Sewanee: The University of the South

With a tradition rich in theology and letters, Sewanee remains today a traditional liberal arts college sitting atop Monteagle Mountain in southeastern Tennessee. Sewanee is the only university in the nation that is owned by the dioceses of the Episcopal Church.  Students of all faiths are welcomed at the university, which encourages an open dialog about religion, but Sewanee is proud of its deep religious heritage.  It’s not unusual for special events to begin with a simple prayer, and there is a strong religious presence on campus.

There are fewer than 1500 undergraduate students at Sewanee and fewer than 100 graduate students.  There are a wide variety of traditional majors in the liberal arts and several pre-professional programs to keep students on track for graduate school.  These pre-professional programs are in: business, education, engineering, law, and medicine and health professions.  Students have a network of alumni that help them secure internships. Sewanee has two graduate schools, the School of Theology and the School of Letters. Undergraduate students can take classes in the graduate schools.  The classes are all small.  A class with 30 students is considered to be a large class at Sewanee.

There is a center for student research at Sewanee, and students of all majors can be involved in research. On campus science research is primarily environmental research.  Pre-med students usually participate in medical research and hospital shadowing during the summer.  There are two competitive programs to this end for Sewanee undergraduates.  One is at Vanderbilt and one is a Yale.

The campus of Sewanee is peaceful and beautiful.  The English Gothic architecture sets the perfect stage for the small and intimate classes and the strong traditions, some of which are southern, some of which seem to have come from Oxford. Honor students and professors wear black robes to class on a daily basis. The robes are not required but are commonplace.  There is a dress code in place, which dictates that male students wear coats and ties (often dressed down with shorts or jeans) and female students wear dresses or skirts to class, chapel and cultural events. All students and professors greet each other with at least a nod when they pass.  The Honor Code is one of the most important traditions of the school. Students respect and abide by it.  All freshmen sign the code in a special ceremony in the gorgeous chapel.  The Chapel is central to the campus in location and significance.  Attendance at Chapel is no longer mandatory, but student attendance is expected at convocations and many campus-wide events.  Sunday services are attended by a majority of students. There are several drinking clubs for both genders.  There are also Ribbon Societies, which are secret societies, for men based on academic achievement and for women on “sociality”—whatever that is.  The history of Sewanee is inextricable from the history of the Confederacy.  Alums and students alike grapple with retaining their traditions and history while becoming a more diverse and open-minded campus. This legacy is certainly one that should be explored by any prospective student to make sure there is a comfort level with the campus, its history, and its direction for the future.  Now 83% of students are white.  Only 4% are black, <2% are Asian, and 3% are Hispanic. Two percent are from other countries. Eighty-nine percent of faculty are white.

Ninety-five percent of students live on campus. The campus is over 65% Greek. There is an emphasis on community engagement. Popular activities include programming through the chapel, the outing club, and the Sewanee Emergency Medical Service and the Sewanee Fire Department, which both have a long tradition of including students.  Six students/class can become firefighters. The have a residence hall together with the EMS students.

The nightlife at Sewanee consists primarily of fraternity parties.  There is no activity in the surrounding town beyond a few restaurants and some quaint pottery/gift shops. Drugs and alcohol are not uncommon at Sewanee.  If students want a bigger variety of activities they can drive into Chattanooga (45 minutes) or Nashville (1 ½ hours) for a change of pace.

Admit rate

61% female

55% male


SAT mid-range scores

SAT r              590-690

SATm              580-660

SAT w             570-660


ACT 26-30

Average GPA: 3.59

First year retention rate: 85%

4-year graduation rate: 80.2%

5-year graduation rate: 85.2%

6-year graduation rate: 85.7%




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