UVA vs. William & Mary

Ok, my daughter likes them both. Other than sheer size, how does one choose if you get two acceptances?

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First thing to do is tell your daughter that there is no right or wrong decision here, now she can take her time and figure out which one is the best fit.

  1. Have her start a spreadsheet and compare the basics (cost, size)
  2. Attend accepted student days, these are a great way to get a deeper understanding of the school and the specific program she is interested in.
  3. Look at the department for her intended major at each school, how many students graduate in that program every year, what are the differences in the programs, the required courses, internships.
  4. Are there any specific clubs or groups at the school she would be interested in joining.
  5. Most Importantly - IGNORE THE ADVICE OF EVERYONE ELSE! The best school is the one that is the best fit for her, not the one that friends, family, random message board people think is the best

While they are both great schools there is certainly a different vibe for each one. Good luck!!!


Does she look better in green or orange? A large amount of my wardrobe is still college apparel.

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It’s hard to predict what life will be like this spring with Covid, but in the past many colleges have hosted an accepted student weekend. If these are offered in 2022 she should consider attending, especially if she hasn’t visited either campus before. Sure, colleges are going to be putting their best face forward, but attending a weekend can be a way to get a feel for the college (setting, structure, fellow students, etc)


What’s her intended major?

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Whichever would provide a more accommodating environment for her Aspergers.

My best guess is that the College of William & Mary might provide a better environment as Virginia is a very social, party oriented school (with great academics & bright students). William & Mary is more low key than Virginia with respect to parties.

Nevertheless, it would be hard to turn down UVa if one feels comfortable on the campus & has access to one’s preferred major.

P.S. Based on your prior posts, I wonder whether Emory University (as well as American University & Amherst College & Vassar College & Carleton College) might have been an option to consider. Virginia, even though fairly large at about 17,000 undergrads, is very social.

P.P.S. Although your daughter likes both schools, it would be helpful to know what she likes specifically about each school. Also, her intended major or career goal would help. In short,need more information about your daughter & her likes & dislikes before reasonable recommendations can be made.

I do not know much about Aspergers, but my impression is that a more academic / special interest focused environment might be better than a highly social environment fueled by alcohol.

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100% it will depend on how the school feels to your particular kid.

Major / career ≠ a deciding metric.

To borrow from another (very archaic) analogy, W&M is Betty to UVa’s Veronica. The personalities are chalk and cheese.

IF your daughter gets into both, go to the re-visit days and trust her reaction.

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Curious as to why you think that one’s major or career goals should not be a deciding factor when selecting a college or university ? ( I can understand for one who is undecided and considering LACs, but a bit risky for those targeting National Universities.)

(I do understand that students can & do change majors, but they also change schools & make other changes in life. So presuming that one might change majors is not a great basis for selecting a school.)

Selecting a school based on how it “feels” is risky during this time of a pandemic.

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These are both great schools but with different vibes. Many kids will gravitate more to one than the other.

In general, I agree that the major/career goals are a very relevant factor in choosing a college or university, but imo W&M and UVa are comparable enough for all but a tiny minority of students in their opportunities across fields. I know both schools pretty well & imo for a student who ‘likes’ both, isn’t particularly drawn to X department / program, and is trying differentiate between them the re-visit day is more relevant. They have strikingly different personalities or campus cultures, and I think fit is actually a particularly relevant and useful metric when deciding between these two.


Absolutely. We are Virginia residents. Our sons went to UVA and VT. Neither had interest in Wm & Mary because the fit was not there for them. But it WILL be for many so I agree that fit is very important.

Thanks everyone. You all make good points. She is probably a Political Science/International Relations major and looking to go to law school. She has s keen interest in studying abroad and is applying to W&M’s program with St. Andrews is Scotland (2 years in each place-- you apply for it along with reg admission). UVA has a particular major which piqued her interest early: Political Philosophy, Policy and Law. She has done quite a bit or research into it and finds it unique among the schools she is applying to-- I’ll list them at the end of this message for anyone interested. Having said that, I am aware that W&M has a neurodiversity initiative which is compelling, as my daughter has a diagnosis of Aspergers; she is open about it and included it not in her main essay, but in supplementals so schools will be aware. Finding a place that is sensitive to that is a big, big. deal. She is NOT a big party person but likes to be social, so she’s applying to live in Brown College@ Monroe Hill at UVA, which I understand to be a smaller (abt 300), more insulated, and quirky community. I’ve heard from a UVA graduate that Brown College would be a great place for someone with Aspergers to live/socialize. She will definitely be petitioning schools for a single, as her doctors feel strongly that being able to “get away from it all” will be essential to her mental health and academic success. She is a tremendous extrovert, but at the end of the day she needs quiet and the ability to retreat. She will not major in the arts, but loves them-- both visual and theatre and enjoys the company of arty kids (her father and I are both MFA people and she has grown up around both artists and academia). So, that’s a bit more about who she is and what she wants to do. Other schools she is applying to:

