Truthfully, I did not apply to Barnard because it’s a women’s college – I applied in spite of it. Luckily, the school had enough positive aspects to outweigh this negative. Surrounded by only women, 24/7? Ew, no thank you. I agreed with the sentiment that, in this day and age, women’s colleges are somewhat irrelevant. If women no longer need to attend female institutions to achieve higher education, then why would they? There are hundreds of perfectly good co-ed colleges in the world! Yet in only one year at Barnard, I’ve learned my lesson: women’s colleges are not only relevant, but necessary in today’s society. I could tell you the facts – that while only 2% of women graduate from women’s colleges, these graduates comprise over 20% of our congress; that women’s college alum include the likes of Emily Dickinson, Hilary Clinton, Cynthia Nixon (Sex and the City, anyone?), Meryl Streep, Barbara Walters, Nancy Pelosi and hundreds of other household names – but instead I’ll explain my own experience at Barnard, and why attending a women’s college is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
One of the most overused, age-old arguments against schools like Barnard is one you’ve probably heard before (I certainly have): a community of only women is unrealistic – it’s nothing like the real world. (News flash: neither is regular college!) The logic is, “how can women successfully assimilate into the work force, where men are not just present, but dominant, if they’ve spent their days surrounded by other women?” Believe it or not, 81% of women’s college graduates reported that their college was extremely or very effective in helping prepare them for their first job, versus 65% of women who graduated from public universities. Yes, I’m surrounded by a lot of estrogen, a lot of the time. No, I don’t feel as though the lack of men is leaving me ill-prepared. Rather, I feel confident and ready to speak my mind, thanks to the simultaneously nurturing yet challenging environment. I never feel as though I’m in competition with my classmates, because I have the opportunity to speak in a free space, without feeling as though I’m being judged or criticized. Every class is an ongoing discussion between peers and professors alike. While this may be possible at co-ed universities, studies have shown that women are less likely to speak up when they are outnumbered by men. Women’s colleges teach leadership and confidence through active participation. (And believe it or not, “women’s studies” isn’t the main focus of every class – and when it is, we analyze gender roles from every side, including the male perspective!) After four years of this, you can imagine that graduates emerge empowered and ready to take their seat at the metaphorical table.
— Sofia Lyons, HuffingtonPost