Conflicting Feelings about William and Mary

Selecting a college has been extremely stressful to say the least. My mom and I have visited more colleges than I can count, and I still have yet to find my dream school. Toward the end of our ample visits we went to William and Mary. While there, I told myself that it had a homey feel to it. However, looking back I am not sure if this is simply because I wanted to be done with the search process. As I looked at reviews, they were off putting. Many describe WandM as rigorous and the students as depressed or overachieving. Also, I feel like the campus may be a little boring. I plan on going to law school and don’t want to spend my undergrad years with a lot of stress and little fun, as I believe this would prevent me from growing as a person (I have already put a lot of stress on academics in high school). I’m stuck between a college with hard academics or a diverse, laid back environment. Any suggestions on colleges that meet in the middle? I tend to overthink things a lot (if you couldn’t already tell) and any advice would be much appreciated.

Someone qualified for admission to W&M should at least consider appropriate NESCACs for their supportive academic environments and geographically diverse student bodies. For a school more directly similar to W&M, but with a more relaxed atmosphere, look into the University of Richmond. You might also like Colgate.

1 Like

It may be good not to have a dream school, as you have little control over final admissions decisions and you won’t set yourself up for so much disappointment. There really is no perfect school.

Having said that, it’s also good to identify the features most important to you and to apply to an array of schools that have many of these qualities. What are some of the other schools you visited? Were you drawn to any of them just a little? William & Mary is mid-sized; if you can’t find another school that size, would a smaller or a larger school feel better to you? How are you with regards to Greek life? Do you want to stay in the mid-South? Are you looking for in-state Virginia?

Have you looked at Wake Forest, U Richmond, Lafayette, Gettysburg or Dickinson? All of these are good schools in the general region that might have some similarities to William & Mary, while possibly being a little more “social” and/or relaxed.

haha you sound just like me (I overthink and worry too much all the time)! I’m transferring to William and Mary next year, so I haven’t actually experienced academics there yet, but I’ve heard mixed feelings about it. The academics are challenging and you will do a lot of studying, but also why would you want to go to a school where academics isn’t their main focus? If you go to William and Mary, you’re meant to be there and if you have a good work ethic, you will succeed. If you succeed, it will only make you into an even stronger person than if you go to a more laidback school. W&M will push you learn, succeed, and it will give you a great education. If you’re willing to put in the work, it should be completely fine! Also as for the boring factor of the campus, it doesn’t really seem at all boring to me! Of course, it is not a big party environment. There are parties every weekend, and there will always be a bar or sandwich shop you can hit up with your friends, but for me that’s all I need. I don’t plan on going to school just to party every day. I believe that W&M has the perfect balance between academics and fun that will still have you satisfied at graduation. Hope this helped somewhat and good luck!

I would stick with W&M; it’s a nice, medium-sized school; there’s a little bit of something for everyone and you sound like the sort of person who is going to be self-driven wherever you go. Hopefully, just being away from home for the first time will give you some air to breathe.

S was accepted to W&M a few yrs ago. Although he decided on another school (wanted a big sports culture), he thought everyone he met at both the tour / info and Admitted Students sessions were very friendly and accepting of all types of people. That is very consistant with the thoughts of a friend’s daughter who just graduated W&M. His other comment was their seemed to be tremendous pride in being part of the W&M Tribe.

It’s an excellent school. You will work hard as it’s quite rigorous. A degree from W&M will provide a great foundation for the rest of your life.

Doesn’t it depend a lot on what you consider “fun” to be? Think about this.

Mac -

William and Mary’s reputation for being a rigorous school is well-earned. When my son was there (2 years ago) he found the work and the expectations of the professors to be quite challenging, and grade deflation was very real. I think before he went, he did not believe the William and Mary hype with regards to these things, because he really loved his visits there and his interview in the admissions process. But be aware - any admissions office is trying to sell you their product. You have to think deeply about how you want to spend your time in college. William and Mary does have opportunities for fun but academics, and the desire to achieve at a high level, are front and center to the experience there. It is hard to know if it would have been different for him elsewhere, but the rates of depressed students at W&M were always a concern to him and he had to fight hard to not fall into that situation himself. For him, prioritizing work/life balance became extremely important in this regard, but that priority also at times put him at odds with classmates who enjoyed the driven culture. He did emerge with a great education under his belt, and some very close friends, but in hindsight he wished he had attended a school where more students valued a balanced lifestyle. Go into it with your eyes wide open, and make the best decision for you.

William and Mary has been ranked by Princeton review as having the 5th happiest students in their 2020 book. The kids I know there are very happy and do not regret their decision. Different kids will have different experiences, of course. I’m sure it’s also about fit. What do W and M kids do for fun, and is that enjoyable to you?

Graduate schools (and many companies) know the difference in rigor at W and M. At one company I worked for, we recruited on campus at both UVA and William and Mary. Our minimum GPA for consideration was higher at UVA than William and Mary, reflecting the grade inflation differences. Just like college admissions counselors consider your achievements in the context of your high school, companies (and especially graduate schools) usually do that for college as well.

