Road Trip: “Aha! Moments” at Wellesley College

This month’s Boston area campus touring included a brief but informative stop at Wellesley College.  Having lived in the city of Wellesley I well remember spending a few afternoons on the lawn abutting the lake amid the trees.  Hands down, it is 500 acres of beautiful campus.

Wellesley was the third all-women’s college that I visited this past year and Aha! Wellesley is not for the faint of heart.  Unlike the other two schools, Scripps and Smith, I felt a forcefulness from the Wellesley admissions officer as she described Wellesley as a “women’s college not a girl’s school”.  She spoke of it being “okay for women to be smart” and of society’s “subtle messaging” that keeps women out of STEM fields where they remain a minority. Socially, she spoke of social life as being what one makes of it and, though “you might need to be more proactive” to meet students off campus, Wellesley is not isolated from Boston’s 250,000 college students including parties and partner clubs at co-ed schools.  She characterized Wellesley as LGBT-friendly. A last comment when describing who would not be a good fit for Wellesley she mentioned just two points: 1) someone unhappy in an all female environment and 2) someone who is not good at self-advocacy.

After a drive through campus I turned to the brochures. I found that half of the “spirited arguments” in 12 Brief Arguments For A Wellesley Education spoke of women in a sophisticatedly clever but edgy manner.  Here is one of the twelve:

“We’re rectifying a bizarre sociopolitical chromosomal imbalance. Have you ever noticed that women comprise half of the world’s population and are demonstrably capable and talented and brilliant —and yet the vast majority of leading figures in business, science, politics, you name it, have a Y chromosome? Same here. We’re working on it.” 

Wellesley’s academics are superb and their resources vast.  The most popular majors are Economics, Computer Science, International Affairs, Neuroscience, and Biology. The most frequent self-descriptor of Wellesley’s academics was “intense”…just can’t get away from that vibe.  59% of the tenured faculty is female and 98% of faculty holds a terminal degree. One gem is the Albright Institute for Global Affairs where 40 students are chosen as Albright Fellows.  These students attend special classes during the winter term, followed by a study abroad, and capped off by a conference back on campus where impressions are discussed. 

My sense is that the campus is an active one with a high degree of student engagement in the school's direction – in fact students and faculty both join admission officers on the admission committee. Wellesley has a strong D3 sports program. It is a 2.4-mile run around the lake. A fun fact: the Boston Marathon runs by campus and a “Screaming Tunnel” forms along Center Street to loudly cheer on the runners.  Alumni are strong with ten active alums per student and a particularly high 51% giving rate. 

Consider Wellesley College if you are looking for an excellent, challenging and somewhat intense education among women peers who strongly express their ideas and are well-respected for those ideas.