It’s almost summer which means schools everywhere are graduating and high school seniors are preparing for college in the fall. I was in this same position six years ago. (Oh Lord, has it been that long already?) I’d chosen my college and was both excited and nervous to embark on this new chapter in my life in just a few short months. I didn’t realize until I began sharing my chosen college with friends and people in my community, that choosing to attend an all women’s college was especially uncommon. Now, I know if my parents are reading this they’re probably remembering that I wasn’t too keen on considering Saint Mary’s College when I started my college application process. I’ll admit I wasn’t sold on the idea originally but that had more to do with the fact that I didn’t think I’d make any friends. (Spoiler: I was TOTALLY wrong). Once I actually toured the college in the fall of my senior year in high school, I was sold. It felt so right and like I was home and at that point, I’d only walked around the campus.
All this is to say that it wasn’t until I announced my choice—and later arrived at the school—that I realized there were so many misconceptions about a women’s college. I’ve heard so many comments and assumptions about what it means to attend a woman’s college since I was freshman. Which is why today, I thought I’d debunk 5 of those myths. For anyone who’s ever wondered why a young woman would choose to go to a non-coed school and to anyone who has assumed any of these myths, this post is for you.
Myth #1: We’re all lesbians. No, sorry, to burst whatever weird, fantasy bubble you (guys especially) might have, but we’re actually not. Now, I did know several ladies in college who did identify as lesbian or some other sexual orientation and they’re awesome people but that doesn’t mean that all of us identify that way. Believe it or not, most of us chose our college because of the academics, because other members of our family had previously attended the school, or even because it’s a single-sex school. Some studies have actually shown that young women do better in a single-sex learning environment. I personally think this is because they are more likely to feel comfortable with speaking up in class and engaging in open discussion.
Myth #2: We all want to become nuns. This might pertain more specifically to my college experience since Saint Mary’s is a Catholic institution. But the answer is still false. Saint Mary’s College was founded in 1844 by an order of nuns and a priest, yes, but this does not mean that today the students who attend are pursuing the sisterhood or even are Catholic. There are women of all different religions—or even no religion—who attend Saint Mary’s.
Myth #3: We weren’t smart enough to get into Notre Dame so we settled. I have to say that out of all the comments I’ve heard, this one has to annoy me THE most. Now, to understand this particular myth, you have to first understand that Saint Mary’s College is the sister school to the University of Notre Dame. When Notre Dame decided to go coed in 1972, Saint Mary’s opted to stay a female institution. The reason this particular myth irritates me is two-fold. The first is the assumption that I wanted to attend Notre Dame. I did not. If I had wanted to attend ND, I would have applied to the school.
The second is that because Saint Mary’s is the all-female sister school, it must be a few steps down the totem pole from ND. At least, this was always the impression I got whenever asked if that’s why I chose SMC over ND. But again, FALSE. I think this second one is partly because Notre Dame is just a more universally well-known name than Saint Mary’s but just because we are a sister school does not mean that we are “settling” for a lesser education. In fact, I’d argue that in some aspects our education is better because we have much smaller class sizes. It’s hard to be invisible to the professor when there’s only 10 students in the class. One of my classes had just 3 students total.
Myth #4: We just want our MRS degree. This one kind of runs in the same vein as the previous myth. For some reason, ladies who choose to attend an all women’s college (particularly ones who are affiliated with other institutions) are seen as not being serious about their education and are just pursuing higher education to find themselves a husband. While I realize that many couples do meet in college, that is certainly not the main reason the vast majority of young women choose to attend college. It may come as a shock to some, but men are not the end all, be all. Women can be boss-ass too.
Myth #5: The entire campus shuts down one week a month. This is perhaps the most amusing myth I’ve heard. I don’t know what the male species thinks happens when it comes to a women’s period, but we definitely do not “shut down” or close the gates once a month because everyone on campus has synced up. Believe it or not, it doesn’t work that way. While you may find an abnormally high number of conversations revolving around periods and other women-specific topics at any given time on campus, life goes on just like it does everywhere else. We go to class, we procrastinate writing papers and then complain because we left it to the last minute, we order late night pizza.
I hope this has helped shape a better idea of what a women’s school is actually like—or at least, given you a better idea of what it is not. I absolutely loved my time at Saint Mary’s College and wouldn’t change my time there for anything in the world. I met some of the most amazing people there and engaged in some really thought-provoking class discussions led by some awesome professors. I actually met two of my best friends in the world during move-in weekend freshman year and I don’t know what I would do without them now (See? I told you I was way wrong about the friends thing). If I had to do it again, I would make the same school choice.
Are there any other myths that you have heard about all women’s colleges?