Mills College

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Mills College
Mills College seal.svg
Motto Una destinatio,
viae diversae.
Motto in English
One destination,
many paths.
Type Private liberal arts college
Women's college (undergraduate)
Established 1852[1]
Endowment $183.3 million (2017)[2]
President Elizabeth L. Hillman (past presidents)
Academic staff
Students 1,311
Undergraduates 762[1]
Postgraduates 549[1]
Location Oakland, California, United States
37°46′50″N 122°10′59″W / 37.78056°N 122.18306°W / 37.78056; -122.18306Coordinates: 37°46′50″N 122°10′59″W / 37.78056°N 122.18306°W / 37.78056; -122.18306
Campus Urban, 135 acres
Athletics NCAA Division IIIGSAC
Affiliations CLAC
Oberlin Group
Mascot Cyclones[3]
Mills College wordmark.svg

Mills College is a liberal arts and sciences college located in the San Francisco Bay Area. Mills was founded as the Young Ladies Seminary in 1852 in Benicia, California, the school was relocated to Oakland, California, 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.[4] The policy states that undergraduate students who were assigned to the female sex at birth, but identify as transgender or gender fluid are welcome to apply for admission. Undergraduates who were not assigned to the female sex at birth, but who self-identify as women, are also welcome to apply for admission.[5]

Mills College offers more than 60 undergraduate majors and minors[6] and over 25 graduate degrees, certificates, and credentials,[7] the college is also home to the Mills College School of Education and the Lorry I. Lokey Graduate School of Business & Public Policy.

In 2018, U.S. News & World Report ranked Mills 9th overall among colleges and universities in the Western U.S. (regional universities) and the #2 Best Value Schools West, which evaluated the quality of institutions' academics against the cost of attendance.[8] The Princeton Review ranked Mills as one of the Best 382 Colleges, one of the Best Western Colleges, and one of the top "green" colleges in the U.S.[9] Forbes ranked Mills among the Top 200 Best-Loved Colleges in their 2017 Grateful Grads Index.[10]


Built in 1871, Mills Hall originally housed the entire College.

Mills College was initially founded as the Young Ladies Seminary in the city of Benicia in 1852 under the leadership of Mary Atkins, a graduate of Oberlin College; in 1865, Susan Tolman Mills, a graduate of Mount Holyoke College (then Mount Holyoke Female Seminary), and her husband, Cyrus Mills, bought the Young Ladies Seminary renaming it Mills Seminary. In 1871, the school was moved to Oakland, California, and the school was incorporated in 1877, the school became Mills College in 1885. In 1890, after serving for decades as principal (under two presidents as well), Susan Mills became the president of the college and held the position for 19 years.[11] Beginning in 1906 the seminary classes were progressively eliminated; in 1921, Mills granted its first master's degrees.

On May 3, 1990, the Trustees announced that they had voted to admit male undergraduate students to Mills,[12] this decision led to a two-week student and staff strike, accompanied by numerous displays of non-violent protests by the students.[13][14] At one point, nearly 300 students blockaded the administrative offices and boycotted classes,[15] on May 18, the Trustees met again to reconsider the decision, leading finally to a reversal of the vote.[16][17]

In 2014, Mills became the first single-sex college in the U.S. to adopt an admssion policy explicitly welcoming transgender students.[18] The policy states that undergraduate students who were not assigned to the female sex at birth, but who self-identify as women, are welcome to apply for admission. Undergraduates who were assigned to the female sex at birth, but identify as transgender or gender fluid, are also welcome to apply for admission, the policy further clarifies that undergraduate students assigned to the female sex at birth who have legally become male prior to applying are not eligible for admission to Mills. The policy ends with a statement that "once admitted, any student who completes the College's graduate requirements shall be awarded a degree," indicating that once admitted to Mills, a undergraduate female student who changes sex or gender to male will be allowed to complete their degree at the college.[19]

In September 2017, Mills became the first private college in California to implement a tuition reset, substantially reducing the cost of its undergraduate education, the college reduced its undergraduate tuition by 36% (beginning in fall 2018) with a goal of making a Mills education more affordable for more students.[20] Undergraduate tuition in the 2018–2019 academic year will be $28,765 (reduced from $44,765); room and board costs will be $13,448. Students are still able to receive merit scholarships and need-based financial aid in addition to the tuition reduction.[21]


Undergraduate Academics[edit]


Admission to Mills is selective, but holistic, the Mills admission application process is designed to allow students to share a complete picture of their experiences, passions, activities, and what they hope to achieve, in addition to their academic accomplishments.[22]

Most first-year students admitted to Mills have a B+ average and have followed a full college-preparatory course in their secondary school, including 4 years of English, 3 to 4 years of mathematics, 2 to 4 years of foreign languages, 2 to 4 years of social sciences, and 2 to 4 years of a laboratory science. Additional course work in fine arts is given positive consideration, as are special talents or interests. Course credit may be awarded for the College Board Advanced Placement tests and the International Baccalaureate program’s higher-level examinations.[23] Mills is one of nearly 200 top-tier colleges in the U.S. that have made standardized test scores (SAT or ACT) optional in the admissions process.[24]

Mills accepts applications from transfer students and women who have delayed their entrance to college or who wish to continue work on their bachelor’s degrees, the high school transcript requirement is waived if 24 or more transferable semester units have been completed.[25] For international students, TOEFL, IELTS, or ELS are required to satisfy English language proficiency requirements. Applications should be accompanied by transcripts, a letter of recommendation, and, for international students, language test scores.[26]

An interview, either on campus or online through Skype or FaceTime, is strongly recommended for all applicants.

In 2017–2018, Mills enrolled students from 42 U.S. states and 9 countries. Of the 762 undergraduate students: