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March 06, 2015

Wellesley students biking on campus in the 1940s. (Flickr/Boston Public Library)

For the first time, one of this country's top-ranked women's colleges will accept transgender women students  Wellesley College will consider applications from any candidate who "identifies as a woman."

In a letter sent Thursday to the campus community, Wellesley said its new admissions policy opens its gates to students assigned male at birth who identify as women. Women who identify as male will not be considered for admission.

Sofie Werthan, 19, a first-year student instrumental in changing the policy, said the decision has rekindled a conversation about gender on campus.

“Society as a whole is rethinking gender and so Wellesley wants to be a progressive place – a very cutting-edge institution especially as an academic institution," Werthen said.

Students and faculty received the shift positively, and Werthen thinks it shouldn't alter Wellesley's mission.

“I think that instead it will really strengthen what it means to be a women's college, and say, ‘We are not for some women. We are for all women.’ And I think that is the most powerful expression of a commitment to women's education," Werthen said.

Wellesley is the third Boston-area women's college to make a major shift in its admissions policy, following Simmons College and Mount Holyoke College.

Wellesley's policy will go into effect next year, for the class of 2020.

In October, WGBH's On Campus reported on Mount Holyoke's decision to begin accepting applications from all transgender students, including those born male who identify as women. We found that the shift on campus in South Hadley, Mass., was raising questions about what it means to be a women's college.

higher education, Wellesley College, increasing access and success, transgender, admissions

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