By Kaitlin Mulhere
December 15, 2015

Colleges like to say that admissions isn’t a science but an art.

Though admissions officers rely heavily on hard numbers like test scores, class rank, and grade point averages, they also look at other factors, such as academic interests, high school achievements, geography, and socioeconomic status, to try to build a well-balanced class of freshman each year.

For many schools, that includes your gender.

Most colleges aim to maintain as much gender parity on campus as possible, as the ratio of men to women can dramatically affect campus culture. But that also means some colleges have significantly higher acceptance rates for women than for men, or vice versa.

At schools with a strong engineering or hard science bent, men generally apply in much larger numbers than women, for example.

And colleges that went co-ed in recent decades, after spending most of their history as men’s or women’s schools, may have trouble shaking their old image.

Sometimes, it’s simple demographics. There are more qualified women than men applying to and attending four-year colleges. In fact, women have outnumbered men in college for more than 30 years now.

Admissions officers are quick to qualify the disparate acceptance rates by saying that the men and women who are admitted are equally qualified. And that’s no doubt true at more selective colleges, where several qualified applicants are turned down for every one that’s admitted.

“We are not choosing among qualified and unqualified candidates,” says Thyra L. Briggs, vice president for admission and financial aid at Harvey Mudd College, where women are admitted 2.5 times as often as men. The college, which only offers majors in science, technology, engineering, and math fields, estimates that about 70% of applicants would be strong students there.

At the uber-competitive Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the acceptance rate for women is twice as high as it is for men. But “it’s a false assertion that it is easier to be admitted if you are a woman,” Dean of Admissions Stuart Schmill told us in an email. As evidence that accepted women are no less qualified than the men who get in, Schmill points out that once they’re on campus, women have a higher graduation rate.

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Still, students should know if the schools they’re applying to swing one way or the other, says Joan Koven, an independent college consultant in Pennsylvania. Koven says she frequently talks with her students about recognizing an institution’s needs, including whether the college needs more men or women on campus.

An applicant has to pass the academic bar before any other factors are considered, Koven says. But strictly looking at the numbers, the odds are absolutely in your favor if you’re a woman applying to CalTech or a man applying to Vassar, for example.

“Gender is just another card to play in terms of putting together a well-balanced list,” she says.

These are the 10 highest ranked schools in MONEY’s Best Colleges where women are admitted at a higher rate than men. They’re ordered based on the proportional size of the gap, from smallest to largest. We reached out to each college on the list, and you’ll fill explanations from those that responded.

See our related list of colleges where men are admitted at a higher rate than women.


10. Warner University

C. Micahel Potthast—Courtesy of Warner University

Warner University
Lake Wales, Fla.

MONEY Best Colleges rank: 708
Overall acceptance rate: 33.8%
Male acceptance rate: 29.7%
Female acceptance rate: 42.2%
Difference: 1.4x higher for women
Gender on campus: 52% women/48% men

In 2013, about 400 women applied to Warner University, compared to 800 men. But the 1,000-student Christian college in central Florida aims for a roughly equal gender distribution on campus, which means a larger share of women are admitted.


9. Wisconsin Lutheran College

Courtesy of Wisconsin Lutheran College

Wisconsin Lutheran College
Milwaukee, Wis.

MONEY Best Colleges rank: 451
Overall acceptance rate: 63.6%
Male acceptance rate: 52.7%
Female acceptance rate: 76.8%
Difference: 1.5x higher for women
Gender on campus: 53% women/47% men

Wisconsin Lutheran College has less than 1,000 students, so small changes in its applicant pool can have significant effects. In 2001, women actually applied the college in larger numbers than men, but the balance shifted and has favored men since 2008. The admissions office believes the gap between male and female acceptance rates was magnified by the addition of the football team in the early 2000s. As the team grew in size over its first decade (there are now about 100 members), so did the gap. “There’s a wide-ranging recruitment effort (for football), that frankly generates a lot of applications that don’t meet our academic standards,” says Jim Brandt, vice president of enrollment and marketing.


8. Carnegie Mellon University

Ken Andreyo/—Courtesy of Carnegie Mellon University

Carnegie Mellon University
Pittsburgh

MONEY Best Colleges rank: 38
Overall acceptance rate: 25.5%
Male rate: 21%
Female rate: 32.7%
Difference: 1.5x higher for women
Gender on campus: 42% women/58% men

Carnegie Mellon, like several others on this list, is known for its technology and engineering programs, which usually attract more men than women. While the Pittsburgh university admitted about 230 fewer women than men in 2013, the difference in applications—4,800 more from men—was far greater.


