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Women's Colleges--right for me?

KeilexandraKeilexandra 5360 replies132 threads Senior Member
edited April 2010 in Women's Colleges
Throughout the process of compiling my college list, women's colleges have jumped on and off the moving wagon. My parents are against the idea as they want me to have a romantic social life in college (I am introverted, so this would definitely be more difficult at a single-gender school, even those in consortiums). But, then again, women's colleges are excellent "admissions bargains" in regards to academics and several also fit my other criteria.

However, I attended a performing arts middle school with approximately 75:25 f/m ratio; I'm now at the high school upstairs, in the same "consortium." While students do cross-register and interact socially, it does take active effort. If college consortiums are like my current school situation--I've really enjoyed having platonic guy friends and I think the social environment is better for me.

I'm looking mainly at Bryn Mawr and Smith, which are both in consortiums of varying strength. A Haverford alum told me that socially, Haverford guys tend to date Haverford girls (paraphrase) although relationships do exist and thrive across schools. Would this be even more distinct at Smith? What about coed schools like Vassar with lopsided ratios? What would I gain from an all-women's environment as opposed to the majority-women environment that I've experienced? I'm planning to study English and possibly Computer Science (as BA, not BS), but not any "hard sciences," so I'm not concerned about the women-in-science advantage. Is there any academic benefit to women's colleges for a humanities geek?

This topic has been discussed before, I know, but I'd like to find out the benefits of women's colleges OTHER than science and leadership.
edited April 2010
41 replies
Post edited by Keilexandra on
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Replies to: Women's Colleges--right for me?

  • littleathiestlittleathiest 1111 replies32 threads Senior Member
    Hey there... I can give you some insight on Vassar, if you'd like.

    First off, the ratio at Vassar isn't really that lopsided. If you're used to a 75:25 f/m ratio, you'll probably find Vassar to be overrun with guys: the ratio here is, last time I checked at least, 58:42 f/m. In a collection of over 2000 students, this imbalance really isn't that apparent, or at least to me it isn't.

    Now, onto the dating scene at Vassar. One of the common ideas that seems to be floating around is that although Vassar is no longer an all-girls school, it still kind of is because all the guys that go there are gay. This is certainly NOT true... there are plenty of straight guys on-campus. Admittedly, the girls do outnumber the guys and there are some guys at Vassar who "take advantage" of this. That being said, there are also plenty of perfectly nice guys interested in relationships and dating... the main trick is to find them. It's entirely possible to be in a stable relationship at Vassar; my boyfriend and I have been dating for almost a year now, and I know of a bunch of other couples on-campus.
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  • KeilexandraKeilexandra 5360 replies132 threads Senior Member
    Well, the 75:25 ratio was definitely noticeable and annoying... my HS right now is balanced at about 50:50 (a math/science magnet, so perhaps even leaning toward the male side), and the difference has vastly improved both my platonic and romantic relationships.

    But thank you for the anecdote about stable relationships at Vassar--I like the school a lot and the gender ratio is one of my main quibbles.
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  • cptofthehousecptofthehouse 30787 replies59 threads Senior Member
    If possible, spend a day at Vassar, and at some of the women's colleges. That will give you a real look at the situation.

    We visited Mary Washington some years ago which is lopsided in F/M ration but it did not "feel" that way at all and there appeared to be a lot of interaction among the sexes.

    That son who visited there, also looked at Vassar. His feeling was that there were a lot of "undateable" women there which made their ratio more equal. He went to a college that was predominantly male because of a large engineering school there, but he will tell you that the again the type of males at the school determined that social scene and the girls were not exactly bowled over with guys lining up for them in that scenario. So it is not just the numbers that matter but what makes up the numbers. As it has been quoted for one school that has many males, "the odds are good, but the goods are odd".
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  • KeilexandraKeilexandra 5360 replies132 threads Senior Member
    Ah, yes, visiting--I've yet to visit any colleges while school is in session. I should probably do that. The Vassar tour guide evoked fond memories of my quirky/artsy middle school.
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  • happymomof1happymomof1 31020 replies199 threads Senior Member
    The atmosphere at a women's college is distinct from that at a coed institution. You should visit Bryn Mawr because it is so close (OK and also because it has "Dorms like Hogwarts"), to see what you think. Take your parents with you so that they can check out the things that concern them about women's colleges. They may be surprised.

    And as with everything else about your experience wherever you go to college, your social life will be mostly up to you.
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  • KeilexandraKeilexandra 5360 replies132 threads Senior Member
    ^ My friend actually attended a summer program at Bryn Mawr and said that her dorm was the worst she'd ever been in! I was surprised because of BMC's reputation in housing/food.
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  • integrity09integrity09 253 replies5 threads Junior Member
    The dorms at Smith are pretty unique and nice. I agree you’ll need to visit both Smith’s and Bryn Mawr’s campuses to see what you think.

