Why get a degree in Women’s Studies? There are innumerable reasons. Here’s the most important:
its cultural relevance is indispensable, widely applicable, and highly marketable. A Bachelor of Arts in Women’s Studies is synonymous with undeniable critical thinking and research skills, and it signifies leadership ability, compelling communication, and a deep understanding of diversity. Whatever the position, these qualities make for an excellent job candidate.
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.
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.
Be sure to check out our new rankings of theBest Women’s Colleges and theBest Colleges and Universities for Women.
College Choice Score: 100.00
Cost Per Year: $45,278
One of the world’s most prestigious universities, Harvard’s alumni is made up of over 150 Nobel laureates, over a dozen Field Medalists, hundreds of Rhodes and Marshall Scholars, and much more. Though tuition is steep, Harvard’s large endowment permits generous financial aid packages; the average need-based scholarship or grant award is $44,430. Harvard is regionally accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges’ Commission on Institutions of Higher Learning.
At 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, likely due to the fact that most courses operate as seminars with small, intimate classes and lively discussion. Each year, a graduating WGS student receives the Jane C. Grant Senior Prize, a monetary award acknowledging best overall academic performance.
College Choice Score: 99.65
Cost Per Year: $47,600
Yale University has about 12,000 total students, evenly divided among undergraduate and graduate programs. Boasting fourteen constituent schools, more than 2,000 classes offered annually, and 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. And, of course, Yale 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. Yale is regionally accredited by the New England Association of Schools.
Students 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 emphasizes the historical, contemporary, transnational, and representational conflicts and questions about gender.
College Choice Score: 99.25
Cost Per Year: $47,620
The founding member of the Claremont College system—a consortium of five undergraduate and two graduate schools in Claremont, California—Pomona 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. Pomona is regionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.
The 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, such as media studies, art history, psychology, theatre, technology, and more.
College Choice Score: 98.9
Cost Per Year: $50,562
Amherst College 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. 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.
SWAGS—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 range from Greek Drama to Black Feminist Literary Traditions and are taught by faculty who specialize in medicine, literature, politics, history, classics, anthropology, film, and rhetoric.
College Choice Score: 98.72
Cost Per Year: $50,070
Top ranked by both U.S. News & World Report and Forbes, Williams College is a small liberal arts college with approximately 2,000 undergraduates and a student-to-faculty ratio of 7:1. Williams is comprised of three academic divisions—humanities, sciences, and social sciences—and models its pedagogy after the tutorial systems at Oxford and Cambridge’s small mentoring groups. Williams College is regionally accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.
The 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, and Body Politics among others, as well as senior seminars and independent studies.
College Choice Score: 98.1
Cost Per Year: $47,442
The 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. Often called one of the “Little Ivies,” Swarthmore also has an academic reputation for being one of the best liberal arts colleges in the nation, and it is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
At 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.
College Choice Score: 97.89
Cost Per Year: $47,828
Middlebury College, one of the country’s best liberal arts college as well as one of the most selective, is also one of the oldest liberal arts colleges in the U.S. Known 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. Their student population (of around 2,500) represents all fifty states and seventy-four countries, and Middlebury’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.
With 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 the opportunity to attend conferences, become Student Advisory Council representatives, find internships, and win prizes and awards, notably two essay awards—the Alison G. Fraker and Drue Cortell Gensler prizes—solely for students in the department.
College Choice Score: 96.52
Cost Per Year: $48,212
Located in Brunswick, Maine, Bowdoin College is a small liberal arts college that enrolls under 2,000 students. Bowdoin has been called both a “New Ivy” and a “Hidden Ivy,” as it has a renowned academic reputation—consistently well-ranked by U.S. News & World Report, Forbes, and Washington Monthly—and a number of notable alums, including Alfred Kinsey. 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.
The 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 covering ethics, hip hop, sports, media, gaming, literature, and more.
College Choice Score: 96.36
Cost Per Year: $46,836
A member of the original Seven Sisters Colleges, Wellesley College is a private, women’s, liberal arts college. Though they have over fifty departmental and interdepartmental majors, they also allow 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. Wellesley is regionally accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.
Wellesley 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, NGO work, publishing, nursing, and more.
College Choice Score: 96.1
Cost Per Year: $43,838
Vanderbilt University represents students from all fifty 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. Undergrads at Vanderbilt, of which there are approximately 6,800, choose from 70 majors or they can create their own through their interdisciplinary program. 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. Vanderbilt is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
The 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.
College Choice Score: 95.59
Cost Per Year: $49,506
Located in rural Hanover, New Hampshire, Dartmouth College is a private, Ivy League university where students are very involved in athletics (approximately 25 percent of students) and the Greek system (approximately 60 percent), as well as a number of other social organizations and traditions. Dartmouth makes all the national and global rankings, from U.S. News & World Report to Washington Monthly, Forbes, and Times Higher Education. Student-to-faculty ratio is 7:1 and there are 4,200 enrolled undergrads at Dartmouth College. Dartmouth is regionally accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.