7. Babson College

Matt Teuten—Courtesy of Babson

Babson College
Wellesley, Mass.

MONEY Best Colleges rank: 2
Overall acceptance rate: 28.2%
Male rate: 22.4%
Female rate: 38.3%
Difference: 1.7x higher for women
Gender on campus: 45% women/55% men

Babson specializes in business and entrepreneurship, and only offers one degree, a bachelor’s in business. While business—the single-most popular college major nationally—doesn’t have the type of gender gaps seen in computer science or engineering, men do outnumber women in some business programs. That’s the case at Babson, which aims to have gender parity on campus, despite consistently having more male than female applicants, spokesman Michael Chmura says.

 


6. Cedar Crest College

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Cedar Crest College
Allentown, Pa.

MONEY Best Colleges rank: 389
Overall acceptance rate: 58.8%
Male rate: 33.3%
Female rate: 58.9%
Difference: 1.8x higher for women
Gender on campus: 93% women/7% men

Cedar Crest is an unusual case. It’s a traditional women’s college where men are admitted only to the undergraduate nursing program (as well the graduate and adult programs). Though the college only gets a handful of full-time, undergraduate male applicants a year, because nursing is one of the more popular majors on campus, it is also one of the most competitive to get into, says Mary-Alice Ozechoski, vice president of traditional admissions and student affairs.


5. Virginia Union University

Courtesy of Virginia Union University

Virginia Union University
Richmond, Va.

MONEY Best Colleges rank: 732
Overall acceptance rate: 58.5%
Male rate: 43%
Female rate: 78%
Difference: 1.8x higher for women
Gender on campus: 55% women/45% men

Virginia Union’s mission emphasizes access and opportunity, and the college accepts any student who meets its minimum requirements, says Vanessa Moody Coombs, director of public relations. The historically black university doesn’t have quotas for male or female students, so the gap in the male and female acceptance rate will change each year as the number of applicants fluctuates, Coombs says.


4. Mount St. Mary's University

Courtesy of Mount St. Mary's

Mount St. Mary’s University
Los Angeles

MONEY Best Colleges rank: 154
Overall acceptance rate: 74%
Male rate: 38.7%
Female rate: 75.8%
Difference: 1.9x higher for women
Gender on campus: 94% women/6% men

Like the other women’s college on this list, Mount St. Mary’s accepts men into its traditional undergraduate nursing program. That means male applicants have to apply directly to that program, which has stricter academic entrance requirements than others.


3. California Institute of Technology

Ricardo DeAratanha—LA Times via Getty Images

California Institute of Technology
Pasadena, Calif.

MONEY Best Colleges rank: 5
Overall acceptance rate: 10.5%
Male rate: 8.3%
Female rate: 16.8%
Difference: 2x higher for women
Gender on campus: 37% women/63% men

Many of CalTech’s characteristics are similar to other colleges on this list. By sheer numbers, CalTech’s most popular majors are physics, computer science, and various types of engineering—all programs that skew predominantly male. Male students outnumber female students two to one on campus. And in 2013, there were three times as many male applicants as female ones.


2. Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images

Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Cambridge, Mass.

MONEY Best College rank: 3
Overall acceptance rate: 8%
Male rate: 6%
Female rate: 13%
Difference: 2.2x higher for women
Gender on campus: 45% women/55% men

Massachusetts Institute of Technology is perhaps the most widely known college for hard sciences, information technology, and engineering. Not only are men more likely to apply, but the women who do apply are more self-selecting, says Dean of Admissions Stuart Schmill. “While strides are being made to encourage more women to engage in STEM fields…they are still less likely to apply in the first place, which makes the gap more noticeable at specialized schools like MIT,” Schmill adds.


1. Harvey Mudd College

Courtesy of Harvey Mudd University

Harvey Mudd College
Claremont, Calif.

MONEY Best Colleges rank: 6
Overall acceptance rate: 18.2%
Male rate: 12.5%
Female rate: 31.7%
Difference: 2.5x higher for women
Gender on campus: 46% women/54% men

Like most STEM colleges, Harvey Mudd receives more applications from men than women. In 2013, more than twice as many men as women applied. The college also finds that women are generally far more self-selecting and less likely to apply if their test scores fall outside Harvey Mudd’s average range, according to Thyra Briggs, vice president for admission and financial aid. Because women usually apply only if they see themselves as competitive applicants, they may be less likely to be rejected. (That hypothesis is supported by some corporate research that shows women are less likely than men to apply for jobs unless they meet every requirement.)

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