It was never a question of whether or not I was going to go to college, but where I would go. My parents had groomed me for college since preschool and attending was simply expected from me, as it is for many other kids.
For students today, choosing the right college can be as difficult as getting accepted, and I am sure many felt a flood of relief when they finally committed to a school and ended the arduous process. I will be attending Smith College next year, and I am incredibly excited. With around 2,500 students and an ideal location in picturesque Northampton, Massachusetts, I know Smith is the perfect fit for me, but I did not always feel this way.
Growing up, I always seemed to form friendships with boys. Whether I was playing soccer at recess or manhunt with my neighbors after school, I never seemed to fit in with the other girls. I was more interested in running around the woods than playing house. Dolls also terrified me, as did most Disney animations. This seemed to dampen my ability to make friends with my fellow females, despite all of my friendships with males being strictly platonic through my school years.
Naturally, when my mother pushed me to attend an all girls’ school, I said, “No way!” But as I began to research schools and identify the things I wanted in a college, I found single-sex universities meeting all my criteria.
I found that the women who attended were intelligent, and the women at every school I visited seemed invested in learning and genuinely interested in many things. Each school had an alumni network, with clubs spread all over the world to try and help connect graduates with internship and employment opportunities. I knew I wanted to go to a school with an extensive network of alumni where the students prioritize academics, so I applied to Smith College and Barnard College.
I did not want to swear-off boys for four years, but I soon learned both schools’ locations were ideal. In Northampton, Smith is located right beside the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, Mount Holyoke, Amherst and Hampshire College. Barnard, on the other hand, is the sister school to Columbia University and is located across the street from it.
At both schools, students are able to freely take classes between the single-sex school and its co-ed neighbor(s). In Northampton, a free bus runs between all the schools to make it easier for students to do so.
And so, I was a little more open-minded as I waited to receive my acceptances, but still not certain I would be able to commit to living among only women for four years. I ended up being waitlisted at Barnard, so when it came time to make the decision I visited only Smith for an overnight stay. Luckily, I did not need to visit anywhere else.
The entire community was so welcoming. Every student seemed not only focused on their academics but also incredibly passionate for their subject. They were also prepared to give you 10 reasons they loved attending Smith at any moment. Within the first hour of the accepted students day, I found myself dead-set on going there.
It is hard to identify at what point my apprehension melted away. It may have been when I was told that one-third of the female board members of Fortune 500 Companies and a quarter of female Congress members went to exclusively-female schools. Or when I walked through Smith’s gymnasium doors into a sea of young women my own age and felt the panic developed after years of exclusion rise up in me, only to have it subside when a friendly face waved me over to join their table.
I am still nervous for next year, but I’m no longer anxious about making friends. The friendliness I experienced on the admitted students day put me at ease and despite my lack of experience with female companions, I am excited for the new experience. Smith is going to be an adjustment, but college is for everyone, and I know that the friends I make, lessons I learn and experiences I share will be ones I keep with me forever.
Lead Image Credit: Rich/Flickr
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