Are Women’s Colleges Outdated?

Tom Matlack thought women’s colleges were anachronistic—until he toured Barnard with his daughter.

I’ve always been skeptical about women’s colleges. I grew up in Amherst within a few miles of Smith and Mount Holyoke where, I admit, I tried to sneak into parties as a high school student. Beyond serving a destination for horny young men, the colleges always gave me the creeps, perhaps because I was explicitly excluded from the community or because of some juvenile fantasy that the schools harbored a lesbian cult. Still, the women who went there, it seemed to me, were living in some bygone gender-segregated era where such a place had a purpose. I assumed they went to women’s colleges largely because they couldn’t get into the numerous elite coed schools.

Why go to Smith if you could go to Amherst?


Last year we faced what seemed like a momentous decision: whether to send our 5-year-old to an all-boys grade school for kindergarten. The school is known for being particularly good at channeling high-spirited boy energy into creativity and learning.

The theory goes that boys mature more slowly, on average, than girls, particularly when it comes to fine motor skills and reading. I had seen this firsthand when class art projects came home from nursery school. It was like some pages were produced by art students and others by fingerless monkeys—stick figures on one page, followed by pages awash with color and faces and feeling. Without exception, you didn’t need to look at the name to know the gender.

 Many boys just want to run and tackle one another most of the time, so having a school that emphasizes physical activity to calm their minds and allows them space to develop creativity at their own pace made sense to me. And the school has a particularly strong tradition of character development, which appeals to my “good men” orientation. But there was only one problem: no girls.

The difference was made clear to me on a recent vacation. We traveled for 10 days with one of our son’s female nursery school classmates, whom he hadn’t seen for over a year. He met up with his best male friend on the last day.

 Our son has a sensitive and gentle spirit, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t like to play rough. For over a week, he played with his female friend nonstop. We started calling them “the old married couple.” I was impressed not only with how happy my son was but the ease of the play. With his male friends the frenzy ultimately led to a crash, but the girl brought out the more creative and mature side of him. They could have gone on forever, never once fighting.

 On the last day, when the male buddy showed up, we noticed a marked change. It got loud. Very loud. The little girl stood to the side to make way for boys screaming, chasing each other, having a blast. All good. I love to see my son so happy. But to be honest, I liked him better when he was with his female buddy. She taught him something his male friend couldn’t. (My wife has the same impact on me.)

We chose a coed kindergarten.


I have the privilege of raising a boy in kindergarten; his brother, who is in ninth grade; and his sister, who is a high school junior just starting to look at colleges. So after a week of watching my kindergartener play with his girl pal, I picked up my daughter and set off on an East Coast college tour. On our list were NYU, Penn, Swarthmore, Bard, Vassar, Brown, and Barnard. My daughter is very involved in theater, so she’s looking for a school that will allow her to get a liberal arts education while continuing to act. She’d like someplace artsy, a little edgy, and urban if possible—big, but not too big. She doesn’t really know, which is why we were going on this adventure together.

If you have ever been on a college tour you know the drill: an hour-long information session with an admissions representative not-selling-but-selling his or her institution while telling you how hard it is to get in, followed by a student-led tour. Too often they let freshmen that have no idea about the school (or life in general) lead the tours. Out of frustration over this ignorance, my daughter came up with a litmus test: the condition of the bathroom toilet bowl in the student center. Her theory is that the cleanliness of the toilet is a truth-teller, far more so than a freshman tour guide, when it comes to how students really feel about their college.

I personally liked Bard and Swarthmore. At Penn there’s a free-standing home right in the middle of campus, where students interested in writing hang out, cook meals, and work on their craft. The writing house isn’t a dorm; it’s just a creative club of sorts. We wandered in and found ourselves face-to-face with Edward Albee, who was there giving a lecture. My daughter was particularly excited because she had acted in several of his plays. (The toilets at Penn were disgusting in general, but at the writing house there is a Victorian-style bathroom with an old tub, complete with ivy growing out of it and pictures on the wall of drag queens getting dressed.)


