Why I Chose A Women's College

Fbomb Smith College
Smith College

On May 1st, I signed my life away to the college where I will spend the next four years of my life. When I nervously pressed “submit” on the acceptance form a few days ago, I expected a grand display of fireworks, or at least some sign that I had made the "right" choice. Instead, I found my mom was still hovering over my shoulder and little else had changed.

Perhaps I expected that finally making this decision would feel more satisfying since the process leading up to it was so challenging. After receiving 17 acceptance letters and another notifying me that I had made it on the wait list, I narrowed down my options to two schools: Rice University, a top-20 nationally ranked research university in my home state, and Smith College, a progressive, women's college in Massachusetts.

I struggled to make the decision between Smith, which felt like the best fit for me, and the more “prestigious” college (Rice ranks higher than Smith on most college rankings). I felt like my friends, family, and classmates expected me to go to Rice, but I couldn’t shake the reality that the minute I had stepped on Smith's campus, I felt a sense of home I had never felt before.

A year ago, I would have laughed at the idea of attending a women's college. Now that most colleges have gone co-ed, women's colleges seemed to me like more of an afterthought than a necessity. I ended up visiting Smith as a last-minute stop on a college road trip. I knew it was an excellent school, since one of my favorite English teachers—one of the most inspirational, strong women I know—is a proud alumna.

When I visited Smith, I realized it had what every other college I had applied to lacked: an emphasis on women's leadership, resources for women to overcome gender biases, racial and economic diversity, and a campus culture that emphasized empowering all underrepresented genders in our society. When I visited coed colleges, I noticed that the women there often seemed like they were trying to impress the men around them instead of themselves. But at Smith, the students I met were smart, and unapologetic about it. They described how much they loved their small classes, the feeling of community, and the institution overall. They had a sense of purpose and confidence that was cultivated by the women’s college environment. When I sat in on a class, the usual “this could be wrong, but I think...” hesitation women usually have when they voice their ideas with was gone. Without men dominating the discussion, women stepped up.

I think people who choose one of the Seven Sisters—the group of women's colleges created to rival the Ivy Leagues back when they didn’t admit women—do so intentionally. I think many of us see women’s college environments as models of how the world should be; a world in which  strong women aren’t met with resistance.

As a strong, opinionated women, I have already faced this resistance. I struggled through being told to tone down my loud voice and sharp opinions. I knew that, if I went to Rice, I would probably have to continue to do this, and would not likely reach my full potential. But at Smith, this strength is encouraged. At Smith, the question is not whether or not you are strong, loud, and opinionated, but how you’ll use this strength to impact the world. This environment creates women who know exactly who they are, what they want, and what they must do to achieve that goal. I realized that, if I went to Smith, I would never have to apologize for myself or my ambitions, I would just be surrounded by people who wanted to help me succeed.

Nevertheless, when it came time to actually make my decision, I felt like I was on a tightrope, balancing society's definition of “success” with my own happiness. I won’t pretend that I was blind to prestige in my process, but ultimately I realized that choosing a college isn’t about choosing the “best” college, but about choosing the best college for you. I made my decision when I realized that, no matter which institution I attended, I would always be fierce, passionate, independent, and intelligent— but would only be happy at Smith.

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Julie Graves
WMC FbombEditorial Board Member
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