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Brits in America: changing perceptions of women-only universities

As Bonnie settles into her first weeks at Barnard College, she questions her original views on women-only colleges

  • Student life
  • Study abroad
Bonnie MacRae's avatar

Bonnie MacRae

September 11 2017
Young women are now a third more likely to apply to university than men, latest figures show


Before deciding to apply to universities in the United States, the idea of a women’s college was foreign to me. I was unaware of how many there were and was puzzled as to why anyone would want to attend an institution that only admitted women. I was naïve to the concept, having only ever attended co-ed schools my entire life. I didn't think that I would fit in at an all girls’ school.

I researched and researched, finding out everything that I could about women’s colleges. I learned that most were rural, usually in small towns without any other neighbouring universities. I knew that the city was where I wanted to be, with energy and buzz. I continued my research and eventually whittled my choice down to one school, Barnard College.

Having spent one full week here now I’m probably not entirely qualified to speak on how great this institution is, but I’m going to do it anyway.

I was introduced to Barnard in April 2016 and knew from then that it was where I needed to be. A liberal arts school in the heart of New York City that just happened to be a women’s college – what more could you want! 

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I applied to Barnard in the early decision round of the US admissions process. This is basically an early opportunity to apply to your favourite institution, allowing for the college or university to acknowledge that they are your top choice.

Many people come to know of it through its affiliation with the Ivy League institution Columbia University, although this was never the prevailing factor in my decision to attend Barnard. Instead, I chose this unique institution for the inspiring, supportive environment it breeds. Here, speaking up is encouraged; your voice is not only heard but is recognised and respected. Barnard is a place where I know that I’ll be supported and acknowledged, and I know that it’s a place I will ultimately thrive in.

Next week I start classes. I’ve decorated my dorm, I’ve bought my books, and I’ve had many an awkward interaction at the multiple icebreaker sessions provided in the first week of orientation. Yet, none of it feels real. Not yet anyway.

As I set out on my four-year journey here at Barnard, I'm excited to step even further outside my comfort zone. In allowing myself to learn about new ideas and concepts, I was able to achieve something that I had dreamed about. So try to challenge your beliefs, self-doubts and anything else that you think is too far out of reach.

Who knows, you might end up doing something crazy like moving 3,000 miles away from home at 18 years old.

Read more: Bonnie's first blog about the US application process   

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