This really depends on your perspective. My daughter is a current Sophomore that went to a rigorous High School. She thinks W&M is easier and less stressful than her High School. You can party as much or as little as you want. She thinks the perception of W&M being stressful is way overblown and many of her friends at other schools have higher stress levels than she does.
She’s found that professors really make an effort to connect with students and let you know you can come to them for help.

1 Like

@mom2grlz My daughter said the same thing just last week! She is also a W&M sophomore and graduated from a high school in Fairfax County. When I asked her about coping with stress, she stated that only during exams did the stress level approach what she had endured at her “pressure cooker” high school. (Isn’t that horrifying?)

1 Like

As someone who is in the legal profession, and based on you saying your goal is law school, I would recommend that you give thought to going to a college where you stand the best chance to get a high GPA. Law schools don’t put too much weight on where you went to undergrad or your major. I’d say their admission decisions and scholarship offers are based 90% (and maybe more) on GPA and LSAT scores. “Brand name” of school, your major, letters of recommendations, and ECs, make up the other 5-10%. Going to a challenging college with grade deflation won’t help your cause and won’t do any better job of preparing you for law school, since it’s so much different from undergrad. Good luck.

OP: If you want a less stressful academic environment than the College of William & Mary, then consider the honor colleges at several large Southern universities such as South Carolina, Alabama, Auburn and Ole Miss. Also, consider the University of Vermont Honors College.

It would be helpful to know more about you, your likes, dislikes & interests. Which schools have you visited ? What did you like or dislike about each school ?


You are conflicted about college!? You aren’t allowed to feel so conflicted! Just kidding… that’s completely normal. I was conflicted too when I was trying to choose between colleges.

If you have been extended an offer by the College, then you presumably have many options. Congrats! I am a W&M graduate. Yes, the school is academically rigorous. Should you decide to attend, you will be challenged in new ways. However, you will never be challenged beyond what you can handle. I am living proof that you can lead a balanced social life and perform well academically at W&M. I made lifelong friends at W&M. We succeeded together. And had A LOT of fun in the process. We partied, played music late into the night, joined intramural sports, and completed the “W&M triathlon” - you’ll have to google that one sorry. Once you make some friends, you will find that there is plenty to do on the weekend. There are also opportunities to take road trips on weekends if you ever want to get away for a little while. Let’s talk a little bit more about the rigor/stress.

My perspective as a former student is this. The students who were the most stressed were the ones who were deathly afraid of making a mistake and/or lacked life-balance skills. They were used to breezing through school with little to no effort. You may not get A’s on every paper and/or test (very few do at W&M). You may have to stomach a C+ or B- in a “right of passage” major course. But you won’t go through it alone. The “process” of W&M’s education is invaluable in my opinion. It prepared me for the challenges that followed: my master’s and law degrees.

It’s funny how perspective changes with time. When I was deciding between colleges, I felt very similar to how you feel now. Looking back, attending an “easier” school would have been a disservice to my future ambitions. I embraced the process and subsequently excelled.

Ultimately, only YOU can decide the right path. If you are worried about W&M keeping you from growing as a person, don’t be. The W&M experience actually helped me to grow as a person as much or more than any other experience in my lifetime. I met friends from all over the country and world. I grew in confidence, knowledge, and understanding. When I go back to visit, I feel a sense of pride that cannot be expressed in words. Take some final visits to your top choices. Talk to some people who are currently attending those schools. Maybe that will help to clear up some things. No matter your final choice, I wish you good fortune!

One more thing - people have become utterly consumed by fear over “grade deflation.” When I was accepted to law schools, the most important factor was the LSAT. From what I hear, that hasn’t changed. Yes, GPA is the next most important factor. However, grad school admissions officers are keenly aware that W&M is more rigorous than most schools. Law school deans and admissions officers personally told me time and time again that my W&M background made a difference in my app. Law school reps from across the country visit W&M to meet one on one with prospective students (a great opportunity). Don’t let the silly grade deflation arguments scare you! As a law school grad reflecting back, W&M was a great stepping stone to major accomplishments - from law school to others. And while law school admission remains competitive, it is not quite as competitive today as it was during the Great Recession (when I and everyone else was applying). :smile:

Just trying to understand/seeking clarification…Are you saying as a former student you perceived there was grade deflation at W&M?

Good question! No, I never perceived as a student that there was grade deflation. I felt that the grading was normally quite fair. Like all schools, it is important to be strategic when building a class schedule. In my post, I was was eluding to the perception of some others in this forum - that the grading system is somehow unduly harsh. I personally disagree with that sentiment. Hope that clarifies my earlier comment.

Boomer alum here. Forty years ago I applied to law schools with a crummy GPA and a decent LSAT. was admitted to several schools, and later found that a number of the schools to which I applied would bump up a W&M applicant’s GPA. It was common knowledge that most schools started practicing grade inflation in the late 60’s to keep students in school to avoid the draft. W&M never compromised, and I hope the same is true today.

*most comparable" schools

I am a parent of William and Mary student graduating in 2023. I can say based on my daughter’s first semester experience, it is a fantastic school and she is very happy. Professors are really engaged and are eager to help. Lots of opportunities on campus to do research. Grade deflation was a concern before she joined and as per her it is overblown. Check the William and Mary’s dean’s list for Fall 2019 semester and you can see that there are plenty of students that made it to the Dean’s list (GPA 3.6+).