I still remember when I first informed family and friends of my decision to attend Mount Holyoke, an all women’s college in the US. They facetiously remarked,
“Is that a medieval convent in the US?”
“Aren’t you going to miss boys?”
“ALL girls school for four years…You will forget how to talk to boys!”
While many of my friends were seemingly startled by my choice, I knew it was one of the best decisions of my life.
Young women, particularly in the Middle East and Asia, should consider the benefits of attending a women’s college. You may be surprised, but there are over 40 institutions of higher learning in the US dedicated exclusively to educating women. The most reputable women’s colleges are the “Seven Sisters” – founded with the premise of educating women at a time when Ivy League schools were predominantly reserved for men. The Seven Sisters include Barnard, Bryn Mawr, Mount Holyoke, Radcliffe (now part of Harvard), Smith, Vassar (now co-ed) and Wellesley. For generations, women at these colleges have discovered their passions, stretched their horizons and realized their true potential.
Some may refute the relevance of women’s colleges today. After all, society has made positive strides forward with regard to gender-related issues. Women are leaders in finance, successful entrepreneurs, and hold important positions in Government. While we may have progressed in the past century, the hard truth is the world continues to lack in gender equality. According to the Institute of Women’s Policy Research, women earn about 20% less than men for doing the same jobs . In terms of economic loss, this translates to a whopping $840 billion that women lose in wages every year! 
Gender equality is indisputably imperfect. Women-only colleges; however, are specifically designed to prepare the next generation of women leaders. Hillary Clinton, the first female presidential nominee of a major U.S. party, attended Wellesley. Drew Gilpin Faust, the first female President of Harvard University, went to Bryn Mawr. Moreover, graduates of women’s colleges constitute more than 20% of women in Congress and represent approximately 30% of Business Week’s list of influential women. 
Attending a women’s college makes a powerful statement. Juniors trying to finalize their college lists should research and include women’s colleges as a viable option.
The most unique aspect of women’s colleges is the individualized attention students receive to facilitate success. By nature, women’s colleges strive for academic excellence and provide support services that are conducive to intellectual and professional development. .
Through the small classroom experience, you are encouraged to speak, analyze, and forge solutions as well as hone leadership skills. This helps cultivate strong relationships with world-renowned professors who guide you not only through your four years at college, but also your entire personal and professional life.
Furthermore, faculty advisors are dedicated to creating a sustainable career plan. Discussions with advisors include topics pertaining to hundreds of funded internships globally, and opportunities to conduct research, engage with communities, and collaborate with leaders.
Women colleges draw a large international population. Despite the cultural differences, women at these colleges are connected via unifying forces – pride, spirit and identity. It is a fantastic opportunity to maintain social, cultural and religious values, yet gain a wider perspective on life.
In particular, shared traditions bring the community closer together. Tradition instills a sense of sisterhood among the students. Mount Holyoke; for instance, has a long standing tradition of the big sister / little sister program. As a first year Mt. Holyoke student, I was assigned an older, more experienced “sister”, to ease homesickness, guide me through my selection of classes and inspire exciting new adventures.
The strong alumnae network also connects you to thousands of graduates from around the world who truly support your dreams. Alumnae of women’s colleges are simply an email away to provide life advice.
This close-knit community of advisors, alumnae, and students creates an enriching experience, exposing students to strong, powerful, and successful female role models. Female role models are instrumental in empowering students to pursue leadership roles, both inside and outside the classroom. Hence, you will find students who not only lead STEM research projects, but also serve as captains of sports teams.
Many women’s colleges are part of local consortiums that enable you to enroll in courses at nearby institutions.
Mount Holyoke and Smith; for instance, are part of the Five College Consortium – Amherst, Hampshire, and UMASS Amherst – all located within a 12 mile radius in Massachusetts. They provide cross-registration opportunities for a wide range of courses and a free shuttle service for transportation.
Wellesley also offers a cross-registration program with MIT as well as the option of a double-degree program to earn a B.A. degree from Wellesley and an S.B. degree from MIT over the course of five years.
Moreover, Barnard is affiliated with Columbia University in New York. Barnard students receive unlimited access to Columbia classes, professors, libraries, and events, while maintaining their own campus and faculty. Bryn Mawr students also enjoy the benefit of close partnerships with Haverford and Swarthmore in the Philadelphia area.
Apart from the academically stimulating experience, the consortia enables you to socialize with students, including men, from other prestigious liberal arts colleges. Students from nearby schools often visit the Seven Sisters to enroll in classes, study or simply hang out. This provides access to a network of like-minded students and opportunities to collaborate on several social or business initiatives.
In sum, women’s colleges provide support in all spheres of life – academic, personal and professional – with a specific focus on women’s needs. The experience of studying alongside ambitious, smart and independent-minded women is incredibly transformative, just ask any proud alum!
Mona Khan is an Educational Consultant at Hale Education Group and a graduate of Mount Holyoke College.