The College of William & Mary (aka William & Mary or W&M) is a public research university located in historic Williamsburg, Virginia. William & Mary is widely recognized for its outstanding academic reputation, beautiful campus, and vibrant community.
Founded in 1693 by a letters patent issued by King William III and Queen Mary II, The College of William & Mary is the second-oldest institution of higher education in the United States after Harvard. William & Mary is not an Ivy League college, but it has an Ivy League-like status.
William & Mary educated American presidents Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe, and John Tyler. A young George Washington received his surveyor’s license at the college in 1749, and he also became the college’s first American chancellor in 1788. Benjamin Franklin received William & Mary’s first honorary degree in 1756.
The establishment of graduate programs in law and medicine in 1779 makes William & Mary one of the first full-fledged universities in the United States, and its Marshall-Wythe School of Law is the oldest law school in the United States.
The Sir Christopher Wren Building, attributed to the famed English architect, is the oldest academic building in continuous use in the United States and a National Historic Landmark on the W&M college campus.
Two other buildings around the Wren Building complete a triangle known unofficially as “Ancient Campus”: the Brafferton (built in 1723) and the President’s House (built in 1732). In addition to the “Ancient Campus,” which dates to the 18th century, the college also consists of an “Old Campus” and “New Campus.”
“Old Campus” consists of academic buildings and dormitories built near the Wren Building and matches the Georgian and Anglo-Dutch architecture of the colonial buildings of “Ancient Campus” and Colonial Williamsburg.
Adjoining “Old Campus” to the north and west is the “New Campus.” It was constructed primarily between 1950 and 1980, and consists of academic buildings and dormitories that, while of the same brick construction as “Old Campus,” fit into the vernacular of modern architecture.
The vast majority of William & Mary’s 1,200 acres consists of woodlands surrounding Lake Matoaka, an artificial lake created by colonists in the early 18th century to power a grist mill. The College of William & Mary acquired the property containing the lake and much of the College Woods in the 1920s, renaming the former to Lake Matoaka after the Powhatan name for Pocahontas.
By 1933, this area was designated to become one of the few Virginia state parks and was inaugurated as Matoaka Park in October 1934. The still-preserved College Woods are now the largest contiguous forest in Williamsburg, accessible from the W&M campus via many trails.
The College of William & Mary is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. The focal point of William & Mary is its four-year, full-time undergraduate program with a strong arts and sciences focus, which constitutes most of the university’s enrollment.
The college has a select number of graduate programs in diverse fields ranging from American colonial history to marine science. The graduate programs are dominant in STEM fields and the university has a high level of research activity.
The college also offers four academic programs in its Washington, DC office, an undergraduate joint degree program in engineering with Columbia University, and a liberal arts joint degree program with the University of St. Andrews in Scotland.
William & Mary provides a small college environment and maintains a low student-to-faculty ratio of 12-to-1 (the second lowest among U.S. public universities), thereby fostering student-professor interaction. A notable 99% of all undergraduate classes, excluding labs, are taught by professors (not teaching assistants), and 86% of all classes contain 40 or fewer students.
William & Mary is tied for the 10th best public university, tied for 38th overall best national university in the U.S., and tied for 541st best global university according to the 2022 U.S. News & World Report rankings.
William & Mary’s honor system was first established by alumnus Thomas Jefferson in 1779 and is widely believed to be the nation’s first. During orientation week, every entering student recites the Honor Pledge in the Great Hall of the Wren Building:
“As a Member of the William & Mary community I pledge, on my Honor, not to lie, cheat, or steal in either my academic or personal life. I understand that such acts violate the Honor Code and undermine the community of trust of which we are all stewards.”
Even though it’s a comparatively small college, William & Mary’s alumni include a variety of highly influential and historically significant people, among which are: four of the first ten Presidents of the United States, four United States Supreme Court justices, dozens of U.S. senators, members of government, six Rhodes Scholars, and three Marshall Scholars.
Like most traditional colleges, William & Mary has moved to the left in recent years. Following the George Floyd protests and associated movements as well as student and faculty pressure in 2020 and 2021, several historic buildings, halls, and other entities that had been named after past slave owners or Confederates were renamed. William & Mary’s athletic teams, formerly known as the “Indians,” are now called the “Tribe.”
Under the banner of Diversity & Inclusion, the College of William & Mary stresses the intellectual advantages of recruiting people “from different nations, economic backgrounds, ethnicities, identities in many registers” – including undocumented immigrants. Since the college leaders “strive for the most diverse student population” with the goal of attracting minority candidates and under-represented student groups, they’re also open to homeschoolers.
While the College of William & Mary is considered “most selective” according to U.S. News & World Report, if you’re an exceptional student you will be glad to know the college has admitted homeschoolers. W&M’s website even offers a few tips for homeschooled applicants. Homeschool students will be subject to the same review as students applying from a traditional high school.
The average high school GPA of enrolled freshmen is 4.24, and 94.2% have a high school GPA of 3.75 or higher. The middle 50% range on SAT scores is 660-730 for reading and 650-760 for math, while the ACT Composite middle 50% range is 30-33.
Virginia residents get a substantial break on tuition rates – $13,127 per year as compared to $36,158 for out-of-state students. Nevertheless, William & Mary students tend to come from overwhelmingly wealthy family backgrounds, as show in this graph.
If you’re wondering how you might fit in at William & Mary, click here to see how W&M students describe themselves and their classmates.