The search for the perfect college can get old fast: finding the right fit, worrying about admissions, stressing out about getting accepted… the whole thing can be exhausting.
If you need some encouragement in your search, you’re in luck. Let’s end Women’s History Month well. Get inspired by the stories of women who persevered through their college search and succeeded despite all the odds.
1. Elizabeth Blackwell, the first woman in the U.S. to earn a medical degree
Elizabeth Blackwell became determined to study medicine after a close friend died of cancer. She consulted with her friends, family, and several doctors who all told her it was impossible: Women were just not suited to be doctors. Undeterred, she began studying medicine on her own while working to save up for college. “The idea of winning a doctor’s degree gradually assumed the aspect of a great moral struggle,” she said, “and the moral fight possessed immense attraction for me.”
Elizabeth applied to and was rejected from over 30 medical colleges in Philadelphia and New York City, but she continued to apply to every medical college in the area. Finally, she found a school that considered her application: Geneva Medical College. Unsure whether to admit her, the administrators turned the question to a student vote. The students, thinking it was a joke, voted yes. Elizabeth graduated at the top of her class in 1849, becoming the first woman in the United States to earn a medical degree.
2. Fe del Mundo, the first female student at Harvard Medical School
After graduating from the University of the Philippines in 1933, Fe del Mundo was offered a scholarship to any college of her choice. She chose to study at Harvard Medical School, not realizing that Harvard Medical School didn’t admit women.
Due to an oversight, however, Fe’s application was accepted, and she was admitted to the prestigious school in 1936. No one realized the mistake until she arrived to find she’d been assigned to an all-male dorm! Luckily, the head of pediatrics decided not to turn her away since her record was so strong.
Fe del Mundo became the only woman enrolled in Harvard Medical School at the time. It wasn’t until 1944 that Harvard Medical School officially voted to accept female students.
3. Fay Kellogg paved the way for female students at École des Beaux-Arts
As a girl in the late 19th century, Fay Kellogg dreamed of becoming a doctor, but her father offering to pay her tuition if she switched to drawing, a more ladylike pursuit. To her father’s dismay, Fay decided to become an architect.
Fay Kellogg wanted to study architecture at the prestigious École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, but the school refused to admit women. Fay Kellogg went on to become one of the most successful and famous architects in the United States at the time, and her early campaigning paved the way for female students to be admitted to the École des Beaux-Arts just a few years later.
Your College Search
After fighting for centuries for the right to attend college, women now make up over half of all college students in the United States. Today, students are accepted into college not based on their gender, but on their merits. As you continue in your college search, remember the stories of these women who paved the way for your college success!
Borzelleca, D. (2012, February 16). The male-female ratio in college. Retrieved from Forbes
Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell. (n.d.). Retrieved from NIH
Lim, F. (2007). Woman of many firsts. Retrieved from Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ)
Matriculation of women, 1921-1947. (n.d.). Retrieved from Harvard Medical School
Woman invades field of modern architecture. (1907, November 17). Retrieved from The New York Times
Thumbnail image courtesy of CollegeDegrees360. Image courtesy of Syracuse University Medical School Collection. Image courtesy of Hobart and William Smith Colleges. Image courtesy of The New York Times.