces of information may, or may not, matter to them.  Big school or small, open curriculum or core, college or university, residential or commuter – none of these qualities are necessarily good or bad in the abstract.  Their value derives from whatever a particular young person needs in order to thrive at college.

Here are some of the choices students may consider:

  • Big or small: At larger schools class size usually depends on the level of the course, but at smaller colleges most classes are almost inevitably smaller. To one student class size will make no difference at all to the learning experience; to another, it will mean being deprived of focused attention and mentoring support that he or she needs to do well.  For these students, the presence of an honors college may be important to explore.
  • University or college: While most colleges have no graduate school at all, research universities may have as many graduate students as undergraduates.  For some students, access to the greater research resources of a university (resources necessary to train graduate students), will be very appealing.  But yet another may feel that those graduate students siphon off the university’s attention away from undergraduate teaching.
  • Availability of undergraduate research: Research takes place at all colleges and universities, but students should note how accessible research opportunities are to undergraduates.  In some fields of study, doing research beyond what is required in class may be unusual. But if you are excited by the idea of producing knowledge or simply know that research hones skills and adds to a resume, the availability of such opportunities at schools like Harvey Mudd may be reason to choose one institution over another.
  • Study abroad: High school students often make note of study abroad programs, even though many college students will in fact study overseas with programs administered by a school or organization other than their own.  But even though you can still spend a semester in Spain even if your own school does not offer such a program, your college’s commitment (or indifference) to the value of studying abroad may have an impact on how readily it grants you credit for courses taken elsewhere.
  • Curriculum: Even though college is presumably above all an academic experience, many high school students have no idea how a liberal arts college’s curriculum is structured or why they should care.  These curricula do in fact all try to achieve the same thing: a well-rounded education in which a student is exposed to a broad range of ways of thinking.  But they get students there in different ways, and while one applicant may find the shared intellectual conversation of a core curriculum exciting, another may find it restrictive. Similarly, the same open curriculum that some students find liberating may perplex or intimidate others.
  • Range of majors: High school students often understand a liberal arts education as little more than the chance “to study a lot of different stuff,” and may spend more time checking out the school’s mascot or reading about its traditions than they will spend on the school’s list of majors or the websites of specific departments.  This superficial understanding of a liberal arts education is reinforced by an application that may not ask you about your future major and the knowledge that you may change your mind anyway.  But there is a difference between thinking broadly and being intellectually scattered, and if you are interested in studying Classics, Geophysics or anything else, whether or not you change your mind later, you should make sure your college offers you the chance to explore that field!

 

These days everyone in college admissions talks about the idea of a good “fit.” But whether one is buying a suit or choosing a college, fit is about individual measurement and taste, and students should examine the information they gather about each school through a lens of self-awareness and personal reflection.

 

Doing school: the gap between high school education and college admissions

Many of you will have heard me complain rather cynically about the distance between colleges’ expressed expectations for high school students and the reality of highly selective college admissions.  That gap leaves students feeling funneled into an intensely functionalist view of their education even as they are also subjected to rhetoric about passion and intellectual engagement by colleges and by teachers.

This subject has gained growing attention recently in debates over the book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, in which Amy Chua described her controversial ideas on parenting for success.  It is also the theme of the film “Race to Nowhere”, in which director Vicki Abeles described “the dark side of America’s achievement culture.”

Many of these questions were expressed even earlier by Denise Clark Pope, a senior lecturer in Education at Stanford, in her 2001 book, Doing School.  She examined “the predicament of doing school,” in which prevailing attitudes and expectations in high schools help create, “a generation of stressed out, materialistic, and miseducated students.”  Pope followed five students at Faircrest High School in California, as they negotiated with classmates, cheated on homework, manipulated teachers, and transgressed rules in their efforts to “be the best,” achieve material success and meet social and parental expectations.

In debates about high school education, the role of college application looms large.  Students are told that colleges are interested in their strength of character, (Harvard); that they are more than their GPAs or test scores (Chicago); and that universities also focus on their potential to contribute to learning (Princeton).  When university admit rates drop and colleges tout soaring levels of academic and social achievement by their applicants, however, it is clear that cookie cutter candidates with impressive credentials are most likely to prevail – those with course loads filled with an exhausting number of APs, a stratospheric GPA, and a slate of activities so impressive they seem unlikely to be the stuff of any normal teenage life.

Colleges have been called on the carpet for what seems like a growing gap between the ideal and the reality of holistic admissions. Marilee Jones, former dean of admissions at MIT, said in a 2004 interview that elite colleges “are complicit in rearing a generation of young people staggering under unbearable pressure to be perfect at everything.” The Education Conservancy argued that, “Students feel it is impossible to be everything colleges would like them to be.” Good teachers remind students that they need to find a balance between an impressive course load and an interesting one; between high academic expectations and joyful learning; and between their ambition for material success and status and their desire for a meaningful life.

But in her study of Faircrest High, Pope also referred to the central role that parents play in creating that contradiction between what students are taught to care about in their education, and the reality of selective college admissions.  She quoted a student whose parents expressed concern about her health in the face of a grueling schedule, as saying, “They are worried about me and say it is okay if I don’t go to an Ivy school, like they’ll still be proud of me, but that’s b.s. because no they won’t.”  Another admitted that his obsequious behavior towards teachers and his constant anxiety about his grades came because his father “wants me to go to Stanford like him.”

Pope’s interviews highlight the role parents play in encouraging students to equate success in learning with success in gaining admission to a brand-name college.  She shows how parents, probably far more than any admission officer, cue children to find the measure of their self-worth in grade reports.  But parents can also liberate their children from a relentlessly pragmatic view of high school by allowing them to pursue the things that fill them with joy rather than fill up resumes with yet another mindless activity.  As parents, we are hopefully more interested in raising critical thinkers and honorable adults than Ivy League graduates!

 

From junior year to college admissions

For the last few months high school juniors stood by as seniors wrestled with college applications, stressed about choices, and finally, exhaled as they picked their colleges.  Now the focus shifts and it is their turn to get ready for the wild ride towards college.  Given how early the application process happens in the academic year and the inevitable strains of that first quarter of senior year, juniors need to use the coming months wisely as they lay down the foundation for their application.

Let’s consider the different elements of that application process and the things that those of you who are juniors ought to be thinking about:

  • Transcripts: admission officers at selective schools point out the unavoidable fact that your transcripts ARE the single most important element in their assessment.  If you are applying early, your junior grades may be the last ones they see before making their decisions. Even if there are no senior grades available, they can see your senior curriculum, and this too is crucial in weighing your academic heft.
  • Scores and letters of recommendation: admission officers also weigh your academic profile by looking at your standardized test results and by the quality of letters of recommendation, and you cannot wait until 12th grade to grapple with these. At some larger schools, for example, some of the most popular teachers begin to turn away requests for letters of recommendation well before the summer. There are also few test dates available early in the senior year for you to complete the required roster of tests, much less leave time for the almost inevitable retake.
  • List of activities: while most of us quite rightly abhor talk of “resume building” when referring to high school students, the activities list is obviously a very significant part of your college application.  Admission officers ask themselves what it is you will contribute to campus life. This summer will be your last chance to answer that question. It is a good idea to draw up a comprehensive list of your high school activities outside of the classroom, in order to assess both the cohesive “story” that your application will tell about yourself as well as the potential holes in your self-presentation.
  • Summer before senior year: the summer college trip has become something of an American tradition, and for good reason.  Not only does the wonderful range of possibilities make such exploration useful and necessary, but for many colleges these visits have also become a significant way to gauge “demonstrated interest.”  As more kids apply to more colleges, those institutions are finding it ever harder to accurately pinpoint their yield (the number of students who will accept their offers of admission). Your knowledge of a school and appreciation for what it has to offer can encourage a college to read your application with a more benevolent eye.   Growing numbers of high school students will also attend summer camps on college campuses, to learn more about the college experience, about life at a particular college, or about the range of academic options that await them.  As Dean Karen Sibley of Summer at Brown, one of the largest such programs for high school students in the country, points out, the liberating summer experience “validates the student’s ability to be far from home, intensely academically challenged and able to function independently in very new surroundings.”
    • Writing the college essay: For many of you SAT testing seems the most exhausting part of applying to college, but writing the personal essay causes the biggest anxiety. There is little reason to wait too long before jumping into the writing process.  It will give you time to consider essay topics, but also leave space for rewriting and editing before the full onslaught of the senior year.  Reflecting on her own experiences this year, one senior, who will be attending an Ivy university in the Fall, encourages juniors to “start doing something concrete regarding college essays and supplements by May!  Summer is actually too short  – it’s only eight weeks.”

    The Common Application will be available for students by August 1 (and its preview is already available online). The Common Application organization has already reported that the essay topics on the application will remain the same, though the length requirements will be adjusted. For high school juniors, this is the equivalent of a long-distance runner coming into the last few hundred meters of the race: a successful end is in sight, but to get there you first you have to throw all your energy and focus into the last lap.

     

     

     

     

    “Get Thee to a Nunnery . . .”: My Experience at a Women’s College

    My college search, no doubt, resembled that of many of you reading this.  A couple “safeties”, a “reach”, and the ones where I had a fighting chance.  Good schools, with attractive campuses, dependable financial aid, etc.

    Fast-forward a few months, and I’d been waitlisted at Georgetown, Dartmouth and Brown and accepted to three of my eight schools . . . all of them women’s colleges. All of them wonderful places, but I had applied in spite of the gender specifications.  Going past the obvious problems it could pose for dating, I had always enjoyed close friendships with boys and my brother, so four years in such a decidedly female environment was not something I was very excited about.  Thankfully, the past few years have changed my mind.

    I’m trying to steer away from the words you’ll see on every seven-sisters website, but they really do apply.  Women’s colleges are liberating, empowering, and supportive, not because they’re free of some oppressive, patriarchal dark side of the force or anything, but because they’re intellectual environments where gender biases have little place.  Most of us, by the time we finish high school, have experienced some situation where a teacher dishes out extra credit more often to one sex or the other, or have been frustrated trying to get support for a women’s sports team, or some similar problem.  The “boys club” attitude that we can still encounter in various arenas simply doesn’t apply when there aren’t any boys.

    Not that four years could pass without ever coming into contact with men, as if you were attending a collegiate nunnery.  Many women’s colleges are in consortiums, where it is possible to take classes at neighboring co-ed schools, and co-ed students can take classes on campus.  In an urban environment you could meet all sorts of interesting people off campus, and even the most rural women’s colleges have a large number of men around on the weekends when boyfriends and buddies come to visit.  Regardless of what any school-sponsored website tells you, “meeting men” is never going to be as easy as at a co-ed school, but in my time at Mount Holyoke I’ve dated and made male friends just fine.  (It goes without saying that if it’s not men you’re interested in, women’s colleges are perfect.)

    Not having men around as much can lead to a certain amount of social-awareness as well.  After months at a women’s college, the first time someone treats you like a “chick” and not an adult with equal intellectual value, it smarts.  Sexism is all the more apparent when you’ve fallen out of the habit.  Not everyone will have the same reaction –I’ve seen women get furious at this treatment, and women who laugh it off.  For myself, I’m thankful that I’ve learned to recognize it as unusual and unfair.  I’ve become far pickier about the men I spend time with, and am happier because of it.

    I can’t recommend women’s colleges to everyone.  What I can say is that, if you give it a chance like I did, you can come to really appreciate it.  Women’s colleges might not be the most empowering experience of your life –that could be getting your first big promotion at the job of your dreams, nailing an audition, or doing a solo trip around the world.  But women’s colleges will help you get there, and cheer you on along the way.  As far as I’ve been able to make out, the goal of every women’s college is to give you the self confidence and spine to succeed, and if they can provide a rugby team or lab facilities or an excellent library along the way, that’s even better.

    Sydney Penny

    Mount Holyoke ‘12