William & Mary (OOS) vs University of Richmond

How would you choose between these two schools ?

Some background, D17 is South Asian, from a very competitive high school in NJ, planning to major in Economics, might minor in computer science and/ or public policy (President of school Model Congress club). Bit introverted, loves reading, chatting with small group of close friends, definitely not the party type (at least so far !)

She has a Presidential Scholarship (1/3rd tuition) from University of Richmond and we’re OOS for William & Mary so costs are comparable and finances aren’t an issue

We visited both schools last year before everything shut down, liked both campuses, no strong preference towards either - didn’t dig too deep on culture, a miss in hindsight

Would love advice from students/ parents of kids in these school or anyone else familiar with the two schools. @shawnspencer @guineagirl96 Would love your thoughts !!

What’s are the big differences between them in terms of academics, professor relationships, grades ? Is the Econ department at one very different from the other ?

What about school culture - ideas on how to better understand this ? Looks like schools won’t really have admitted student events this year, so we’re really struggling with how to make a decision

My impression is that the College of William & Mary has stronger academics & has a more intellectual campus culture than does the more pragmatic University of Richmond.


I would also love to know more about the culture of both schools – I’ve read some worrisome things about racism at University of Richmond, segregated campus and that it’s pretty conservative politically.

Anyone have experience with this? Is William & Mary more liberal?

In this respect, the College of William & Mary is more accepting/liberal.

Social justice is very important to my liberal freshman at Richmond, and he says that UR has been good. I was concerned through the election but he said it was good there. I do wish there was more diversity but I am pretty sure W&M is no better there.

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I have a junior at Richmond. We are a very liberal family. He feels the campus is more liberal than conservative, and that the incident that’s been spoken about was addressed immediately, followed by ongoing school presentations and discussions with advisors. They are, as many campuses are, working on inclusivity. He also said there aren’t a lot of Trump followers.

Interestingly, the percentages on racial diversity are somewhat similar (college factual), except that Richmond has a larger percentage of international students and a much higher percentage of Black faculty. President Crutcher discusses race in the following Higher Ed piece, and recently on the PBS Newshour. He’s incredibly inspirational.


Most colleges tend toward the liberal side these days. I’d say William & Mary is probably a bit more liberal than Richmond, but it is difficult to say.

William & Mary is a mid-sized school, but it still has nearly twice the undergraduate enrollment of Richmond, which is a larger LAC. You can see diversity of enrollment on the Common Data Set for each school. They are relatively similar, but William & Mary has a higher Asian enrollment at over 10% for the most recent class vs. about 6% at Richmond. William & Mary, as a state school, will have about 2/3rds from Virginia, so Richmond will have more geographic diversity. According to Princeton Review surveys, race relations are much stronger at William & Mary than Richmond.

You should never choose schools solely by appearances, but to my eye, these are two of the most attractive schools in the country. Richmond is closer to a larger city, but the campus itself is a bit isolated in that you can’t walk easily to a nearby area with stores and restaurants like you can at William & Mary.

I think of William & Mary as more academic (interested in learning) vs. Richmond being a bit more pre-professional (more thinking about career vs learning). That is just my impression. Both should have very good access to professors, emphasis on teaching, etc. You can see survey data for this type of thing on Niche.

Both have good business schools. William & Mary shows up on the College Transitions list for best colleges for economics.

Since this is a difficult year to get a feel for schools due to Covid, Princeton Review has some good information and some other books do as well. Here are some review type ratings from Princeton Review:

William & Mary
Best Value Colleges w/o Aid #12
Top 75 - Best Value Colleges #43
Best Alumni Network #25
Best Career Services #14
Best College Library #8
Best Quality of Life #15
Best Schools for Internships #17
Best Science Lab Facilities #10
Happiest Students #4
Impact Schools #16
LGBTQ-Friendly #18
Lots of Race/Class Interaction #3
Most Engaged in Community Service #7
Most Popular Study Abroad Program #8
Their Students Love These Colleges #14

University of Richmond
Top 75 - Best Value Colleges #62
Best Athletic Facilities #7
Best Campus Food #14
Best Career Services #6
Best Classroom Experience #9
Best College Library #11
Best Counseling Services #11
Best Quality of Life #9
Best Schools for Internships #6
Best-Run Colleges #4
Happiest Students #14
Little Race/Class Interaction #10
Lots of Beer #2
Lots of Greek Life #19
Most Accessible Professors #15
Most Beautiful Campus #1
Most Popular Study Abroad Program #13
Professors Get High Marks #19
Their Students Love These Colleges #12


W&M for me. Very prestigious school. Three U.S. presidents attended there.