    Smith is part of a 5-college consortium (with Amherst, Hampshire, Mt. Holyoke and Univ of Mass). You can take classes at any. There is a free shuttle bus to get to classes and activities at the other campuses.

    It’s not hard to meet men in classes (5-college consortium), clubs, projects, organizations, social events. It’s nice to be able to focus on academics and work during the week (without distraction), and then socialize on the weekends.

    Here’s a great perspective from SmithieandProud (from an earlier post):
    Just for the record, I really liked Smith on its own merits, independent of it being a women's college. It had the right atmosphere, opportunities, and academic reputation I was looking for.

    . . . There's an expectation of leadership at women's colleges that probably isn't present at co-ed schools (though having never been to one, i can't say for sure.) You're expected to think big, and to occupy the lead role. That can be frustrating sometimes, but it also pushes you to succeed at a higher level.

    And women's colleges are fun. I like not putting on makeup before I go to class, walking around in my pajamas. I like that I can compartmentalize my life into study/work/friends time and party/boy/date time. I like hanging out with smart girls. I like that the campus comes to a stand still when Project Runway is on. I like that our gym is outfitted with machines designed to fit a women's body. I like a lot of things about it.

    You don’t really live without men at a woman’s college, unless you choose to.
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  • nmparentsnmparents 127 replies2 threads Junior Member
    Be aware that the travel time between colleges often makes it difficult to attend other schools in a consortia. I suspect its not bad for Haverford/Bryn Mawr which are very close to one another, but Wellesley/MIT have a 45 minute commute in normal traffic. The five colleges transport bus is only slightly better.

    In many ways the Claremont schools seem ideal for you. Nominally attend Scripps, but take computer science at Harvey Mudd. But if I remember correctly, your parents want you to be well within a days drive of home.
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  • danasdanas 1770 replies11 threads Senior Member
    Someone at Wellesley said that one third of students are there because it is a women's college, one third in spite of fact that it is, and one third because it was the best school they got into. My impression is that that is about right.
    My daughter was homeschooled/unschooled and grew up in a ballet world. Mostly she was immersed with other girls and with guys who liked guys. She wouldn't consider a women's college on a bet.
    She now attends a school that is 52% male. In her case, she was disgusted with the dishonesty and machinations of a female dominated world, and figured that guys would make better friends.
    Guess what? The guy "pals" aren't the easy friends her dad and two older brothers are. For honest and understandable reasons. She is a beauty. A rude awakening (of sorts). One she will work through.
    I would be wary of schools that, sometimes because of a single sex history, have more women than men. Schools like Vassar and Skidmore come to mind. It isn't just that there may be many gay males. Many of the straight males seem like they were closer to their mothers than their fathers. Not exactly Princeton "Tigers".
    More gender balanced schools can have similar student bodies. Here at the University of Chicago, they say that the squirrels are more aggressive than the men. I disagree with the part that says the squirrels are cuter than the women.
    My own bias is to go to the school with the smartest students and best resources you can find. Just be prepared to overcome the particular gender mix and orientation that comes with the territory. Schools aren't upfront about this stuff, and it can hard to figure out from the outside.
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  • KeilexandraKeilexandra 5360 replies132 threads Senior Member
    integrity: Thanks for the quote regarding Smith. However, my worry is that at a women's college, I won't really socialize with men on the weekends--it's not my personality to go out and party. I don't really like party/"popular" guys, either. I wouldn't wear makeup to class regardless--I want a guy to like me for myself, not for my appearance. And wouldn't most of the quiet guys stick to girls from their own home college?

    nmparents: My parents would prefer that I stay within driving distance of DE, although I'm allowed to apply outside that radius (planning to use FA as persuasion if it comes to that). However, I ruled out Scripps due to the curriculum (I worked it out and I'd only manage an English/CS double major + advanced French with zero other electives outside GE requirements). I thought at first the Haverford/Bryn Mawr consortium would be ideal, but see the aforementioned 'Ford anecdote in my OP.

    danas: I'm certainly not a beauty, though I like to think not hideous either. I do have close platonic guy friends. But thank you for the anecdote!

    I guess what I'm asking is whether my middle/high school "consortium" experience is akin to that of a women's + coed college(s) consortium, with cross-registration and some social interaction that requires active effort.
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  • Columbia_StudentColumbia_Student 4999 replies47 threads Senior Member
    integrity: Thanks for the quote regarding Smith. However, my worry is that at a women's college, I won't really socialize with men on the weekends--it's not my personality to go out and party. I don't really like party/"popular" guys, either. I wouldn't wear makeup to class regardless--I want a guy to like me for myself, not for my appearance. And wouldn't most of the quiet guys stick to girls from their own home college?

