HWC’s: A Path to Success

Katherine Potts-Drew interpolates on the merits of Historically Women’s Colleges

Fall. The season of Friday night football, Halloween, pumpkin patches, and—the highly dreaded—college applications. Scanning through websites describing the opportunities that different schools provide gets repetitive. The abundance of options among the 5,300 colleges in this country can be overwhelming. However, for those interested in attending a Historically Women’s College (HWC), the options are more slim. Specifically, anyone interested in studying at an HWC is choosing from 28 schools.

Fifty years ago, there were almost ten times the amount of HWCs than today; what caused the drop? Why were these schools more popular in the 20th century? A main reason that they were appealing to young women was that it was an opportunity to obtain a higher degree. Education for women, especially at undergraduate and graduate levels, has not been around for that long compared to male education. HWCs played a very important role in advancing these disparities and shutting down stereotypes that women are not as capable as men. Women were able to dive deeper into their interests and receive degrees as a bonus. Advanced education became a widespread asset for women all over the country because of the number of HWCs colleges that were established.

Despite the misconception that HWCs do not prepare women for the male-dominated, competitive work environment they may encounter in the future, HWCs report higher levels of collaboration and also provide higher levels of academic challenges. When speaking with Alex Greenblatt ’22, a current student at Wellesley, she explained that students at HWCs are a lot more competitive with themselves, versus other people, and that “there’s an immediate bonding that comes from going to a small school, even more so with HWCs, and that leads to a pretty civilized academic experience.” She also mentioned that for women interested in going into traditionally male-dominated fields, such as STEM, they get “to be in an environment where their teachers look like them and their classes are filled with like-minded peers.” This  encourages students to persevere and find inspiration.

Historically Women’s Colleges report incredible findings—the numbers say it all. People from co-ed colleges have an average of 65 percent graduation rate, while HWCs at a comparable level have an approximate 80 percent graduation rate. On top of this, around 81 percent of HWC attendees continue their education after college to earn an advanced degree, and graduates are twice as likely to go on to medical school and receive doctorates. HWCs have definitely made a name for themselves in the government, as well, comprising 20 percent of women in Congress.

In my eyes, HWCs are an opportunity for a great community of hardworking individuals to collaborate and experience a pivotal part of their lives together. Graduation rates soar and the students thrive under the academic environment. These schools have not failed to impress with the inspiration seeded into their alumni, who continue to work hard in dedicating themselves to the care of their schools. Hillary Clinton, Alice Walker, Meryl Streep and many more continue to speak highly of their experience in attending a HWC. This creates a tight-knit student/alumni group which is an interest point for many. HWCs have repeatedly produced graduates who excel through their careers, and will continue to do so.

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