Information for Parents and Families

We know that the college search can be stressful, not just for students, but also for prospective parents and families. And we know that parents and families sometimes have different questions than students do. We’ve put together this page to help answer those questions — and hopefully make your college decision process that much easier! If you have questions that aren’t answered here, please feel free to reach out to our admissions office.

What is unique about a women's college?

Of course, each women’s college is unique in its own way. But generally, women’s colleges tend to offer small class sizes with student-centric teaching. Women’s college alumnae report a higher level of satisfaction with their experience and preparation for life after college than alumni from coed institutions. In part, that may be because students at women’s colleges often have lots of opportunities to be engaged with their college community through leadership experiences, internships and research. They also report putting more emphasis on their academics and feeling more comfortable in class.

Women’s colleges also typically have a strong commitment to access and affordability. For example:

  • 94 percent of first-year students enrolled full-time at a women’s college receive some form of financial aid.
  • 48 percent are eligible for Pell Grants.
  • The average annual institutional aid is more than $15,000.
  • More women’s college students graduate in four years or fewer than at coed institutions (which means fewer years of college expenses). *

*Statistics taken from the Women’s College Coalition website.

What is special about Sweet Briar?

Like most women’s colleges, Sweet Briar is a small, liberal arts college. That means that class sizes here are small — historically averaging about eight students. Small classes mean that students get a lot of individual attention from their professors.

At Sweet Briar, we also focus on offering a wealth of leadership opportunities and having real conversations about the ethics of leadership and decision-making. Sweet Briar is committed to increasing the number of women in STEM fields. We have an ABET-accredited engineering science program — along with other STEM programs. Learn more about STEM at Sweet Briar.

For us, those traditions have led to a particularly strong alumnae network. Our alumnae are famous for being just as fierce as our students and they’re generous with their financial support as well as their time. Hundreds of alumnae stand by to offer general career advice on our Alumnifire site, for example.

How does Sweet Briar help prepare women for leadership and careers?

The best way to prepare for leadership is to become a leader. About 80 percent of our students hold a formal leadership role in a student organization — that’s twice the number of students at other schools. Small classes mean that your daughter can take on a leadership role in the classroom, too. Sweet Briar is a safe place to have real, intellectual conversations and faculty members encourage students to do just that.

Another way to prepare for leadership is to watch excellent women leaders. Our president, Meredith Woo, and every member of her cabinet are accomplished and impressive women. And because we’re small, your daughter will have lots of opportunity to meet with them, get to know them and learn from them.

Of course, you want your daughter to be be successful after Sweet Briar, too. More than 60 percent of our students do research projects with faculty, giving them practical skills and building relationships with their teachers that lead to wonderful recommendation letters for graduate school. Nearly 80 percent of our students complete at least one internship, so that by the time they graduate, they have more robust résumés and real work experience. Maybe that’s why 90 percent of our graduates have jobs or are in graduate school within six months of graduation.

How do we submit the FAFSA?

You can complete the FAFSA several ways:

  • Online at
  • On your phone: iOS or Android
  • On paper (still available but takes longer)

Wanda Spradley, our director of financial aid, has been working at the College for more than 25 years, so she knows her stuff. Check out this blog Wanda wrote for lots of details about filling out your FAFSA. And don’t be afraid to reach out to our financial aid office if you have questions!

Do we have to submit a FAFSA to be considered for financial aid?

We encourage all families to submit the FAFSA. You do have to submit the FAFSA to be eligible for aid provided by the federal government. Sweet Briar offers some need-blind merit aid, for which you may be considered even if you do not fill out a FAFSA. However, your financial aid package from the College may include more funding if you do submit the FAFSA.

What academic and health resources are available for students?

Sweet Briar offers onsite medical care two evenings a week — outside of class time, so your daughter won’t have to miss class. There are a wide variety of nearby off-campus medical locations to support her physical and mental health, as well. The Office of Student Life will pay for transportation to medical facilities, so lacking a car won’t keep your daughter from being healthy. We also have professional mental health staff on campus four days a week with both walk-in and pre-scheduled appointments. Learn more about our health services.

Our Academic Resource Center can help your daughter take control of her learning. The ARC is staffed by both faculty and advanced students and your daughter can get one-on-one assistance in a wide variety of subjects, including writing, science, business, psychology, philosophy, foreign languages and more. The ARC is available to all Sweet Briar students at no charge.

Where can I learn more about residence halls at Sweet Briar?

At Sweet Briar, most students live in one of seven traditional residence halls. Some students live in our modern apartment-style complex. Students across classes are housed together to promote community and class bonding. They’re supported in the residence halls by resident advisors, resident coordinators and peer academic mentors. You can learn more about housing at the College on our residence life website.

Where can I find information about dining services at Sweet Briar?

Our dining services partner is Meriwether Godsey, a local, women-owned food services company. They provide nutritious meals that are locally sourced and made from scratch daily, with diet- and allergy-sensitive options. You can learn more about them and see daily and weekly menus at their website.

What does it mean that Sweet Briar graduates have low student loan default rates?

Only a very small number of Sweet Briar graduates default on their student loans. Partly, that’s because our financial aid office does a great job meeting with students one-on-one and educating them about student loans and what they need to do to stay current on their payments. But that low default rate is also because our students graduate and get jobs that enable them to pay their loans back.

What is FERPA?

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, also known as FERPA and the Buckley Amendment, helps protect the privacy of student education records. The intent of the legislation is to protect the rights of students and to ensure the privacy and accuracy of education records. Students who are currently or formerly enrolled, regardless of their age or status in regard to parental dependency, are protected. Educational records are generally defined as any record that is directly related to a student from which a student can be personally identified, and that is maintained by an education agency or institution or by a party acting for the agency or institution. You can read more about Sweet Briar and FERPA in the college catalog.

What is the course catalog?

Sweet Briar’s Undergraduate College Catalog contains just about every piece of information you need to know about Sweet Briar, including a list of members of the administration, college fees, general information about the College and the services available to students, and detailed information about courses and requirements for graduation.

The most commonly sought-after information in the catalog is the list of courses the College is offering and requirements for each major.

The catalog is updated each year.

How do parents stay involved at Sweet Briar?

We encourage parents and families to be involved with life at the College. We host Families Weekend every year, generally early in October. We have a Parents’ Council, made up of parent volunteers, who help keep our families informed about events on campus and who regularly meet with folks on campus to speak about issues important to parents. The council also has a closed Facebook group, just for current parents, where folks can ask questions of other parents and of members of the College administration.

Where can we find news about the College?

Sweet Briar has a wonderful news site where you can stay up-to-date on all of the latest information about the College including our Admissions Blog, recognition for our students and faculty members, upcoming events, feature stories and more.