Should You Attend a Single-Sex College?

Get the pros and cons of attending an all-male or all-female institution.

Many people have strong opinions about single-sex education, and determining if it’s the right choice for you depends on both your personal preference and the school you choose.

While single-sex colleges are not hugely popular – only a little over one percent of women awarded BA degrees graduate from one – they still may appeal to some students.

Why Choose Single-Sex?

Some students, particularly women, feel more comfortable expressing themselves in a single-sex environment. It may be easier to open up during class discussions when not concerned about impressing or being judged by the opposite sex.

If you are already comfortable with your ability to work cohesively with the opposite sex, but would still like an opportunity to see how you develop in a single-sex environment, a single-sex college may be a good choice.

Others argue, however, that the sheltered nature of a single-sex educational environment doesn’t properly prepare people for a co-ed workforce.

Single-Sex Colleges

While many men’s colleges have disappeared or become co-ed (the majority of men’s single-sex colleges are military or religious institutions, with the exception of schools like Morehouse College and Wabash College), there is a rich and ongoing history of women’s colleges, perhaps the most famous of them being the group of schools collectively titled: The Seven Sisters.

The Seven Sisters were founded as counterparts to the Ivy League men’s colleges, and included Barnard College, Bryn Mawr College, Mount Holyoke College, Smith College, Wellesley College, Radcliffe College and Vassar College. The latter two are no longer single-sex institutions, but the remaining five are top-tier institutions that remain closely tied and are referred to as “The Sisters.”

Besides “The Sisters,” schools such as Spellman College and Sweet Briar College are also ranked on Forbes’ top ten women’s colleges list. For the west coast, schools such as Mills College and Scripps College in California are both well-ranked liberal arts schools on the US News and World Report ratings.

Scripps College is part of a consortium of five schools, and students can take classes on co-ed satellite campuses; allowing students to choose if they would like to have some classes in a co-ed setting.

Many single-sex campuses have ties with co-ed institutions in order to encourage their students to experience academically and socially diverse environments. For example, Wellesley has cross-registration programs with Babson College, Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering, MIT and Brandeis University.

Should You Get a Single-Sex Education: Tips and Tactics

  • Make a list of your college goals. Does single-sex education help these goals or can you accomplish them more easily at a coeducation school?
  • Keep in mind that sports and social environments are going to be vastly different at single-sex colleges. If these things are important to you, make sure you visit both coed and single-sex colleges to compare.
  • Each single-sex school will offer a distinct experience from another, so be sure to visit the campus and talk to students before deciding if it’s right for you.

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