What are women's colleges like?
In the past few years, I've had the opportunity to visit several outstanding women's colleges. Some of these schools operate totally independently, while others have close interchanges with nearby coeducational institutions or are members of consortia with nearby coeducational schools through which students can enroll in a certain number of classes and take advantage of athletic and other facilities at member institutions.
In any case, the all-female colleges offer their students outstanding and abundant opportunities to excel in their areas of interest and to develop their leadership and organizational skills without the perceived competition and sometimes unrealistic presuppositions about male and female abilities which may exist, however subconsciously, in a coeducational institution. These colleges offer a full range of courses in a wide range of subjects, and numerous extracurricular, sports, and social opportunities are available. Research the schools in which you are interested carefully to determine their actual academic offerings and areas of academic and extracurricular focus and strength.
According to a recent study conducted at the University of Essex in England, young women do significantly better in single-sex classes than in a coeducational environment. The study notes that students at all-female institutions tend to exhibit more self-confidence in their classes and are able to develop stronger leadership skills. This phenomenon has long been held to be true, but the Essex study emphasizes the point.
On the other side of the coin, it could be argued that young women need to learn to put themselves forward and succeed in a male-female environment, since that is representative of "real life". An education at a women's college could be considered a stepping stone, however, in that it can provide an opportunity for a young women to experience fully being the focus of the education process and to develop her leadership abilities without experiencing gender pressure. She would then be able to take this honed sense of self into the male-female workplace.