Woman in a graduation cap.

What Attending an All-Girls School Taught Me

What Attending an All-Girls School Taught Me

When I tell people that I went to an all-girls school for twelve years, the first response I always get is “I’m so sorry” and “that must’ve been awful.” I never quite understood why no one had ever given me a positive response to this statement. Sure, you could make the argument that I probably would’ve had a better social life if my school was co-ed, but from an academic standpoint, I got the best possible education. According to a Dartmouth study, in college classrooms, men are more assertive than women and speak up 1.6 times more often. I was lucky that ever since my elementary days, I had a mindset instilled in me to never hold back my opinion and to always be the best version of myself. 

Being at an all-girls school, you are put into a very academically rigorous environment where everyone is pushed to excel in every subject. In 7th grade, I remember reading Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations in our English class. This was a book that was quite advanced for 13-year-olds, and yet my vocal classmates would raise their hands for every question the teacher asked. Often, they would even raise questions that our teacher had never thought of before, fostering a cutting-edge discussion. This continued on into our STEM classes as well, a field that is dominated by men. The hallway of the 8th floor, our science floor, was covered in a mix of projects done by girls in the classroom as well as pictures/descriptions of alumni and famous women working in STEM, showing all the girls who walked by that if they wanted to work in STEM, they could achieve that goal with a little hard work. We had advanced research programs after school, and even a robotics club - anyone wanting to pursue STEM further could get further experience outside of class. 

The confidence instilled in us also extended beyond the classroom, as we were all highly encouraged to take on leadership positions and engage in as many extra-curricular activities as we could. I had friends who were captains of their prospective sports teams, and at the same time, were creating beautiful pieces of art that would get featured in the art show. The girl who played the flute alongside me in my school’s orchestra was also the head of student government, always looking to implement meaningful changes to our school and improve everyone’s experience. I was the co-head of our school’s business and financial awareness club, trying to influence as many underclassmen as I could to get interested in that field at the same time I was writing a comedy show with my friends that we would later get our entire grade to perform in front of the whole school. All of the young girls in my school learned to pursue what they enjoyed without any gendered bias to our passions.

Things changed in college. 

Suddenly, women felt invisible in my college classes. The first English class I took in college consisted of 13 boys and 3 girls. Frankly, It pissed me off that only the boys would participate in our discussions. I started to raise my hand in every class. I tried out for the club squash team my freshman year, not realizing that they had never had a girl on the team before. Instead of being intimidated that they had more experience and were stronger players than me, I kept trying out, made the team, and made my way up the ladder, improving each year. Lastly, I delivered a stock pitch to a group of all men, with the help of an older woman who was the only other active female in the investing club. My all-girls school equipped me for these daunting experiences. 

Having an older woman in the club to help me learn how to organize a stock pitch was an essential part of my college experience. She went on to also help me with job applications and give me lots of advice about how to break into the finance industry. At my all-girls school, we would have alumni working in all different fields, from journalism, to finance, to STEM, to film, that would come speak to us, and give advice to all the girls who wanted to work in the same fields as them. It is crucial to have spaces for women to comfortably ask questions, pursue their passions, and network at all stages of their lives.