Last month, I visited Bryn Mawr College, a women’s college in the suburbs of Philadelphia. I can’t say enough about how impressed I was with the young women I met during my visit. I had the pleasure of interacting with several students, all of whom were poised, articulate, intelligent, and dedicated. They were excited about their studies and involved in their community.
The dean of admissions described Bryn Mawr’s students as “intellectually engaged” and “self-directed.” She said students “live lives of purpose,” “are committed to making a difference,” and “are agents of social change.” Many of the students spoke about how their experience at Bryn Mawr helped them become confident, independent, empowered young women.
Additionally, several of the students stressed that they had been able to make their experience at Bryn Mawr as co-ed as they wanted it to be. The college is part of a consortium with Haverford College, Swarthmore College, and University of Pennsylvania. Bryn Mawr students can take classes at the other colleges, and they can even pursue a major at Haverford. Similarly, students at the other colleges in the consortium can take classes at Bryn Mawr. Because of this arrangement, Bryn Mawr students take only two classes that are restricted to women: a freshman seminar and a writing class.
Bryn Mawr students can interact with men outside of the classroom as well. They can participate in clubs at all of the other colleges in the consortium and can join sororities at Penn. The women at Bryn Mawr also can attend parties and campus events at the other schools. Bryn Mawr provides shuttles to Haverford and Swarthmore and will pay for students to take public transportation to Penn, and students can use their meal plan at the other colleges in the consortium.
Many women’s colleges are like Bryn Mawr in the sense that they belong to consortia that include co-ed colleges. For example, Scripps College is part of the Claremont Colleges. Scripps students take classes at the other Claremont schools (Claremont McKenna College, Harvey Mudd College, Pomona College, and Pitzer College) and students at those schools take classes at Scripps. Similarly, Mount Holyoke College and Smith College are members of the Five College Consortium, which includes Amherst College, Hampshire College, and the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Students at all five colleges can cross-register at the other colleges in the consortium.
If you’re a young woamn who wants an empowering, life-changing college experience, you should consider a women’s college. I never did, but after visiting Bryn Mawr, I wish I had. I will certainly encourage my female students to do so in the future.