W&M Academics/Grading Really that Hard?

<p>My younger sibling will be attending WM this comnig year and she's both excited and slightly worried about the rigor of W&M. </p>

<p>I attend a different, yet prestigious and challenging school up north, but have heard a lot of crazy stories about W&M from friends who attended from New Jersey and Virginia. ...I don't have any specific advice about the school to give her at the moment - it was her third choice (so she's still quite happy about it) - but curious about W&M's reputation as:</p>

<p>i.) a suicide/depression school - friends who've attended have said that students often come from well-to-do families with high expectations of them and when they aren't able to handle the academics very well they get very depressed and some commit suicide b/c of the rigor. FACT or MYTH? </p>


<p>ii.) no fun, all work, and brutal grading school - this was another reputation of W&M amongst four friends of mine who attended (they've all graduated now, but it wasn't taht long ago). How accurate did you find this characterization from your time at the school? Was it really THAT hard and literally all work and no play kind of an atmosphere? FACT or MYTH? </p>

<p>Lastly, what advice would you give an incoming frosh at the school who wants to do well and attend either law or medical school?</p>

<p>I can only comment on this as a Mom but both of my WM students have really enjoyed their time at “The College”. I think both of them would tell you that they have had to work very hard and make some choices between playing and studying (but they both have found plenty of time to enjoy life). Both have been involved in greek life as well as other organizations on campus. Both have also worked at a local hospital addition to going to school. Most important, both loved William and Mary! I have heard them say that if they had picked other schools to attend that their GPA’s would have probably been higher but they would not have learned as much and would not have been as proud of their accomplishments. They have made great friends and have fun memories of life in Williamsburg.
I think most WM students have gone through school being the cream of the crop. They get to WM and everyone there is the cream of the crop. I think you have to go to the college with the understanding that you probably will not get all A’s and there will be times you fall short of what you are used to. When my oldest graduated there were 4 students out of the entire graduating class that had a 4.0. Message: Work hard and be proud of what grades you earn-even if it is less than an “A”!<br>
Both of my kids have found the professors to be very kind, fair and helpful. They are very approachable and really want to see the students do well. William and Mary provided a great college experience, a great education and nice place for them to prepare for their next step in life. Tell your sister to get involved, make friends, study hard but find time to play. When things get tough, remind her to go to her professors for help. William and Mary is a wonderful school!</p>

<p>This past year, 2 students were recognized at graduation for posting 4.0 GPAs, and another, who actually received the school’s top academic award, was recognized for a “nearly perfect” GPA. So momto2 is right - students will probably fall short of the kind of grades that got them into the school in the first place. The average GPA for all undergrad students is 3.26, which is somewhat lower (but not extremely so) than at comparably selective schools. The last time I checked, the average freshman GPA was just over 3.1.</p>

<p>I do think that how well each student does has more to do with that student’s own work ethic and commitment to schoolwork than any overall grade deflation. It’s not a major party school, but there are social distractions at W&M too, and students need time to find their balance. As mom2to says, the faculty is very focused on undergrad students, very available to them. When my ds weren’t happy with their first grades in a class, they always found they could improve if they met individually with the professor to find out where they went wrong and what the prof was looking for.</p>

<p>Another Mom here, and I second/third the first two responses. My D, who graduated a year ago, had many distractions and challenges (chronic health conditions; romantic breakups; internet, club and social activities) but did very well–all too often by pulling all-nighters for papers and cramming for exams. Grading seemed very fair, not particularly brutal. </p>

<p>There are discussions of the suicide reputation in earlier threads. Nothing really happened during most of her four years, but there was a cluster of three just before or during her senior year. They really didn’t seem related to inability to handle academics.</p>

<p>If you want to do well and get into a good professional or graduate school, take advantage of the accessibility and support that most of the professors offer. The idea of getting to know at least one professor well each year, if not semester, will put you in a good position for internships or grad school. My daughter is quite reticent about developing such relationships, but she managed enough to get into her desired grad program!</p>

<p>lots of W&M students are upper-middle class (ish)… I don’t think that’s significantly different than other schools of comparable quality. Also, W&M students excelled in high school (again, not different than comparable schools). I think the numbers are roughly 90% of W&M students were in the top 10% of their high school class. Obviously, half of the W&M students will be in the bottom half of their W&M class.</p>

<p>The grading is tough and expectations are high, but it is fair. Professors are always open to talking with students. W&M students do work very hard on academics and many spend lots of time studying. I did not spend a lot of time studying, but I also didn’t have law/med school aspirations.</p>

<p>W&M students also have plenty of time to do non-academic things though. Greek life is active (but not in your face), intramural sports are very popular, community service is very big (300,000+ hours/year), the bars near campus are always overflowing on the weekends, etc</p>

<p>I don’t have the statistics, but I remember hearing about suicides there this year too…will see if I can find the article. I think there are several suicides…like three or four maybe?</p>

<p>there were a couple this, judging off my memory… but they aren’t b/c of the school.</p>

<p>I read in the alumni magazine (biased source? maybe) that W&M was one of the first schools to offer mental health services, so people assumed there was an out of the ordinary situation that required such services.</p>

<p>William and Mary Sophomore here. Workload is indeed heavy, and it is by no means easy to get an A, even when you think you deserve one, but when you do actually get that A, it feels all the more rewarding. My advice to an incoming freshman with law school aspirations is to stay on top of your work, don’t be afraid to contact professors with any questions (they are usually more than happy to help; I’ve only had one “bad” professor so far), develop a good study routine, and set realistic goals for yourself. As much as you try, constant perfection is not always attainable at WM, but if you try to do your own personal best, the results are more often than not satisfying.</p>

<p>To add onto what NoVaRes said, I am an incoming freshman and had concerns about course selection, so I emailed a professor and she has been nothing but helpful and honest. The professors seem really great and they really do just want to see their students succeed. With that said, this professor told me that while I may be an excellent student, I shouldn’t expect too much in the way of grades :/</p>

<p>I might be biased because I’m in a comparatively easy major (History), but I found my first year at W&M a lot easier than I expected and finished with a very good GPA. I had taken 6 AP courses during my senior year in high school, and my first semester at least was such a breeze compared to my senior year courseload. Plus, there’s the experience of taking classes in the subjects that interested me rather than required courses (even with GERs, there are so many choices!) that made writing papers and doing my readings feel like fun rather than work.
I think most of my friends who had taken very heavy courseloads in high school felt the same way. While the classes themselves at W&M are obviously more difficult, some students just react better to the college structure of not having the same schedule every day and having longer, more focuses classes, and I guess I was one of them. Based on the experience of my friends, I feel that getting straight As at W&M will only happen to the very bright and very hardworking, but it doesn’t take a lot to get by with Cs and Bs. When people are expecting straight As as in high school, that’s where they run into the problems, but if you’re happy getting a B in the class but still learning a lot, you will be fine.
As far as the suicide rate goes–that’s a really terrible myth. I believe there was one last year, which seems comparable to other schools of our magnitude, and while I don’t know the details, it was at the very beginning of the student’s second semester here so I find it unlikely to be academic-related.</p>

<p>Would you rather be at a school that has the football and basketball teams getting grades from non-existant classes? (ie U North Carolina) Once you have graduated you will have EARNED a degree from an institution that you can be proud of and one that colors people’s impression of you positively for your lifetime.</p>

<p>W&M grads and grades are respected. I wouldnt trade that for anything.</p>

<p>Do you feel that grad schools understand the differences in grading from William & Mary (like if you have a 3.2 GPA from W&M as opposed to a 4.0 from UNC, to use your example) and that a lower GPA from W&M won’t negatively affect your chances for grad school?</p>



<p>No chance of that much of an “adjustment” - maybe .10 or .20, but certainly not .80.</p>

<p>I think most graduate schools will grant some allowance for a school like W&M or Princeton (who has a notorious grade-deflation policy), but, at least for med school admissions, a 3.2 might well get filtered out at most schools - they’ll see the GPA, and put you in the “rejection” pile. </p>



<p>This is kind of a “FAQ”, so if you search some older threads, you should be able to find the answers you’re looking for. </p>

<p>For med school admissions, I’d recommend you read:</p>

<p><a href=“https://www.aamc.org/students/download/175214/data/timeline.pdf[/url]”>Applying to Medical School | AAMC</a>
[William</a> & Mary -*Pre-Med, Pre-Vet, Pre-Dentist, and Pre-Pharmacy Program](<a href=“http://www.wm.edu/as/undergraduate/advising/for_students/preprofessional/premed/index.php]William”>http://www.wm.edu/as/undergraduate/advising/for_students/preprofessional/premed/index.php)
[Health</a> Professions Advising: Bev Sher’s Homepage](<a href=“http://wmpeople.wm.edu/site/page/btsher]Health”>http://wmpeople.wm.edu/site/page/btsher)
<a href=“http://wmpeople.wm.edu/asset/index/btsher/earlyassuranceprograms[/url]”>http://wmpeople.wm.edu/asset/index/btsher/earlyassuranceprograms</a></p>

<p>Get involved in science research - preferably as a freshman - it’s almost mandatory for med school admissions. W&M has a lot of research opportunities, so take advantage. Also, try to spend at least 1 summer at the school doing research.</p>

<p>Volunteer and shadowing hours are important - I’d recommend you look for medically-related volunteer opportunities early, but perhaps wait until 2nd semester. You’ll want at least 200 hours volunteering, and at least 80 shadowing a doctor (but this can wait until 4th year, if necessary.)</p>

<p>Keep the GPA up - don’t over-schedule and tank your GPA. A 3.5 overall and a 3.4 science are your minimums for the Early Assurance programs at EVMS/VCU - having a guaranteed acceptance in your back pocket will take a lot of stress out of the applications process. </p>

<p>From AAMC, the mean matriculant data for 2011:</p>

<p>Cumulative GPA: 3.67
Science GPA: 3.61
Non-Science GPA: 3.74
MCAT total: 31.1</p>


<p>Grade inflation or deflation can be put in context a number of ways - for HS students, the ACT or SAT puts things on a national footing. For college students, it could be the GRE, or class rank. </p>

<p>Does W&M provide graduates with a class rank, to give context to a GPA which, relatively speaking, may be from a distribution with a lower mean than say other schools known for grade inflation? If I were an above-avg student at W&M I would probably want to call attention more to my class rank than GPA. </p>

<p>There have been other suggestions through the years, such as each grade being presented with a grade distribution for that class, or at least a percentile. This would be an even more significant help, because grade-inflation is not usually distributed evenly among major areas of study. It tends to be highest in the humanities, less so in social sciences, and least in the natural sciences, mathematics, and engineering.</p>

<p>If W&M provides grads with a class rank, neither of my kids who are alums ever mentioned it. Is it common for universities to do this? </p>

<p>If you scroll to the bottom of the link below, you’ll see the undergrad grade distribution for the past 5 years at W&M, as well as the average undergrad GPA. More grades in the A/A minus range than any other, which doesn’t really sound all that scary. [William</a> & Mary -*Transcript Key](<a href=“http://www.wm.edu/offices/registrar/studentsandalumni/studentrecords/transcripts/transkey/index.php]William”>http://www.wm.edu/offices/registrar/studentsandalumni/studentrecords/transcripts/transkey/index.php)</p>

<p>At the 2012 graduation ceremony, President Reveley singled out two graduates with perfect 4.0 GPAs, and another with a “nearly” perfect one. So that maybe does sound a little bit scary.</p>

<p>also pegs average undergrad GPA in the 3.2-3.25 range</p>

<p>doesn’t mean people don’t work hard for those though…</p>

<p>In the Government Department about 40% of all grades are A or A-. Maybe a little more. That should give you some idea of how hard the grading is.</p>

<p>On the question of depression/suicide, just relax. W&M students are overwhelmingly happy to be here. They like their classes. They are involved in a huge variety of activities. Some students are depressed, and some are bipolar, but so are students anywhere.</p>