Women are not only more likely to attend college, but they are also more likely to go on to attend graduate school. In fact, women account for half of the students in law, medical, and business programs, however women in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) fields are still way underrepresented, and women receive less financial aid than their male classmates. So, while gains have been made for women in academia there are still innumerable disparities, explicit and implicit, on the campus college and later in the workforce. Of course, many colleges and universities strive to make their campuses safe, inclusive, and supportive of women, and so we've listed fifty of those schools below. In addition to providing this definitive ranking of the best woman friendly colleges and universities in the country, we at College Choice have included everything else students and parents need to know about succeeding in higher education. Scholarships, advice on choosing schools, sexual assault awareness, trans women rights, studying in the STEM fields, single mothering while in college—we've got it all covered. We at College Choice have attempted to consider every angle in presenting this resource.
We at College Choice realize gender is a complex construct that is often used to enforce, exclude, and oppress. We want to stress that this resource is for all woman-identified students, including the cis, genderqueer, and trans communities.
Meet the Expert
Cate Mackenzie’s writing has been published in numerous journals, magazines, and on websites covering feminism and culture. She has also worked in book publishing for ten years. In that decade she has marketed, copy edited, proofread hundreds of books while also witnessing a dramatic change in social and digital media. Despite the flux, a certainty remains: people long to learn, and Cate loves making the path to learning as accessible and rewarding as possible. Cate has a BA and MFA in writing and lives in Oregon.
A Safe and Welcoming Campus
The statistics about the sexual assault and harassment women face in college are staggering. The U.S. Department of Justice estimates between 20 and 25 percent of women will experience a completed and/or attempted rape during their college career, more than half of whom will not tell anyone about their victimization. And this is just sexual assault; these numbers don’t reflect the pervasive encounters women have with physical assault, stalking, and verbal harassment, and numbers cannot begin to reflect women’s daily dealings with sexism, both overt and implied. From the crucial presence of the Women’s Resource Center and extensive health services to active feminist groups on campus, institutional support, and feminist-inclusive curriculum, below are some fundamental factors that make a campus informed, safe, and nourishing for women.
The Women's Resource Center
Perhaps the most important facet of an informed, vibrant, and active campus is the Women’s Resource Center (WRC), sometimes just called the Women’s Center. While some centers stand alone, others work in collaboration with other student or diversity centers, health centers, or academic departments, but in all capacities the resource center is the nucleus of a woman’s life on campus, providing not only a safe space but access to resources and services designed specifically for women and to give visibility to issues that affect women. From policy enforcement to health services, the resource center works in dual directions, for both the university and for the student, making campus not only a safe place for all students, but also a place where students can have their needs heard and met. Below are some of the ways a Women’s Resource Center can serve its female students:
- History: The WRC can provide both an autobiographical history of the center as well as a history of the school and how it has served its female students in the past. History often reflects precedence, vision, and progress.
- Resources: In addition to connecting students with campus groups—social, health, academic, or other—the WRC can also provide information on local and national organizations that serve women, especially women in crisis. The WRC should also provide 24/7 helplines for immediate and urgent needs.
- Scholarships and Aid: For more on scholarships, see our section below, which provides a list of potential awards, prizes, and aid to apply for. However, sometimes individual schools and academic departments offer their own scholarships. The WRC connect you with those that are available for women at your school, as well as pointing you to national scholarship connections too.
- Calendar: For detailed information on social events, meetings, discussion groups, lecture series, and more, the WRC’s calendar should cover the full scope of the university’s events that will be of interest to women.
- Connection: One of its primary responsibilities, the WRC connects students with different organizations and groups, promoting relationship, solidarity, and involvement.
- Publications: If your school publishes any feminist newsletters, journals, or online magazines, find out how to access the content or even connect with the editorial team through the WRC.
- Work: Looking to get involved on or off campus? Looking to make extra money or gain experience? The WRC will help facilitate internships, work studies, and study abroad opportunities.
Though each university or college’s social calendar will look different from another, those schools that made our list for having the best Women’s Studies programs (see our section on those programs below) and for being overall the most friendly toward women (see our definitive ranking below) boast a vibrant social environment. Their calendars are most often marked with weekly and annual events—including clubs, political organizations, discussion groups, lecture series, and more—that promote visibility among women. Some examples of women-oriented events you may want to look for when researching and applying to college include
- Welcome back picnics in the fall
- Take Back the Night
- WGS Lecture Series
- International Women’s Day celebration
- Celebration of Women’s History Month in March
- Domestic and Partner Violence Awareness Month in October
- Sexual Assault Awareness Month in April
- WRC and/or women in leadership retreats
- Women’s music festivals
- And much more
Women and Gender Studies programs were first formed in the 1970s and have, since then, grown exponentially in popularity and utility. Hundreds of colleges and universities across the country now provide a full Bachelor of Arts in Women’s Studies degree (see our section on women’s studies below as well as our ranking of the nation’s fifty best programs) often offering it tandem with most other disciplines. Even schools with technical, business, health, or research emphasis find that a program in gender studies substantively augments their curriculum and promotes women in leadership in areas where women are underrepresented. To learn more about women’s and gender studies, see our section below, where we’ve also ranked the best programs and explained how best to enact such a degree in the work force. But if you do not desire to major or minor in women’s studies, there are numerous ways to seek out a school that provides a gendered balance to its curriculum and across disciplines. Here’s what to look for in a school that intentionally and attentively incorporates the voices of and contributions from women:
- A Women’s and Gender Studies major and minor
- A feminist library and/or archive
- Course syllabi (across disciplines) that contains contributions from women writers, scientists, scholars, psychologists, and leaders in technology and business
- Required courses on feminism and/or gender studies across disciplines
- Academic departments and faculty reflect a breadth of gender and racial diversity
- Outside lecturers also reflect gender and racial diversity
- Emphasis on transnational and intersectional approach to education
Clubs, Organizations, and Extra-Curriculars
Social groups are the heart of a thriving campus life. They not only help students connect with others, but they promote activism, awareness, and solidarity. An especially active and high-functioning women’s center will be comprised of various groups and organizations that align with many identities and needs. The examples below reflect a sampling of student-led groups that one can find through a Women’s Resource Center, and are, in fact, pulled from our list of Best Colleges and Universities for Women.
- International women’s group
- Queer and trans women groups
- Mentoring programs between upperclass students and lower classes
- Coalition of Women of Color
- Women in STEM groups
- Intermural sports for women
- Women and faith groups
- Feminist sororities
- Feminist reading and discussion groups
- Asexual and nonbinary groups
Policy and Institutional Support
Comprehensive campus policy and procedures should aim to diminish, if not eliminate, sexual harassment, assault, and other issues related to gender on campus. All the schools listed on our Best Colleges and Universities for Women ranking (see below) have substantive non-discrimination policies, reflecting a fundamental and necessary priority on student protection and service. Some schools even post their policies online. We’ve listed here some of the key factors indicating that a campus has legislated institutional support and inclusive policy
- Clear policies and procedures are made widely available and accessible to the campus.
- The school enforces Title IX, which requires institutions of higher education to report sexual violence, misconduct, and other behaviors that create hostile environments for women.
- Guidelines for reporting incidents should be widely disseminated.
- Likewise, the procedure for reporting incidents should be confidential and simple.
- There is an advisory committee that oversees issues—academic, social, and health—specific to its female students.
- The school provides extensive health insurance that covers the physical and emotional issues specific to women.
- The school hires and pays its women’s resource center staff.
- Prevention programs train faculty, staff, and students alike on issues of safety and policy.
Most universities and colleges offer health insurance and provide a healthcare center on campus in an effort to meet an array of their students’ needs. However, the most inclusive health system should cover all aspects of the mental, physical, and emotional health of its students, especially women, who are more likely to be anxious, depressed, and overwhelmed than their male classmates. Additionally, women are more likely to experience sexual assault, harassment, and abuse, more likely to feel various kinds of pressure and shaming, and more likely to develop eating disorders, depression, PTSD, and addictions. Therefore, the health-related needs of women not only vary greatly from their male classmates, but entail services that are at once confidential, sympathetic, and extensive. When researching colleges and universities be sure to look into their healthcare options and services. If even you receive insurance from your parents or another source, it’s important to know what resources your school will make available to you. Here’s what to look for regardless of your specific needs:
- Guaranteed confidentiality
- Full and inclusive reproductive health care
- Resources on safe sex and contraceptive care
- Free and anonymous STI tests
- Cancer screening and prevention
- Sexual and physical assault counseling
- Information services that connect students with off-campus health options
- Unlimited psychological counseling sessions
- 24/7 access to crisis and help lines
- LGBT trained doctors, nurses, counselors, and staff
- Health insurance that covers hormone therapy and gender reassignment surgeries
- Voice modification programs
- Respect to and use of pronouns and names
50 Best Colleges and Universities for Women
From sexual assault awareness to anti-discrimination in STEM fields, there’s a breadth of considerations—social, economic, academic—to collate and compare when choosing a school. Such consolidation demands innumerable hours of research, the results being of crucial importance to your college experience and happiness. Which is why we’ve done that work for you, compiling below the best schools for women, taking into account a combination of crucial features: academic rankings; student performance, satisfaction, and retention rates; the level of safety and inclusion women can anticipate, and more. The scores below reflect the collective ranking of each of these factors.
College Choice Score: 100.00
College Choice Score: 98.51
College Choice Score: 97.58
College Choice Score: 97.41
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
College Choice Score: 97.38
College Choice Score: 95.59
California Institute of Technology
College Choice Score: 94.57
University of Pennsylvania
College Choice Score: 94.25
College Choice Score: 93.55
College Choice Score: 92.95
See the full list of the 50 Best Colleges and Universities for Women here.
In the 1970s when the first few women’s studies program formed in colleges and universities across the nation, faculty members had to write their own textbooks and develop wholly new curricula. They basically created a whole new pedagogy. Since then, as the second wave and third waves of feminism brought greater visibility to gender inequity, these women’s studies programs have grown, solidified, and have become an irreplaceable facet of a liberal arts education. Below we have reasons why you should consider a major or minor in women’s studies, what the best undergraduate programs in the nation are, and what to do after you graduate with the degree.
Five Reasons to Get a Degree in Women’s Studies
It’s culturally relevant
See our section on STEM for the sad statistics on women’s inequality in the workplace, which is only one sector of a woman’s life where she experiences discrimination. Currently, our country has laid out very serious battlegrounds over women’s reproductive health; trans women are fighting to use the right public bathrooms; female business and political leaders are called bossy, shrill, and even told to smile more. A degree in women’s studies arms you to take on any and all exhibitions of inequality, making you an advocate wherever you are, since the fight takes place everywhere.
It’s expansive and inclusive
When you become a women’s studies major you are not only signing up for classes on feminism and gender theory, but most schools suffuse their curriculum with courses covering race, sexuality, disability, ethnicity, and other categories of identities. Additionally, women’s studies has historically been marked by its intersectional and global approach to theory and analysis. Women’s studies programs encourage students to think independently and critically while simultaneously promoting collaboration across perceived boundaries.
Becoming a women’s studies major means you’ll get to enroll in a range of classes. You’ll have courses on literature, sociology, anthropology, philosophy, history, biology, politics, and more. Oftentimes you can even design the major yourself, cross-listing it with other concentrations and minors that are of interest. This breadth of academic experience not only benefits you during college, but will prepare you for an assortment of career opportunities. The degree can be applied to innumerable fields, from politics to healthcare, accounting to counseling, and much more.
You’ll work closely with diverse faculty
Not only are women’s studies classes typically small, intimate, and discussion based, but mentorship plays a principal role in the relationship between women’s studies students and faculty. Because many programs are interdisciplinary, students work closely with faculty advisors to develop and implement their course of study. Additionally, due to the nature of cross-listing disciplines within the major, the faculty members usually boast a breadth of background experience and expertise. In addition to working closely with women’s studies scholars, you’ll also get to work with scholars of literature, culture, history, psychology, and philosophy, among others.
It’s extremely marketable
Women’s studies students develop many beneficial occupational skills that will serve them for a long time post graduation: they gain the ability to think critically, creatively, and with the goal of problem-solving; they develop highly effective writing skills, since so much of the degree program is based on compelling written communication; women’s studies students also cultivate strong research proficiencies, leadership qualities, and a deep understanding of diversity, its intersections and complications. All of these skills make for an excellent job candidate, whatever the position.
The 50 Best Undergraduate Women’s Studies Programs
The following fifty colleges and universities vary in student population, environment and location, academic emphasis, political engagement, social involvement, and more, but they all share one thing in common: they offer the best Bachelor in Arts in Women’s Studies programs. While some programs combine Women’s Studies with gender and sexuality studies, they each introduce students to the cultural, political, and historical considerations of gender and then ask students to draw out the critical, intersectional, and transnational implications. Many of the programs also bring into question the relationship of race, class, sexuality, ethnicity, and more, encouraging students to investigate and develop unique concentrations in the broader field of gender. Methodology: Here at College Choice we’ve collated and compared the academic reputation, student satisfaction, affordability, and average financial aid packages of women’s studies programs across the country to create a definitive ranking of the nation’s fifty best undergraduate programs. We first chose programs with the most renowned academic reputation and from those pared the list down to those with high retention rates—a reflection of student satisfaction—and those with the most economical accessibility, to arrive at a list marked by thorough research and extensive data aggregation. Our figures come from the university and colleges’ websites as well as nationally recognized U.S. News & World Report and The National Center for Education Statistics.
College Choice Score: 100.00
Cost Per Year: $45,278
College Choice Score: 99.65
Cost Per Year: $47,600
College Choice Score: 99.25
Cost Per Year: $47,620
College Choice Score: 98.9
Cost Per Year: $50,562
College Choice Score: 98.72
Cost Per Year: $50,070
College Choice Score: 98.1
Cost Per Year: $47,442
College Choice Score: 97.89
Cost Per Year: $47,828
College Choice Score: 96.52
Cost Per Year: $48,212
College Choice Score: 96.36
Cost Per Year: $46,836
College Choice Score: 96.1
Cost Per Year: $43,838
See the full list of the 50 Best Women’s Studies Programs here.
After Graduation: What to Do with a Degree in Women’s Studies
So you’ve graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Women’s Studies degree and augmented it with a minor or a concentration in another area. Now what? Your degree does not set you on a predictable career track, this is true, but rather than fret in this fact you should see it as a huge benefit to your future vocation. Your knowledge of the intersection of sexism, racism, homophobia, classism, ableism, and other forms of hegemony is of interest to many sectors of employment: non-profit organizations, community centers, local and national government, civil and public services, health services, educational organizations, social services, and much more. Furthermore, the interdisciplinary nature of the degree prepares you for work in media, education, law, marketing and pr, academia, and business, among other fields. Finally, and not to be understated, a degree in women’s studies reflects your passion and advocacy for equality across identities and experience, a respected quality you’ll surely bring to any career, including:
Top National Scholarships for Women
Not only are women paid less annually than their male colleagues, but this inequity begins in college, where women receive less federal and nonfederal aid and graduate with more student debt than their male classmates. Fortunately, there are literally hundreds of scholarships for women, awarded by advocacy groups, professional organizations, corporate sponsors, colleges and universities, government groups, and more, each simultaneously illuminating the economic gap between genders and combating that disparity through awards and grants. We’ve also included some of the higher-awarding scholarships; while some have general eligibility requirements, others seek specific qualities and focus.
The Google Anita Borg Memorial Scholarship
To promote leadership in technology and computing among women, Google honors the legacy of Anita Borg through this national scholarship. Eligibility requirements include being women at an accredited undergraduate university who are majoring in computer science, computer engineering, or a closely related technical field.
Society of Women Engineers
The Society of women Engineers supports women pursuing undergraduate and graduate degrees in engineering or computer science. They offer dozens of scholarships with varying eligibility requirements and regional restrictions. In 2015, they awarded over two hundred new and renewed scholarships valued at over half a million dollars.
Jeannette Rankin Scholarship
For women who are returning to school later in life, the Jeannette Rankin Scholarship awards varying amounts to varying applicants who are thirty-five and older and enrolled in an accredited undergraduate, graduate, or vocational school.
American Association of University Women Fellowships and Grants
The American Association of University Women (AAUW) is a nonprofit organization that promotes equality form women through advocacy, charity, education, and research. They offer a number of fellowships and grants (with award ranges from $2,000 to $30,000) to women in an array of academic fields. To see if you are eligible for any, head over to their website.
Jane M. Klausman Women in Business Scholarship
With the goal of encourage undergraduate women to enter careers in business and become leaders in their fields, the Jane M. Klausmen scholarship (sponsored by Zonta International) has awarded nearly three hundred national and international scholarships in its lifetime. Applicants must be pursuing a business degree and in at least their second year of undergraduate study.
Alliance for Women in Media Scholarships
The Alliance for Women in Media works to bring talented and dedicated women in media together. Through a few different scholarships, they provide funding for undergraduate women studying media each year. While some of the scholarships support students with disabilities, others aim to promote leadership. To see if you are eligible for any, head over to their website.
O Wines Opportunity for Success
Sponsored by the College Success Foundation, the O Wines Opportunity for Success fellowship supports low-income young women who have been accepted or are enrolled at an accredited university or college. Applicants must have at least a 3.2 GPA and maintain it.
Anarcha, Betsy, and Lucy Memorial Scholarship Award
Awarded by the National Medical Fellowships, the Anarcha, Betsy, and Lucy Memorial Scholarship honors the legacy of three slaves who are now recognized as the Mothers of Gynecology. Eligibility thus requires that the applicant be a known descendant of an American slave, as well as a woman who is studying medicine.
Betty Rendel Scholarship
The Betty Rendel Scholarship is awarded by the National Federation of Republican Women each year in an effort to promote government leadership among women. Applicants must be students of political science, economics, government, or a related field, and must be at least a junior.
Advancing Women in STEM Scholarship
Tip: There are literally hundreds of scholarships for women, including ones based on location, degree focus, income, race, sexual orientation, and much more. Research extensively and apply liberally to as many as you can.
For queer and trans women we direct you over to our 2016 LGBT College Resource Guide. It in you’ll find absolutely everything you need to know about applying to and succeeding in college as a LGBT identified person. We have the definitive list on the friendliest LGBT schools, which scholarships you should apply for, a trans chapter that includes the most trans-welcoming campus, and much more.
Women in STEM
What is STEM: An acronym that stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics education. These fields, which no longer just stand on their own and are increasingly infused into core education, are way underrepresented by women despite the increase in gender equality awareness. The imbalance in the classroom then goes on to reflect imbalance in the work force.
- 18.2 percent of women earn degrees in computer science
- 19.2 percent of women earn degrees in engineering
- 19.1 percent of women earn degrees in physics
- 11.2 percent of undergraduate STEM degrees were awarded to minority women Women make up half the work force but only 8.3 percent are electrical engineers, 27 percent are environmental scientists, and 7.2 percent are mechanical engineers.
Why? From early in a girl’s education she faces discrimination in school. Girls are first stereotyped as not being good at science or math, which then keeps them from pursuing those classes in high school, which further inhibits their interest once they’ve reached college. Add to this a lack of encouragement among parents and educators, marginalization, and bias, and women are faced with innumerable hurdles to overcome. It has, of course, gotten better with each generation, but the numbers and statistics prove we are far from equality. For more resources, see Harvard’s Women in STEM research.
Why Women Should Consider the STEM Fields
Though there is increased acknowledgement and visibility of gender inequity in the STEM fields—as displayed both in the classroom and in the work force—and young girls and women are more often encouraged to explore STEM fields, the numbers give evidence of how far we have to go. If nearly half (47 percent) of today’s work force is made up of women and only a fraction (on average, less than 20 percent) are involved in the bourgeoning science, tech, engineering, and math fields, then those same positions are also missing the talent, vision, and progress those women would inevitably bring.
Hundreds of career options exist for those active in one of the STEM fields. From researching rare plant species to developing the latest app, STEM students have a multitude of opportunities to combine their personal curiosities, passions, and analyses upon graduation, and all for the sake of progress, evolution, and innovation.
S – Science
Studying and working in the sciences differs from the other STEM fields in that while technology, engineering, and math are concerned with application, design, building, and utility, science is more concerned with fundamentals, observation, and analysis. Though the relationship between science and other STEM fields is still intimately and complexly infused. A broad range of degrees, concentrations, and career objectives fall under the scope of science.
T – Technology
As a result of today’s culture and consumer habits, when we think of technology we summon images of Silicon Valley and the newest iPhone, but the wide scope of technology can include everything from web developing and systems analysis to aerospace development and AI research. The ubiquity of tech application in a range of careers explains the explosion of tech jobs throughout the country.
E – Engineering
Though women are increasingly graduating with engineering degrees, they only make up approximately one quarter of engineers. There are several forms and concentrations of engineering but they each seek to innovate, design, build, research, and improve upon a given structure, tool, machine, material, process, or system. And they can lead to satisfying careers.
M – Mathematics
A recent experiment gave job candidates, including both men and women, an arithmetic task to complete then had test subjects decide who to hire. Despite the fact that both genders performed equally well on the task, men were twice as likely to be hired, revealing an undeniable gender bias. Like many of the other STEM fields, math is way underrepresented even though women earn 43.1 percent of math degrees. Those degrees prepare women to work across the STEM fields, applying their expertise and skills on an array of tech, science, and engineering platforms:
Keeping Women in STEM
Not only is it of crucial importance to recruit women into the STEM industries, but ensuring women want to stay is just as critical: 56 percent of women in STEM leave their employers midcareer (according to the NCWIT), if not sooner. Though on average 74 percent of women in technical positions say they love their work (NCWIT), they also say they feel isolated, that their work environment is hostile, competitive, and unfriendly, and that without seeing other women make it as leaders, it’s difficult to stay in those positions.
College as a Single Mother
Over a quarter (26 percent) of college students are raising dependent children. That’s about 4.8 million students in the U.S., with women making up 71 percent of all student parents (stats come from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research). Despite these numbers, resources and assistance for these parents is still woefully lacking, resulting in devastating drop out numbers: 53 percent of single parents drop out of college without attaining any degree. However, it’s not impossible. Below we’ve listed how you can overcome the biggest hurdles single parents face, including how to afford college, how to manage your time, whether you should consider getting your degree online, and much more. First we start with must-read tips for single mothers.
10 Must Read Tips for Single Mother in College
Indisputably, you will face many more obstacles and challenges than the average college student. However, with some creativity, resilience, and a supportive community you can earn your degree, in either a full or part time capacity. Here are some tips to make it happen.
1. Be proactive and plan ahead
You’ve decided to attend college for the first time or to go back after a hiatus. That’s great! Now it’s time to get organized: make a list of schools you’re interested in. Use our 50 Best Colleges and Universities for Women list to get started, but there are also a number of considerations to work through; see our section below on what to look for in a school as a single mother. Create a calendar that includes all your forthcoming school deadlines, meetings, and classes, even if they are many months in the future. Look into several funding options (see tip 3), and include application deadlines and payments in your calendar. Getting proactive about organization will serve you throughout your college career.
2. Choose Flexibility
See below for our section on whether you should consider getting your degree online, but even if you choose a traditional degree program, we urge you to investigate your options and choose the school that offers the most flexible program. Some colleges and universities allow you to combine on-campus classes with online courses, and many offer evening classes and summer classes. At College Choice, we realize you may have limited choices about where you can enroll, but from whatever options you do have we encourage you to get creative with how you build your curriculum and to go at your own pace.
3. Get Creative About Money
Your financial situation is markedly different than a traditional eighteen-year-old freshman starting college. You have bills to pay and mouths to feed. Fortunately, there are funding options specifically for single mothers that include scholarships, grants, waivers, official benefactors, and loans. Try to avoid loans at all costs. Instead, connect with your school, especially their Women’s Resource Center, to inquire about financial assistance for single mothers. They may offer funding directly through their institution, or helpfully point you toward local, regional, or national resources.
4. Take Advantage of College Resources
In a recent study published by Childcare Aware of America, they found that in most states, the “average child care center fees for an infant are higher than a year’s tuition and fees at a public college.” Therefore, in addition to connecting with the Women’s Resource Center, you should investigate your college’s childcare options. Start with EducationDepartment.org, which provides a list of over 1,500 colleges, universities, technical schools, and community colleges that offer childcare for its students.
5. Do Homework with Your Children
If your children are old enough and have homework of their own, consider making study time a family activity. Not only are you increasing time spent with your family, you are also providing a positive example of work ethic. If your children are too young for homework, have them color, read, or play games at the table with you.
6. Invest in a Social Network
Community is key. The proverbial adage “it takes a village” really applies when you are in school. Cultivate a community of family, friends, and other parents who provide both encouragement and help when you need it. But your community shouldn’t exist just outside the classroom; connect with classmates, perhaps meeting other single mothers through the Women’s Resource Center, as well as advisors and faculty members.
7. Take Care of Yourself
First, relinquish your guilt. Do you feel bad about the time you’re spending away from your children? You’ll need to let it go, for your sake and theirs. Remember, you’re improving your life first, but that undeniably affects the lives of your children. Second, eat well, exercise, and sleep whenever you can. Though this seems like more obligations to add to an already busy schedule, remember that your health (in all aspects) affects your academic performance. Finally, see tip 8.
8. Say No
If it doesn’t directly benefit you, your studies, or your family, you can and should decline. It’s ok to say no. Your friends and family will understand. And even more, they’ll respect your dedication. Get comfortable saying no.
Your time is precious and preciously allocated. So, it’s imperative you make a schedule, explain it thoroughly to your children, and post it in an accessible place for them refer to. Block out when you’re in class, when you’re working, and when you’re doing homework. It will be tempting to exclude homework time from your schedule. But, on average, for every hour you spend in class you should spend two to three hours outside of class studying and writing. Homework time is as non-negotiable as class and work.
10. Know Yourself
At College Choice we know you’ve long thought of your children’s needs before your own, but remember to practice self-awareness. Know yourself, know when and where you study best, and know when you just need to take a break. Knowing your needs and how to satiate them will lead you toward a successful academic career and graduation.
What to Look for in a School as a Single Mother
Use our 50 Best Colleges and Universities for Women list to start comparing and contrasting colleges, but there is a range of other considerations, from location to affordability that single mothers should explore and weigh against one another. Here’s what to look for and what to ask yourself:
Get an Online Degree?
Getting a degree online carries a lot less stigma than it used to, and, in fact, now many colleges and universities do not formally differentiate the two. Whether you wish to complete your program fully online or to do a hybrid program—one that combines both on-campus and distance learning—there are many great reasons to consider it.
Tip: Though there are many rewards to online and distance education, at College Choice we highly recommend you do the same amount of research you would with a traditional program. Reach out to admissions counselors to discuss what resources and services will be made available to you, ensure that the program is accredited by a recognized and respected organization, that the credits are transferable, and that you’ll receive similar support as traditional students.
Scholarships and Funding Options for Single Mothers
It is daunting to think of adding a tuition payment or student loans on top of the bills you already pay. But it isn’t dire. You have many options when it comes to paying for school, from scholarships to grants or, most typically, a combination of.
- Employer Assistance: Some companies provide tuition help for their employees. This can often depend on the degree being earned—whether it’s relevant to the company—but we urge you to talk to your boss about the possibility of receiving aid.
- Grants: Federal grants are need-based awards given to students based on income criteria. The Federal Pell Grant is one of the most known in the country, but there is also the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant, Academic Competitiveness Grant, and National SMART grants.
- Scholarships: For a full listing of scholarships, see our scholarship section, which provides a thorough exploration of scholarship opportunities for women. However, there are dozens of regional scholarships specifically for single mothers, administered either directly by the colleges and universities or by the state government. To look into your state’s scholarship options we recommend collegescholarships.org and scholarships.com. In addition to those resources, there are a couple of renowned national scholarships for single parents to which you should consider applying.
Two Scholarships You Must Apply For
- Patsy Takemoto Mink Foundation Scholarship: This $3,000 is for a single mother with low-income who has enrolled in an undergraduate program at an accredited college or university.
- Soroptimist International Women’s Opportunity Awards: For single mothers with low-income who have enrolled in an undergraduate program at an accredited college, university, or a trade or vocational school, the award is $3,000 to $10,000
Sexual Assault Awareness
College women have the same chance of being sexually assaulted during their four years in college as they do catching the flu during an average year. The long-term effects on survivors can be physical, mental, and emotional, ranging from depression and PTSD to suicide ideation and living with a STI. There are many preventive steps a college can and should take to eliminate sexual assault on campus, as well as procedural steps after an incident takes place.
Quick Stats on Campus Assault
- It is estimated that between 20 and 25 percent of college women will experience an attempted or completed rape during their college career.
- Among college women, 90 percent of victims of rape and sexual assault know their offender.
- Almost 13 percent of completed rapes, 35 percent of attempted rapes, and 23 percent of threatened rapes happen during a date.
- Less than 5 percent of completed or attempted rapes against college women are reported to law enforcement.
Every university and college campus should take the highest degree of responsibility for the safety of their students, which includes an extensive and enforced policy, but students can also get involved in the campaign to end sexual assault on campus. Here are some suggested ways to go about it:
Know your rights:
Get familiar with Title IX, what it protects, and what it can do for you. Title IX extensively covers all aspects of gender equity, including discrimination against single parent students, women in STEM programs, athletic disparity, and more.
You can help (other) survivors. If a victim confides in you, though chances are sadly slim (only 2 percent will report to law enforcement), help connect them with a local, national, or campus resource. Just remember that you should never pressure someone to get help.
Connect with local and national campaigns:
Not only should you consider volunteering with a local rape crisis center or women’s center, but you can actively bring national campaigns, such as Take Back the Night, right to campus. Some of these organizations, especially the national and international ones, offer funding. Apply for these grants to receive aid for sexual assault awareness events on campus.
Sexual Assault Awareness Month takes place every April throughout the country. Get involved on campus by hosting events, displays, lectures, discussion groups, workshops, and more.
The Campus Save Act:
Inquire whether your college complies with the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act (also called Campus Save Act). An update to the law went into effect in 2015, so check whether your school has embraced the new procedures, and if they haven’t yet then ask that they do so. The new requirements ask schools to:
- 1. Report the number of violent incidents (including stalking) that occur on campus each year. This is in addition to the requirement already in place to disclose sexual assault incidents.
- 2. Include hate crimes that are motivated by gender identity discrimination to their annual statistics.
- 3. Provide support and viable options for students who are reporting incidents of dating violence, domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking.
- 4. Give students the opportunity to bring an advisor of their choosing to any disciplinary proceeding.
- 5. Update annual security reports to include information on the prevention programs in place, the procedures taken after a reported crime, and the training for all those involved in proceedings.
Marks of a Proactive College Campus
Sexual Assault Defined
The U.S. Department of Justice legally defines sexual assault as “any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient.” The DOJ then explains that forced sexual intercourse, forcible sodomy, molestation, incest, fondling, and attempted rape are each considered assault.
A note about the word “force”: RAINN crucially explains that “force” is not always physical. Attackers and perpetrators may also use emotional or psychological force to manipulate a victim into abuse and/or assault. Verbal threats also constitute as force.
Emotional abuse is usually non-physical and includes abusive behavior such as verbal threats and insults, bullying, constant control and monitoring, humiliation and shaming, intimidation, and isolation. There are many signs of emotional abuse, but some to look for include your partner or someone:
- Calling you names, putting you down, constantly criticizing you, and using humiliating language
- Causing damage to your belongings when angry
- Isolating you from friends and family and using pejorative, jealous, or conspiratorial language when talking about your friends and family
- Accusing you of cheating, blaming you for their behavior, or threatening to commit suicide if you break up with them
- Purposely embarrassing you in public or starting rumors about you
- Making you feel guilty when you don’t consent to sexual activity
- For more signs of emotional abuse, visit Love Is Respect
Physical abuse may not always hurt or leave bruises, but by definition it includes intentional and unwanted contact with your body. Examples include your partner or someone:
- Grabbing you by your clothes, hair, or body
- Throwing items at you or near your body
- Forcing you to have sex or perform a sex act
- Grabbing your face to make you look at them, or grabbing you to keep you from leaving
- Throwing you down onto furniture or the floor
- Using weapons of any kind
- For more signs of physical abuse, visit Love Is Respect
Sexual abuse includes any and all actions that pressure, coerce, or manipulate someone to engage in sex or a sex act that they don’t want to. Examples of sexual abuse include:
- Unwanted kissing, touching, or groping
- Rape or attempted rape
- Unwanted force, rough, or violent sexual activity
- Pressuring, threatening, or coercing sexual activity
- Refusing to use a condom, restricting the use of birth control or means of protection from STIs
- Using sexually violent language
- For more examples of sexual abuse, visit Love Is Respect
Harassment and Stalking
Harassment and stalking encompasses many kinds of inappropriate and abusive behavior, sometimes varying in legal definition by state, but any unwanted attention or acts—whether physical, emotional, digital, financial, or sexual—can be contained within the overall definition. Some examples include:
- Excessive texting, emailing, calling, messaging, etc
- Sending unwanted explicit photos and pressuring you to send photos back
- Using technology to track and follow you, spread rumors, and keep constant tabs on you
- Shows up unannounced or uninvited at your home, work, class, or other place
- Calls your friends, family, professors, employers to get information on you
- Keeps track of your finances, restricts use of your accounts, or gives you an allowance
- For more signs of any kind of abuse, visit Love Is Respect
Please note that while we at College Choice offer the following advice, we are well aware that it is not up to women to prevent rape and assault, but the perpetrators themselves. These tips are given as a protective measure without in any way placing blame on victims and survivors of abuse. Even if one does not follows these measures, it is still NOT her fault if she is assaulted, but solely the fault of the attacker. Here are some ways to protect yourself:
There are many reasons why women do not report their attacks, one of the reasons being consent’s perceived ambiguity. Many women feel at fault for their attacks, making them reticent to come forward. So, in unnuanced terms, this is consent, as defined by the University of Michigan’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center: “Consent is when someone agrees, gives verbal permission, or says ‘yes’ to sexual activity with other persons.” Consent requires that all persons feel they are able to say “yes” or “no” to stop the sexual activity at any point. Consent should never be assumed, regardless of the relationship status, body language, or appearance. For more on consent, visit RAINN for an explication of what it does and does not look like.
Further Resources on Sexual Assault
At College Choice we’ve attempted to provide the most thorough and extensive resource for sexual assault awareness on campus. However, there is an infinite amount of information, so we encourage you to keep researching and to connect with a diverse array of sources. Below we’ve listed some great organizations, foundations, government initiatives, publications, and networking connections that are indispensable for women college students.
It’s impossible to cover each aspect of being a woman in college to its innermost depth (e.g., books could be written on being a trans woman student alone). For that reason we at College Choice encourage you to keep researching, to dig for each and every resource you’ll need to make your college experience successful and nourishing. This guide is just to get you started. So, for that reason, here are some great organizations, foundations, publications, and networking connections that are indispensable for women college students.
American Association of University Women (AAUW)
The AAUW was officially founded in 1881 and has, since then, been working to instill gender equity in academia. Their nationwide network encompasses 170,000 members (including students), 1,500 branches, and over 500 college and university partners. In addition to offering scholarships, they also help facilitate salary negotiations, campus leadership programs, STEM education advocacy, legal and public policy funding, and more.
National Coalition for Women and Girls in Education
This coalition is a nonprofit partnership among over fifty groups dedicated to bettering the academic opportunities for women. They closely monitor public issues and legislation that concerns women’s equal rights, everything from athletics and pregnancy to technical and STEM education.
Institute for Women’s Policy Research
IWPR mostly concentrates on issues related to poverty, welfare, employment, earnings, health, and family issues. They collaborate with policymakers and public interest groups in their research and efforts to disseminate research findings; one of their most recent reports is titled “Mothers in College Have Declining Access to On-Campus Child Care.”
Her Campus is a great web magazine for women college students, with articles on how to prepare for college, how to cheaply decorate your dorm room, whether you should get a summer job or an internship, and much more. They also have chapters for hundreds of colleges and universities throughout the country, which specifically profile college life at those schools.
Ms. was cofounded by Gloria Steinem during the second wave feminism in the 1970s. Today it continues to cover women’s issues, with special focus on campus safety. Ms. is a great resource for women who want to stay apprised of current events and how they, as women, are affected by those events.
Planned Parenthood is a vital service with which every woman should be familiar. They provide free check-ups if your insurance doesn’t cover the cost, or if you don’t have insurance. They can connect you with other health services. They’ll help you get treatment and medicine. Some of their care services are even available online. Planned Parenthood is indispensible for young women.
Association for Women in Science
AWIS was founded in the 1970s and has, since then, worked to eliminate job discrimination, lower pay, and professional isolation for women working in the sciences. Over 20,000 members and chapters are part of the AWIS community. If you’re majoring in the sciences and graduating soon, we recommend becoming a member of AWIS, which will connect you with a huge network and give you access to a plethora of research, services, conference opportunities, and more.