    My daughter also thought that she would be ok at an all women school, but now that she's been in school for a whole month and a half, I think she made the right choice of not attending one. She is very much similar to you, a bit reserved, does not like to party that much, only very rarely. In fact, she has not made that many friends with people in the same floor, eventhough she does see them everyday. With busy school work, sometimes she does not have time to go to all these events that are organized by her dorm. I think it does require more effort than going to a coed one.
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  • HeartArtHeartArt 318 replies28 threads Member
    My son is a Vassar graduate and he had a wonderful group of male friends who were NOT closer to their mothers than their fathers. Most of them were athletes at the school and well rounded, normal guys. What a ridiculous stereotype just because Vassar used to be all female! It became coed in 1969, so it might be time to learn more about the school as it is today.

    The young women are pretty amazing as well.
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  • anechkakithanechkakith 154 replies7 threads Junior Member
    Both times I visited Smith there were quite a few guys just walking around campus, and not just boyfriends on students. There are also joint social events that are on Smith's campus (for example, I went to a UMass/Smith fundraiser.) Obviously if you want most of your peers to be men, Smith isn't the place for you, but at the same time Smith won't mean all men all the time, even if you never use the consortium.

    Also, I would say that the women in science advantage also applies to comp sci and all the students who had taken comp sci classes raved about them.
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  • padawankpadawank 42 replies0 threads Junior Member
    Just so you know, as a student at Bryn Mawr- While around 10 pm, the amount of boys on campus drops severely, throughout the day you would think we're coed. There are plenty of Haverford guys here and I have at least one guy in each class (my computer science class has about 20 guys and my politics class has about 7, in classes of 50 and 30, respectively). Also, a lot (read, 90%) of the parties and concerts happen at Haverford so you'll always be able to meet guys. And there are plenty of guys from Villanova and Swat too. If you do a "bico" or "tri-co"(consortium) club, then you're guaranteed male contact as well. There are girls on my hall who have dates every weekend with Haverford or 'Nova guys, so you can definitely have an active male/female social life here. And I see you don't like to party that much, so no worries for Bryn Mawr is definitely not a party school. You'll have chances to be social with guys without parties, too. The bico consortium is definitely strong, I think stronger than the 5 college consortium of Smith/Mt Holyoke. There are tons of cross-registrations so if you choose to take a class at haverford or Swarthmore, you'll meet plenty of guys.

    Also, all of our dorms have been recently renovated; your friend might have stayed in a bad one, but the dorms are really amazing here (we have fireplaces, and I sleep on a giant window seat which is amazing), and the food is seriously fantastic. If you have any other questions about Bryn Mawr feel free to email me!
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  • juilletjuillet 12857 replies165 threads Super Moderator
    I think probably about 70% of the people who say they aren't "party people" in high school end up going to a lot more parties than they would've otherwise expected in college. College is different from high school; just because you don't party in high school doesn't mean you won't like to party in college. I didn't go to ANY parties in high school, and wouldn't have considered myself a partier then, but it turns out I LOVED college parties! You can work hard, play hard. College has less social demarcation than high school; some of the very best students in college are also hard partiers.

    That said, the majority of social events that go on in consortia for women's colleges are not hardcore parties. I went to a women's college in a consortium with a co-ed university and a men's college. I loved having all women's courses and living with women in the dorms, but I had an active social life that involved men and I took co-ed courses at Morehouse (I went to Spelman) whenever I wanted to. It's not difficult at all. Of course, you need to put in effort, but you need to put in effort to build any kind of social life even at co-ed places (what, do people think the men are just going to walk up to you at co-ed schools whereas they would avoid you at women's colleges?)

    The other thing is I think it's kind of strange that your parents are concerned about you having romantic entanglements in college. Women's college students don't disappear into a vortex for 4 years. The world isn't woman-only. If you go to Bryn Mawr, for example, Philadelphia and all it has to offer is very close! You can organize a night out on the town with you and your girlfriends and expand beyond Haverford and Swarthmore - visit Penn, Temple, Villanova even :D You can go to other schools' homecomings (even Princeton is easy to get to on NJ Transit) and meet people. Hell, *you* guys can host parties and small gatherings on your campus and invite people from Haverford.

