Sweet Briar College - Colleges of Distinction - Colleges of Distinction
Sweet Briar College
A small liberal arts college for women, Sweet Briar offers intensive academic programs in...

Sweet Briar College

Sweet Briar, Virginia

Established in 1901, Sweet Briar has always been a proving ground for independent women who lead and achieve with fierce determination. The College’s unique community and campus life foster strength and resilience in every student by surrounding her with excellent faculty, coaches, and staff who challenge her to bring her best self forward—and to own it with confidence and courage.


Sweet Briar’s academics are defined by its small classes, rigorous standards, and exceptional student-faculty interaction through scholarship and research. The intensive residential liberal arts environment produces graduates who are agile, creative, and unafraid of life’s twists and turns. Students have a rallying cry: “There’s nothing that you cannot do.” And Sweet Briar women prove it every day.

Student Profile

Fall 2016 Enrollment
320 undergraduate students
99% of undergrad students are full time
0% male — 100% female
54% of students are from out of state

Faculty Profile

2016-2017 Academic Year
59 full-time faculty
20 part-time faculty
5 to 1 student/faculty ratio

Residence Life

Fall 2016
97% of first year students live on campus
93% of all students live on campus

School Location

Sweet Briar’s historic, 3,250-acre campus is on the eastern slopes of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia, 12 miles north of Lynchburg, one hour from Charlottesville, and three hours from Washington, D.C.

High-Impact Practices

Read more about the importance of High-Impact Practices

First-Year Seminars and Experiences X
Common Intellectual Experiences  
Learning Communities  
Writing-Intensive Courses X
Collaborative Assignments and Projects X
Undergraduate Research X
Diversity/Global Learning X
Service Learning, Community-Based Learning X
Internships/Coops/Practicums X
Capstone Courses and Projects/Senior Experience X


50% of students began in Fall 2015 and returned in Fall 2016 (full time, first time freshmen)


61% of students graduated in 6 years


Nonresident aliens 2%
Hispanic/Latino 10%
Black or African American 10%
White 71%
American Indian or Alaska Native 0%
Asian 2%
Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander 0%
Two or more races 4%
Race and/or ethnicity unknown 1%


Sweet Briar College is a Division III school competing in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference with varsity sports ranging from swimming to soccer. The College also boasts an internationally known equestrian program for recreational and competitive riders of all skill levels.

Other Information

Sweet Briar was founded in 1901 as a private, residential liberal arts college for women. It is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. Sweet Briar is one of two women’s colleges in the country with an ABET-accredited engineering program.

Academic Programs

Anthropology, Archaeology, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Biology, Business, Chemistry Classics, Computer Science, Dance, Economics, Engineering Science, English, English/Creative Writing , Environmental Science, Environmental Studies, French, Gender Studies, Government, History, History of Art, International Affairs, Interdisciplinary Studies (Self-designed major), Journalism, New Media and Communications, Latin American Studies, Liberal Studies, Mathematics, Medieval and Renaissance Studies, Music , Musical Theatre , Philosophy, Physics, Psychology, Religion, Sociology, Spanish, Studio Art , Theatre; Pre-law, Pre-medicine, and Pre-veterinary programs; Arts Management and Equine Studies certificate programs; Master of Arts in Teaching (M.A.T.), Master of Education (M.Ed.)

More Distinctions

  • Home to 12 national academic honor society chapters including the Theta of Virginia Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, founded in 1950. Today, fewer than 10 percent of college and university campuses in the U.S. have a PBK chapter.

  • Sweet Briar’s JYF in Paris is the oldest immersive junior-year program in that city. It has been a standard-bearer for academic study-abroad programs since 1948. The College established its JYS in Seville program in 1983. JYS is predicated on the same principles of cultural immersion, including staying with host families and experiential learning opportunities.

  • Consistently recognized as one of the most beautiful campuses in the country and the fourth-largest campus (3,250 acres) among liberal arts colleges in the U.S.—complete with eight nature sanctuaries, two lakes, and 18 miles of trails. Twenty-one buildings are on the National Register of Historic Places.

  • One of 11 Virginia colleges and universities—as well as the only women’s college in Virginia—to be named to Forbes’ 2016 list of 300 Best Value Colleges.

  • Ranked a Best Bang for the Buck among liberal arts colleges by Washington Monthly and one of the 20 Best College Campuses in the U.S. by Business Insider.

  • Ranks favorably in numerous categories on Niche.com, including best professors, best academics, best value, and best small colleges.

Common Intellectual Experiences

Sweet Briar’s Lectures and Events Committee sponsors regular public presentations by scholars and artists. The Writers’ Series features poets and writers of both fiction and nonfiction. The Babcock Season brings artists and professional dance and theater companies to campus for performances. Noted scientists and entrepreneurs speak annually at the environmental Waxter Forum and Engineers Week Banquet. Artists in residence at the adjacent Virginia Center for the Creative Arts guest teach classes. These events provide opportunities for students to interact with professionals in master classes, social situations, and as collaborators.

Collaborative Assignments and Projects

Engineering students team up with local companies and other colleges to design and create solutions that make a real impact on people’s lives—from Virginia to Brazil.

Undergraduate Research

The Honors Program offers research opportunities and grants to all eligible undergraduate students. Special programs include the yearlong Pannell Scholarship for sophomores and the annual Honors Summer Research Program (all class years). Undergraduate students from Sweet Briar and other colleges participate in MARCUS, the annual Mid-Atlantic Regional Conference of Undergraduate Scholarship.

Diversity/Global Learning

Forty percent of Sweet Briar students study abroad through the College’s established JYF and JYS programs, the Virginia Program at Oxford, or another program of the student’s choosing. Some students also opt for international internships, often facilitated through Sweet Briar’s highly engaged, world-wide alumnae network.

Activities Offered

Campus Ministries X
Choral groups X
Concert band  
Dance X
Drama/theater X
International Student Organization X
Jazz band  
Literary magazine X
Marching band  
Model UN  
Music ensembles X
Musical theater X
Pep band  
Radio station X
Student government X
Student newspaper X
Student-run film society  
Symphony orchestra  
Television station  

First-Year Seminars and Experiences

Orientation includes activities that are aimed at helping new students get to know both the campus and rich history of Sweet Briar. Students have the opportunity to pursue one-on-one research with faculty starting their freshman year, even participating in the Honors Summer Research Program. They also have access to every piece of equipment in the chemistry and biology labs from their first semester. First-year honors seminars introduce student pursuing an honors degree to interdisciplinary methods, thought, and scholarship.

Writing-Intensive Courses

Most English classes, as well as many courses in other disciplines, are writing-intensive, giving students plenty of opportunities to hone their written communication skills from day one. Most writing-intensive classes are paired with a focus on research, so students learn early on how to compile, comprehend, and condense a variety of secondary sources. The Academic Resource Center offers free help with academic papers, study skills, and time management from peer tutors.

Common Core

Arts/fine arts X
Computer literacy  
English (including composition)  
Foreign languages X
History X
Mathematics X
Sciences (biological or physical) X
Social science X


Other: Western and Non-Western Culture, Oral Communication, Quantitative Reasoning, and Physical Activity

Class Size Breakdown

Size 2-9 10-19 20-29 30-39 40-49 50-99 100+ Total
Number of Classes 112 68 6 0 0 0 0 186

Learning Communities

Sweet Briar is a vibrant community focused on interactive learning both in and outside the classroom. More than 30 student-run clubs and organizations host readings, movie nights, and political watching parties. Students take on leadership roles in the Student Government Association, giving them an opportunity to practice what they have learned in the classroom. Through student government elections, a self-imposed Honor Code, and a judiciary committee that oversees violations of the Student Handbook, students learn early on how to lead with integrity and solve problems as part of a team. Student-run charitable events benefit nonprofits in the area, all while offering students the opportunity to get hands-on experience in marketing, event-planning, and business management. Additionally, the Outdoor Program partners with the environmental science and creative writing departments to offer immersive, one-of-a-kind experiences in Sweet Briar’s natural environment both on and off campus.


Coed dorms  
Men’s dorms  
Women’s dorms X
Apartments for married students  
Apartments for single students X
Special housing for disabled students X
Special housing for international students X
Fraternity/sorority housing  
Cooperative housing  
Theme housing X
Wellness housing  
Other housing options  

Service Learning, Community-Based Learning

Business seminar students—and some clubs—get hands-on experience in marketing, event-planning, and business management by organizing charitable events that benefit nonprofits in the area. They can start small businesses, run the Book Shop website, and come up with marketing ideas for Sweet Briar merchandise. Many clubs also volunteer on and off campus to help families and nonprofits in need.


Eighty percent of students complete at least one internship while at Sweet Briar, often for academic credit. That’s twice as many as students at other colleges. All engineering students are required to intern. Many times, these internships turn into postgraduate jobs, sometimes secured before a student even graduates! Overall, more than 90 percent of Sweet Briar students are employed or in graduate school six months after graduation. For pre-medical and pre-veterinary students, that number can be as high as 100 percent. Sweet Briar graduates are ground-breaking entrepreneurs (Leah Busque ’01, TaskRabbit), successful mayors (Teresa Tomlinson ’87, Columbus, Ga.), acclaimed authors (Sally Mott Freeman ’76), and Olympians (Lendon Gray ’71).

Capstone Courses and Projects/Senior Experience

All Sweet Briar students may complete a capstone experience in their major(s). This might be a yearlong engineering project, an academic essay, a portfolio of poetry or fiction, a music album, or the staging of an original play. In some cases, students continue to pursue the subject of their capstone project in graduate school.



950 Total Applicants
884 Total Admissions
134 Total Freshmen Enrollment

93.05% of applicants admitted

Admissions Deadlines for 2017-18 Admission

Rolling admission? Yes

admissions factors

Very Important
Rigor of secondary school record
Academic GPA

Standardized test scores

Class rank
Extracurricular activities
Character/personal qualities
First generation
Alumni/ae relation
Volunteer work
Work experience

Freshmen Profile Fall 2016

  25th Percentile 75th Percentile
SAT Critical Reading 460 620
SAT Math 420 560
SAT Writing    
SAT Essay    
ACT Composite 18 27
ACT Math 17 26
ACT English 16 28
ACT Writing    


Net Price Calculator



Tuition $36,520
Fees $635
Total $37,155
Room and Board (on campus) $12,900
Estimated Total On Campus $50,055


Average Financial Aid Packages 2015-2016 FINAL

$27,891 First year students
$28,394 All undergrads

Financial Aid Breakdown 2015-2016 FINAL

83% on average, the percentage of need that was met
24% of financial need students that had need fully met

$28,394 Average need-based scholarship or grant award
$4,973 Average need-based loan