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Recapping the Women's College Advantage

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Photo Credit: Amanda Stup -- Artfully Captured

August marks my one-year anniversary as a Huffington Post blogger. To celebrate this milestone, I decided to write a year-in-review post.

I'll begin by saying how much fun it's been blogging about women's colleges. This incredible opportunity has allowed me to take a closer look at these institutions and connect with students and alumnae. The experience has been truly inspirational, and one I greatly appreciate.

As a women's college alumna, my contention is that women's colleges are today's best kept secret in higher education. It's the main reason I started blogging and with so many advantages, it would be remiss of me not to continue to do so. Especially now, with more college-bound high school girls and their parents looking for a college education that is affordable and provides a quality education.

In addition, single-sex colleges give our youth, girls and boys, the opportunity to decide which learning environment is best for them. Having educational choice is important. Regardless of your higher education preference, single-sex colleges add to our diverse education system; and it's this diversity that makes our education system noteworthy.

When you review the research conducted about women's colleges, it's clear: Women's colleges excel at educating young women, and graduates of women's colleges achieve higher rates of success than their female counterparts from coed institutions. Couple this with affordability, and you have a winning solution.

The often overlooked nuance of this winning solution, and one worth highlighting, is that colleges for women offer more than excellent academics and affordability; these single-sex colleges provide a learning environment conducive to young women. Here young women are supported and encouraged to think, to explore, and to dream big. It's an environment where no one will ever tell a student that she can't do something simply because she's female.

Imagine being in an environment where anything is possible; where options and opportunities abound; it's like being handed the keys to the kingdom. And only the student decides what she wants to do with such an opportunity. For high school girls who have big dreams, it's an option I encourage them to investigate further.

I started my HuffPost blog journey by blogging about several high school girls who did just that: they investigated; and in the end concluded that attending a women's college was right for them. I included the stories of Jenni Miller (Stephens College), Briana McCall (Sweet Briar College), Allison Chi-Tsen Wu (Smith College), and Jocelyn Mosman (Mount Holyoke College) in my blog post that explained why first-year students attend women's colleges. Following up with the same students to see how their first semester went; I wrote, "First Semester College Reflections."

For my second blog post, I penned, "Why First-Year STEM Girls Attend Women's Colleges." Here you learned about Christine Hamilton and her interest in engineering and why she selected Smith College, Sue Turjman on her journey to becoming a physician at Mount St. Mary's College, De'Jahnna Crockett from Stephens College and her career goal of becoming an oncology pediatric physician. I also introduced you to two Douglass Residential College students Courtney Stevens, another student interested in engineering, and Jamie Wooding on her quest to becoming a veterinarian. In addition, you learned about Bayley Lawrence, '14, and Delor Sander, '13, students at St. Catherine University and their summer internship in Iceland, studying the effect of temperature on nitrogen fixation rates in geothermally active streams.

As a STEM woman myself, the connection between STEM careers and women's colleges is of particular interest to me. So I know you'll understand my delight when I read about influential STEM leaders who are also talking up this powerful connection in "All-Girls Schools Cited as Key to Women Winning in Tech."

And it's great seeing others sharing the secret as well. For example, these women's college alumnae: Pamela Melroy, pioneering astrophysicist and NASA astronaut from Wellesley College, class of 1983, and Gillian Maffeo, director of marketing at Wayback Burgers from Cedar Crest College, class of 2008 talk about their alma maters and the influence the schools had on their careers.

As the year progressed, I suggested that women's colleges are magnets for students who are looking for options and opportunities, and I blogged about going from STEM Girls to "FUN Gals" in a lab that studies disease-causing fungi, traveling the United States to create a documentary film, designing clothes based on marine biology, getting more girls interested in STEM, playing lacrosse like a shark, creating amazing pieces of art, taking part in summer internships, including STEM internships while receiving a top-notch education.

I also shared how women's colleges are committed to educating first-generation students when I introduced you to Jennifer Eadie.

And the fun continues after graduation for these women. I blogged about recent graduates landing exciting jobs and shared career stories from other alumnae including a marine biology advocate, an up-and-coming software engineer, a fashioner designer who won Project Runway with her amazing designs, and a music producer who created a movement for getting more women in her profession. No doubt about it, women's college alumnae go on to do amazing things.

College affordability was addressed in "How to Afford a Quality College Education for Your Daughter" and another blog post brought to light a generous scholarship created by a group of women college alumnae.

In December, I shared with you college-made videos celebrating the holidays in my blog post "From Their Hearts to Your Home: Videos of Women's Colleges Holiday Wishes." And in early spring, it was hard for me to resist not sharing "Happy"- inspired videos (thanks Pharrell Williams for the inspiration).

Women's colleges are always looking to stay current and relevant; one way is by creating new programs. Take for example a new illustration program that provides women an opportunity to compete in the male-dominated gaming industry. This is yet another example of how colleges for women are dedicated to educating women and to close the gender gap.

For commencement, I got a bit carried away and wrote four graduation-related blog posts, "Crazy Cool Commencement Caps and the Women Who Designed Them," "Graduating College Women Talk About The Douglass Difference," "First-Generation Student Graduates with Honors and Shares Her College Experience," and "Memorable 2014 Graduation Images from Women's Colleges."

Looking forward, I want to continue to blog about the advantages of women's colleges for high school girls. I'll also expand my reach, specifically exploring (and blogging about) how colleges for women are committed to educating non-traditional women (women over the age of 25), as well as women around the world.

To learn more about women's colleges, visit my blog: Advantages of a Women's College. Here's you'll find additional information as well as a complete listing of all women's colleges in the United States.

Before signing off, I would like to thank the Huffington Post for this amazing opportunity. I greatly appreciate this platform for sharing the biggest secret in higher education today, women's colleges!