Admit It! Where you live is important, not only the geographical location of the institution, but also the living facilities within that institution are important factors. After all, it’s all about location, location, location. So, where does William & Mary live and where do W&M student live? Both excellent questions.
Objectively speaking, William & Mary is located in Williamsburg, VA. Williamsburg is half-way between Richmond and Norfolk (each are about 45 miles away) and 2.5 hours south of DC (2.5 days depending on traffic). Williamsburg is in the southeastern part of the state located on a peninsula between the James and York Rivers and only one hour from the Atlantic Ocean. So what does that all mean? It means W&M students get the best of both worlds. On a daily basis, our students live in a picturesque, safe, welcoming small city but one that is within arms’ reach of much larger metropolitan areas. It means that our students can benefit from the educational opportunities provided by the Historic Triangle (Yorktown, Jamestown and Williamsburg). We have classes that take place in Colonial Williamsburg, at battlefields and museums across the Commonwealth, and we have a semester program in DC where students take all of their classes and participate in an internship. All students get into any house or exhibit in Colonial Williamsburg for free with their student ID. We even have two students per year who live in a Colonial Williamsburg house as part of an independent study (and they blog about it). It means our students are within arms’ reach of several bodies of water and their corresponding beaches, of fantastic outlet shopping and of one of the nation’s two Busch Gardens.
So where do William & Mary students live? Well, 75-80% of them live in campus residence halls all four years. All freshmen are required to live on campus so that they can acclimate to our tight-knit community. Freshmen residence halls are fairly similar in amenities (and you can see video of any one of them by clicking on the previous link and selecting any individual building). Yes there are subtle differences — hall bath vs suite bath (and while you think you want a suite bath you fail to realize the advantages of a hall bath — they’re cleaned for you and they’re a social impetus — you might leave your room to use the restroom and stop in your friend’s room on the way and two hours later realize you never made it to the restroom), high ceilings vs standard ceilings, air-conditioning vs no air-conditioning — but these are very subtle differences that do not affect your experience greatly. The experience is in the community aspect of our residence life system.
As upperclassmen there are more choices. We have sorority and fraternity houses as part of our campus housing system, we have an international residence hall, language houses (a native-speaking tutor lives there and the hall plans language-themed events), special interest housing (ranging from community engagement to sustainable living to the celebration of multiculturalism), and there are standard rooms (which include singles for upperclassmen), suites, apartments, and even houses. Lots of options for sure.
One unifying element that all residence halls on campus have in common is the concept of self-determination. Your dorm is your living space and thus you should govern how it is lived in. Aside from state and federal law, W&M does not impose a lot of rules on your living facility. You as roommates sign a roommate contract and determine everything from whether or not you can borrow each other’s clothes to whether or not guests can stay in your room (and if they can, who those guests are). Your hall, through an elected hall council, determines quiet hours for the building, what are the regulations for the laundry and lounge facilities, and what events will your hall fees sponsor. It’s your space and you’re in charge. There’s no paid administrator checking in guests or monitoring the halls. The Resident Assistants are your fellow students who want to help build community. Your space is your own and our students are adults and capable of governing themselves. It’s a pretty neat policy and one of the reasons our students return to live on campus year after year.
This is where we live and how we live there. We know it’s an important factor for you in selecting where you’ll go to college so get to know the city in which an institution is located, see the facilities were you could be living, and explore how you get to live both in the city and in the dorms. At W&M, our residential campus is a huge part of our culture and community. Our location, location, location is pretty cool.
Wendy Livingston, Senior Assistant Dean