But an even bigger shock than meeting the best-known American playwright in the flesh took place in the Morningside Heights neighborhood of New York City, home of Barnard College.

The tour was led by a senior in a stylish sweater dress and rubber boots to protect against a steady rain that kept the city gray and gloomy. She showed us the student center, the various academic buildings, and the ways in which Barnard is connected to Columbia (including, conveniently, the centralization of all theatre at Barnard) and the ways they are separate. She explained the advising, mentoring, small class sizes, and the tradition upheld by faculty and staff of serving breakfast to the students at midnight before the beginning of finals. She also spoke about how, while all the other Ivy League schools had gone coed and merged with adjacent women’s colleges, Barnard had stayed separate and all-women for a reason.

“Why wouldn’t you want to send your daughter to an institution whose sole purpose is to insure the success of women?” she asked, looking my way. “Three percent of women graduating from high school go to women’s colleges, and yet 30 percent of congresswomen went to women’s colleges and 20 percent of the female CEOs. There’s a reason that is the case and that’s why we are still here.”

The pretty, confident, and articulate young woman had smacked me directly between the eyes of my teenage ignorance. Perhaps women’s colleges don’t exist solely for the benefit of their male guests, I thought for the first time.

The information session started like all the others: a room full of nervous parents and bored-looking kids, all trying to hide their abject fear. A woman with wet hair and an iced coffee sat down at the front of the room. She explained that she had been up all night with her 17-month-old baby and might be a bit off her game.

For the next hour I sat transfixed. These sessions are generally so repetitive that I close my eyes to try to use the time productively by meditating. Except at Barnard. What I heard was an hour-long explanation and first-person demonstration of what the tour guide had said in a couple of sentences: Why Barnard had the resources of an Ivy League school but the feeling of a small liberal arts college; how there are plenty of men to interact with in sports or social clubs, but that the school had remained all women on purpose; how for the right young woman Barnard would provide a unique education and inspiration that a coed facility could not.

My head was still spinning as I walked down the hall and saw the list of Barnard alums: Margaret Mead, Joan Rivers, Martha Stewart, Anna Quindlen, Suzanne Vega, Erica Jong, Jhumpa Lahiri.

Jhumpa Lahiri! I was still trying to discredit the tour guide’s claim that women’s colleges produce a disproportionate number of female leaders across all fields until I got to that name. She’s my favorite writer of all time.

I have no idea whether my daughter will get into Barnard or, if so, choose to attend the school. Ironically, she loved Barnard but is still trying to figure out whether going to an all-women’s college will mean giving up the chance to have close male friends, something that has been important to her high school experience. I keep telling her that it won’t. But I am her dad, so what I say doesn’t really count.

The one thing I took away from our trip was that there is indeed still a place for a women’s college in 2011 America. Barnard is a special place. I only wish my kindergartener could apply.

—Main Image: Columbia University Photo

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About Tom Matlack

Thomas Matlack is a venture capitalist.


  1. “Three percent of women graduating from high school go to women’s colleges, and yet 30 percent of congresswomen went to women’s colleges and 20 percent of the female CEOs. There’s a reason that is the case and that’s why we are still here.”

    Studies actually show that women who have strong male figures in their lives (father, brother, uncle) are more likely to be successful. For example, Margaret Mead’s (alumna of Barnard College) father was an Ivy League finance professor. Joan Rivers’ father was a doctor. Martha Stewart’s father was a pharmaceutical salesman who taught her how to garden and her father-in-law was a broker and she followed him in his line of work. Suzanne Vega’s stepfather was a writer and teacher (her biological father was a musician) and her first husband was a musician who played in and produced 99.9 F and Nine Objects of Desire. Jhumpa Lahiri’s father was a university librarian who is the basis for the protagonist in the closing story of “The Interpreter of Maladies.”

    In other words, it wasn’t the absence of men and a women’s college education that lead these women down the path of success; rather, it was the presence of men who inspired and encouraged their growth and development.

  2. Natalie says:

    Wow. Your article makes me glad I attended a woman’s college and received a stellar education. Socializing with boys was not high on my list of things to accomplish in college – and yet I met my husband in while I was in college, so take that for what you will.

    I had the opportunity to go to “the best” Coed schools and yet I chose Bryn Mawr College not only for it’s beautiful campus and close camaraderie amongst the student body, but because I knew I would be truly challenged at this institution, something that has not occurred at my time as a graduate student in one of the Ivies. When your children are going to college – ask yourselves, will this institution radically changes their lives for the better? I don’t think many institutions can claim such a bold statement – and yet I think most grads of women’s colleges would agree that it has dramatically changed their life. College shouldn’t be a “check box” on your to-do list.

    Once I was there a few years, I realized how lucky I truly was – being surrounded by women in positions of power – Student Body President, Editor of the School Newspaper, athletes, writers, scientists, etc, is a truly inspiring experience and I frankly don’t think it’s one that a man could ever understand. While I was there, Bryn Mawr graduated more women in Physics than MIT (not % but TOTAL!) Being in a classroom that was all or mostly women (yes, we do allow men on our campuses) opened my eyes to the extremely different ways in which men and women learn and interact in a classroom. A man is usually the first person to have his hand in the air – they, in general, are quicker to answer – even if they don’t have the answer yet. A woman is more likely to take her time to formulate a response. Until you’ve seen it for yourself, I don’t think you can understand how dramatic the classroom dynamic shift is in a single sex setting, and how single sex education can be hugely beneficial to many students.

    What I never understood, is the bizarre fascination some men – like yourself, have with single sex institutions. Like it’s some lesbian wet dream envisioned by your high school self – grow up! We also didn’t go there because it is the “back door” to the Ivy League, we were smart enough to recognize that we didn’t need men in our classrooms to be successful, and that perhaps, we’d be more academically successful without them there.

    It’s nice that you now realize that single sex education may be a great option for your daughter – but it’s sad that you haven’t yet seen the world through the lens of discrimination that women face all over the world, and therefore, why these institutions are still vital to our society. You may think that they serve no purpose today, but women’s colleges are still trailblazers – offering a safe haven to LGBTQ students, disenfranchised women, women of color, and women from all over the world. Just because women are better off in the US than we were 100 years ago, doesn’t mean that women’s colleges can’t still contribute to the essential dialogue that is women’s rights and education, here and abroad.

    • It’s sad that you haven’t seen the world through the lens of discrimination and oppression that men face all over the world. Men are assaulted, tortured, raped and murdered. In Africa, when men are raped, they are called “bush women.” No one wants to do anything with these men, women don’t want to marry them and men don’t want to be associated with raped men or “bush women.” Social services are geared towards women who are raped but not towards men who are raped.

      In India, there is a Ministry of Health and Welfare for women and even animals but not for men. Men are more likely to be unemployed, homeless, run over in road side accidents, beaten, forced to join rural gangs in which they are beaten frequently and work long, excruciating hours as migrant laborers so that they can send money back home. In addition, under the conditions of government aid, many men are forced to put their properties under the names of their wives. Often times, a man can’t even bring his own mother to live in the house that he was forced to place in his wife’s name.

      So if the argument is that people who are oppressed should have their own exclusive colleges, then certainly men qualify. Also, there are so many groups around the world that are discriminated against and oppressed – should we give them their own colleges?

      Should we set up separate colleges for gay men and gay women and exclude straight men and women from applying to them? Should we set up colleges for the Kurdish people who are oppressed in Turkey and Northern Iraq (50,000 were killed by Turkish bombing and that’s a conservative estimate)?

      I guess people believe that if someone is the victim of discrimination, segregate them. I thought the purpose of the Civil Rights, Feminist and International Human Rights movements were to unite people and for everyone to work together. But I guess people are saying that segregation is the key instead. Oh wait, segregation is fine as long as the group you want reaps the benefits. Got it.

