Experience tells us picking the best academic program, institution, or place of work, requires more than a minimum GPA and the ability to comb through lists and rankings. We have to see ourselves there. Beyond a title or diploma, we have to know what it will mean for us to be a part of this particular community.
If I understood this before, it became clearer to me a year ago when I participated in “A Day at William & Mary,” a two-day event for newly admitted students to the Higher Education program. At times, the experience was overwhelming. On Sunday evening it was socializing with current students at The Brickhouse before heading to a dessert reception with a chance to meet faculty and staff. While the atmosphere was light, at the dessert reception there was the added pressure of making a strong impression on faculty and staff who you would be interviewing with for graduate assistantships the next day. Monday morning began at 8:30 a.m. with breakfast followed by a full day of successive 15-minute interviews for these coveted assistantship roles, which came with the promise of valuable professional experience, as well as tuition remission and a stipend. When I wasn’t in an official interview, I was continuing to gather information and perspective from current students and faculty. If I was lucky, I found a few minutes to take a walk, catch my breath, or make a short phone call before walking back into a crowded interview room to sell myself again. If you weren’t asleep on the floor by 4 p.m., you could sit-in on a class with current students in the program.
I remember crashing pretty early that night after watching a few minutes of the Oscar’s at the home of my host, a current student who offered his spare bedroom for my overnight visit.
The whole process was unquestionably exhausting, but it was also a key factor in my decision to commit to William & Mary and begin the program this past August. Experiencing the warm welcome of students and faculty, walking through the hallways of the impressive School of Education, and witnessing a lively exchange in the classroom, all provided a clear picture of what the higher education program could offer.
The consistent communication and smooth execution during the admission process were exceptional, but finding out there were students in the program willing to offer their couches and spare beds for admitted students who wanted to save money, was a surprising example of what it might mean to become a part of the Tribe.
Going through this experience myself made it all the more exciting to be a part of this event for newly admitted students who participated in their own “A Day at William & Mary” this past Sunday and Monday, Feb. 26-27.
It was strange to be on the other side, now considered a “veteran” of the program I just began in the fall, but it was also exciting to play a small role in helping these students experience the same welcome and opportunity that I received when I stood in their shoes just one year ago. During their visit, I was able to co-lead a tour of main campus, an opportunity to share a bigger picture of the William & Mary experience to these potential classmates and colleagues.
Another way “A Day at William & Mary” came full circle for me? My roommates and I hosted a student on our couch these past few nights.
Welcome to the Tribe!