I toured about 25 colleges before my senior year even started, and then applied to 16 schools. This set myself up for a full year of stress trying to understand the concept of the “right choice.” With so many options and surrounding opinions, my family and I made a list of my priorities. We assigned a ranking to each college’s fit for me in each category. Bottom line: Sweet Briar blew all the others out of the water. Here are five of the categories I used to assess each school.
Sweet Briar is situated on 3,250 acres in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The student population is small enough to have real relationships with your classmates while still always providing every resource (and more) I could want. I wanted a campus I could explore, and that would feel like it was “mine.” I also wanted a community that would push me to reach my best, while still leaving my own mark. When choosing a college, I always tried to keep in mind that the perfect place should make you better, and by being there, you should make it better as well.
I also wanted a school that has deeply rooted traditions and a strong history. I wanted this for two big reasons. Firstly, traditions create bonds between current students and alumnae. I am a very passionate student and feed off of ways that make me feel connected and spirited for my school. Traditions do exactly that. (Please also read Annabeth Griffin’s post about her favorite traditions.) Secondly, having a school that has a proud history of success and great reputation will only set you apart from big state school graduates when applying for jobs later.
3) Academic Fit
Sweet Briar has an average class size of 8; our student-to-faculty ratio is 5:1. I am sure everyone has heard students at large state schools say “Oh, yeah, my professor doesn’t even know me, there are over 150 students in my chemistry class,” or even worse, “I only show up to class for tests. Everything I need to know is in the textbook.” I can assure that is not the case at Sweet Briar. Professors not only know you but will email you if you are missing from class. Professors expect great things from their students, but best of all, they provide every student with the resources and personalized attention for them to excel!
4) Equestrian Program Fit
I know this won’t apply to everyone, but hear me out: Finding a school that will support your extracurricular interests is incredibly important! Maybe it’s being able to take a few extra photography classes, NCAA sports or club sports (check out this blog on being a student-athlete), or even just having a wide variety of clubs to expand your horizon. It has been essential to my experience at Sweet Briar to have the opportunity to continue one of my passions! There are enough changes when you go to college, so look for opportunities that will keep you grounded.
5) Alumnae Connections
Not only do our alumnae care; they are doers! I can’t think of a better way to validate the success of a college than to look to its alumni. It’s not only what they are doing professionally, it’s how they interact with current students. I remember my dad joking right after I made my decision to attend Sweet Briar: “Now you have an entire network of women willing to ‘bail you out’ of anything.” I know that when I start applying for jobs, the name ‘Sweet Briar’ will catch the eye of my future employer, and it will show that I am an empowered woman who learned in her undergraduate education how to think critically, speak up and lead.
Cailey Cobb is a sophomore from Tyler, Texas, who plans to design her own major in business administration and leadership. She is very involved on campus as the Class of 2020 vice president, resident advisor, student admissions ambassador, president of the Radio Club, a member of the Sweet Spirits and the equestrian field riding team.