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 to the campus community, Wellesley says its new admissions policy opens its gates to students assigned male at birth who identify as a woman. Women who identify as male will not be considered for admission.

Sofie Werthan, a first-year student instrumental in changing the policy, says the decision has rekindled a conversation 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," Werthan said.

The shift has been positively received by students and faculty, and Werthan 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," she said. "And say, you know, we are not for some women, we are for all women. And I think that that is the most powerful expression of a commitment to women's education."

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.