  3. My twin girls have overwhelmingly chosen an all girls’ high school over co-ed. They love that girls are more cooperative and less cliquish there and that they will not “have those disruptive boys in class”. They are not the type to try and shout over the boys, but they are quietly poised, strong and determined. I was surprised but pleased at their choice. I think they are going to have a great experience!

    • You typed “have those disruptive boys in class.”

      That’s funny. Studies show that girls participate in class more often than boys do. Many boys feel overwhelmed in class and don’t participate. They are more likely to doodle, put their heads down or just stay silent while girls do all of the talking.

      Now let’s modify your statement. Suppose someone said that their children overwhelmingly chose an all-white high school over a racially-diversified high school because the white students are more cooperative and they will not have those “disruptive students of color in class.” Would you consider that statement to be racist?

  4. “Why wouldn’t you want to send your daughter to an institution whose sole purpose is to insure the success of women?” she asked, looking my way. “Three percent of women graduating from high school go to women’s colleges, and yet 30 percent of congresswomen went to women’s colleges and 20 percent of the female CEOs. There’s a reason that is the case and that’s why we are still here.”

    Im not sure if the figures are as clearcut or as related as at first glance.
    “Three percent of women graduating from high school go to women’s colleges”, in what year did that happen?
    The women who are ceo’s and congresswomen are mostly likely to be in their fifties and above
    My understanding is that USA universities went coed at different times. we would need to know the number of mixedsex unis in each prestige bracket, at the time most of these women were in uni. and what tier of uni these women went to etc

    That said. I have no problem with selfsegregration in education for whatever reason

  5. Are women only colleges outdated? I don’t know. Is discrimination outdated. They are discriminatory institutions that receive a lot of federal money.

    • All of the women’s colleges mentioned in the article and in these posts are private liberal arts institutions that DO NOT receive federal money. Also, all women’s colleges were historically created due to the fact that back-in-the-day women WEREN’T ALLOWED to attend college. All the colleges were ALL MALE. So, women’s colleges were created in the wake of that original discrimination. Now, women’s colleges are still some of the most liberal and accepting places of students of color, international students, homeschool students, and LGBTQQA students. Particularly that last category is a really big deal, when a lot of transgendered people are figuring out their gender identity and feel really uncomfortable in most of the world. Google Smith and Mount Holyoke and trans issues for some eye-opening discussions about what it means to be biologically a woman, gender-identify as a woman, and attend a historically all women’s college.

      • By the time Barnard College was founded in 1889, there were already about 80 colleges that were co-ed so your statement that women’s colleges were created in the wake of that original discrimination when colleges were ALL MALE is not accurate.

        And if you visit Barnard College, you will quickly see that the vast majority of the student population is white even though it is located in Harlem. Projects are located within a 20-minute walk from Barnard and you can rest assured that the students of color from these projects do not attend Barnard College. In most cases, the small number of students of color at Barnard are the daughters of rich foreigners.

        By the 1900s, there were more women than men earning bachelor degrees because most men (except the men from rich families) were expected to work.

        Also, there were many vocational institutions (nursing, teaching, social work, secreterial, seamstresses, nanny/child care) that trained women and women only for certain occupations (they were called seminaries) in those days – more so than the men who had to receive their training on the job – if they found jobs. Some of these institutions became women’s colleges.

        In any event, what happened in the past, does not justify the existence of colleges that exclude based on gender.

  6. If she goes to Barnard, she might not have to give up having male friends, especially if she takes some classes at Columbia and does theatre there. I went to Mount Holyoke, and it was definitely tough finding some men up there to bro down with, but we managed anyway. No college is perfect, and there are going to be cons no matter where you go. So if Barnard hits the nail on the head for most of the things on her list, she should seriously consider it. Men aren’t the end all be all (and learning to forget gender for 4 years helped me gain a lot of confidence around them), but if she currently has a lot of male friends, an all-women’s college could really be a struggle.

  7. Good point, Scott. One of my sisters and I both went to women’s colleges, and we both had boyfriends whom we had met previous to starting college and whom we dated the whole four years we were at school. So we had all the up-side of the experience and none of the downside, which, for straight women, is a greater chance of meeting a partner. I am a die-hard feminist and also a believer that nothing is more important in life than finding a life partner, if that’s what you want in life. Some women’s colleges are more “social” and connected to a co-ed world, some less so. I think its very important for a young woman to weigh this issue before she makes her choice. College is not necessarily the place where you meet your future mate, and being straight and attending a women’s college doesn’t mean that you can’t meet your mate during that time, but those years which are the traditional age for college are certainly important ones for figuring out your “romantic self”.

    As to “the selling point” you refer to, I don’t think its either a lack or a preponderance of men. Its the primacy of women. This may be a subtle distinction, but its an important one. Its not about men. Its about women.

    • You typed: “I don’t think its either a lack or a preponderance of men. Its the primacy of women. This may be a subtle distinction, but its an important one. Its not about men. Its about women.”

      So if someone started a men’s college and said that its not about women, it’s about men, nobody would scream sexism?

      The President of Barnard College, Debora Spar, criticized the all-male August National Golf Club.

      “It’s just an embarrassment that it’s still all male,” said Debora Spar, president of Barnard College in New York. “Any argument that can be made anymore for male-only recreational sites is just kind of past its day.”

      Oh, but it is not embarassing that Barnard College excludes males from their admissions process? Any argument that can be made any more for female-only educational institutions is just kind of past its day.

      I guess to Debora Spar, an all-male golf club is embarassing but a women’s college is not. Is golf more important than a college education?

  8. I don’t have a problem with single-sex colleges, but I do note some irony here.

    One of the common selling points that I see in the article and in the comments is that these women-only colleges are not strictly female spaces at all. Don’t worry, they say, there are still plenty of men to interact with in all kinds of ways. You can still hang out with men and learn with men, too!

    Not a contradiction, but a little ironic wrinkle, it seems to me. Would you say that the selling point isn’t that the school is strictly female but rather that the interaction with men is more controlled? There’s more choice involved for the female students than at a co-ed school?

  9. Tom — Great article. Will have to bookmark it for my freshman (!) daughter — she’s a 15 year old at an all-girls high school who swears “never again.” We send our girls to a girls school and our younger boys to a boys school, and every day that we go to school there I am more and more convinced of the value of single sex education.

    OH, by the way, your all-time favorite writer will be at our girls’ school next week for a public reading and to spend a day at the school with the girls as a Visiting Author. Come on down — it’s an easy train ride to Trenton and I’ll even pick you up….Here’s the link!

  10. I remember touring Amherst, back in 1982, shortly after it had gone co-ed, and asking the gal who was leading us what it was like to go to a school that only recently allowed women. With a cheerful smile she said, and I kid you not, “It’s a great place if you want to fight for your education!” I went to Smith. During the four years I lived in the valley, I took classes at all of the 5 colleges (Amherst, UMass, Smith, Mt Holyoke, Hampshire). One thing I learned was that, regardless of where I was, if a woman was contributing to the class discussion, she was probably from Smith or Mt Holyoke.

    Its hard to describe what going to a women’s college did for me. The experience of being in a place where women engage in every conceivable function in college life operates most powerfully on a sub-conscious level. As those in the advertising biz know so well, it is the assumptions that are made, not the overtly stated message, that carry the most weight. Regardless of our backgrounds, we left Smith assuming that women can, and do, do everything.

    A part of that powerful, subconscious message is in the mission as well. Its no small gift to the psyche of a young woman that everything she sees, all of the money and effort and business of the college, from groundskeepers to professors to endowment, are going towards educating her and her sisters. The implicit respect for women and what they have to offer is enormous, exhilarating, and never leaves you.

    Good luck to your daughter, wherever she may land.

    Oh, and to J.G. te Molder, check out Deep Springs college… a truly wonderful all-male liberal arts college.

    Thanks for sharing your journey, Tom.

  11. Tom Matlack says:

    Thank you for all these wonderful comments (why don’t I write about women’s colleges ALL the time to avoid the wrath of the rapid commenters…). Rebecca looking forward to pillow fights since that is still a favorite hobby of mine with my six year old. Lori glad Simmons passes the broom test, but we live in Boston and the one thing Kerry has made clear is…she will not look in the state of Mass. So I guess it is out…

    Thanks all for your insight and stories. I stand enlightened. Not hard to do, I know.

  12. I was like your daughter–committed to a liberal arts school but wondering how I would survive without the male friends who I loved. What I found out after a year was simple: male friends are great, but great FEMALE friends?? Invaluable. I had real, true girlfriends for this first time in my young life and I owe MHC for both a top-notch education and the best women I have every known, who have sustained me in the years since. Everywhere I go I find our women or a man who’s loved one of them, and that network is strong. The issues with cattiness that I had feared existed–but they existed for my female friends at Amherst too, and in a way they had it worse–they had boys to fight over. It’s not for everyone, but really, four years to focus on yourself and realize your full potential without the stifling effect of men in the room? My male friends from high school were all there when I graduated, and I’ve made plenty since. But those Mount Holyoke girls…they’re my best friends, and I’m so much better for it.

  13. J.G. te Molder says:

    I wonder where all the men-only colleges are… oh, wait, that’s right, that’s discrimination.

  14. Patrice Behnstedt says:

    I was also accepted at Smith & Mt Holyoke & chose Mt Holyoke. The twist is that I was a nontraditionly aged student when accepted. After having real world “life experience”. There is no where better than MHC. A womans college is a place of incredible young women reaching for the stars. I would do it all again in a heartbeat

  15. Lori Kaley says:

    Hi Tom,
    I have three daughters. One graduated from Columbia and the other two are attending Simmons College in Boston, an all girls liberal arts school with a focus on developing young women as professionals. My daughters are all strong, independent young women with a variety of extracurricular interests from theater to sports. From a parent’s perspective, Columbia was a great experience and the Morningside Heights neighborhood in Manhattan is a great area to live in and attend school. Of course, you have NYC at your feet with all that brings. Simmons is in the Fenway area of Boston and it is surrounded by many other colleges and universities that are coed. I think the admissions counselor told us that during the school year, 1 out of 6 people that you come across in Boston is a college student. The beauty of Simmons is that it is focused on the education of women, much like Barnard. If you get a chance and your daughter is interested in Boston, check out Simmons. All the best with your search and I applaud you for going on the obligatory whirlwind pre-college tour with your daughter. Oh, and by the way, Simmons College bathrooms are immaculate.

  16. When I was a junior in high school, my parents also took me on an East Coast college tour, and I was adamantly against going to an all-women’s college – until my Mount Holyoke College tour. Not only was the campus beautiful, and don’t think that wasn’t a big factor, but the rhetoric they used, while reminiscent of the army’s “Be all you can be”, made me stop and think.

    As an athlete (competitive swimmer) and as a girl with a lot of guy friends, I assumed a co-ed school would be the place for me. But my guide made me reconsider when she brought up living four years in an environment that focused all of its efforts on ME. I would learn uniquely, I would grow uniquely, I would be supported and encouraged and built up to be the very best version of the woman I could be.

    No other school had offered me that.

    They had talked about on-campus parking, meal plans, large-and-small class sizes, but none of them had made me think about what that college could do for me as a person. Only Mount Holyoke did. And Natasha (re: post above), it also helped that at the time (the numbers have since grown) MHC had an 11% international student population, with 13% of MHC students being women of color; numbers that were much higher than your average co-ed institution. I am not a woman of color, but having grown up living in other countries and around the U.S., I wanted a student community that would reflect the world around me.

