Sisters with a Shared Mission


from Marissa Turchi


From left to right: Barnard, Mount Holyoke, Bryn Mawr, Smith, and Wellesley representatives enjoy dinner together.

As I head back to the west coast for my second trip of this travel season, I found myself reminiscing about my last trip here. Earlier this fall, directors, deans, and vice presidents from the Sister Colleges (Bryn Mawr, Barnard, Smith, Mount Holyoke, and Wellesley) traveled together to three cities on the west coast to talk about the benefit of studying at a women’s college with prospective students, families, and counselors.

During that trip, I had many moments of looking around and thinking, “How lucky am I? This is my job?!” I got to travel in the company of amazing and powerful women. I met incredibly talented young scholars and heard their stories of advocacy, action, and legacy. Not a day went by when I didn’t experience a wow moment.

To quote one of my Sister colleagues, “Women’s colleges aren’t about the absence of men; they’re about the presence of women.” That really resonated with me throughout the trip. I know so much about the success of Bryn Mawr students, but it was refreshing and empowering to hear how the narratives we tell about our students are shared by other women’s colleges.

In fact, we all share some amazing “firsts.” The first woman to be appointed to a Presidential Cabinet; the first women to hold a US Ambassadorship in the UN; the first female neurosurgeon; and the first AND ONLY female president of Harvard University (go Bryn Mawr!). Women’s college graduates are clearly pioneers in their fields, bound by no limits.

What’s the secret to our success? At women’s colleges, female leadership is the norm, not the exception. In fact, the Sister Colleges were developing women leaders long before many people and societies thought women even held the capacity for leadership. Today, we are one of the world’s most powerful networks for professional women – yes, in the world. One of the great benefits of graduating from a women’s college is that in addition to joining your college alumni network, you also join the greater network of women’s college graduates. We are all so proud to be women’s colleges, to empower smart and strong women who graduate to be global leaders.

I can go on for many more paragraphs detailing what it feels like to be part of a women’s college community, but, as scholars, we like our data too. During our travels, we shared some research findings from the Hardwick-Day What Matters After College: A Comparative Alumnae Research Study and women’s college graduates are:

• More likely than graduates from co-ed institutions to attend graduate school – double the rate of public flagships and 40% higher than co-ed liberal arts colleges.
• Less likely than public university graduates to transfer from another college or university.
• More likely than flagship public university graduates to be involved in volunteer or community service activities.

But most importantly to me, women’s colleges receive higher effectiveness ratings than all other colleges and universities for helping students learn to be a leader.

Our institutions were founded in a time when women were denied access at the most prestigious institutions in the country. Our founders believed women to be just as engaged and scholarly as their male counterparts. We continue in this history and legacy – our students find commonality in their shared passion for learning. They are academic risk-takers who are not afraid of going against the grain and celebrate the opportunity to be in an academically rigorous community. They are not afraid to voice their opinions and make themselves heard.

I cherished my time traveling with the other Sister Colleges. We shared meals, stories, laughs, and mentorship. I finished that week a little bleary eyed from all the planes, shuttles, and hotel jumping, but my soul was filled with inspiration from traveling with four fantastic women – hearing stories of generations of women who have influenced one another to be bold, fearless, and change agents. We met incredible students who are already pioneers in their communities, creating their own legacies.

I encourage you to explore the idea of attending a women’s college. Do your research, visit campuses, connect with faculty and staff, engage with current students. You will find the same inspiration and empowerment I have. And, if you’re still on the fence, take some advice from our President, Kim Cassidy, on why every female student should visit a women’s college.

To ED or not to ED?

From MArissa Turchi


Are you currently weighing the differences between Early Decision (ED) and Regular Decision (RD)? You’re not alone – this is one of the most common admissions-related discussions for this time of year. I wish I could give you a magic formula, one that simply tells you which decision to select, but I can’t. I can tell you this – there is no right or wrong decision when it comes to going ED or RD. You just have to figure out what option is best for you and your family.

Let’s first talk about the differences between ED and RD:

  • Early Decision is designed for students who have a definitive first choice school: you’re ready to make a personal and financial commitment to a specific college and you’re excited about this choice!
  • Early Decision is a binding contract: Students can only apply ED to one school. When applying ED, the applicant, their guardian(s), and their school counselor all sign a form, committing the student to enrolling at the college if they’re admitted.
  • Some schools offer EDI and EDII (Bryn Mawr is one of those schools): Typically, there is no evaluative difference between the two plans, just different deadlines.
  • If an applicant is admitted to their ED school, they have to rescind all their RD applications from other schools. Sometimes colleges will defer an ED applicant – this does not mean a student is not admissible, it simply means the school would like to reevaluate their application in the RD pool. In this case, students do not rescind their other applications.
  • In most cases, colleges evaluate students using the same criteria for both ED and RD; however ED students show a higher level of demonstrated interest. As you consider applying ED, ask your first choice schools how their evaluation process differs in ED. At Bryn Mawr, we evaluate students the same in ED as RD.
  • Ask about merit and need-based financial aid: Sometimes the awarding process varies; however, many schools award the same amount of scholarship and aid in both plans. At Bryn Mawr, we are committed to meeting 100% of demonstrated need for all admitted students, regardless of the application plan. We also use the same process to evaluate for merit in both ED and RD.

Although applying ED is a big decision, there are also some big benefits. Here are a few reasons why applying ED may be good for you:

  • Getting your decision sooner: When applying ED, your admission decision is shared with you much sooner and, hopefully, can remove some stress so you can enjoy being a Senior.
  • Higher admission rates: In most cases, a smaller number of students are applying to a college through ED. These students tend to be high achieving and highly interested in the college, so the admission rates tend to be higher. At Bryn Mawr, about 40 to 45% of our incoming class will enroll through an ED plan.
  • Community engagement: Once a student is admitted to their ED school, they have more time to learn about the college’s community – to connect with faculty, current students, and their peers.

Remember: There are no “shoulds.” Early Decision is a fantastic option for many students, but also a pretty big commitment for families. Take your time, consider all the factors, and then consider the factors again as they relate to you and your family. I understand the pressures students face today to apply ED. Try to release any and all expectations the college search process places on you and make a well-informed decision that is best for you and your family.