Macalester (target; accepted EA with good merit $)
Vassar (stretch)
Brown U (big stretch)
Wellesley (stretch)
Smith (target)
Bryn Mawr (soft target)
Mount Holyoke (soft target)
Trinity College (safety)
UMass Amherst (safety)
UConn (safety)

She applied to UVA EA and will hear mid Feb. She had Emory on her list but ultimately decided Virginia was as far south as she wanted to go (we are in Maine).


Since you are not Virginia residents, you probably don’t need to concentrate between UVA and William and Mary. You have plenty of other options and the Virginia schools are quite different in character and selectivity and cost. Good luck!

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My friend’s daughter with Aspergers (and several other conditions) thought she’d do better at a smaller school, but it didn’t turn out that way. First year at a school of about 6000 students but didn’t do well. Transferred to a school with 25000 and did much better. She just ignored the things at the bigger school that she didn’t like (which was most of it). At the bigger school, her classes were smaller because her major was very specialized and she knew the professors and advisers very well.

Anything can work. Anything can not work for a particular student.


You seem to know more than most about selecting schools.

Virginia’s PP&L major is great preparation for law school.

Hope that your daughter is admitted to the 2+2 program at St. Andrews & Wm. & Mary.

(I suggested Amherst College in another post in part because freshmen get single rooms–at least that is my understanding.)

Survey and outcomes data of recent graduates of Virginia public colleges (2007-2018), both UVA and W&M score very high. Posted here:


For law school, you’re better off going wherever you can get a high GPA. UVA and W&M are both known for rigor. W&M does have cool opportunities like the St Andrew’s program and lots of undergraduate research (due to lack of grad students). They also have a center for study in DC if your daughter would want to work there eventually. The campus is known for being very open and accepting of all kinds. You can even create your own major. UVA you may have to search a little more to find a niche. UVA you can sometimes get lost in the shuffle/competition amongst the large student body (that has lots of pre-law). That being said, PPL is a great small cohort interdisciplinary program. You also have to apply into the Brown residence hall which can be competitive. Both offer amazing opportunities. At the end of the day, any great student can find their place and be successful anywhere. (Source: UVA grad that works at W&M)


Your insight is much appreciated! Yes, my daughter has applied for the St. Andrews program at W&M (although she is keenly aware it is highly competitive and likely won’t get into it). She is still really excited about the PPL and in general, the magic of the UVA campus (it is the only campus we stepped foot on that actually made her bounce with excitement, although she liked many campuses). She has an Asperger’s diagnosis but is extremely high-functioning (an academic powerhouse and adequately social due to an analytic mind and human observation!) I think housing will be a very important component for her-- her doctor believes a single would be an important thing for her-- as she really has to “get away” and “retreat from stimulation” at the end of the day. Brown College at UVA sounded like a quirky place and I think her getting into a situation like that would work for her much better than some giant freshman dorm. I worry some about the housing at W&M-- as a lot of it looks pretty old and in need of updates/air conditioning, etc. I wonder as an employee of W&M if you could tell me how seriously W&M takes it’s ‘neurodiversity’ initiative or if that’s mostly just talk.

In the past, W&M has had a Bridge Program for Neurodiverse students to help acclimate themselves to the university. Here’s the site W&M Bridge Program | William & Mary

I would contact Student Accessibility Services sas@wm.edu to see about that and more programming given shifts to virtual events.

There is also a Neurodiversity Student Group - TribeLink with an email address listed as neurodiversitysg@email.wm.edu. I would try to contact them for a student’s perspective. That may be the most insightful. Hope those help!