Transitioning to college is extremely difficult for just about everyone. Your whole world is turned upside down and there are so many changes to deal with. I can’t imagine having the extra job of learning to study, interact, and live (ahh!) with the opposite sex after spending the last few years in an all boys or all girls school. These four Syracuse University students all came from single sex high schools and had the distinctive experience of adjusting to living amongst the opposite sex.
Disclaimer: Before I begin, I want to recognize that my language in this article can be problematic. By using phrases like “single sex” and “opposite sex,” I am not attempting to perpetuate the binary gender system, rather I am portraying the language that is used by our educational systems. I apologize if this offends any readers. My intent is only to provide a resource for those who are making this transition.
Meet Emily Bonzagni, Paul Mancano, Mario Morgante, and Steven Spohr. Emily attended Academy of Our Lady of Mercy, Mario and Spohr went to Chaminade High School together, and Paul studied at St. Joseph’s Preparatory School. These interviews shed some light on the transition from the aforementioned single sex schools to a coed college.
1. Did you know you wanted to attend a coed university? Did you consider single sex colleges?
Steven: I always wanted to attend a coed college. I couldn’t survive another four years at an all boys school.
Paul, Mario, and Emily all had similar feelings. They had no doubt in their mind that a coed college would be the best fit.
2. How do you think your high school career affected your transition into college?
Emily: Academically I was extremely prepared for college and I was very independent because of my single sex education. Socially, I wasn’t ready to “get dressed” every day instead of looking like a complete mess like I did in high school.
Paul: In some ways, it was more difficult. It wasn’t a strange experience to see girls in the classroom, but I wasn’t used to being around that many girls on a regular basis. But academically, I was very well prepared. Adjusting to classes and the college workload was pretty easy.
Mario: It was a bit different having girls around while in school. I could not say or do some of the things I used to when they weren’t present.
3. How much interaction did you have with the opposite sex before you moved to a coeducational atmosphere?
Paul: In high school, I was involved a lot in theater, the only club at my high school that involved frequent contact with girls. Girls from other schools would make up a portion of the cast of my school’s shows, so I would see them at rehearsals regularly. Other than that, I hung out with my male and female friends on the weekends.
Emily: The only time I really hung out with guys in high school were random house parties or the couple of guys that I saw regularly (once or twice a week). It was way different seeing guys every single day.
4. Was there anything that surprised you about the opposite sex that you didn’t know before you were integrated?
Steven: No, I wasn’t really surprised by much when I came to college.
Mario: I was not really surprised by anything about the opposite sex since I lived with women my whole life and I went to a coed school before high school.
5. What are the advantages and disadvantages of a single sex lifestyle?
Emily: In high school I was really focused on just my education because I didn’t have to worry about a lot if things that other girls did that went to coed schools like waking up 2 hours before school to put on makeup and do their hair. I was able to focus on my schoolwork and myself as a student and not what other people thought about me or the way I looked. Single sex education definitely made me a very confident individual.
Paul: In terms of advantages, I found it a lot easier to focus on school work, but that may have also been because I didn’t live across the hall from my friends in high school. I also felt more motivated to do well in school, because I didn’t worry about looking good going to class or not embarrassing myself. The environment at my high school was definitely more relaxed than at college. I agree with Emily, my confidence was bolstered by going to a single sex high school.
6. Do you feel your high school curriculum was geared towards stereotypical boy or girl needs?
Mario: Yes, I do feel that the education I received was geared towards a male audience. Everything we did at my school was based on the fact that the school was all males. The only coed activities the school sponsored were Catholic League and Drama Club.
Steven: I don’t feel that the academic curriculum was geared towards boys at all, but the atmosphere was male oriented (obviously) with strong focuses on achievements in sports and club activities.
Emily: No, I don’t think so. I think teachers expected more out of us, especially in AP and honors classes, because they wanted us to perform better than our brother school on exams, especially in math and sciences, to prove that we were just as good as the boys.
I would like to give a big thanks to Emily, Paul, Mario, and Steven for all of their help and I praise them for making the transition look so easy.