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First-year files: Spotlight on women’s colleges

March 15th, 2022

The college search presents so many factors to consider! Colleges and universities within the U.S. offer diverse academic, extracurricular and social options. The vast majority of universities in the United States are co-educational, yet all-women’s or all-men’s colleges offer a unique educational experience for their students that can often be overlooked. Although not for everyone, Shrop Ed families know that I believe these colleges offer amazing opportunities. If you open your mind to the possibility, what you learn might surprise you or affirm what you were already thinking.

In today’s blog we spotlight women’s colleges. These schools are often characterized by having a great sense of community and support. The College Essay Guy recently shared this list of 7 reasons why you should apply to a women’s college. We believe each student makes their college choice based on a unique set of values and goals; maybe a women’s college or men’s college aligns with yours.

Highlighted below is an interview held recently with Anna R., a prior ShropEd advisee. Anna is a first-year student at Bryn Mawr College, a renowned women’s college outside of Philadelphia. In this open dialogue, Anna remarks on the similarities and differences between her college choice and a more common route of going co-ed.

What was the transition like, and was it different because of being at a women’s college?  I don’t think it was any different because of it being a women’s college.  Freshmen arrive a week early and we have something called Customs Week.  Sophomores and juniors gave support, showed us around campus and shared the history of the college and generally supported us, and they continue to support us as “buddies” throughout our first year.  It took me a little while to adjust and I had roommate issues, but now I’m really ready to go.  Being on the swim team helped because we began practices and the upperclassmen were really encouraging and helpful.

How much time does your sport take?  2 hours every afternoon, and 3 days a week we also have morning practice.  It’s like the schedule I had at home.  When swim season is on, lots of time for meets gets added to that.  I definitely think it’s a positive to be on the team; it keeps me involved and I’m with different people than in my dorm and classes.  I’m also the swim team’s liaison to the Athletics Council.

AcademicsI’m taking a class this term called The Pedagogies of Mathematics and Science, and I’ll be in a special ed classroom setting implementing new approaches to teaching STEM in a more effective way, with the goal of eliminating students’ reluctance to pursue STEM coursework.

First semester, I took Russian (continuing this semester), Intro to Chemistry with lab (taking second part this semester), an intro to college writing seminar – my seminar’s topic was food and identity, which was pretty interesting, and Intro to US Politics.  Three of the classes had 18-20 people in them, and my Russian class had 6.  This semester my chem class is bigger, around 40-50, and my calc class has 35-40 students.  With classes this small, there’s a lot more room for discussion and professors get to know all of us.  My professors cheer for me on the swim team!  All of the teaching is done by professors and we can see them outside of class during office hours, and my STEM classes also have teaching assistants running review sessions – they’re juniors and seniors who’ve done really well in the course and are majoring in the field.

I’m thinking of a possible chemistry major and plan to either minor or second major in Russian but I’m not totally sure yet.

How does the women’s college dimension affect daily life?  Weirdly, it just feels normal!  In the classroom, things feel calmer and more respectful … everyone helps everyone else out and it’s not competitive.  Socially, it’s easy to go over to Haverford – just take the bus and hop over – so meeting people isn’t hard.  On weekends, lots of people go into the city, which is easy because the train station is just a 10 minute walk from campus.  We go out for dinner, go to museums.  Students looking for parties go to Haverford.  The main benefit of being at a women’s college is being able to focus on your education.  If you want four years of partying, a women’s college probably isn’t for you.  But if you want a supportive environment and a place where you can focus on academics, a women’s college can be a great choice.  

If this interview intrigued you, check out the Women’s College Coalition website highlighting facts, personal stories and resources: