I got my first William & Mary t-shirt when I was six years old. My parents and I were on vacation in Williamsburg, and I fell in love with the old buildings, horse-drawn carriages, and the massive bookstore. I had no real concept of what college was, but that didn’t stop me from proudly declaring “I’m going to William & Mary” as I climbed on a cannon outside of the Wren wearing my tri-cornered hat.
I stayed on the W&M train for quite a while. Every year for Thanksgiving, my parents and I would pack up the car and trek from northern Maryland to Williamsburg, Virginia, where I would wander around historic campus with renewed determination. Christmas wasn’t Christmas without new green and gold paraphernalia under the tree. At my 5th grade graduation when my teacher asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up, I said “I want to go to William & Mary.”
Things changed around my sophomore year of high school. W&M was still a part of the college discussion, but it slowly moved further and further down my list. There were just so many options — every school I visited I found something new to love. I left each tour both excited and hugely anxious about the decision I faced. Meanwhile, my family and I still traveled to Williamsburg every Thanksgiving, but the empty campus devoid of students home for break seemed less inviting than the others I visited. By the end of my junior year, W&M was in my top five (but barely), pushed down the list by schools sprinkled throughout Virginia and the Carolinas.
Ironically, W&M was one of my last official college visits. My mom and I joined a herd of high schoolers shuffling through the spring break college tour on a gorgeous April day. The intro session was a bit of a blur as an enthusiastic admission officer excitedly rattled through the study abroad opportunities, extracurricular activities, student-to-teacher ratio, and financial aid information. I left the session encouraged, but not convinced.
That changed the second I stepped on to historic campus. Even though I had walked down those brick walkways dozens of times, suddenly the warm spring day and bustling student body painted it in an entirely different light. Instead of just seeing the picturesque buildings, I felt the vibrancy of the campus. I watched excitedly as students walked by in small groups, talking and laughing, while others read lazily on the Sunken Garden. I saw friends comparing notes over coffee on the Terrace, and a professor chat with a student as they walked into the ISC. I heard my tour guides call out to friends and share campus jokes and traditions. For the first time, I saw more than just where I’d live at William & Mary — I saw how I’d live. And I loved it.
It took me a few weeks after the tour to come to a final decision. I knew I had fallen in love with W&M all over again, but I still worried. It was the most substantial decision I’d had to make in my 17 years, after all. But after weeks of torturing myself, I had a crucial realization: William & Mary was the only school where I could actually picture myself. I imagined myself studying at a corner table at Aromas, donning green and gold for a Tribe home football game, and making late-night Wawa runs with my friends. I couldn’t imagine anything as vivid at the other schools I visited. That’s how I knew.
My dad and I were unloading the dishwasher when I told my parents. I simply stated, “I want to go to William & Mary,” not unlike the declaration I made 11 years earlier in front of the Wren. In November of 2009 I applied for Early Decision, and received my acceptance in December. And I haven’t looked back since.
As a tour guide, I used to give this piece of advice to all of my tour groups: Close your eyes. Where can you truly picture yourself? Where can you imagine living your day-to-day life around campus? Then, go with your gut.
I couldn’t picture myself anywhere besides the brick-laid paths of Williamsburg. And that is why I chose W&M.