Actress Kerry Washington, lead role of ABC drama Scandal, brought some well-deserved attention to all-girls schools in 2013 at New York's annual Paley Fest: “I was really lucky because I went to an all-girls school, and that single-sex education really helped me because I really learned to bond with women and to not compete with or compare myself as much because we were all allowed to be ourselves and be unique and kind of have our unique strengths.”
Washington’s words struck a chord with many women who also were beneficiaries of an all-girls education and who attribute much of their success to that experience.
Laura Lasky, Director of Admissions at Villa Joseph Marie High School in Bucks County, asserts that choosing an all-girls high school can be one of the best decisions a girl and her family can make as she prepares for college and career.
“A single-sex education allows students the safety and freedom to learn and grow in an environment that takes the social pressure out of it,” Lasky said.
She adds that girls are more comfortable, more likely to share their ideas, and more likely to try something new in the classroom when adolescent concerns about appearance and the opposite sex are reduced.
The benefits of single-sex education are not just in the social setting, however. Students who attend schools like Villa Joseph Marie see advancement in and out of the classroom in ways that parents may not even have considered.
“Every student leader in our school—every president, service trip leader, captain, soloist, theater lead, and officer—is a girl,” Lasky said. “In her four years here, a Villa girl will never have to sit back and watch a boy take the lead. That is impactful, especially when she enters college and feels ready and empowered to seek these types of positions.”
Sharing ideas, contributing more openly, and taking the lead are also easier when there are fewer students in class. With only half the population eligible to attend the school, class sizes are naturally smaller, allowing for more focused learning and the growth of valuable relationships with teachers.
“Good interpersonal relationships, whether formed with other students or with teachers, are crucial to developing a student’s emotional intelligence, and those kinds of relationships are fostered particularly well in small, single-sex schools,” Lasky said.
Despite the all-girls environment, diversity is still present and is a valued aspect of a well-rounded education at Villa Joseph Marie. “We have economic diversity, geographic diversity, racial diversity, academic diversity,” Lasky said, “And we embrace the fact that even though we are a single-sex school, we are not a homogenous community.”
Single-sex high schools are an ideal setting for nurturing social and academic qualities that are attractive to college admissions directors and employers later in life, while welcoming students into a supportive, family-like community during their critical teen years. And some great options are closer than you think.