    Besides, college is only 4 years. While I think you should try to have romantic relationships in college if you want, they get much better after college, trust me. I'm 23 and graduated from college almost two years ago; life is even better on the other side when you're making money and have even more freedom than you had then, and it's a ripe time to meet a lot of people and date even more as a more mature person. I met my fiance in high school, and I love him, but in hindsight if I didn't meet him I would've rather met a partner in graduate school than in high school.
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  • KeilexandraKeilexandra 5360 replies132 threads Senior Member
    Thanks for the perspective. I've heard stories from the other side as well. One friend really regrets not dating more in college while she was around so many men her own age (not a women's college). Obviously it requires effort, but significantly more effort at a single-sex school than not.

    Operating under the assumption that I fall into the 30% who don't care for college parties (I don't go to the "wild" HS parties at all, I go with wholesome friends and still prefer a quieter atmosphere)--it seems highly unlikely that I'd enjoy "a night out on the town" visiting faraway schools. After all, I want to attend an LAC because I love having everything within easy walking distance. Hosting an on-campus party would certainly attract guys, but not enough for a balanced gender ratio, and would I want to date the kind of guy who goes to parties?

    I don't mean to sound so negative--I am applying to Scripps, and love it, but that is one of few truly coed consortia along with schools like Barnard and Spelman. (BMC/HC would be a similar consortium only if HC had remained all-male.) So my personal question has already been answered, but for any lurkers or future readers, I offer the above counterarguments.
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  • SmithieandProudSmithieandProud 3012 replies26 threads Senior Member
    Well, I think when you actually get to college, your experience with and understanding of and enjoyment of going to parties, going out on the town, going out for drinks and so on is going to change a lot. I think the difference between high school kids that go to parties or go out and college students that do so is vast. You might find you like the college way better. Particularly at most LACs it's not at all like "wild" high school parties and does not preclude the presence of "wholesome" people.

    And if you're going to rule out all guys that go to parties, no matter where you go you're going to have a narrow pool to choose from.
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  • KeilexandraKeilexandra 5360 replies132 threads Senior Member
    ^You misunderstand. I don't go to "wild" HS parties, ever; I have fun at the "wholesome" parties that I do attend, but they are not my preferred form of entertainment. One of my most "innocent" friends loves dances (NOT grinding); I can sometimes enjoy them if pulled into the crowd, but I doubt I'll ever seek them out. Similarly, I know the words to approximately 0.5 pop songs... I doubt most college parties play E.S. Posthumus or Blackmore's Night.

    I'm not ruling out "all guys that go to parties." I'm questioning whether a guy who regularly attends parties at a women's college--i.e. going off-campus to meet girls--would be my "type." I tend to prefer more the CS nerds who play text-based RPGs.

    Now, given those details, am I still wrong in guessing that I'll be in that 30%? You tell me; after all, you've been to college, and that must surely overrule any self-conceptions.
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  • padawankpadawank 42 replies0 threads Junior Member
    I can just guarantee you that, at Bryn Mawr at least, you would find plenty of people who would match your interests. We have very active groups that seem to cater to what you like, High Table and Doublestar, and both of them have parties very much like the ones you describe, annnd they have active male interaction. Unlike high school, college really does have something for everyone, and I would think that such parties would be more popular at a women's college than at a large co-ed university because we have a higher percentage of people who are interested in that sort of thing. I wouldn't rule it out.
    For example, if you're into d&d, there's a really active BiCo (Bryn Mawr/Haverford) group, and that's where one of my friends (she's like you, doesn't like to go to parties, doesn't see the point in drinking, etc) met her current boyfriend. There are plenty of groups like that where the interaction won't be based on guys just coming to girl's colleges to hook up or something like that.
    And at Bryn Mawr, the latter happens hardly ever. Since there are guys in classes and guys in the dining halls and guys at all social events, clubs, etc, they come to parties not to seek out drunk girls, but because they are a strong part of our community and have friends on our campus.
    Also, you mention Barnard as an ideal consortium, but rule out BMC/Haverford. I wonder why this is- Columbia is co-ed and Barnard girls seem to be seen by Columbia the same way that Bryn Mawr girls are by Haverford- they're great to have around, but there are also girls at Columbia/Haverford.

    tl;dr- I wouldn't rule some of the Seven Sisters out yet.
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  • KeilexandraKeilexandra 5360 replies132 threads Senior Member
    ^I don't see D&D gaming as typical "college parties" as previous posters have referenced. Anyway, I've actually never played D&D but would love to try it out. XD

    For me, the difference in BMC/HC and Barnard/Columbia is the gender ratio. Columbia is significantly larger than Barnard, which mitigates the imbalance. The ratio of BMC+HC is something ridiculous like 30% male. An "ideal consortium" is one where the students interact socially as one school, in which case the total gender ratio is relevant. I believe the 5C consortium is about 41% male, but Scripps and HMC (majority male) have an especially close relationship.
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