The University of Virginia vs Bryn Mawr: An In-Depth Analysis

July 28, 2023
By AdmissionSight

The University of Virginia vs Bryn Mawr: An In-Depth Analysis

Choosing the right college is one of the most important decisions a student will make in their academic journey. Two of the most prestigious universities in the United States that are often compared are the University of Virginia (UVA) and Bryn Mawr College. Both schools offer top-notch educations in different areas of study, but how do they differ? In this article, we will compare University of Virginia vs Bryn Mawr across a range of categories to help prospective students determine which school is the perfect fit for their college experience.

Academic Programs: A Side-by-Side Comparison

Let’s begin with the academic programs offered at each school. The University of Virginia is a large research institution, with over 120 undergraduate majors and 80 graduate programs across 11 schools and colleges. UVA is particularly renowned for their undergraduate programs in business, engineering, and architecture. Bryn Mawr, on the other hand, is a small liberal arts college with an enrollment of under 2,000 students. Bryn Mawr offers 39 majors, with a focus on the humanities, social sciences, and mathematics. Both schools are highly regarded in their respective areas of study, so when it comes to academics, the choice depends on the individual’s interests and career goals.

It’s worth noting that while UVA offers a wider range of programs, Bryn Mawr’s smaller size allows for more personalized attention and opportunities for undergraduate research. Additionally, Bryn Mawr has a unique partnership with nearby Haverford College and Swarthmore College, allowing students to take classes and participate in activities at all three institutions. This collaboration expands the academic offerings available to Bryn Mawr students and provides a diverse and enriching educational experience.

University of Virginia vs Bryn Mawr: Campus Life

When it comes to campus life, there are notable differences between the two universities. The University of Virginia has a larger and more diverse student body, with over 24,000 undergraduate students. UVA offers a wide range of extracurricular activities, from club sports to Greek life, and is known for its lively social scene. Bryn Mawr, on the other hand, is a smaller and more intimate community with just over 1,300 undergraduate students. The campus is located outside of Philadelphia, making it easy for students to explore the nearby city’s cultural opportunities. Bryn Mawr also has a strong sense of community, with a focus on fostering learning and dialogue through small class sizes and close-knit student groups.

Three students talking while using a laptop.

Another notable difference between the two universities is their academic focus. UVA is known for its strong programs in business, law, and medicine, while Bryn Mawr is renowned for its liberal arts education and commitment to women’s education. Bryn Mawr also has a unique academic structure, with a focus on self-directed learning and independent research. Students are encouraged to take ownership of their education and pursue their interests through interdisciplinary coursework and collaborative projects.

Costs and Financial Aid: Which School is More Affordable?

The cost of attendance is an important consideration when comparing universities. The University of Virginia’s tuition for the 2021-2022 academic year is $17,798 for in-state students and $50,900 for out-of-state students. Bryn Mawr’s tuition for the same year is $56,120. However, both schools offer generous financial aid packages to help offset the cost of attendance. According to the U.S. Department of Education, 36% of UVA students receive need-based financial aid, while 62% of students at Bryn Mawr receive need-based aid.

In addition to need-based financial aid, both universities also offer merit-based scholarships to students who demonstrate exceptional academic achievement or other talents. At UVA, students can apply for scholarships through the Office of Undergraduate Admission, while Bryn Mawr offers a variety of merit-based scholarships, including the Bryn Mawr College Scholarship, which covers full tuition and fees for four years.

It’s also important to consider the cost of living when comparing universities. Charlottesville, where UVA is located, has a lower cost of living compared to Bryn Mawr’s location in the Philadelphia suburbs. This means that students attending UVA may have lower expenses for housing, food, and other necessities, which can help offset the higher out-of-state tuition costs.

University of Virginia vs Bryn Mawr: Faculty and Student Ratio

The faculty and student ratio can have a significant impact on the quality of education and support available for students. The University of Virginia has an impressive student-to-faculty ratio of 15:1, allowing for personalized attention and guidance from professors. Bryn Mawr’s student-to-faculty ratio is even better, at 8:1, due to its smaller student body. Both schools have highly qualified and experienced faculty members who are dedicated to their students’ success.

However, it’s important to note that a low student-to-faculty ratio doesn’t necessarily guarantee better support. Other factors, such as the workload of the faculty members and the availability of resources, also play a crucial role in determining the level of support offered to students. For example, a school with a low student-to-faculty ratio but limited resources may not be able to provide the same level of support as a school with a higher ratio but more resources.

Additionally, the quality of support offered to students also depends on the type of institution. For instance, a liberal arts college like Bryn Mawr may offer more personalized attention and support due to its smaller size and focus on undergraduate education. On the other hand, a larger research university like the University of Virginia may have more resources and opportunities for students to engage in research and other academic activities outside of the classroom.

Location Matters: Comparing Charlottesville and Bryn Mawr

The location of a university is an important factor to consider when making a decision. The University of Virginia is located in Charlottesville, Virginia, a mid-sized city known for its historic sites and natural beauty. Charlottesville offers a range of outdoor activities, from hiking and kayaking to vineyard tours and art galleries. Bryn Mawr is located in the suburbs of Philadelphia, the largest city in Pennsylvania. Philadelphia is a vibrant and culturally rich city, with a thriving arts scene and many historical landmarks to explore.

A man working with his classmates on a library.

However, the location of Bryn Mawr also offers unique opportunities for students. Being in the suburbs of Philadelphia means that students have easy access to internships and job opportunities in a variety of industries. Additionally, Bryn Mawr is located near several other prestigious universities, such as Swarthmore and Haverford, which allows for cross-registration and collaboration between students and faculty. The location of Bryn Mawr also provides a quieter and more residential atmosphere, which can be beneficial for students who prefer a more peaceful and focused environment for their studies.

University of Virginia vs Bryn Mawr: Athletics and Extracurricular Activities

Extracurricular activities and athletics are an important part of the university experience for many students. The University of Virginia offers a wide range of club and intramural sports, as well as 25 Division I varsity teams. UVA’s athletic teams, known as the Cavaliers, have a strong tradition of excellence, particularly in football and basketball. Bryn Mawr does not have any varsity athletic teams, but the school offers a range of club sports and fitness classes. Bryn Mawr is also known for its strong commitment to social justice and advocacy, with many student-led organizations and initiatives aimed at promoting equality and inclusion on campus and beyond.

Additionally, both UVA and Bryn Mawr offer a variety of other extracurricular activities for students to get involved in. UVA has over 800 student organizations, ranging from academic clubs to service organizations to cultural groups. Bryn Mawr also has a diverse range of student organizations, including a student-run theater group, a feminist collective, and a sustainability club. These extracurricular activities provide students with opportunities to explore their interests, develop leadership skills, and build connections with their peers.

Campus Resources: Facilities, Libraries, and Technology

A university’s facilities, libraries, and technology can make a big difference in the quality of education and student experience. UVA has impressive facilities, with state-of-the-art research labs, libraries, and dining options. Bryn Mawr’s campus may be smaller, but its facilities are modern and well-maintained, with a focus on sustainability and environmental stewardship. The libraries at both schools are extensive, with access to a range of digital and print resources. Both universities have invested in cutting-edge technology, such as interactive learning tools and online learning resources, to provide students with a modern and dynamic education.

Additionally, UVA offers a wide range of recreational facilities, including a fitness center, swimming pool, and outdoor sports fields. These facilities provide students with opportunities to stay active and healthy, and to participate in intramural sports and other recreational activities.

On the other hand, Bryn Mawr has a strong focus on the arts, with a variety of performance spaces, art studios, and galleries. The campus also hosts regular cultural events, such as concerts, theater productions, and art exhibitions, providing students with opportunities to engage with the arts and explore their creative interests.

University of Virginia vs Bryn Mawr: Student Diversity

Diversity and inclusion are important values for many students when choosing a university. The University of Virginia has a highly diverse student body, with students from all 50 states and over 100 countries. UVA is committed to fostering a community of inclusion and respect, with a range of student organizations and initiatives aimed at promoting diversity and equity. Bryn Mawr has a similarly diverse student body, with a focus on inclusion and social justice. The school is particularly known for its commitment to gender equality, with a long history of empowering women in education and leadership roles.

View of a students talking.

Both universities also prioritize creating a welcoming environment for students from underrepresented backgrounds. UVA has a number of programs and resources aimed at supporting first-generation college students, low-income students, and students of color. Bryn Mawr has a strong commitment to supporting students from diverse backgrounds, with a range of initiatives aimed at promoting equity and inclusion. These include mentorship programs, affinity groups, and resources for students from underrepresented backgrounds.

Career Opportunities After Graduation from UVA and Bryn Mawr

One of the most important questions for prospective students is: what career opportunities will be available after graduation? Fortunately, both UVA and Bryn Mawr have strong track records of preparing students for successful careers. UVA has a robust career center that offers resources and advice to students and alumni, connecting them with job opportunities and internships. Bryn Mawr’s career center is similarly active, with a range of programs and services aimed at helping students explore and pursue their career goals.

Additionally, both UVA and Bryn Mawr have strong alumni networks that can be valuable resources for graduates seeking employment. UVA’s alumni network is particularly extensive, with over 220,000 members worldwide. Bryn Mawr’s alumnae network is similarly active, with events and programs designed to connect graduates with each other and with potential employers. These networks can provide valuable connections and insights into various industries, helping graduates to navigate the job market and find fulfilling careers.

University of Virginia vs Bryn Mawr: Admissions Requirements and Application Process

Finally, let’s examine the admissions requirements and application process for both universities. UVA is highly selective, with an acceptance rate of around 21%. The school requires students to submit SAT or ACT scores, as well as transcripts, essays, and letters of recommendation. Bryn Mawr is similarly competitive, with an acceptance rate of around 38%. The school requires students to submit transcripts, essays, letters of recommendation, and test scores (either SAT or ACT, or an optional test-optional application). In both cases, prospective students should carefully review the admissions requirements and prepare their application materials well in advance to increase their chances of acceptance.

View of three people studying in a desk.

It is important to note that both universities also consider extracurricular activities and community involvement when evaluating applications. UVA values leadership, service, and talent in the arts, while Bryn Mawr looks for students who have demonstrated a commitment to social justice and activism. Prospective students should highlight their achievements and experiences in these areas in their application materials.

Additionally, UVA offers early decision and early action options for applicants, which can increase their chances of acceptance. Bryn Mawr does not offer early decision, but does offer an early action option with a November 15th deadline. Students who are confident in their desire to attend either university may want to consider applying early to demonstrate their commitment and enthusiasm.

University of Virginia vs Bryn Mawr: Alumni Network and Engagement Opportunities

Finally, it is important to consider the alumni network and engagement opportunities at each school. Both UVA and Bryn Mawr have active and engaged alumni communities, with a range of resources and events available to graduates. UVA has a particularly strong presence in Washington, D.C., and many of its graduates go on to successful careers in politics, law, and business. Bryn Mawr’s alumni network includes many accomplished leaders in academia, social activism, and the arts.

Students lounging in the stairs of a building.

However, UVA’s alumni network also offers a variety of international opportunities for graduates, with connections to global companies and organizations. On the other hand, Bryn Mawr’s alumni network has a strong focus on community service and social justice, with many graduates involved in non-profit organizations and advocacy groups. Both schools provide their alumni with valuable resources and connections, but the specific focus and opportunities may differ depending on the individual’s interests and career goals.


In conclusion, choosing between the University of Virginia and Bryn Mawr College depends on individual preferences and priorities. Both schools offer exceptional academic programs, dedicated faculty, and a range of extracurricular activities and resources to help students succeed. By comparing the different categories outlined in this article, prospective students can determine which university is the right fit for their interests, career goals, and personal values.

It is important to note that location may also play a role in the decision-making process. The University of Virginia is located in Charlottesville, Virginia, a small college town with a strong sense of community. On the other hand, Bryn Mawr College is located in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Philadelphia with easy access to the city’s cultural and professional opportunities. Prospective students should consider their preferences for urban or rural environments when making their decision.

If you’re set on getting into a world-class college but aren’t sure how to make it happen, we can help! AdmissionSight is a leading college entrance expert with over a decade of experience helping students just like you get into the schools of their dreams.

At AdmissionSight, we focus on offering a wide range of services, all aimed at helping students perfect their applications to catch the attention of admissions officers. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation and learn more about what we offer.


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