Date

2013

Department or Program

Sociology

Title of Approved Individual Major

Sociology

Primary Wellesley Thesis Advisor

Joseph Swingle

Abstract

In the United States today, young women have access to virtually all of the country’s best colleges and universities. However, research suggests that single-sex education may still be beneficial to women in ways that co-education is not. Women’s colleges encourage students to pursue non-traditional career paths, offer more female role models and mentoring opportunities, provide more leadership experiences on campus, and cultivate generally supportive campus environments in which students develop social and academic self-confidence. In this study, I examine the experiences of female students at two women’s colleges and two co-educational colleges and find that women’s college students differ from their peers as prospective students in that they are more likely to be seeking academically challenging environments. After arriving on campus, they are more likely to report positive social experiences and interactions with diversity during their first year, though this difference is eliminated in subsequent years. They are also more likely to hold leadership positions and somewhat more likely to switch to and persist in STEM fields. I suggest that women’s colleges still offer real benefits to their students, and that co-educational colleges should look to them as effective models of how to support both male and female students on their campuses.

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