College of the Week

Each week, Mrs. Nilsen will provide insight into unique college options for learners and families. The source is the Fiske Guide to Colleges 2019, an annual comprehensive catalog of diverse universities here in California and nationwide, Colleges That Change Lives, and 50 Colleges that Create Futures.

This Week: Mills College

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Enrollment: 852 / All women

Acceptance Rate: 72%

DETAILS: Mills College is a private liberal arts and sciences college. Mills is based in Oakland, California, in the heart of the San Francisco Bay Area, with close proximity to Silicon Valley. Its location on the Pacific Rim ensures that learners have a world of opportunity to engage in a vast array of educational, social, cultural, and professional endeavors. Mills was founded as the Young Ladies Seminary in 1852 in Benicia, California. The school was relocated to Oakland in 1871, and became the first women’s college west of the Rockies. Currently, Mills is an undergraduate women’s college with graduate programs for students of all genders. In 2014, Mills became the first single-sex college in the U.S. to adopt an admission policy explicitly welcoming transgender students.

Mills College offers more than 45 undergraduate majors and minors and over 30 graduate degrees, certificates, and credentials. The college is also home to the Mills College School of Education and the Lorry I. Lokey School of Business & Public Policy.

As soon as you step onto the Mills campus, you’ll feel the difference. Mills is a place where your voice matters — a place where you can be yourself in a community that will support your educational and personal dreams. Here, you’ll be encouraged to stand out, emboldened to think big, and empowered to make a statement. It starts with their commitment to creating an inclusive, diverse community that asks you to think for yourself and for the world. The goal is to empower you with both the confidence and the tools that will help you make a difference. Pushing the boundaries of thought and action is part of our DNA. From their undergraduate curriculum that fosters independent thinking, to their graduate programs focused on creative experimentation or social action, Mills invites you to disrupt the norm.

Mills offers more than 60 undergraduate majors and minors across the arts and sciences. As of the 2017–2018 academic year, the college’s top 5 majors were: English, psychology, sociology, economics, and biology. To earn a Mills bachelor’s degree, students complete 120 semester credits (usually 15 credits each semester). Grading is traditional, and a pass-fail option is available outside the major. Mills also offers ten bachelor’s-to-master’s accelerated degree programs that allow students to earn a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in less time with the goal of increasing their career options. The core curriculum at Mills is designed to develop students’ analytical, communication, and critical thinking skills; encourage thoughtful creativity and innovation; and create a deep-seated respect for diversity, inclusion, and social justice. The core curriculum consists of 10 specific knowledge and skill areas organized into three outcome categories:


  • Foundational Skills — critical analysis, information literacy, written and oral communication, and quantitative literacy
  • Modes of Inquiry — race, gender, and power; scientific inquiry; language other than English; and international perspectives
  • Contributions to knowledge and society — community engaged learning and creativity, innovation, and experimentation


Students are able to tailor their completion of the core curriculum requirements to their interests by choosing from a wide range of courses that fulfill the 10 knowledge and skill areas.  In spring 2018, Mills announced the launch of MPOWER, a signature academic experience for all undergraduate students beginning academic year 2018–19. The program aims to provide students with a dedicated academic success team and hands-on learning, leadership development, community engagement, and career preparation opportunities throughout the course of a student’s undergraduate studies. Students also will be connected with Mills alumnae to creating mentoring and career networking opportunities.