College Resources for Women Students

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Read the Ultimate Guide for Women in College

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

catemackenzie

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.

Events

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

Academic Life

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.

Health Services

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

Best U.S. Women's Colleges, 2016

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.

  1. Harvard University
    Location

    Cambridge, MA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    The oldest university in the country, Harvard University was founded in 1636 in Cambridge, Massachusetts by a vote of the Great and General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. It is a private research university made up of Harvard College and 11 other schools and institutes, including the former Radcliffe College, now the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. Harvard served around 21 students in the 2015-2016 school year. It is regionally accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges’ Commission on Institutions of Higher Education. Notable alumni include eight U.S. presidents, Helen Keller, Yo-Yo Ma, and Tommy Lee Jones. Harvard’s library collection is the oldest in the country and the largest private collection in the world.

    The current iteration of the Harvard College Women’s Center (HCWC) was founded in 2006, though it was borne out of years of history of women’s centers at Harvard and Radcliffe beginning in 1971. Its mission “is to promote gender equity by raising awareness of women’s and gender issues, developing women’s leadership, and celebrating women who challenge, motivate, and inspire.” The HCWC offers a range of programming, many of which are student-initiated, including dinner discussions, film screenings, and panels and performances supported by the Ann Radcliffe Trust/Women’s Center Community Fund, as well as a mentorship program, the Gender 101 workshop, and the Women’s Leadership Awards. Harvard also offers Degrees in Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality.

  2. Stanford University
    Location

    Stanford, CA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Opened in 1891 and known officially as Leland Stanford Junior University, Stanford University is a private research university in Stanford, in California’s Silicon Valley. In the fall of 2015, 6,884 undergraduate students and 9,128 graduate students matriculated across seven schools. The university has a 4:1 student to faculty ratio. It is regionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. Stanford’s community includes 20 Nobel Laureates, four Pulitzer Prize winners, and 31 Nobel Prize winners from Stanford’s faculty since the university’s founding.

    The Women’s Community Center (WCC), through the Division of Student Affairs, was established in its current form in 1991, though it has a history dating back to the 1970s. It provides “space, support, and advising to Women’s Voluntary Student Organizations (WVSOs),” which include academic, service, performing arts, sororities, and pre-professional organizations. The WCC offers programming for women in STEM fields, is home to the annual Stanford Women’s Leadership Conference, and hosts Herstory Month in April each year. In an effort to create meaningful dialogue and action around gender at Stanford, the WCC is home to the Men’s Outreach Project. Academically, the Program in Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies offers an undergraduate major, a secondary major, a minor, an interdisciplinary honors program open to students in all majors, and a PhD minor.

  3. Yale University
    Location

    New Haven, CT

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    The third-oldest institution of higher education in the country, Yale University was founded in 1701 in what was the Saybrook Colony as the Collegiate School. Today, Yale is a private Ivy League research university in New Haven, Connecticut. It is regionally accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges Commission on Institutions of Higher Education. In 2015, Yale was home to 5,453 undergraduate and 6,859 graduate and professional students. It has 288 registered undergraduate organizations and 35 varsity sports teams.

    The Yale University Women’s Organization (YUWO), founded in 1965, seeks “to provide an opportunity for women of the Yale community to meet and pursue common intellectual and social interests” through education, recreation, and service. The Working Women’s Network aims to provide a community and advocate for policy improvements for women who work in all areas of Yale. This includes offering professional development and enrichment for women at Yale, support for women seeking a greater work-life balance, and developing relationships with other organizations with shared goals. Established in 1979, the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program at Yale offers a variety of courses and a Bachelor of Arts degree.

  4. Princeton University
    Location

    Princeton, NJ

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Chartered in 1746, Princeton University is the fourth-oldest college in the United States. It is a private Ivy League research university located in Princeton, New Jersey. For the 2014-15 academic year, the university enrolled 5,275 undergraduate and 2,671 graduate students, with a student-to-faculty ratio of 6:1. It is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education and offers 36 undergraduate degrees, concentrated into 34 majors within 15 broad fields of study. Princeton teams have won more Ivy League championships than any school over the last two decades.

    In 1971, ten years after the first women graduate students enter the university, the Princeton University Women’s Center was established. The Center seeks to “recognize and redress historic and persistent gender inequality at Princeton and beyond.” It offers information and resources on everything from gender-free restrooms to a rape aggression defense course to religious life. Programming through the Center includes events like Take Back the Night, #BlackLivesMatter documentary screening, Women in STEM Seminar Series, and the Womanist Mystique Symposium. It offers a social justice training retreat, mentorship, and the Women’s Center Action Groups, which are semester-long student-led teams that develop two to three programs on gender-related themes. Princeton also offers a Program in Gender and Sexuality Studies.

  5. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
    Location

    Cambridge, MA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, commonly known as MIT, is a private research institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Founded in 1861, MIT offers 46 undergraduate majors for the 4,527 undergraduate students enrolled in 2015. In addition to the Bachelor of Science degree, MIT also offers six Master’s degrees, a Doctorate of Philosophy, and a Doctorate of Science. It is regionally accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges. In the 2015-16 academic year, women made up 46% of undergraduates and 33% of graduate students. The campus houses state-of-the-art facilities including wind tunnels, linear accelerators, and robot test labs.

    Through the Division of Student Life, Women@MIT is a central location of information and resources for women students at MIT. It strives to provide MIT students information on the offices, departments, and organizations that exist to support and empower women students at MIT. It also provides a number of events and programs and oversight to the Margaret Cheney Room, MIT’s Women’s Community Center. Established in the mid-1980s, Women’s and Gender Studies (WGS) at MIT is an interdisciplinary academic program which seeks to “educate MIT undergraduates on the importance of gender equity, and to promote a broad understanding of gender and its complex intersectionality with sexuality, race, ethnicity, class, ability, religious affiliation, and other categories of identity.” The program offers a degree concentration, minor, and major.

  6. Duke University
    Location

    Durham, NC

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Duke University is a private research institution located in Durham, North Carolina. Originally established in 1838 as Trinity College, it became Duke University in 1924 through a philanthropic endowment. In the fall of 2015, Duke had 6,485 undergraduate and 8,465 graduate/professional students enrolled across its 9 schools and college. It has a student-faculty ratio of 7:1. Duke is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and offers 50 undergraduate majors and 52 minors. In an advancement of the university’s mission of ” knowledge in service to society,” more than 75% of students at Duke are engaged in service-learning opportunities in Durham and throughout the world.

    The Women’s Center at Duke is “dedicated to helping every woman at Duke become self-assured with a streetwise savvy that comes from actively engaging with the world.” In line with this mission, the center has programs geared towards empowerment, such as Salary Smart; Education & Outreach, like Gender Violence Education; Building Community, with the Women’s Collective, Activism, through the Beautiful Project; and Civic Engagement with alternative school break options. It is also home to the Duke Men’s Project, which aims “to rework current narratives of masculinity for a healthier alternative; one that is inclusive, equitable and positive.” Duke also offers a Program in Women’s Studies, which includes programs for both undergraduate and graduate students, in addition to a certificate program, a variety of initiatives, and the Feminist Theory Workshop.

  7. California Institute of Technology
    Location

    Pasadena, CA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Located in Pasadena, California, the California Institute of Technology, or Caltech, is a private university founded in 1891. It has a 3:1 student to faculty ratio and six academic divisions. In 2015, Caltech had 1,001 undergraduate students and 1,254 graduate students. The gender ratio was 33% female and 56% male across the university. The school’s global facilities include a jet propulsion laboratory, seismological laboratory, and an international observatory network across five states, Antarctica, and (in 2017) Chile. It is regionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.

    Caltech provides a variety of resources for women, many with a focus on the advancement of women in science and engineering. These resources include career, academic, and personal mentorship, discussion groups, and various clubs and groups. The school has also established Parenting at Caltech as a resource for parents and caregivers, from information on parental leave to support groups for caregivers to lactation rooms on campus. The school’s WAVE Fellows program aims to foster diversity by increasing the participation of underrepresented students in science and engineering Ph.D. programs, including women.

  8. University of Pennsylvania
    Location

    Philadelphia, PA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    The University of Pennsylvania, commonly known as Penn, was founded by Benjamin Franklin in 1740 and is one of the country’s Colonial Colleges, established before American Revolution. It is an Ivy League research university located in Philadelphia, regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. 89 undergraduate majors are offered, and the university holds a “One University” policy, which grants undergraduates access to courses in nearly all undergraduate and graduate schools, as well as allowing students to take courses at Bryn Mawr, Haverford, and Swarthmore—an agreement known as the Quaker Consortium. With a student to faculty ratio of 6 to 1, in the fall of 2015 Penn had 10,406 undergraduate and 11,157 graduate students.

    Founded over 40 years ago, Penn’s Women’s Center is one of the country’s oldest campus-based Women’s Centers. The center hosts programs on career development, stress management, parenting, violence prevention, health and wellness, in addition to events which highlight women and female-identified writers, activists, artists and political and professional leaders. It also works closely with Penn Violence Prevention to educate the campus community about dating violence, stalking, and sexual assault and provides crisis and options counseling. The center has a fully-equipped nursing room and a film and book library, meeting rooms, and lounge for meetings, workshops, and other projects. Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies at Penn is an interdisciplinary program offering over 50 courses, a major, a minor, and a graduate certificate.

  9. Wellesley College
    Location

    Wellesley, MA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    12 miles west of Boston, in Wellesley, Massachusetts, sits Wellesley College, a private, women’s, liberal-arts college founded in 1870. It is regionally accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges. In 2015, Wellesley enrolled 2,344 students. The school offers 56 majors and has a student to faculty ratio of 7:1. Over 70 percent of students participate in an internship while at school and more than 150 student organizations are offered, along with cultural centers and multi-faith life on campus.

    Coming out of the college’s mission to “provide an excellent liberal arts education for women who will make a difference in the world,” Wellesley has offered Women’s and Gender Studies since 1982. The program which examines “how the lives of individual women and men are shaped by broader structural forces in both historical and contemporary contexts . . .” The program offers both a major and minor with five different concentration options, from Global/Transnational Feminisms to Gender and American Cultural Studies. All majors are required to choose a capstone research experience. Women’s and Gender Studies also puts on a variety of events, including the annual Domna Stanton Lecture Series.

  10. Dartmouth College
    Location

    Hanover, NH

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    One of the nine Colonial Colleges founded before the American Revolution, Dartmouth College is a private, Ivy League, research university in Hanover, New Hampshire. The college was established in 1769. It is regionally accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges. In 2014, Dartmouth had around 4,200 undergraduate and 2,000 graduate students. The undergraduate college offers more than 40 departments and programs. There are four graduate schools. Admission to the college is need-blind. About 60% of undergraduates take part in any of the 45 faculty-led off-campus opportunities in over 20 countries during their time at Dartmouth.

    Founded in 1988, the Center for Gender and Student Engagement (CGSE) at Dartmouth seeks to “facilitate students’ development with a focus on gender exploration and social justice in a safe and inclusive space” and falls under the Office of Pluralism and Leadership. CGSE provides programming, events, advising, and individual engagement opportunities. The Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality program offers a major, minor, and honor’s program. It also provides global opportunities for students to study in Hyderabad, India or take part in other international internships.

See the full list of the 50 Best Colleges and Universities for Women here.

Women’s Studies

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.

It’s interdisciplinary

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.

  1. Harvard University
    Location

    Cambridge, MA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    OverviewOne of the world’s most prestigious universities, Harvard is located in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Harvard is regionally accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges’ Commission on Institutions of Higher Learning.FeaturesAt Harvard you can major in most fields, including pre-med, and concentrate in Women and Gender Studies (WGS). The WGS concentration is often ranked first in concentration satisfaction among seniors. It has earned this reputation for many reasons:

    • Most courses operate as seminars with small, intimate classes
    • Each year, a graduating WGS student receives the Jane C. Grant Senior Prize
    • Classes can be tailored to meet your career and personal interests
    NotablesHarvard’s alumni is made up of over 150 Nobel laureates, over a dozen Field Medalists, hundreds of Rhodes and Marshall Scholars, and much more. It is, of course, top ranked nationally and globally. But what is less known is that Harvard’s large endowment permits generous financial aid packages; the average need-based scholarship or grant award is $44,430.

  2. Yale University
    Location

    New Haven, CT

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    OverviewYale University has about 12,000 total students, evenly divided among undergraduate and graduate programs. Yale consists of 14 constituent schools, and provides more than 2,000 classes annually.Yale is regionally accredited by the New England Association of Schools.FeaturesStudents at Yale can receive a B.A. in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, a program with dual, partnering focuses: to cultivate analytic skills and to promote broad knowledge of the conversations and themes that mark women, gender, and sexuality studies. The curriculum covers everything from gender in a transnational world to the evolutionary biology of women’s reproduction. Yale brings not just an intersectional and interdisciplinary perspective to gender studies, like most programs, but also uniquely emphasizes four key issues about gender:

    • Its historical baggage
    • Contemporary issues and ideas
    • Transnational  experiences
    • Representational conflicts and questions
    NotablesYale has graduated a number of notable alumni, including five U.S. Presidents as well as Nobel laureates, Fields Medalists, Rhodes Scholars, U.S. Supreme Justices, and more. With a student-to-faculty ratio of 6:1, Yale offers the options of a big, public research school with the intimacy of a small liberal arts school.

  3. Pomona College
    Location

    Claremont, CA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    OverviewPomona College is the founding member of the Claremont College system, which is a consortium of five undergraduate and two graduate schools in Claremont, California. Just under 2,000 students attend the College. Pomona is regionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.FeaturesThe Gender and Women Studies major at Pomona consists of four core gender courses, two feminist theory courses, one ethnic studies course, and a senior thesis. The curriculum is decidedly intersectional, and its students, upon graduation, will be able to engage gender theory, perform critical analysis, and generate new research. Majors can also choose to focus on the theoretical, or to engage in interdisciplinary studies with a joint discipline, which includes:

    • Media studies
    • Art history
    • Psychology
    • Technology, and much more
    NotablesPomona is not just one of the best liberal arts schools in the nation, but Forbes often ranks it first among all undergraduate colleges and universities. With an emphasis on sustainability, Pomona runs an organic farm and a center for community partnerships

  4. Amherst College
    Location

    Amherst, MA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    OverviewAmherst College is located in Amherst, Massachusetts.Amherst College ranks as one of the best schools in our country by U.S. News & World Report, Forbes, and The Princeton Review. Amherst is regionally accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.FeaturesSWAGS—Sexuality, Women’s, and Gender Studies—promotes an inquiry into the material, cultural, and political lives of women while also investigating gender’s intersection with race, class, and nation. Courses are taught by faculty who specialize in medicine, literature, politics, history, classics, anthropology, film, and rhetoric. Classes cover a range of topics, such as:

    • Greek Drama
    • Black Feminist Literary Traditions
    • And much more
    NotablesAmherst deviates from some of the other liberal arts colleges on our list in that students at Amherst enroll in the open curriculum program, meaning they are not required to fulfill any distribution requirements and are even given the option to design their own interdisciplinary major. It also means freshmen may take advanced courses and seniors may take intro classes.

  5. Williams College
    Location

    Williamstown, MA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    OverviewWilliams College is a small liberal arts college with approximately 2,000 undergraduates. It is comprised of three academic divisions in the humanities, sciences, and social sciences. And Williams College is regionally accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.FeaturesThe Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies program at Williams is over thirty years old and emphasizes the intersectionality of sexuality, gender, class, race, ability, nationality, and other identifications. Examples of classes WGSS students can anticipate at Williams includes:

    • American Girlhoods
    • Caribbean Women Writers
    • Sexual Economies
    • Body Politics, and more
    NotablesTop ranked by both U.S. News & World Report and Forbes. It models its pedagogy after the tutorial systems at Oxford and Cambridge’s small mentoring groups. So it comes as no surprise that Williams boasts a student-to-faculty ratio of 7:1.

  6. Swarthmore College
    Location

    Swarthmore, PA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    OverviewThe history of Swarthmore College can attest to its longstanding advocacy for women’s rights. Not only was it one of the earliest coeducational colleges in the country, but also many of its founders were leaders in the women’s rights movements, as well as abolitionist and other social movements in the nineteenth century and beyond. It is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.FeaturesAt Swarthmore, the Gender and Sexuality Studies program infuses global perspectives into gender issues, emphasizing the interrelationships between gender, race, class, sexuality, and politics. The objective of the program, as stated by the Swarthmore, is to “bring feminist and queer theory in conversation with new research methodologies in the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences.” This is clear in the curriculum. Courses offered include:

    • Queering God
    • Gender, Sexuality, and the Body in Islam
    • Chinese Feminism
    • Black Women in the Civil Rights Movement, and much more
    NotablesSwarthmore is often called one of the “Little Ivies,” which reflects the stellar reputation of the school. Swarthmore also has an academic reputation for being one of the best liberal arts colleges in the nation. It is nationally and globally ranked by a range of sources, including College Choice.

  7. Middlebury College
    Location

    Middlebury, VT

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    OverviewMiddlebury College is also one of the oldest liberal arts colleges in the U.S. Their student population (of around 2,500) represents all 50 states and 74 countries. The College’s calendar follows a 4–1–4 schedule: two four-course semesters plus a one-course January term. Middlebury is regionally accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.FeaturesWith a strong emphasis on interdisciplinary methodology and intersectional perspective, the Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies program at Middlebury brings together classes on social science, natural science, theory, national and transnational contexts, and more. Students have wide-ranging opportunities, including:

    • Conference attendance
    • Become Student Advisory Council representatives
    • Win the the Alison G. Fraker and Drue Cortell Gensler prizes, which are solely for students in the department
    • And more
    NotablesKnown not only for their academic reputation, Middlebury was the first American institution of higher learning to grant a bachelor’s degree to an African American, in 1823. It is ranked as one of the country’s best liberal arts college as well as one of the most selective.

  8. Bowdoin College
    Location

    Brunswick, ME

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    OverviewBowdoin College is located in Brunswick. It is a small liberal arts college that enrolls under 2,000 students. In addition to the Brunswick campus, Bowdoin owns a 200-acre scientific field station and a 118-acre coastal studies center. Bowdoin is regionally accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.FeaturesThe Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies program at Bowdoin explores gender as a cultural construct and how that construct has been implemented to maintain unequal and oppressive power structures. The faculty and staff who comprise the department represent a range of expertise and their corresponding courses similarly represent that diversity of experience. GSWS students can take classes in which gender intersects with topics such as:

    • Ethics
    • Hip hop
    • Sports
    • Media and gaming
    NotablesBowdoin has been called both a “New Ivy” and a “Hidden Ivy,” as it has a renowned academic reputation. It consistently well-ranked by U.S. News & World Report, Forbes, and Washington Monthly. And it is home to a number of notable alums, including Alfred Kinsey.

  9. Wellesley College
    Location

    Wellesley, MA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    OverviewWellesley College is a member of the original Seven Sisters Colleges. It is a private, women’s, liberal arts college organized into more than 50 departmental and interdepartmental majors. Wellesley is regionally accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.FeaturesWellesley College has been on the forefront of women’s equality, representation, and rights for most of its history. It is home to the Wellesley Centers for Women (WCW), one of the largest gender-focused research organizations in the United States and a member of the National Council for Research on Women. The Women’s and Gender Studies program further solidifies the college’s commitment to critical cultural analysis of gender at all its crossroads. Graduates from the program have gone on to work in an array of fields, including though not limited to:

    • Political lobbying
    • Journalism
    • Public health
    • Filmmaking, and such much more
    NotablesWellesley is especially known for allowing students to cross-register at MIT, Brandeis University, Babson College, and Olin College. Consistently well-ranked, Wellesley is home to a number of notable alumni, including Hillary Clinton and Madeleine Albright.

  10. Vanderbilt University
    Location

    Nashville, TN

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    OverviewVanderbilt University is located in Nashville, Tennessee. Undergrads at Vanderbilt, of which there are approximately 6,800, choose from 70 majors or they can create their own through their interdisciplinary program. Vanderbilt is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.FeaturesThe Women’s and Gender Studies courses at Vanderbilt are offered in an array of academic settings; classes are held as seminars, specialized lectures, discussions, topic courses, and independent studies. The diversity of methodology reflects Vanderbilt’s emphasis on the complexity of the subject, and it encourages their WGS students (who can choose to either major or minor in WGS studies) to also implement various methods of research with the goal of cultivating a comprehensive, interdisciplinary perspective on gender.NotablesVanderbilt University represents students from all 50 states and from over ninety countries and is home to several research facilities, including the Dyer Observatory, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, the Vanderbilt Institute for Public Policy Studies, and more. Annually well-ranked by Forbes, U.S. News & World Report, and Washington Monthly, Vanderbilt provides the academic opportunities of a large public university at a fraction of its scale.

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

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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:

Education

Grad student, women’s resource center representative, higher education administrative assistant, librarian, or career services advisor

Law

Civil rights attorney, organizer for public interest groups, aid for women’s advocacy organization, lobbyist for women’s equity, or domestic violence counselor

Media and Publishing

Book or magazine editor, copywriter, marketer, public relations manager, or grant writer

Business

Financial Planner, human resources manager, advertising rep, sales associate, or equity and diversity consultant

Health

Behavioral health counselor, women’s residential program counselor or director, women’s clinic administrator, organizer for women’s health nonprofit, or social worker

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.

  • Category: STEM majors
  • Application deadline: December
  • Award range: $10,000 plus a retreat at Google headquarters
  • Website

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.

  • Category: STEM majors
  • Application Deadline: Varies
  • Award Range: Varies
  • Website

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.

  • Category: Low-income, 35 or older
  • Application Deadline: March
  • Award Range: Varies
  • Website

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.

  • Category: Varies
  • Application Deadline: Varies
  • Award Range: Varies
  • 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.

  • Category: Business majors
  • Application Deadline: May
  • Award Range: $1,000–$7,000
  • Website

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.

  • Category: Media majors
  • Application Deadline: Varies
  • Award Range: $2,000–$5,000
  • 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.

  • Category: Low-income
  • Application Deadline: Varies
  • Award Range: $20,000
  • Website

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.

  • Category: African-American medical student
  • Application Deadline: Varies
  • Award Range: $5,000
  • Website

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.

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