The Advantages of an All-Women’s Education

By Melissa Fares

Maybe I’m biased. But three years at an all-girl’s secondary school and four years at an all-women’s college have certainly made me appreciate the value of a single sex education. Any thoughtful examination of our society would recognize that there are many roads to a meaningful future. As fellow New Englander Robert Frost proclaimed in verse almost a century ago, “I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”

Let there be no doubt that single-sex education has its down side. There have been times when being surrounded almost exclusively by women has made me feel as though I am in the wrong setting: I feel like everyone is getting under my skin, even though perhaps it is I who may be the irritant; at times, everyone seems to be unswervingly—and unnervingly—in sync. 

I am sure that many of the women who have chosen to receive an all women’s education would agree with these occasional grumbles. But they would also agree that these are small annoyances in the grand scheme of things—truly a fair trade. That trade includes finding your voice.

A couple of months ago, sometime during the season of college visits and interviews, I was asked by the prospective family for directions to the admissions office, and they asked me how I liked Smith College. My response was earnest and unrehearsed: “It’s not for everyone,” I said. “But I wouldn’t be anywhere else.” Although this might not have been the answer they were looking for, it was the honest truth. 

An all women’s education has taught me about who I am and who I am to become. I’ve learned how to maintain a balanced life, how to sustain healthy relationships and support groups, how to embrace failure and take risks with good reasons, and so much more.

The classes I’ve taken, the places I’ve traveled, the friends, mentors, and professors that I have met along the way have inspired me to express my ideas and communicate my beliefs: I’ve created my own blog, Womankind; been a student advisor for the Smith College Center for Work and Life; even spoken about discrimination issues at the United Nations during a semester in Geneva. I feel greatly enriched by my experiences, and I know that this is only the beginning.

As I move onto graduate school, I will be attending a coeducational school. This is because I have found what I needed and more in all my experiences. I will graduate from Smith knowing that these several years of single-sex education have had everything to do with self-realization and transformation for me. 

During those fleeting moments—and admittedly, some last longer than others—it’s really no problem to keep reminding myself that this isn’t for everyone. But I wouldn’t be anywhere else.

Melissa Fares is a senior at Smith College majoring in psychology and minoring in art history. She is the associate editor for Smith’s newspaper, The Sophian, and has her own blog titled WomankindHer writing has also appeared in Newsweek, The Daily Beast, FinerMinds, India Times, The Dallas News, and more. Smith College is home to the Zeta of Massachusetts Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa.