Or, at least one specific college does — a study conducted last April at Boston College has found that female seniors left the institution with lower self-confidence than when they began as freshmen. These results are depressing, but they're not really that surprising.
The study examined two surveys. The first was taken during freshman orientation, and the second was taken right before graduation. Both contained questions like "What do you think of your academic achievement?" and "How would you rate your drive to succeed?" Despite high academic achievement, a majority of female students gave themselves weaker self-evaluations in the senior year survey. Male students, however, tended to "gain self-confidence during their four years here, despite having, on average, lower GPAs than their female classmates." Ah, male students, you sweet lil' beacons of blind self-assurance. Good for you.
Anyone who's been condescended in a seminar by a smug English major bro who didn't even finish the reading can probably relate to these findings: because women are more likely to have internalized messages telling them to be quiet, polite and deferential, they're less likely to feel comfortable speaking in class. They're also less likely to be called on and and more likely to be interrupted by male students. Maria Pascucci, the founder of Campus Calm (a national organization meant to help women lead happy, healthy lives), posits that this discrepancy is also caused in part by women being too hard on themselves: "In our society, being a perfectionist is a glorified and socially acceptable form of self-abuse."
A committee formed by BC faculty to address female self-esteem problems found that it's far from just an academic problem: after polling students, they found that some of the problems "frequently cited by students as being harmful to one's self-esteem included the pressure to look or dress a certain way" and "hookup culture." It's really sad that so many young women would have such disheartening experiences in higher education (and the survey didn't even touch on the horrific tendency of university officials to ignore, overlook or completely mishandle campus rapes).
Something about the college experience needs to change, and quickly — it's about time university administrations began to focus on making schools safe and healthy spaces for their female students. The self-esteem committee formed by Boston College is a good start, but we have a long way to go.
"Study: Females lose self-confidence throughout college" [USA Today]
Image via AP.