Co-ed or single sex school?

bestThe right education is different for everyone.  People make different decisions based on a variety of reasons when it comes to education.

When I was in high school and looking at colleges I am pretty sure I did not start out thinking about a single sex school.   I did not get a lot of direction in regards to what school I should apply to but I did know that I wanted to be in a city.  I took a trip to Boston to look at schools and I was hooked on city life.  I had an interview at Simmons College, a single sex school, and realized for a variety of reasons that it made sense for me.  I had three jobs in high school and I enjoyed those jobs much more than I enjoyed classes.  I managed to get by doing very little but I was well aware that I was driven to succeed and financially I was definitely on my own after graduation.  Simmons was the perfect ladder to get me to where I wanted to go.  I knew that based on the curriculum that I was planning on taking that I would have a job upon graduation.  I was right.

The issues around single sex schools are mixed.  The competition inside the classroom is certainly different.  There is a comfort level when there are only women in the class.  I see that same comfort level at the Womens Entrepreneur Festival.  All gender issues cease to exist and a comfort level sets in.  Yet socially, when you are not in a city with plenty of co-ed schools, it makes the social dynamic tough.  I have met plenty of women who grew up in single sex elementary through high school settings and their social radar is not as built in because they did not deal with the social dynamics of being in an educational environment with boys on a daily basis.

We chose a progressive school for our kids when they were young because we believe in group learning as well as being able to break something down and then put it back together in order to understand it vs memorization.  To us, that type of education is very similar to the working world in regards to life long learning and working with people.  In a single sex school girls do not necessary enter their teenage years sulking to the back of the classroom because they do not want their male counterparts to see how smart they are.  There are countless sociology books written on this topic.  Is that a good thing or is that a bad thing?  Again I think it depends on the kid.  Some kids blossom in that environment and they might not have in a co-ed environment while others absolutely hate it.

I got a great education at Simmons College.  I had more than a handful of job offers when I graduated.  I competed in a very safe environment for four years among women.  I always felt comfortable asking a question and pushing the envelope.  I had an internship experience for one semester that was educational in a completely different way than sitting in a classroom.  I spent one semester abroad that made a huge impact on me where I got to know myself in a way that I am not sure I would have if I didn’t disconnect for a semester.  Socially I didn’t love it.  I made many friends freshman year but never really connected with them on a level that I wanted to.  I have zero relationship with any of the people I met there today.  Funny enough the only person I continue to have a relationship with from college is my husband.  I stayed in Boston during the summer and rented a room out of his fraternity at MIT.  We connected, became fast friends and a year later started began a life long love affair.

If I had to do it all over again I am not sure I would have gone to Simmons.  I really did not get any direction from my parents or even a college advisor but more than likely I would have been super happy at a small liberal arts school socially but then again I might not have learned the good business foundation that I did learn at Simmons.  Pros and cons are everywhere.  I think in the end you pick what seems to to be the right thing for who you are….and of course where you believe that will lead you for the future.

Comments (Archived):

  1. pointsnfigures

    I have friend that went to Wabash College in Indiana. It’s one of the few all male schools left. I have met a few of his classmates. Have met some older alums as well. They are extremely hard core about their liberal arts education, and all male environment. They felt they received a tremendous education. At my friends charter school on the south side of Chicago, they break up the kids into all female and all male classes. But, in activities they mix.

    1. Gotham Gal

      I like that. Separate classes with mixed activities.

  2. Caitlin

    Yes, single gender and co-ed schools can both be fantastic places. I like how you looked for schools that encourage student collaboration and authentic learning experiences when deciding where to send your kids. I think that is good advice.The autobiographical anecdotes you shared are great. Boston is a special city.

  3. JLM

    .Girls are much better students until some time in their Sophomore year in high school when they suddenly begin to care more about what the Captain of the boy’s basketball team thinks than anything else on the planet.Single gender schools are all about the delivery system. Getting the boys out of the classroom is beneficial for the girls as long as the social aspects are not totally ignored or dwarfed. It is a very real problem. It unleashes the competitive forces.The Southern sorority/fraternity system is a social network that is almost completely independent of the classroom. It supplies the social evolution for the right kids. It is not for everyone but if a child wants to do it, it is a networking opportunity of huge significance.Having been educated in a demanding military delivery system, I can say it was a perfect delivery system for me. No distractions. No freedom to miss a class. Rigid classroom discipline. It drilled an education into my head whether I was cooperative or not. Never missed a class in four years.JLM.

    1. LE

      I can say it was a perfect delivery system for me. No distractions. No freedom to miss a class.For high school I went to a private quaker school. There were only 100 kids in each class. So that’s 50 women and 50 men. Being able to only date jewish [1] that left maybe (total memory guess) 10 women or perhaps 30 (3*10) (since 4 years difference is a big deal in high school). Hence, little distraction. Also the women weren’t that attractive to begin with. Kind of Birkenstock and earthy iirc.My sisters otoh went to a large public school 1000 kids per class! Lot’s of jewish kids. Plenty of distractions she spent a large part of her day socializing “on the back steps”. One sister was cheerleader captain. Tons of boyfriends in and out of the house.Conclusions:—————- Single sex school equals less distraction- Or, coed fine, but make it private with small classes (limit the “attack” surface).[1] This wasn’t ever said. It didn’t need to be. It was just the way it was.

  4. LE

    Allison Schwartz who is running for governor of PA went to Simmons.…Back in 1990 when she first ran for office we shared a ski lift chair. Amazing how I remember that but not the ending of the movie I watched the other night.

    1. Gotham Gal

      i feel the same way about my recall. simmons grad!

  5. Mark Gavagan

    Terrific article in The Atlantic “The Confidence Gap – Evidence shows that women are less self-assured than men—and that to succeed, confidence matters as much as competence. Here’s why, and what to do about it.”

    1. Gotham Gal

      Great article

  6. Ruth BT

    This is a question that is keeping me up at night at the moment. My son is currently at a co-ed middle school which has been great HOWEVER we are finding that the education and environment is now being skewed towards girls leaving little place for active boys. Being academic that meant a reduction in playtime and this week a new rule that doesn’t allow playtime before school. They must sit quietly and wait for class to begin. This has led me to enrol him in a boys only school for the rest of his education where if there is pent up energy the boys are sent out to run or shoot some hoops. I am agonising over this decision – as an only child being able to interact with girls is going to be even more limited but otoh I see his soul and creativity dampened to be a compliant automaton in the current system. I just have to trust that for this child in this situation it is the right decision. Interstingly if the child was me I would love his current school and HATE to be sent to an all girls school.

    1. Gotham Gal

      I have seen this happen at other schools. They expectation that boys should not be able to blow off steam but sit in their seats. Not sure where that comes from but it is absolutely absurd.

  7. ShanaC

    I went to a pre k through 12 school where grades 6-10 are totally single gender, and grades 5, 11, and 12 had some (mostly non religious) classes mixed. Pre k through 4th were mixed.One of the things I noticed is that gender biases persisted irrespective of the mixing versus not mixing. It went both ways, like one English teacher I had in middle school who thought the boys were worse in English, and not a few religious studies teachers who thought that the women were less capable at certain legalistic texts.I don’t think separating by gender is the solution if the teaching staff had stereotypes to begin with. Biases will be reinforced anyway. They seem less noticible in all one gender environments because suddenly you have a larger cohort of other wished usually not in that track gender, but they still are there if you talk to the teachers. Better just to kill the biases in the first place

    1. Gotham Gal

      Totally agree with you. The biases have to be taken out of the equation from the get go but that is the hardest thing to do.