“Enviable”

Women’s colleges remain competitive, and desirable, for female students

Barnard College graduands at The Theater at Madison Square Garden on May 17, 2015 in New York City.

Back when the first women’s colleges were being founded, they were a necessity — women were often barred from attending college, and especially top institutions. Now that most of the world’s top schools have gone co-ed, some question such institutions’ further relevance. Lisa Birnbach, the author best known for co-authoring New York Times Bestseller The Official Preppy Handbook, has put together a review of some of the nation’s top all-female colleges in an effort to determine how they hold up against their coed counterparts, as well as whether “familiar tropes such as horseback riding and lesbianism still apply.”

Despite reservations going in, Birnbach concludes that the all-women’s college is “not what [she] had imagined. The richness and intimacy of these students’ experiences are enviable and inspiring.” Her impression appears to be shared by students and alumni alike: according to the Women’s College Coalition, admission numbers are up at almost every woman’s college this year — many at historical highs. It’s worth mentioning that included on the list of schools is Sweet Briar College, the iconic 114-year-old Virginia mainstay whose seemingly inevitable shutdown last year was prevented due to heroic fundraising efforts from the school’s alumni.

And according to Emma, a student biologist at Mills College in Oakland, California, even today all-women schools still carry deep symbolic importance: “The very existence of women’s colleges is quite a progressive concept,” she explained. “In a patriarchal society, how radical is it to create space for women and maintain it on this scale?”

Read the full story at Vanity Fair.

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