Why a Women's College?
From kindergarten to high school I attended large, co-ed, public schools exclusively. I understand those schools and I’m comfortable with them. So why did I move from that to Barnard, a small, northeastern, private women’s college? Why a women’s college in general? I was woefully ignorant of women’s colleges growing up. I thought they were relics of a bygone era, from a time when most colleges and universities only accepted men. I didn’t understand their place in the 21st century. When my parents first suggested I look at Barnard for college I scoffed and said asked, “Why would I want to attend a women’s college?” (My parents like to remind me of this conversation quite often). But I did my research and learned more about these extraordinary institutions and became a little obsessed. So if you’re hesitant about women’s colleges like I was, here are the top 3 reasons I chose to attend a women’s college:
1. Incredible Community
My high school had about the same number of students Barnard does, around 2,500, but there I felt like I was lost in a crowd of people. I knew that for college I wanted a small, tight-knit community, a place where I could walk around campus and recognize faces. From the first time I walked on Barnard’s campus as a prospective student, I knew that I wanted to be a part of the Barnard community. Even though Barnard is about the same size of my high school, it has a completely different feeling. The community at Barnard is something I feel like I am a member of, a place that I have a role in. The best part of the Barnard community is that in the midst of a large city with a population in the millions, I have a strong, intimate group full of amazing people.
2. Students are Unafraid
Here’s the thing about women’s colleges: they attract a certain kind of student. A student who is bold, ambitious, and passionate about their education. The people I have met at Barnard are unapologetic about who they are and continually stand up for their beliefs and ideas. It’s empowering to be in an environment with such confident and extraordinary peers. Every day I see members of the Barnard community take what they learn in school and apply it in the real world. It doesn’t matter if they’re alumnae or current students, I always see a Barnardian taking the world by storm and making a difference.
3. Who Run the World? Girls.
What do Madeline Albright, Martha Stewart, and Zora Neale Hurston have in common? Besides being super cool, they all attended women’s colleges. Countless politicians, businesswomen, scientists, and people at the top of every profession attended women’s colleges. I don’t think women’s colleges made these women incredible, I think women’s colleges saw the talent and ability they possessed and gave them the tools and opportunities to thrive and break down barriers. Women’s colleges empower their students to do what was previously considered impossible. That kind of attitude, the “you can and you will and we’ll help you,” drew me to women’s colleges. It’s one thing for a college to say that students can make a difference, it’s another thing to encourage it and support students in making that change.
Women’s colleges were founded to challenge the idea that only some people could get an education. Since the beginning, women’s colleges have been progressive institutions, constantly changing and reforming to best meet the needs of students. Women’s colleges may be historic, but they’re not irrelevant or useless (contrary to what my younger self believed). They’re extraordinary institutions that strive to provide the education, tools, and opportunities that are necessary for women to succeed.
So why a women’s college? Because there’s no other place like it.