As an Admission Intern, talking with newly admitted students is part of the job. Actually, it’s why I applied for the position in the first place. Being a student liaison to bridge the gap between the campus community, Admission, and prospective students is kind of the whole point of the internship. So now, after decisions have been released and senior year is winding down, I get a lot of questions from newly admitted freshmen about deciding where to go. I’ve spoken with numerous students who are (understandably) anxious—how are you supposed to decide the next four years of your life based on just a few visits?
This is where I get a lot of questions about my personal college search experience. Where else did I apply? Why did I know W&M was right for me? Was I nervous about my decision? At this point, I always smile, because my college application experience was a little different than the rest.
I visited Williamsburg for the first time when I was about five years old. My dad went to the business school back in the day, and since then my parents always loved the area. We came down at least once a year, always on Thanksgiving, every year afterwards. That November, standing in front of the Wren building in my new W&M t-shirt and tri-cornered hat, I decided I was going to William & Mary.
At my fifth grade graduation, as part of my “future plans”, I said I wanted to be either a country singer or a forensic anthropologist (I said this mostly because it was the most complicated phrase I knew at the time, and it sounded really cool). Either way, I said I wanted to go to W&M. Throughout middle school, I continued to collect William & Mary t-shirts, sweatshirts and accessories until most of my room showed bits of green and gold. Before my friends even thought about college, I had the rest of my life figured out, and W&M was always a part of it.
By high school, with some serious encouragement from my parents, I realized that I needed to do a real college search. So, during spring break, we packed up and made a road trip to over a dozen colleges in Tennessee, North Carolina, and Virginia. I spent hours pouring over college search websites, comparing campuses and academic rigor. I talked to older friends and their siblings, trying to get some idea of the type of college I wanted. I went into the process open minded, and my top three choices changed constantly. W&M wasn’t always number one on my list (I had a bad habit of liking the college I visited most recently the best), but it was always in the back of my mind.
My decision was made on a Saturday in September of my senior year while unloading the dishwasher with my dad. I had been stressing for weeks about my decision and had just about had enough. I asked myself the same question I’d been asking for weeks, “Where can I picture myself?” If I couldn’t envision myself lounging on a campus on a warm spring day, or grabbing a meal at a dining hall with friends, then I knew it wasn’t the right place for me. So right there in my kitchen, in between stacking freshly cleaned dinner plates, I decided that my five-year-old self had been right. The only place I could see myself was William & Mary.
I applied to W&M and was accepted early decision. Although I committed to school months earlier than most of my friends, I still had to make a decision. So when newly admitted students ask me about my application experience, I always say the same thing. Go with your gut. It’s cliché for sure, but it’s honestly the best advice I can give. At the end of the search, it’s not your parents, or your counselors, or your friends who can make your college decision—it’s all you. So follow my trick, close your eyes, and envision the campuses you’ve seen. Cut out the clutter of what everyone else is telling you. Where can you picture yourself?
And then, my friends, go with your gut.