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A Guide to Single-Sex Colleges

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Single-sex colleges offer unique educational experiences for their students that can’t be found in co-ed institutions. Many of them tend to be smaller private liberal arts colleges that create an intimate and personal atmosphere on campus. That said, they’ve also developed way to help students take advantage of resources available at larger universities. Here’s what you need to know if you’re considering applying for a single-sex college.


What are Single-Sex Colleges?


A single-sex college is any college that only admits students of one sex, either male or female. Because these are private institutions, they each have their own policy regarding gender identity.


Historically, many colleges were exclusively for males, including Ivy League schools such as Princeton, Yale, Brown, Harvard, and Columbia. These schools only recently began admitting women starting in the 1960s and ‘70s. They aren’t unique for this recent adoption; many currently co-ed institutions were once single-sex colleges, including many public schools.


Because of the prevalence of men-only schools, women-only colleges were established to allow academically motivated women a way to achieve their goals and a level of independence. These women’s colleges worked together, and sometimes with the local men’s colleges, to provide resources and opportunities for their students.


With the push for equality for women, many colleges converted to become co-ed schools, especially public schools, which were argued could not discriminate based on sex. Now, only a few private institutions remain single-sex, with many more women’s colleges than men’s colleges.


What is a Single-Sex College Like?


Single-sex colleges are similar to co-ed liberal arts colleges, including the types of majors and courses they offer and the atmosphere on campus. The vast majority of single-sex colleges today are women-only; only 3 men-only colleges remain, excluding religious vocational schools such as seminaries and yeshivas.


Many single-sex colleges partner with another local institution, either single-sex or co-ed, to increase the opportunities they can offer to students. It also allows students at single-sex schools the chance to interact with students from the opposite sex. For example, Barnard College and Columbia are still partnered, so while Barnard is women-only, Barnard students are able to enroll in classes at Columbia and take advantage of the resources Columbia has to offer.


Why Should You Attend a Single-Sex College?


As with any college decision, your personal preference plays a huge factor in deciding which college to attend. The best way to determine if a single-sex college is right for you is to talk to current students or alumni from the school you are interested in and hear about their experiences.


As for some of the reasons students prefer single-sex colleges, some students feel more comfortable expressing their ideas around peers of the same-sex. Other students feel that by focusing on one sex, these schools offer a better experience tailored towards the unique qualities of men or women.


Not only that, but single-sex colleges have long histories and tend to have notable alumni. For example, former Morehouse College students include Martin Luther King, Jr. and critically acclaimed director Spike Lee. Wellesley College alumnae include Hillary Rodham Clinton and Diane Sawyer, among many other activists and authors.


For more information about how to choose a college, check out these posts:


FAQs: Applying to a Women’s College

Choosing a College: How to Get Started

Is the Admissions Process Different for Single-Sex Colleges?


The admissions process for traditional single-sex colleges is not that different from other liberal arts colleges. Every school will have their own set of requirements, whether it is a single-sex school or co-ed, but the general pattern of application process is the same.


One difference is that the applicant pool for single-sex colleges may be slightly smaller, but that doesn’t mean that these colleges aren’t selective. For example, to be admitted to Barnard, students must submit a complete Common Application, teacher evaluation forms, and earn an SAT score in the top 25% to have a chance of being admitted. Again, talking to current students or alumni will help you prepare for the admissions process and develop a stronger application.


Which Colleges are Single-Sex?


Men’s Colleges


These are private, liberal arts educational institutions, not including religious vocational schools.


  • Wabash College, Crawfordsville Indiana
  • Hampden-Sydney College, Hampden Sydney Virginia
  • Morehouse College, Atlanta Georgia



Women’s Colleges


  • Agnes Scott College
  • Alverno College
  • Barnard College
  • Bay Path University
  • Bennett College for Women
  • Brenau University
  • Bryn Mawr College
  • Cedar Crest College
  • College of Saint Mary
  • Columbia College
  • Converse College
  • Cottey College
  • Hollins University
  • Judson College
  • Meredith College
  • Mills College
  • Moore College of Art and Design
  • Mount Holyoke College
  • Mount Mary University
  • Notre Dame of Maryland University
  • Russell Sage College (of the Sage Colleges)
  • Saint Mary’s College
  • Salem College
  • Scripps College
  • Simmons University
  • Smith College
  • Spelman College
  • Stephens College
  • Sweet Briar College
  • Trinity Washington University
  • Wellesley College
  • Wesleyan College
  • The Women’s College of the University of Denver


Wrapping it Up

Single-sex colleges offer an intimate educational environment for students who don’t want to attend a large school. Many of them have prestigious histories and have formed networks with other local colleges to provide robust opportunities for students, but it’s important to make a decision based on your personal preference.


Curious about your chances of acceptance to your dream school? Our free chancing engine takes into account your GPA, test scores, extracurriculars, and other data to predict your odds of acceptance at over 500 colleges across the U.S. We’ll also let you know how you stack up against other applicants and how you can improve your profile. Sign up for your free CollegeVine account today to get started!


For more information on single-sex colleges, check out these posts:


Seven Sisters Colleges: What You Need to Know

The Last All-Male Colleges in the US

Short Bio
Gianna Cifredo is a graduate of the University of Central Florida, where she majored in Philosophy. She has six years of higher education and test prep experience, and now works as a freelance writer specializing in education. She currently lives in Orlando, Florida and is a proud cat mom.