Women’s colleges used to exist because men’s colleges didn’t let women in. Then in the second half of the 20th century virtually all men’s colleges went co-educational and many women’s colleges merged with men’s colleges, admitted men, or simply went out of business. A few didn’t. Today the remaining women’s colleges argue that a mostly-female college environment gives young women a uniquely strong preparation to thrive in a still male-dominated world. Certainly, many of these colleges have rich histories, illustrious alumnae and strong academic programs. Because so many potential applicants never seriously consider a women’s college, some of them are not as hard to get into as coeducational colleges with similar histories and resources.
Wellesley, Barnard, Bryn Mawr, Smith and Mount Holyoke are what are left of the “Seven Sisters.” (Vassar has admitted men for decades, and Radcliffe was swallowed up by Harvard.)
Just because a college only admits women doesn’t mean that there are no men in the classes. Many of these colleges are affiliated with nearby co-educational colleges or men’s colleges. At some 100% of the students are female; at some the campus and classroom experience is not very different from any coeducational school. Still, if you are female it can feel good to know that your institution was founded for you; that you aren’t just being tolerated at a place that was all-male for centuries.
Wellesley College (Massachusetts) http://www.wellesley.edu/
Smith College (Massachusetts) http://www.smith.edu/
Mount Holyoke College (Massachusetts) https://www.mtholyoke.edu/
Barnard College (New York) http://barnard.edu/
William Smith College (New York) http://www.hws.edu/
Bryn Mawr College (Pennsylvania) https://www.brynmawr.edu/
Mills College (California) http://www.mills.edu/
Scripps College (California) http://www.scrippscollege.edu/
Spelman College (Georgia) http://www.spelman.edu/ (Spelman is a historically black college for women)
Historically Black Colleges
Like women’s colleges, historically black colleges existed because black students weren’t admitted to most white universities. Today this kind of discrimination is illegal, but that doesn’t mean every student of color feels unambiguously supported at every historically white institution. In fact, many of the nation’s oldest universities such as Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Brown, Dartmouth, Georgetown, William and Mary, and the University Virginia have legacies built in part on slavery. This can include founders and presidents who owned and traded in slaves, endowments built on profits from slave trading, university buildings built by slaves, slaves who served their masters on campus, and even biological and medical research performed on slaves. Some black students choose a historically black college for the same reasons some women choose women’s colleges. They are proud of their institution’s past, and believe that a mostly black campus prepares them to thrive and even lead in a multiracial world. Unlike women’s colleges, historically black colleges tend not to have large financial endowments. Like women’s colleges, they have rich histories and famous alumni.
Spelman College (Georgia) http://www.spelman.edu/
Morehouse College (Georgia) https://www.morehouse.edu/
Howard University (Washington DC) http://www2.howard.edu/
Hampton University (Virginia) http://www.hamptonu.edu/
Tuskegee University (Alabama) http://www.tuskegee.edu/
Fisk University (Tennessee) http://www.fisk.edu/
Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University http://www.famu.edu/
North Carolina A & T State University http://www.ncat.edu/