At Dartmouth students can major or minor in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, or they can modify the major, combining WGS Studies with courses specific to another discipline and personally designing their program of study. WGS courses at Dartmouth reflect a range of topics, from contemporary issues in feminism to gender in literature. The curriculum also includes perspectives on race, LGBT identities, sociological approaches to gender, urban influences, lived bodies, and more.
College Choice Score: 95.53
Cost Per Year: $49,098
Haverford College is located just ten miles from Philadelphia in Haverford, Pennsylvania. Nearly all students live on campus, which is classified as an arboretum. Part of the Tri-College Consortium, students at Haverford are also allowed to register for courses at both Bryn Mawr College and Swarthmore, as well as at the University of Pennsylvania through the college’s membership in the Quaker Consortium. Haverford boasts dozens of Fulbright Scholars, Guggenheim Fellows, MacArthur Fellows, Nobel Prize winners, and more. Haverford is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
The Gender and Sexuality Program at Haverford is located in the nexus of the college’s relationship with Bryn Mawr College; students take classes at both Haverford and Bryn Mawr, choosing between a minor, a concentration, or the independent major. Courses are a confluence of perspectives from literature, anthropology, political science, media, history, and cultural analysis. Throughout the year the department hosts a number of lectures, events, and projects, promoting social action and involvement among the students.
Johns Hopkins University
College Choice Score: 95.52
Cost Per Year: $48,710
Johns Hopkins University was founded in the late nineteenth century by philanthropist and abolitionist, Johns Hopkins. Throughout its history the university has consistently ranked among the best in the country for its research and academics, and has proven its commitment to issues of social justice and change, including its battle for women’s rights led by daughters of the university’s trustees. Johns Hopkins is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
Though many of the schools on our list offer a full major in WGS studies, Johns Hopkins provides only a minor through their Women, Gender, and Sexuality department. However, the minor works in tandem with an internship through the JHU Center for Social Concern and the WGS department offers winter and summer-term research grants for students, culminating in a public presentation on the research, making the minor still very exhaustive.
University of Pennsylvania
College Choice Score: 95.28
Cost Per Year: $49,536
The University of Pennsylvania is a private, Ivy League university located in Philadelphia with an undergraduate enrollment of approximately 10,000. Penn is widely known for its extensive research endeavors and its community outreach and public service programs. With an acceptance rate of 9 percent, Penn is highly competitive and emphasizes interdisciplinary education, which it operates through its research centers, double degree programs, and its unified campus (that is, students can take classes from any of Penn’s schools). Penn is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
Students at Penn have four options for taking courses in the Gender, Sexuality, Women’s Studies program: enroll in individual courses for elective credit, choose to major or minor, double major, or take part in the dual degree program. Each year a senior is eligible to win the Smith-Rosenberg Prize (named after Carroll Smith-Rosenberg, a founder of the program) for his or her thesis paper in the field of Women’s Studies.
College Choice Score: 95.1
Cost Per Year: $51,300
A small liberal arts school located in Poughkeepsie, New York, Vassar College was founded as a women’s college in the mid-nineteenth century, though become coeducational in the 1960s. Vassar offers more than fifty majors but also implements a flexible curriculum that promotes breadth and tractability among the departments. Considered one of the best liberal arts colleges in the country, Vassar has a competitive acceptance rate of 25.7 percent, enrolling approximately 2,400 students a year. Vassar is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
Vassar’s Women’s Studies program investigates the lives and experiences of women in political, social, and historical dimensions, as well as the intersections between gender and other identities. Courses include Women in Greek and Roman History and Myth, Arab Women Writers, Domestic Violence, Transnational Perspectives on Women and Work, Feminist Theory, Bio-Politics of Breast Cancer, Native American Women, and much more. Students work closely with an advisor to plan and execute a course of study.
College Choice Score: 94.91
Cost Per Year: $46,320
One of the most prestigious universities in the world, Stanford makes a number of ranks, from the standard national and global academic measures published by U.S News & World Report to Princeton Review’s ranking: first among dream colleges, for both students and parents. Faculty and alumni are comprised of Nobel Prize laureates, Pulitzer Prize winners, MacArthur Fellows, Turing Award winners, and much more. A private university located in Stanford, California, Stanford has an undergraduate enrollment of nearly 7,000 students and a student-to-faculty ratio of 4:1. There are over 650 different student organizations and dozens of varsity and intramural sports opportunities. Stanford is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.
The Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies program is equally as renowned as the larger university. Offering a major, secondary major, a minor, and an interdisciplinary honors program, Stanford also sets itself apart in that they encourage and support an artistic collaboration with theory, allowing students to produce a creative thesis. Because the program is interdisciplinary, only two courses and a practicum are required, leaving the rest of the course load to be designed by the student. Both public service and study abroad opportunities are available and often result in class credit.
College Choice Score: 93.19
Cost Per Year: $49,263
Among its many accolades and awards, Carleton College is one of the largest sources of undergraduate students pursuing doctorates and was recently designated as a “Top Producer of Fulbright Awards.” Student population is around 2,000 undergraduates, about average for a liberal arts school the size of Carleton, though the college offers forty majors, the student-to-faculty ration is 9:1, and there are nearly 240 active student organizations. Carleton is regionally accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.
Carleton College presents students with the opportunity to either major in Women’s and Gender Studies or to combine it as a concentration with another academic discipline. Multiple departments at Carleton have come together to create courses focused on women and/or gender, including Asian Languages and Literatures, Media Studies, Music, Philosophy, Political Science, Anthropology, and Sociology among others. Students who choose to major in WGS are required to do a senior comprehensive project managed by advisors from two different disciplines. The goal of the project is to build on the skills and passions one has cultivated throughout his or her time at Carleton and in the WGS department.
College Choice Score: 92.98
Cost Per Year: $49,500
Hamilton College of Clinton, New York offers bachelor of arts degrees in over fifty areas of concentration, though they have an open curriculum, meaning students are free to create their own course design. With an undergrad enrollment of fewer than 2,000 students and a student-to-faculty ratio of 9:1, nearly three quarters of classes at Hamilton have fewer than twenty students in them, making the academic experience intimate and intentional. Hamilton is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
Combining historical, theoretical, and methodological approaches to the study of gender, Women’s Studies at Hamilton provides an interdisciplinary and transnational perspective. With equal emphasis on creativity and research, Hamilton allows seniors to pursue a semester-long project that takes either the form of a written thesis or a creative performance. Though students work independently on their senior project, they work closely with one or more faculty members in a mentoring relationship. Hamilton graduates have gone on to become teachers, physicians, attorneys, mental health counselors, and more.
Claremont McKenna College
College Choice Score: 92.47
Cost Per Year: $49,045
A member of the Claremont Colleges, Claremont McKenna College (CMC) is an independent, private liberal arts college with a curricular emphasis on the social sciences, specifically public affairs, economics, international relations, psychology, and government. CMC offers a range of multi-disciplinary majors that bring together humanities with the sciences. And nearly half of undergraduates study abroad or participate in one of the two domestic study programs in Washington D.C. or Silicon Valley. With low acceptance rates and positive rankings, CMC is highly competitive; less than 10 percent of applicants are accepted. Claremont is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission.
Claremont McKenna College’s gender studies program is offered through the Intercollegiate Feminist Center for Teaching, Research, and Engagement of the Claremont Colleges. Students who choose to major in either Gender and Women’s Studies or Gender and Feminist Studies will take classes through other Claremont schools; however, the major is still specifically designed to augment the CMC curriculum with its focus on leadership in business and public affairs.
University of Notre Dame
College Choice Score: 92.18
Cost Per Year: $47,929
Consistently ranked among the top twenty universities in the country, the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana is home to over 8,000 undergraduates. Known for its extensive research enterprises and its successful athletic teams, Notre Dame makes numerous rankings from Higher Education Times, Forbes, U.S. News & World Report, and more, notably for its Law School, MBA program, architecture program, and its high-participating study abroad program. Notre Dame is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Through the Gender Studies major (and minor) at Notre Dame, students will learn about the social construction of gender; intersectionality among race, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, and interlocking oppression; gender experience across nations, cultures, time, class, etc.; privilege; and women’s contributions to history, culture, and politics. Notre Dame provides both internship and research grants to their students, as well as writing awards and conference opportunities.
College Choice Score: 92.17
Cost Per Year: $49,970
A private liberal arts college located in Hamilton Village, New York, Colgate University offers over fifty undergraduate concentrations and has been named one of America’s “New Ivies” by Newsweek and as having one of the most beautiful campuses, as stated by The Princeton Review. Colgate’s student-to-faculty ratio is 9:1 and they boast a 90 percent retention and graduation rate among undergraduates. Colgate is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
Colgate University has made a point to enact theory into college daily living. The Women’s Studies department has aimed to make the campus a safe place by facilitating a weekly reading group, offering teaching resources on sexual violence, and raising awareness on sexual violence and the intersectional dimensions of power and violence. Colgate offers both a major and minor in Women’s Studies that is interdisciplinary, promoting analytic and critical thinking in addition to social action and justice.
College Choice Score: 92.16
Cost Per Year: $46,288
A private, independent women’s liberal arts college, Smith College is a member of the Five Colleges consortium, a partnership between institutions that allows students to attend classes at the other schools (Mount Holyoke College, Amherst College, Hampshire College, and the University of Massachusetts Amherst). Smith College emphasizes camaraderie among its students, stressing resident life and involvement in social organizations. At Smith there are no typical dorms; instead students live in thirty-six separate houses. Smith is regionally accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.
Students in the Program for the Study of Women and Gender examine the experiences, ideologies, and actions of women throughout histories, cultures, political contexts, and nations. Additionally, students are encouraged to choose a thematic foci and are given six options: queer studies; women, race, and culture; forms of literary and artistic expression; historical perspectives; forms of political, social, economic thought, action, and organization; and scientific inquiry. Women and Gender students are also able to apply for a number of grants, fellowships, and prizes.
College Choice Score: 92.06
Cost Per Year: $49,346
Brown University is located in Providence, Rhode Island and is an Ivy League research university with an undergrad enrollment of 6,300. In addition to its consistently strong rankings, Brown has produced a number of Nobel Prize winners, Rhode Scholars, and National Humanities medalists among many others. Brown has one of the most competitive admissions rates on our list, with an 8.7 percent acceptance rate and a retention rate of 97.5 percent. In 1981 the Pembroke Center for Teaching and Research on Women was established, which manages various archives and collections on women and feminist history and publishes differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies three times a year. Brown is regionally accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.
Brown University’s Gender and Sexuality Studies Program heavily emphasizes an interdisciplinary approach, in both its curricular structure and intellectual framing. Students are asked to focus on a defined topic and collaborate closely with an advisor to develop their trajectory of study. Typical topics include gender, sexuality, and race in American politics; the construction of identities; contrasts between divergent cultural understandings, and more. Brown offers a number of prizes and grants to its students.
College Choice Score: 91.94
Cost Per Year: $49,047
Offering over 120 undergraduate degrees and enrolling over 8,000 undergraduates, Northwestern University in Chicago, Illinois is a large research institute that has made national and global rankings consistently for years, including—among its many academic accolades—being listed as one of the top ten universities for sustainability. The student population is active in both its off-campus community and residential community; in addition to standard dorms, students can opt to live with others who share the same interests (e.g., there are dorms for arts, science and engineering, commerce, etc.). Northwestern is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Students can either major or minor in Gender and Sexuality Studies at Northwestern University, taking classes that emphasize feminist, queer, trans, and other ways of knowing that are specific to gender and sex. Graduates from the program have gone into a range of fields, including law, medicine, social advocacy, the arts, journalism, business, and education. Northwestern provides a number of awards and prizes to eligible students, rewarding both the leadership and academic acumen of its recipients.
College Choice Score: 91.78
Cost Per Year: $42,253
Known for its applied science programs, and ranked first in the world for its material sciences research, Rice University is a private research university located in Houston, Texas. There are just under 4,000 undergraduates enrolled in the eleven residential colleges—which provide housing, dining, and academic and social events—and eight schools of academic study. Over 90 percent of classes at Rice have less than fifty students, and the student-to-faculty ratio is notably low at 6:1. Rice University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
The Center for the Study of Women, Gender, and Sexuality (CSWGS) was established at Rice in 1991 and in the past year became one of only two divisions at the university to pilot a program called Communication in the Disciplines, a project that promotes written, oral, and visual communication skills among its students. The CSWGS major includes a curriculum covering theory, history, and analysis of gender and its intersections as well as a practicum. The practicum allows students to bring theory into practice through work with a local non-profit.
College Choice Score: 91.05
Cost Per Year: $49,120
Colby College is a small liberal arts college located in Waterville, Maine that was founded in 1813 and was the first all-male college in New England to accept female students. With just under 2,000 enrolled undergraduates, Colby offers fifty-four majors. Colby’s commitment to sustainability is proven through their policies, initiatives, and through achieving campus carbon neutrality. Colby College is regionally accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.
The Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies program at Colby dates back to the 1970s when the first courses on Women’s Studies were offered. Then in the 1980s, due to the petitioning from students, Women’s Studies became an official major, the first of its kind in Maine. Students—who can earn either a major or a minor—are trained to think “independently, courageously, and boldly” about the world and its intersections, especially about the ways gender is culturally constructed.
College Choice Score: 89.07
Cost Per Year: $46,314
Emory University—known for its hospitals, healthcare system, Cancer Institute, and many disease research centers—is located in Atlanta, Georgia and enrolls approximately 7,600 undergraduates. Emory receives accolades for its scientific performances, endowments, and for being one of the best colleges for veterans. Despite the size and scope of the school, classes are notably small, over half having fewer than twenty students, and the student-to-faculty ratio is 8:1. Emory is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
Home to one of the best Women’s Studies PhD programs in the world, Emory also offers an undergraduate major and minor in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. Students take four core courses—Introduction to Women’s Studies, Introduction to Studies in Sexualities, Contemporary Feminist Theory, and Senior Seminar—and then cross-list the rest of the curriculum with courses in other disciplines. Electives cover global perspectives, race and ethnicity, bodies and health, culture, the arts, religion, and more; plus, Emory WGSS students are eligible for study abroad opportunities.
University of California, Berkeley
College Choice Score: 88.65
Cost Per Year: $22,428
Berkeley’s renowned reputation is reflected in the hundreds of Nobel Prizes, Fields Medals, Turing Awards, MacArthur Fellowships, and Pulitzer Prizes won by Berkeley faculty, alumni, and researchers. And, of course, the university has a long history of student activism, from environmental to political protests, demonstrating the engaged ethos of the campus. Berkeley offers over 100 bachelor’s degrees across many colleges and schools.
Berkeley offers both an undergraduate major and minor in Gender and Women’s Studies, both of which provide students with options to enroll in independent studies, study abroad, find funding for research opportunities, and to build a curriculum and teach a class, making this one of the more hands-on programs on our list. GWS students take a combination of feminism, transnational identities, theory, and research classes plus electives that cover sexuality, religion, queer identities, and race among others.
College Choice Score: 88.09
Cost Per Year: $48,887
A private liberal arts college located in St. Paul, Minnesota, Macalester College is ranked by U.S. News & World Report as among the best liberal arts in the country, as well as among the best valued and proffering the best undergraduate teaching at a national liberal arts college. Macalester heavily endorses off-campus study through its international and intercultural study abroad programs, and eleven departments require it. Macalester also emphasizes civic engagement—50 percent of students volunteer every semester, and there are over 100 student clubs and organizations on campus—and is also widely recognized as one of the most LGBTQ friendly colleges in the country. Macalester is regionally accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.
The Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies department at Macalester reflects many of the values of the school: for example, students can study abroad in Mexico for the “Gender and Social Change in Mesoamerica” project or in Mali for the “Gender, Health, and Development” project. The WGSS department also facilitates internships at several dozen different local and national organizations, and they host a Feminisms Today Speaker Series throughout the year.
College Choice Score: 87.87
Cost Per Year: $48,611
Georgetown University, a private research university founded in 1789, is located in the historic Washington D.C. neighborhood of the same name. The university is comprised of nine undergraduate and graduate schools and enrolls approximately 7,000 undergrad students from across all states and over 130 foreign countries. Admissions to Georgetown are highly selective with an acceptance rate of 17.4 percent and the average freshman retention rate is 96 percent. Georgetown University is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
In addition to offering a major and a minor in Women’s and Gender Studies (WGS), students at Georgetown who are enrolled in the School for Foreign Studies can augment their education with a WGS certificate, which holds the same weight as a minor. Whichever route a student takes, Georgetown’s program includes an emphasis on the exploration of multi-race and cross-cultural perspective. Issues regarding labor, the politics of sexuality, gendered analysis on the sciences, and the history of gender roles and performances make up the core curriculum.
University of California Los Angeles
College Choice Score: 87.76
Cost Per Year: $24,192
Boasting one of the largest undergraduate populations on our list with approximately 30,000 enrolled students, the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) receives high rankings across a number of categories—academic, athletic, social mobility, resources, faculty, and more—and on both national and global scales. There are five undergraduate colleges, though the most popular majors (Social Sciences, Literature, and History) fall under the College of Letters and Science. UCLA is regionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.
With an emphasis on analytic writing skills and qualitative research methodology, UCLA’s Gender Studies Department offers a major and minor to the undergraduates in the College of Letters and Sciences (though students in other schools may petition). Courses range from history to culture with classes on African American Women’s History, Queer Studies, Sex Work, and Gender in Popular Culture. UCLA offers a number of awards and prizes to its Gender Studies students, including research project assistance and community engagement grants.
University of North Carolina
College Choice Score: 87.68
Cost Per Year: $21,103
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is one of the oldest public universities in the U.S. and is one of the country’s few “Public Ivy” schools—that is, universities that provide an Ivy League experience at a public college price. Through fourteen colleges, including both the professional schools and the College of Arts and Sciences, students can choose from over seventy courses of study. Admissions is highly selective, especially for out-of-state students, as state law requires that at least 82 percent of the freshman class is made up of in-state students.
The University of North Carolina’s Department of Women’s Studies offers both an undergraduate major and minor in Women’s and Gender Studies. Outside of the classroom the department has applied special efforts to foster extracurricular engagement; their long-standing internship program facilitates opportunities between students and local organizations and their ongoing lecture and discussion series brings together community members and UNC students and faculty.
College Choice Score: 87.65
Cost Per Year: $49,140
The oldest private college in Ohio, Kenyon College is a liberal arts school with numerous strong rankings from U.S. News & World Report, Forbes, and Newsweek (who has called it one of the “New Ivies”). Kenyon has a vibrant social climate with dozens of clubs, organizations, athletic teams, and fraternities and sororities and has graduated many notable people, including presidents, Emmy award winners, National Book Award winning novelists, and more. Kenyon has made national news on many occasions, though markedly for hosting David Foster Wallace who delivered his now-famous “This Is Water” commencement speech and in 2004 when students waited thirteen hours to vote in the general election. Kenyon College is regionally accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.
Distinguished by its innovative pedagogy, Women and Gender Studies at Kenyon College entails coursework defined by its transnational and intersectional insights into gender. The encompassing approach dismantles the essentializing categories of identity and examines gender as a cultural phenomenon in manifest areas: literature, classical music, genetics, and much more. Kenyon’s WGS program encourages independent learning, asking students to take responsibility for their own education, culminating in a senior seminar, where students create the content and direction of the course.
College Choice Score: 87.27
Cost Per Year: $50,604
Located in Medford, Massachusetts, Tufts University is a private research university with an undergraduate population of approximately 10,000 students. Tufts is known for its internationalism and study abroad programs as well as emphasizing active citizenship and public service, values threaded through each of the disciplines and their respective curriculum. Tufts has two other campuses in the Boston area and one in the Talloires, in the French Alps, and is regionally accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.
With a focus on research and teaching, the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies program at Tufts explores the relationship between individual and institutional systems of power across local, national, and global contexts. There are four areas of concentration in addition to the option of a self-designed concentration: Sexuality/Sexualities; Race, Class, and Power; Global/Transnational Contexts; and Creative Arts and Media. Outside of classwork, WGSS students are encouraged to take part in the “Beyond the Classroom” forum, where they can share their WGS work with the wider Tufts community.
College Choice Score: 86.96
Cost Per Year: $47,631
One of the Seven Sisters colleges, Barnard College is private, women’s liberal arts school affiliated with Columbia University and located in Manhattan. Approximately 2,300 undergraduates make up the student population, all of whom are able to take courses through and join any extracurricular activities at Columbia. Barnard is home to an impressive feminist archives, including over 7,000 zines documenting third-wave feminism and the Riot Grrrl movement, and the college at large has been noted for its sustainability efforts and initiatives. Barnard is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
In collaboration with the Barnard Center for Research on Women the school offers a major in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies major that investigates human experience in its bodily, political, economic, and cultural dimensions. One of the oldest programs on our list, Barnard first offered a Women’s Studies degree in 1977 and in 1988 they enacted a full department. Now that department publishes an online journal, called The Scholar and Feminist Online, and works in tandem with Africana Studies and American Studies to collaborate on projects across the fields.
College Choice Score: 86.48
Cost Per Year: $49,341
One of the most notable research institutes in the world, Duke University boasts an award-winning faculty and alumni base—ten Nobel laureates and three Turing Award winners plus a number of Rhodes, Goldwater, Truman, Marshall, and Udall Scholars to date—and a renowned reputation for its contributions to research in both the sciences and humanities. Despite the relative size of Duke (approximately 6,500 undergraduates and 8,500 grad students), class sizes remain small with over 75 percent having under twenty students to a class.
The Program in Women’s Studies at Duke combines intersectional issues of race, sexuality, and class with gender to investigate the social, technological, historical, psychological, economic, political, and scientific dimensions of identity-making. Duke also offers their Women Studies students grants and awards as a way to promote research and participation at conferences, and so students can travel and attend special events. Duke also hosts the Moxie Project each year, a selective applied learning experience that entails a course on Women and Leadership, an eight-week summer internship in New York City, and a fall capstone seminar.
Washington University in St. Louis
College Choice Score: 85.51
Cost Per Year: $48,093
Washington University in St. Louis is comprised of students from all fifty states and more than 120 countries and is both nationally and globally ranked. While there are over 7,000 undergraduates on campus, the student-to-faculty ratio is 8:1, and the average freshman retention rate (the amount of first-year students who return in their second year, a gauge of student satisfaction) is 96.5 percent. Which isn’t surprising considering the university has over 300 student organizations and the largest student government budget in the country. Even Washington’s resident life makes rank, considered the “Best College Dorms” by The Princeton Review. Washington is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
At Washington University the Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies program has four areas of concentration around which all courses are designed: literature, theory, and history; sexuality, the body, and health; global and transnational feminist and gender studies; and critical race in gender and sexuality studies. WGS Studies students are eligible for awards, grants, and internships, including the Global/Transnational Gender Issues and Problems study abroad internship.
College Choice Score: 78.56
Cost Per Year: $47,010
Lafayette College is located in the Lehigh Valley, an hour west of New York City and an hour north of Philadelphia. The undergraduate enrollment is comprised of approximately 2,500 students across thirty-seven academic fields, including the most popular majors: the Social Sciences, English, and Psychology. Considered a “Hidden Ivy,” Lafayette receives strong rankings from Forbes, U.S. News & World Report, Business Insider, and more. With over 250 extra-curricular organizations, fraternities and sororities, community service groups, and honor societies, students experience a lively and nourishing social environment. Lafayette is regionally accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools.
Students at Lafayette can earn either a major or minor in Women’s and Gender Studies, taking classes on gender and environmentalism, women’s health issues, gender and economics, African and African-American women, gender and science, women and media, feminist theory, black feminism, single motherhood, and women in the U.S. criminal justice system, among others. The WGS Library and Resource Room is a space designated specifically for WGS students to foster connection, collaborate on projects, or to just hang out.