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Thank you for the detailed reply. Your impression of W&M as more academic vs URichmond as more pre-professional is also what we gather from reading these forums as others online. Is your impression based on actual experience with these schools ? Do others have any perspective on this as well as on the ease of integrating into the community at Richmond for a South Asian kid ?

Hi @wwphsnmom ! Thank you for thinking of me. As I mentioned in another recent post, it has been ages since I have logged onto College Confidential, so it has changed quite a bit since I last logged on. I am happy to help answer questions about William & Mary here.

I think your daughter will fit in great at William & Mary. I think it is the place that has a great mix of introverted and extroverted students, and I think students will find a place regardless of what social scene they like to explore. William & Mary is known for its down to earth, intelligent, community minded students that really want to make an impact on the world.

In general, I think William & Mary is just the right size. When I started off looking at schools, I started off looking at many smaller schools more similar to smaller liberal arts colleges. In hindsight, I am very happy that I chose a school with the size of W&M, which has incredible small class sizes (most econ classes will likely be 35 and under), has a really strong sense of community, but you are constantly meeting new people.

For a student like your daughter, I think you will find that the public policy and economic programs quite strong, and students are heavily involved in civic engagement. The international relations club is the biggest club on campus, and several students are involved in the Global Research Institute (that does research on things like diplomacy, international development, and more). I highly recommend checking it out: Global Research Institute | William & Mary William & Mary has one of the highest study abroad rates as well – so very worldly.

William & Mary is also well known for its quality of teaching. I’ve only taken one economics class while I was at William & Mary, but even though it was an introductory course – the professor took the time to have office hours at a local coffee shop before every midterm to answer questions for several hours at a time, and was one of the kindest I have met. I looked this up a couple of years ago, but William & Mary had tied with Mount Holyoke with the the most professors in a Princeton Review book of “Top 300 professors in the Country.”

I think also broadly speaking, because students are engaged about these topics outside of just academics it is not uncommon to see students discussing these topics outside of the classroom. You’ll find numerous students that love reading and having discussions about books that they have read. Even after graduating, I am constantly learning new things from my peers that I met at William & Mary and many do stay in touch.

If your daughter is interested in working in DC after graduation, it has a wonderful semester, summer, or winter programs in DC – and it has a very strong network in that area, which can certainly help her find a job after graduation. A couple of years ago, because of students civic engagement, they elected the first Asian American city councilman and William & Mary alumnus shortly after graduating.

I think you will find that William & Mary does have a strong South Asian community. The South Asian Student Association is one of the largest on campus, and they constantly host shows and invite other student organizations from other schools to perform on campus. There are numerous dance groups that are affiliated with the South Asian community, at least three that comes to the top of mind. Also as someone that was very involved in APIA and multicultural spaces when i was on campus, I think it was very helpful for navigating my own sense of identity.

William & Mary, as of a couple of years ago, was one of the first campuses to establish an APIA studies department, largely thanks to student activism. By taking classes in Asian American history and even an Asian American theater course, I was able to delve deeper in that specific aspect of identity and learn things I think I would not have anywhere else. Years later, I am deeply appreciative of that fact. One of my friends (who I think is still there) just self designed and co-teaches a course on South Asian Diaspora History at W&M with a professor from the department, and it sends students all over the world for internships.

William & Mary also has a good number of students from New Jersey, and is the second most popular state behind Virginia, and a number of my good friends are from there. Although I have not attended URichmond, I would say what I have heard over the years is in line with what @IzzoOne has described so far.

A number of my friends have also pursued higher education after graduation, and have been incredibly successful. Granted it might just be the people that I have surrounded myself with, but names like Yale, Emory, JHU, Penn, Colombia, and more all pop up and a. number of friends have earned Fulbright awards. I think University of Richmond and W&M have incredibly beautiful campuses, but I think when it comes down to it – which one would fit your daughter in terms of personality and her long term goals would be something to consider.

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@shawnspencer Thank you so much for that incredibly detailed response, that’s very useful and valuable to get your perspective as an alumnus.

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To @shawnspencer ‘s point, your student will have a plethora of grad study opportunities after W&M it that’s what they are after. I am a W&M graduate (2008). I have a law degree, master’s, and am working on a second master’s at Columbia (NY). I’m in the process of looking at doctorate programs at W&M (applied), Vanderbilt (applied), Johns Hopkins, UPenn, and UVA. W&M has a special learning community that feels as much like an Ivy (I attend Columbia) as you could expect. Differences are celebrated and respected at W&M. It’s what makes the learning culture so vibrant and inclusive. I believe that your student would likely feel quite at home there. I never felt as though the student body was all that homogeneous. Many students from diverse backgrounds and perspectives. Best of luck with the big decision. :slight_smile: