My road to William & Mary was a little untraditional! When I originally applied to colleges my senior year of high school, I was determined to go as far away as I could from Virginia. Much to my parent’s dismay, I refused to apply anywhere in-state. I spent my freshman year at Northwestern University, but eventually decided it was not the right fit for me.
While I was looking at schools to transfer to, I kept coming back to William & Mary. I was really attracted to the small class sizes and strong sense of community. The campus and the greater Williamsburg area are very welcoming. It was also the perfect distance from home—close enough for a weekend visit, but definitely far enough away to ensure I had an independent college experience. I also had a few friends who already went to William & Mary and they constantly talked about how many research opportunities they had, even as freshman. This was a huge selling point for me—there are very few schools that place such a strong emphasis on undergraduate education while also offering incredible research opportunities. As one of my professors commented only a few days ago, the barriers to research at W&M are so much lower than at other peer institutions. I haven’t looked back once!
Senior year of high school, you are at the top of the totem pole. You stroll through the hallways like a lion: you are the king (or queen) of the proverbial jungle. You are superman: although you do have one form of kryptonite. The question your grandparents, your family friends, friends’ parents, everyone who has ever known you wants to know, “So where are you going to college?”
I did not know the answer to this question until mid-April of my senior year of high school. When researching colleges, I was looking for three main things. First, I wanted a liberal arts school. I honestly had no idea what I wanted to major in and thought it was important to be a well-rounded student in all areas of academics. Second, I wanted grass. This statement may seem trivial to many; however, I knew I really wanted a school with a campus! Finally, I wanted a school where the professors were invested in their students. In high school, I always valued my relationship with teachers and I knew I wanted a college where teaching was not simply a nine to five job. William & Mary fulfilled all three of my check boxes (it also didn’t hurt that I took a field trip to Williamsburg in middle school and LOVED IT). However, most importantly, my decision came during Day for Admitted Students (a day in April where all accepted student have the opportunity to see what William & Mary has to offer). I was walking down the Sunken Garden on an absolutely beautiful day with my parents, and I got that excessively cliché feeling of this is where I can see myself for the next four years, this feels right—and the rest, as they say, is history.
So seniors, take a deep breath. Live it up as king of the jungle and know that eventually it will all work out. And parents just remember it could be worse. You could have been my parents, who had to go through the whole college search process with twins!
As an over eager high school junior, I began my college search with two criteria: 1) A small, liberal arts school and 2) Northeast. My parents and I planned marathon visit weekends for every long weekend of junior year. I visited five schools in Massachusetts and Connecticut! Another weekend I hit four Pennsylvania schools. I had a lot of decisions to make. However, after walking around one of the Pennsylvania schools, I made up my mind (or so I thought…). I continued my junior year making sure I would be a competitive candidate for that school; I started my Common Application essay and researched the university constantly. As I started getting my heart set on my so-called “dream college”, my dad told me we were going on one more visit. During the summer, we took a family vacation to Williamsburg, VA so I could visit the College and complete a senior interview. I went in with an open mind despite telling my parents over and over that I was not going to go to William & Mary for college.
I immediately connected with my interviewer as we laughed about one of the questions she asked me, “If you were a fruit, which fruit would you be?” I quickly scrambled to think of an answer, but it was in that moment that my mind began to change. Despite the sweltering heat, I enjoyed my tour through campus. My tour guide, Beth, recited facts and anecdotes with ease like the guides at other universities, but unlike the guides before, Beth said hello to every person we passed. I instantly felt the sense of community that is so unique to William & Mary. When I returned home, I sat down and made a pro/con list (I love watching Gilmore Girls and every time I tell this story, I realize this was very Rory Gilmore of me…). William & Mary had dozens of pro’s; after seeing that the College met all my requirement and more, I realized that my junior year dreams of a small, liberal arts school in the Northeast were replaced by dreams of joining the Tribe in the South (as a Chicagoan, Virginia is definitely the South!).
My college search process was pretty overwhelming, as I visited a plethora of schools! When I started looking at schools, I did not really know what I was looking for. After visiting so many schools, I thought I would easily find one that just clicked, but that did not happen until I visited the College of William & Mary!
Sitting through the information session, I found myself laughing hysterically and smiling as the admission staffer spoke about the William & Mary community. The slideshow and the video clip shown during the session showed me just how creative and quirky the students and staff at William & Mary could be, and I immediately felt connected to them. To top the visit off, my tour guide was phenomenal! As she was showing our tour group around campus with a huge smile on her face, current students kept coming up to say hi and chat with her. I could really sense how genuine her passion for the school was. The beautiful campus also made my decision easier. Walking around, I was really able to picture myself learning and enjoying the school both inside and outside of the classroom.
I knew from the moment I stepped foot on William & Mary’s campus that if I was accepted there, I would without a doubt choose to call William & Mary home for the next four years. The day I received my acceptance email was one of the happiest days of my life, because I had officially become a member of the very special, loving, and unique Tribe!
As a senior in high school, I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do with the rest of my life (I still feel a little bit like that today!), let alone what I was going to study at college. I felt SO anxious around peers who seemingly all knew what they wanted to do when they “grew up.” During my college search process, I knew I wanted to pick a college that encouraged academic exploration, to let students figure out what really interested them. When I stumbled across William & Mary, I knew it was the place for me. Not only have I been able to explore all sorts of different fields, I have also been able to double major in a combination I might not have been able to find at another school. The academic freedom and breadth of subject was the main reason I came to William & Mary. Besides that, the location, people, and in-state tuition really cannot be beat!
W&M also encourages you to get involved. I have had the privilege of being involved in groups I never would have considered if not for the high enthusiasm of the members! Coming in as a freshman, I had every intention of walking on the track team as a 400 meter hurdler. As time went on, my interests wandered a bit, but I kept running through the W&M Running Club. I also became very involved in the music department through the orchestra. During my sophomore year, a few of my friends encouraged me to try out for an a cappella group. I was really hesitant at first, but I am certainly glad I ended up auditioning! Some of my fondest memories here come from my co-ed a cappella group DoubleTake.
Essentially, I have not regretted my decision in choosing W&M. I only have one year left, and I am excited to make the most of it!
Why William & Mary? During my college selection process I looked all over the East Coast for the “right fit.” Big or Small? Public or Private? The possibilities were endless. Clearly, the right fit for me turned out to be the College of William & Mary. With 320 years of history and prestige, highly recognized academics, D1 sports, a “public ivy” reputation, and a strong focus on undergraduates, it was the perfect place for me. The list of the advantages was endless, and I loved William & Mary enough to apply early decision. William & Mary was also the perfect size for me. It’s small enough to have a strong sense of community and belonging, yet big enough to constantly meet new people. As a science major, I cannot speak more highly of the value of a liberal arts education. I am so grateful for the chance to expand my academic horizons beyond the requisite chemistry and biology classes, because this is the best formula for a well-rounded education.
I’d also like to give you a little bit of advice for determining whether a college is right for you. When you visit, take a moment by yourself to walk through the middle of campus. Just stand there and take the time to breathe it all in for a moment. When I stepped onto the Sunken Garden and stood there, immersed in history with the Wren Building and Colonial Williamsburg to my right, and modernity with the Integrated Science Center and all of New Campus to my left, I knew in that moment I was home.
Sure it’s cheesy and a bit cliché, but the College of William & Mary can really become your home. It’s a place full of learning, life, and enthusiasm; it is complete with both challenges and friendly faces to help push you forward. W&M simultaneously drives you to your limits and greatest achievements, while always providing a comfortable atmosphere and a second home.
I absolutely refused to apply to William & Mary because I thought it was too close to home and because I wouldn’t have the same experiences as if I went somewhere farther away. Finally, a friend from my high school who was being recruited at W&M for soccer convinced me to apply with her. As the deposit deadline inched closer and closer, my best friend and I sat in my kitchen and made pro/con lists for William & Mary and our other options. I was incredibly surprised to see how much we both favored W&M over our other option. I loved the hometown feeling at W&M and the welcoming attitude of the campus and its students. I loved how everyone brought something new to the table. Yes, I may just be going 10 minutes down the road, but I had spent 6 weeks in Italy the year before–an experience I could talk about at W&M. I loved that even though “townies” didn’t think so, College Deli and Paul’s got packed on Thursday and Friday nights because the students needed a break from reading books written by their professors. I loved that I could walk into CW and pet horses while drinking free cider from a mug I bought the year before.
I knew I could learn multivariable calculus or Skinner’s behavioral theory anywhere. Yet at William & Mary, I could learn about it alongside a world horseback vaulting champion, the daughter of the Russian Ambassador, or the North Carolina boys’ tennis state champion. I wanted to challenge myself, to branch out of my comfort zone. There are so many different people from so many walks of life here, I knew I could go to William & Mary, sit next to my best friend from high school, and feel a million miles away from our hometown. Who knew I could get out of my comfort zone without ever actually leaving home in the first place?