University of Richmond
College Choice Score: 78.28
Cost Per Year: $48,090
Primarily an undergraduate, residential university, the University of Richmond enrolls approximately 4,300 students in its five schools. Not only known for its academic reputation, the University of Richmond offers one of the best financial packages in the country, even guaranteeing to meet 100 percent of an admitted domestic student’s demonstrated need. Richmond’s emphasis on research extends across all disciplines, including the arts, and enables numerous research opportunities for students. The University of Richmond is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
The University of Richmond offers both a major and minor in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. The curriculum is broken into introductory and advanced courses, the former covering the historical, political, and social dimensions of gender and the latter enabling competency in contemporary social critique in the students. There are a number of internships, research fellowships, and grants available to WGS students, as well as study abroad opportunities in the United Kingdom, Sydney, Switzerland, Sweden, Jamaica, and many throughout Africa.
University of Wisconsin–Madison
College Choice Score: 78.28
Cost Per Year: $20,040
Both the official state university of Wisconsin and the flagship campus in the University of Wisconsin system, the University of Wisconsin–Madison is one of the largest campuses on our list with an undergraduate enrollment of nearly 30,000 students. With a long history of social activism on campus, including radical protests in the 1960s and 70s, there remains a progressive political ethos campus wide. The University of Wisconsin–Madison is nationally and globally ranked by Forbes, U.S. News & World Report, and Times Higher Education, and is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Founded in 1975, the Women’s Studies Program at UW–Madison originated out of a time of activism and grew to become a full department with a major, opening the Center for Research on Women and Gender a couple years later, and currently offering over 100 courses. The faculty is comprised of numerous award winners and experts in diverse fields of study, and each year the department brings in scholars from around the world to speak on political, cultural, and historical issues of gender and sexuality.
College Choice Score: 84.38
Cost Per Year: $49,598
Located in Waltham, Massachusetts—just west of Boston—Brandeis University is comprised of approximately 3,500 undergraduates and nearly fifty majors. Since it is part of the Boston Consortium, students are allowed to take classes at Boston College, M.I.T., and Tufts University. Though technically a research university, Brandeis has a strong liberal arts emphasis and is ranked as first among the top colleges for student engagement in community service, according to The Princeton Review. Brandeis is regionally accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.
Brandeis University offers a major and minor in Women’s Studies as well as a Sexuality and Queer Studies minor. Majors in Women’s Studies must take nine courses, including Women, Gender, Sexualities, and Feminisms: History, Theory, and Practice. Students can then choose the rest of their courses from an extensive list of history, literature, anthropology, sexuality, and queer studies classes. Brandeis gives their WGS honor students the opportunity to become peer assistants, in which students help professors develop courses and even teach a few classes themselves.
University of Michigan–Ann Arbor
College Choice Score: 83.77
Cost Per Year: $29,041
The University of Michigan, located in Ann Arbor in the southeast part of the state, is considered one of the top research universities in the world, and is especially renowned for its research in health and STEM fields, as well as in the humanities and social sciences. With nearly 30,000 enrolled undergraduates, the University of Michigan student population is one of the largest on our list, and there are approximately 1,500 student organizations, including a vibrant Greek scene. The University of Michigan is accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.
The University of Michigan’s Women’s Studies Department is the oldest on our list, having been founded in 1973. It is now home to one of the best Gender Studies doctoral programs in the country, which is also reflected in the undergraduate program. Not only does the University of Michigan offer a Women’s Studies major, students can receive a B.A. in Gender and Health starting in the fall of 2016. The Gender and Health major promotes a critical, feminist analysis of research, practice, and policies concerning gender and health, and is the only one of its kind.
Ohio State University
College Choice Score: 83.71
Cost Per Year: $18,287
The largest campus on our list with nearly 45,000 enrolled undergraduates, Ohio State University has a vibrant social life and a renowned academic platform. As an institution, Ohio State is nationally and globally ranked, as are several of its schools and colleges. In addition to its academic rankings, Ohio State also receives accolades for the racial and socio-economic diversity of its student body and is considered one of best campuses in the country for LGBTQ students. Ohio State is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Ohio State’s Department of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies offers a major and minor that are designed to prepare students to critically examine the social, cultural, political, scientific, and economical assumptions about gender. While the major stands alone, the minor can complement most programs at Ohio State. The department grants five writing awards and scholarships each year as well internship, study abroad, and leadership opportunities. There are at least a half dozen feminist student organizations at OSU and a gender and sexuality film series each year.
College Choice Score: 83.41
Cost Per Year: $50,152
A private liberal arts college located in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, Bucknell may only have an undergraduate population of 3,600 but the school offers over fifty majors and seventy minors through its three schools and is ranked among the best liberal arts colleges in the nation by Forbes and U.S. News & World Report. Because of Bucknell’s rural location, there is a lively social life on campus with nearly 200 student organizations and an active Greek presence. Bucknell is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
Students at Bucknell can earn a Bachelor of Arts in Women’s and Gender Studies or combine the minor with other disciplines or concentrations. In addition to the traditional gender course offerings, Bucknell augments their curriculum with many unique class options, such as Mating and Marrying in America, Prince-Pimp/Princess-Pornstar, Queering Christian Theology, and more. Students also take part in education abroad, undergrad research, and local and national internships.
