Admit It! Getting into college is nice. Getting into an honors program is nicer. Our honors program is called the James Monroe Scholars Program. It’s a bit atypical from most other colleges’ and universities’ honors programs which are often designed to provide students with access to smaller and more advanced classes. At William & Mary most of our classes are small (86% have fewer than 40 students) and all are taught at advanced levels. So it doesn’t make sense for us to have an honors college within an honors college.
So the James Monroe Scholars Program provides different academic perks. Those admitted into the program as freshmen get priority registration for freshman seminars and special consideration for academic advisors. They can choose to live in Monroe Hall with the other Monroe Scholars (as a Monroe Scholar myself I can tell you that this is the perk de resistance). They can participate in the Monroe Lunch Series with faculty, and they get a $3000 summer research grant to design and complete an independent research project with the help of a faculty advisor. This money can be used only for an independent research project; there are no tuition monies associated with this award. They can also apply for a smaller $1000 summer research grant to begin their project in the summer following their freshman year.
All students who apply to William & Mary for freshman admission are considered for the Monroe Scholars Program. There is no in-state, out-of-state ratio that must be met for entering Monroe Scholars and both sets of students are equally eligible for the award. We admit about 300 students (about 8% of the admitted student cohort) into the program. Approximately 80 enroll (about 5% of the incoming class). Additionally, after the freshman year at W&M, additional students are invited to apply to enter the Monroe Program as sophomores based on the freshman-year GPA.
When determining Monroe Scholars we look for outstanding academic achievement. While there are no cut-offs or minimal criteria that must be met to be designated a Monroe Scholar, generally those admitted into the program have taken the most challenging courses offered at their high school, they are at the top of their high school class (i.e. they have a nearly flawless transcript) and they have above a 1470 SAT Critical Reading + Math (above a 33 on the ACT). Not all students who meet these objective criteria are selected as Monroes (yeah, it’s true, our applicants are so good that we have more such highly qualified applicants than we have room for in the Monroe Program). We also look for more intangible qualities like a deep intellectual curiosity, a propensity for independent study and research, a wealth of knowledge, etc. These types of qualities are often enumerated in recommendations, extracurricular involvements and/or essays.
Those admitted as Monroe Scholars are notified in their admission decision letter if they apply regular decision. Early Decision candidates are considered for the award also, but because we need to look at the entire pool before designating any scholarships, Early Decision admits will learn whether they received a Monroe Scholarship in mid-March. Once on campus there is no difference between those in the program and those who are not. Students take the same classes, get involved in the same diverse array of activities and have opportunities for academic research.
Is the Monroe Scholarship the chocolate icing on top of your marble fudge cake? Apply and find out.
Wendy Livingston, ’03, M.Ed. ‘09
Senior Assistant Dean of Admission