Gender Matters in College Choice:

Helping Women Find the Best Educational Fit

- Jillian Kinzie, Associate Director, NSSE Institute and BEAMS

Selecting the right college is a big decision, one of the more important a student will make. Students need to ask many questions when making a college choice. The following prompts have been identified as being particularly germane to women's college choice process.

Academic Challenge top^

  • In what ways do faculty challenge and support students to leave their “comfort zone” in order to excel?
  • How much time do students spend on homework each week?
  • To what degree do assignments (papers, exams, problem sets, rehearsals, research projects, etc.) challenge upper-division students to analyze, and synthesize information at high levels?
  • In what ways are students given the opportunity to express themselves creatively in assignments?
  • How much writing is expected? How much reading is assigned per class? How frequently are students asked to analyze quantitative problems?
  • What types of tutors or tutoring opportunities exist on campus?
Active Learning top^

  • How often are things learned in class discussed outside of the classroom?
  • In what ways do students work together on solving problems in and out of class?
  • How frequently do students make class presentations?
  • How many courses require community-service?
  • What types of internships are available and are they required to graduate?
Student-Faculty Interaction top^

  • How many students do research with faculty?
  • What does the institution do to promote student-faculty contact?
  • What kind and how often do students get feedback on coursework?
Diversity-Related Activities top^

  • In what ways are students exposed to multiple cultures or diverse perspectives?
  • To what extent are students asked to integrate diverse perspectives into assignments?
  • Where are students from and how many are from other countries?
Campus Environment top^

  • What types of support services (academic and non-academic) are available, particularly for new students?
  • To what extent are leadership opportunities available to all students?

If a student indicates that these undergraduate experiences are important to her, she might want to consider attending a women's college.  Women attending women's colleges report higher levels of engagement than women attending co-educational institutions on the types of educational experiences identified in the above questions*.

Women students with these values who are interested in attending a co-ed college might use these questions to assess the degree to which these conditions exist in programs or majors at schools in their consideration set.

*Data is from the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE), Indiana University Center for Postsecondary Research. Please contact for additional information.