University of California, Santa Barbara
College Choice Score: 82.19
Cost Per Year: $26,219
The University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) is one of the ten campuses in the UC system and is one of the nation’s “Public Ivy” universities. With an emphasis on research, UCSB is home to twelve national research centers and its faculty includes Nobel Prize laureates and Fields Medalists. Undergraduate enrollment is around 20,000 and notably political active with numerous organizations and political parties on campus. USCB is regionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.
USCB is home to the Center for Research on Women & Social Justice as well as a Feminist Studies department made up of ten core faculty members. The Feminist Studies major infuses justice into the curriculum, encouraging students to explore varying perspectives and aspects of gender-related issues while committed to diverse approaches to social justice. USCB is also home to a prodigious MA and PhD Feminist Studies program.
College Choice Score: 81.5
Cost Per Year: $50,586
Oberlin College was one of the first colleges in the country to regularly admit women and black students. The school is still known for its political and social activism, as well as its LGBTQ advocacy and inclusion, the Student Cooperation Association, and its good grades on the annual College Sustainability Report Card. There are nearly 3,000 undergraduates enrolled at Oberlin, which is regionally accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Colleges.
The Institute for Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies at Oberlin offers a major that is interdisciplinary in methodology and transnational in scope. Students explore gender by investigating its crossroads with race, sexuality, class, ethnicity, politics, and other categories of human identity and experience. Students take classes in sociology, postcolonial literature, history, queer studies, political theory, and much more. Oberlin grants two merit-based awards each year specifically designated for students majoring in Feminist Studies.
St. Olaf College
College Choice Score: 78.49
Cost Per Year: $42,940
Located in Northfield, Minnesota, St. Olaf College is a private liberal arts college with an undergraduate population of 3,000 students. The curriculum at St. Olaf is comprised of foundation studies (writing, math, a second language, and communication) and core studies that include studies in the humanities, Western culture, theology and biblical studies, arts and literature, and natural science. St. Olaf is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
St. Olaf College offers both a major and a concentration in Women’s and Gender Studies. The major requires classes in theory, methodology, history, and comparative contexts, in addition to an elective workload that can be allocated to a concentration within the major. Those courses cover culture, race, sociology, sexuality, ethics, family, and much more. An internship is also a required part of the curriculum, and is facilitated by the department.
Case Western Reserve University
College Choice Score: 77.65
Cost Per Year: $44,560
Case Western is a private university based in Cleveland, Ohio and its undergraduate program is considered one of the best in the country, ranked 37th by U.S. News & World Report. It is also is among the top fifty most LGBTQ friendly schools in the country. The most popular majors at Case Western fall mostly under the sciences and technology—biomedical engineering, biology, nursing, mechanical engineering—but the humanities and social sciences also boast strong rankings and notable faculty and alumni. Case Western is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
With and emphasis on critical thinking and creativity, the Women’s and Gender Studies at Case Western is an interdisciplinary program with courses like Women and Religion, Sociology of Sexuality, Women in the Ancient World, Language and Gender, and more, all culminating in a capstone, independent project chosen by the student. One thing to note is that while a Case Western student may earn a Bachelor of Arts in Women and Gender Studies, the major can only be elected as a second major. Though a student will have to double major to earn this BA, it this does allow for a dynamic interdisciplinary experience.
University of Florida
College Choice Score: 75.97
Cost Per Year: $17,452
Located in Gainesville, Florida, the University of Florida has one of the largest campuses on our list with over 32,000 enrolled undergraduates, sixteen academic colleges, and more than 150 research centers and institutes. The university is ranked 14th among best public universities in the country by U.S. News & World Report, with dozens of other rankings spread across its many schools and departments. The University of Florida is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
The Center for Women’s Studies and Gender Research offers a Bachelor of Arts in Gender Studies with an emphasis on the intersection of gender, race, and class. Students who choose the major are then encouraged to choose from one of three concentrations: general, theories and politics of sexuality, and gender and international development. In addition to a couple of scholarships offered each year, students can also engage in internships, feminist reading groups, the UF Women’s Student Association, and more.
University of California, Davis
College Choice Score: 74.62
Cost Per Year: $26,305
One of the ten campuses in the UC system, the University of California, Davis is a public research university and the third largest enrollment among the UC schools with over 28,000 undergraduates. UC Davis offers over 100 undergraduate majors through four schools and its faculty and alumni base have won Nobel Peace Prizes, Pulitzers, MacArthur Fellowships, and more. The University of California, Davis is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.
The Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies major at UC Davis is split between preparatory subject matter—introduction classes, namely—and a mix of cross-cultural and interdisciplinary courses. Students can augment the major with Sexuality Studies, Social and Ethnic Relationships, or a chosen thematic track from any school or college at Davis. The WSG faculty bring diverse areas of focus and expertise to the major, with backgrounds in sociology, media studies, literature, Asian American studies, African American studies, and more.