    In the end, I applied to only 2 colleges. I chose to go to Mount Holyoke, and in my junior year, I became a tour guide so I could help encourage other young women to make the similar choice I made – choose an all women’s college, if that’s the right choice, for YOU. For the education of you, to grow into being the absolute best, most well-rounded, self-focused (NOT self-centered) woman you can be.

    There will always be men around as both potential dates (depending on your sexual orientation) and potential friends – all women’s colleges are not cloistered nunneries accessible only through impenetrable forests or on mountain tops. But take the time to consider that four years in college may be the only time an entire institution will be devoted to developing a girl into a woman.

    Oh, and Mr. Matlack? Yes, pillow fights in our pajamas may occasionally happen as well.

  17. Boy, no one made me breakfast at midnight before my exams. But FWIW, my Barnard and my Columbia (grad school) diplomas are identical. IDENTICAL. The seal at the bottom represents the college under the university umbrella from which you get the diploma. And the dean/president of that college signs it. My Barnard diploma is in Latin, the J school one in English. Otherwise, they are interchangeable. I also lived on all female floors at Barnard but co-ed floors were above and below me. I just didn’t want to share a bathroom with guys. The courses are all interchangeable and my russian classes with 7 kids were a mix of Columbia College (all male at the time) and Barnard. IMHO, it truly is the best of all worlds, though cold as hell when that wind whips up 116th street.

  18. I was accepted at both Mount Holyoke and Smith, but chose Mount Holyoke. And I have never regretted that decision. I even left for a year, and then went back because I couldn’t envision myself anywhere else. Single sex education may not be the “right” choice for everyone, but at the time, it was the only choice for me.

  19. I’m far more in favor of single sex colleges than I am elementary and high schools. In the lower grades, or more accurately, during the formative years when we are developing our social and interpersonal skills, I think we NEED the input and stimulation that the opposite sex can provide. I can tell my daughter all day long how to interact with a boy, but all that is is a female interpretation of how to interact with a boy; it is NOT the same as having the interaction with an actual boy.

    However, once you hit college age, presumably most of those experiences have already been had, or at least approximated. Also presumably, people engaged in a college education are going to be taking their studies fairly seriously; hopefully more seriously than they did in high school. Assuming these two conditions, I think that a single sex college is probably beneficial in that neither the students nor the profs must be concerned with gender bias within the classroom and can just get on with the experience of learning/teaching.
    There are some students who are more concerned with playing sports, earning advanced degreees in beer die or earning their “Mrs.” than they are with the actual education attending college will provide them with. These students will probably not opt for single sex campuses. That is not to say that I believe all coed college students are not serious about their education, they are, but I do think you necessarily get a different calibur of student at a single sex institution. I think these students do tend to be more academically focused, more certain of what they want their adult professional lives to look like, and are more prone to going on to earn advanced degrees. Not smarter, just driven differently.

    Of course, students who attend single sex schools also tend to be of a certain race, income bracket and gender….so who can say what the key factor is?

    • Single-gender schooling in the lower grades is exactly what would help most boys the most. Studies have shown that boys in the lower grades have different educational needs than girls. Many (but not all) do not flourish in the same heavily structured environment that girls do. Studies have also shown that boys continue to fall behind girls in academic performance at all ages, all of which can be traced back to the early grades. In the later grades, after basic academic foundations have been developed, is when co-ed education would be less of a hindrance for boys. The pervasive attitude of society that girls need and deserve their own specialized institutions, while boys do not is insulting, discriminatory, sexist, and just down-right stupid. At the end of the day, the vast majority of people cannot afford to send their children to these private single-gender schools (whether kindergarten or college). It disappointing when parents (espically fathers) chose the opportunity for “calming” co-ed socialization over specialized education for their young sons when given the opportunity.

  20. She might also consider my alma mater, Bennington, which integrated in the ’70s but still has a largely female population. They’re also strong on liberal arts, especially performing arts, but are also about one discipline informing another.

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