Top Women's Colleges in the U.S.

Best Colleges for Women in the Country

Margaret Clapp Library, Wellesley College, Wellesley, Massachusetts
Margaret Clapp Library, Wellesley College, Wellesley, Massachusetts. Wikimedia Commons

If you think women's colleges fall short when it comes to preparing students for the real world, think again. These top women's colleges provide top-notch educations, and most have cross-registration programs with nearby colleges. These schools were chosen based on their name recognition, student/faculty ratios, financial resources, quality of instruction, selectivity and quality of student life. The schools are listed alphabetically to avoid the often arbitrary distinctions used to separate #3 from #4.

Agnes Scott College

Presser Hall at Agnes Scott College
Presser Hall at Agnes Scott College.

Atcharles / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

Agnes Scott College is located in Decatur, Georgia, a mere six miles away from Atlanta. The college has received accolades for the beauty of its campus and the quality of residential living. The school also boasts a robust honor code, a diverse student body, and a 10:1 student / faculty ratio. With roughly 1,000 students, you'll get to know your classmates and professors well. Agnes Scott is also about $10,000 (or more) less expensive than some of the other colleges on this list, and nearly all students receive grant aid. That said, the college has the clout to draw graduation speakers such as Hillary Clinton and Oprah Winfrey.

Barnard College

2010 Barnard College Commencement
Meryl Streep attends Barnard College Commencement. WireImage / Getty Images

Barnard College is affiliated with adjacent Columbia University, but it maintains its own faculty, endowment, governance, and curriculum. However, Barnard and Columbia students can easily take classes at either school. Barnard's four-acre urban campus stands in sharp contrast to the open green spaces of the other top women's colleges. On the admissions front, Barnard is the most competitive of all the women's colleges—in 2018, just 14% of applicants were admitted.​

Bryn Mawr College

Bryn Mawr College
Bryn Mawr College. Montgomery County Planning Commission / Flickr

Another academic powerhouse, Bryn Mawr College is a member of the Tri-College Consortium with Swarthmore and Haverford. Shuttles run between the three campuses, and students can easily cross-register for classes. The college is also close to Philadelphia, and students can register for courses at the University of Pennsylvania. Along with strong academics, Bryn Mawr is rich in history and traditions including "Parade Night" at the year's start and "May Day" at the end of the spring semester.​

Mills College

Mills Hall at Mills College
Mills Hall at Mills College.

Sanfranman59 / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

Founded in 1852, Mills College has been located at its current 135-acre campus in Oakland, California, since 1871. The school has earned many accolades for its value and academic quality, and it typically ranks among the top women's colleges in the country. The school also gets high marks for its environmental efforts. Mills college has a 11 to 1 student/faculty ratio and an average class size of 16. For its strengths in the liberal arts and sciences, the school was awarded a chapter of the Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society.​

Mount Holyoke College

Interior view of Talcott Greenhouse at Mount Holyoke College
Interior view of Talcott Greenhouse at Mount Holyoke College. Wikimedia Commons

Founded in 1837, Mount Holyoke College is the oldest of the "seven sisters" colleges. Mount Holyoke is a member of the Five College Consortium with Amherst College, UMass Amherst, Smith College and Hampshire College. Students can easily register for courses at any of the five schools. Mount Holyoke has one of the more beautiful campuses in the country, and students can enjoy the college's botanic gardens, two lakes, waterfalls, and horseback-riding trails. Mount Holyoke, like a growing number of colleges, is test-optional and does not require ACT or SAT scores for admission.

Scripps College

Scripps College
Scripps College. Lure Photography / Wikimedia Commons

For both academics and resources, Scripps College holds its own with the Northeastern women's colleges that might have greater name recognition. And some students might even prefer palm trees and Spanish architecture to snow and ice. For prospective students who have reservations about single sex colleges, realize that Scripps is one of five members of the Claremont Colleges (along with Pomona, Harvey Mudd, Pitzer and Claremont McKenna). Students can take up to 2/3 of their classes at these other schools.​

Simmons College

School of Management and Academic Building. Photo Credit: Marisa Benjamin

Simmons College has strengths in both the liberal arts and sciences and professional fields. Simmons undergraduates can choose from over 50 majors and programs. Nursing is the most popular, and at the graduate level library science, social work and education are all flourishing programs. The Simmons campus is located in the Fenway neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts, and students can easily cross-register for classes at five other colleges in the area.​

Smith College

Smith College's greenhouse
Smith College's greenhouse. Wikimedia Commons

Located in Northampton, Massachusett, Smith College is a member of the Five College Consortium with Amherst College, Mount Holyoke, UMass Amherst, and Hampshire College. Students at any of these five colleges can easily take classes at the other member institutions. First opened in 1875, Smith has a beautiful and historic campus that includes the 12,000 square foot Lyman Conservatory and the Botanic Garden with about 10,000 different plant species. The college can boast of many famous alumnae including Sylvia Plath, Julia Child, and Gloria Steinem. Smith is test-optional and does not require ACT or SAT scores for admission.​

Spelman College

Spelman College
Spelman College.

Broadmoor / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0


Spelman College, a historically Black college, is located a few minutes from downtown Atlanta. Its urban location allows it to share resources with the Atlanta University Center, a consortium of historically Black colleges including Clark Atlanta University, the Interdenominational Theological Center, Morehouse College and Morehouse School of Medicine. Spelman has a strong liberal arts focus, and the school places well in rankings of best schools for African Americans and best schools for social mobility.​

Stephens College

Stephens College
Stephens College. Photo courtesy of Stephens College

Founded in 1833, Stephens College has the distinction of being the second oldest women's college in the country. The Stephens' curriculum has a liberal arts core, but the college also has notable programs in the performing arts and pre-professional areas such as health and business. The college's attractive 86-acre campus is located in Columbia, Missouri, a small city that is also home to the University of Missouri and Columbia College.

Wellesley College

Wellesley Residence Hall
Wellesley Residence Hall. redjar / flickr

Located in an affluent and beautiful town outside of Boston, Wellesley College provides women with one of the best educations available. The school offers small classes taught exclusively by the full-time faculty, a beautiful campus with Gothic architecture and a lake, and academic exchange programs with Harvard and M.I.T. Wellesley frequently tops the lists of the best women's colleges in the U.S.​

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Grove, Allen. "Top Women's Colleges in the U.S." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, Grove, Allen. (2023, April 5). Top Women's Colleges in the U.S. Retrieved from Grove, Allen. "Top Women's Colleges in the U.S." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 1, 2023).