I loved my all-girls school

Despite the lack of flashy promposals, all-girls schools offer a unique and valuable educational experience, writes Alex Riklin. (Photo: Pexels)

By Alex Riklin on November 18, 2019

Stanford Daily

When I tell people I attended an all-girls school since age 4, I’m met with expressions of either confusion, shock, curiosity or some combination of the three. I get the same responses ad nauseum: Why? Was it horrible? But how did you meet boys?

Contrary to what many people immediately assume, judging from their looks of sympathy, I really enjoyed going to an all-girls school. Sure, there were times when I envied the promposals and homecoming dances I saw in movies and on American friends’ Instagrams but never actually experienced myself. But apart from that, going to a single-sex school shaped me in many valuable ways and allowed me to forge amazing friendships. 

Many myths still need to be debunked when it comes to talking about single-sex education. First, I reject the idea that being in a single-sex environment renders one unable to interact with members of the opposite sex later in life. Despite this  popular belief, everyone I knew at my school and other single-sex schools not only knew how to interact smoothly with members of the opposite sex, but they were also able to form actual friendships with those people outside of school time. 

Although the majority of my close friends were girls, I wasn’t constantly cooped up away from the outside world. Being in a single-sex environment also encouraged me to make more friends outside of school and socialize outside of my fairly small school bubble. These experiences gave me invaluable skills, many of which I have used in my first few weeks here at Stanford in making friends and building relationships. 

Another common belief about all-girls schools in particular is the overwhelming presence of drama and hostility between students. There is inevitably going to be drama in all schools and close-knit communities at some points, but I never noticed a correlation between single-sex schools and drama when talking to friends who went to coed schools. I would say that drama doesn’t depend on whether you’re at a single-sex or coed school, but rather on the personalities of the people you surround yourself with.

Coming to Stanford, I thought I would immediately notice intense differences between my 700-person, single-sex school in London, England and this 7,000-person coed college. I assumed  it would feel really weird to be in classes with boys for the first time in my life.

Despite what I suspected, once on campus, none of these thoughts even crossed my mind until a few days ago. Out of the blue, I started to think about the fact that I’ve never been in a learning environment with boys before. It is sort of strange to consider that I basically learned everything I know purely surrounded by girls for 16 years of my life, despite the fact that in working environments and most other situations this will mostly not be the case. I will be forever grateful for the experiences I had and the relationships I formed in my all-girl school environment, but I’m equally so happy to be where I am now, experiencing new things every day and growing more and more in the process.

Contact Alex Riklin at ariklin ‘at’ stanford.edu

Fostering Academic and Social Engagement: An Investigation into the Effects of All-Girls Education in the Transition to University

NCGS

Author(s): Tiffani Riggers-Piehl, Kyungmin Lim, Karen King
Institution: Higher Education Research Institute
Year of Study: 2018
Fostering Academic and Social Engagement: An Investigation into the Effects of All-Girls Education in the Transition to UniversityFostering Academic and Social Engagement: An Investigation into the Effects of All-Girls Education in the Transition to University focuses a lens on how graduates of all-girls schools today compare to female graduates of coed schools in terms of their academic characteristics and readiness for university. Drawing data from the well-known Freshman Survey conducted by the Higher Education Research Institute (HERI) at the University of California, Los Angeles, the researchers used multilevel analyses to separate the effect of an all-girls education from other influences including socioeconomic differences, race/ethnicity, parent education, and the characteristics of the high schools attended. The data reveals a consistent portrait of girls’ school graduates who are more engaged academically and socially than their coeducated peers.

In summary, the researchers concluded that when compared to their female peers at coed schools, girls’ school graduates:

  • Have stronger academic skills
  • Are more academically engaged
  • Demonstrate higher science self-confidence
  • Display higher levels of cultural competency
  • Express stronger community involvement
  • Exhibit increased political engagement

For deeper insight into the findings, listen to our PEP Talks: Podcast on Educational Possibilities interview with the principal investigator Dr. Tiffani Riggers-Piehl:

A Single-Sex Education Makes All the Difference for Girls

Editor’s note: This piece was originally posted on the website of the National Coalition of Girls’ Schools and is used with permission.
It’s time to challenge the coeducation standard. The evidence supporting the benefits of all-girls schools is abundant.
A new report comparing all-girls high school environments to coeducational institutions provides clear evidence that — from academics to personal aspirations — the impact of the all-girls experience positively permeates a girl’s life at rates coeducational environments simply cannot match. At a time when real and resounding inequities remain between women and men in the workforce — from pay disparity to significant leadership gaps in nearly every industry — the report provides compelling evidence that girls’ schools offer a worthy solution.
Steeped in Learning: The Student Experience at All-Girls Schools analyzed the responses of nearly 13,000 high school girls attending all-girls schools, coeducational independent schools, and coeducational public schools to the 2013 High School Survey of Student Engagement. According to the survey [conducted by the Center for Evaluation & Education Policy at Indiana University], girls attending girls’ schools are more likely to have an experience that supports their learning than are girls attending coeducational schools. In particular, students at all-girls schools report:
  1. Having higher aspirations and greater motivation.
  2. Being challenged to achieve more.
  3. Engaging more actively in the learning process.
  4. Participating in activities that prepare them for the world outside of school.
  5. Feeling more comfortable being themselves and expressing their ideas.
  6. Showing greater gains on core academic and life skills.
  7. Being and feeling more supported in their endeavors.
Among the most striking results detailed in this study is the effect the all-girls environment has on a girl’s personal aspirations. Virtually all girls within an all-girls environment expect to earn a four-year degree; two-thirds expect to go on to graduate-level work. This is compared to under 40 percent of coeducational public school girls with graduate school expectations.
Such higher personal aspirations are likely influenced by the educators and classes girls attend while at school. More than 75 percent of girls in all-girls schools report their classes challenge them to achieve their full potential, and that they gave their maximum effort in their classes. This was higher than both coeducational independent and public schools, with public coed schools faring the worst with just under 40 percent reporting that their classes challenge them to their full potential.
The majority of our girls deserve better from their education. How can we hope to raise the profile of women if we cannot push them to reach their full potential in the classroom? Confidence grows out of experience and our girls are simply not getting enough practice.
The girls’ school girls also report higher levels of confidence in a wide variety of academic areas compared to their coeducational peers, including writing, speaking, critical thinking, reading, teamwork, and independent learning abilities. In sum, they are more personally engaged and successful in their learning and they report higher levels of support from both their fellow students and teachers.
The difference for girls in these educational environments is dramatic and the impact of educating even more girls in this way could help balance our social and political landscape, enabling women to claim their talents in a world that needs them to do so. Imagine a world where all women receive an education that unleashes their true potential.
A study released last month by University of Massachusetts at Amherst states that when women make up the majority of a group in an educational environment – specifically in the sciences – they are “more likely to worry less, feel confident and also to speak up and actively contribute to solve the problem at hand.” Another study at UCLA found that, even when accounting for self-selection biases, graduates of girls’ schools enter college with more confidence in their mathematical and computer skills, a greater interest in engineering careers, a stronger scientific orientation, higher SAT scores, and generally a more intellectual orientation toward the purpose of college.
With this supporting research and thousands of successful girls’ school graduates as living proof, we now have clear evidence that the coeducational high school environment needs to be challenged.
An all-girls education is a choice made by families because they value the extraordinary benefits of this learning environment.

Trudy Hall is board president at the National Coalition of Girls’ Schools and head at Emma Willard School (New York). Megan Murphy is executive director of the National Coalition of Girls’ Schools. This piece was originally posted on the website of the National Coalition of Girls’ Schools and is used with permission.