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Why Choose a Rural College?

farm near college

There are a lot of factors to consider when choosing a college, and with thousands of schools to choose from it can be overwhelming when it comes time to search for your perfect fit. Do they have your major? Do they have your sport? How expensive are they, and do they have scholarships you can apply for?

Where will you thrive?

One important variable that most people don’t think about in the midst of their research is location. For many students, however, the location of their college has a much larger impact than expected. I grew up in a very small town in Connecticut and could not wait to move to New Jersey and live in a more urban area. I thought that I would love it, but I quickly realized it was far greater of a distraction than anything else.

Students need to keep in mind the type of environment that they personally thrive in when the time comes to visit schools. If you are someone who does well in group settings, and can easily focus despite what is going on in the background then maybe a more urban school is a great choice for you! But maybe a more rural college is your cup of tea.

What do the alumnae have to say?

From the sprawling fields to our multiple lakes and quiet study rooms, Sweet Briar is a dreamscape for students who enjoy a little space. Here is what two of our admissions counselors have to say about why they chose a rural college:

Savannah Oxner ’05

“The first time I drove onto Sweet Briar’s campus, I knew I would be happy here. The front-drive winds through tall trees and then the campus opens up before you.  Everything you need as a student is within walking distance.  The red-brick buildings are surrounded by green grass and cradled in rolling hills and forests. You can study and relax.

Separated as we are, we don’t have strangers and random travelers walking or driving all over our campus, but we can easily get to a town or a city to run errands or shop. I found it was a perfect setup to allow me to focus on school without distractions but also get away when I needed or wanted to without inconvenience.  I am so glad I made the choice to visit so I could find my second home.”

Mandi Dean ’05

“My story about choosing Sweet Briar is unique. The spirit of choosing Sweet Briar for me lives in one of our signs we have on campus – ‘Welcome Home.’ Sweet Briar is home for me. I was one of many young kids who called Sweet Briar their home for twenty years. My family’s Sweet Briar story began in the 1980s, working the on-campus Dairy and managing business functions for the college. Much of my youth was spent catching the school bus, spending weekends enjoying softball practice on campus, and helping my dad with daily feedings at the Dairy. When summer came we rode our bikes all over, went to the pool and lake to swim, and often went camping at the beach (just 3 hours away).

When the time came for me to decide on what college I wanted to attend, there was no doubt I wanted to be at Sweet Briar. I went through the college process of searching, visiting, and applying, but in looking at other schools, there were things I didn’t like – major roadways cut through campus, the layout was too tight with buildings so close together that it felt hard to breathe and intimidating. So why choose a rural college?

At Sweet Briar, I was given everything I needed to learn that made it feel like home, even though my home had become my school. I was supported by all my professors. I was pushed to challenge my personal limits. I had individual attention from all my professors and was given the opportunity to work closely with professors who are experts in their fields. Sweet Briar, like any home, has traditions that keep everyone tied together as a community. I had my home in Sweet Briar as a child and then experienced it as my home as a student. It’s why I chose a rural college, and now find myself working to support the same College I once called home.”

Do your research!

There truly is a place for everyone in this world, and it is up to us to do a bit of exploring to ensure that we are choosing that perfect school. Our advice to anyone who is beginning to think about college: Go visit! Schedule a tour with as many schools on your list as you and your family can. If it simply isn’t possible for you to make that trip, see if the school offers virtual tours, or have Q&A panels for prospective students.

While on a tour, ask your guide questions about different study spaces, what the general atmosphere is like when classes are in session, and if there are designated quiet study spaces (if that’s something you’re interested in). If you want to take it to the next level you can even make compare and contrast charts so that you can see which school checks the majority of your requirements.

It’s okay to do a little shopping, and it’s fabulous to come loaded with questions. Remember that you are picking your home for the next four years, you want to make sure you love it! Sweet Briar is known for its stunning campus, and it is a common tale that everyone who drives through the front gates falls in love at first sight. We hope to see you soon!

To learn more about Sweet Briar, check out this article from

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