The College of William & Mary Guide

The Ivy Scholars guide to William & Mary’s culture, admissions, and other essential information for prospective students and their families.

Location: Williamsburg, Virginia

Mascot: Griffin

Type: Public Research Institution

Population: 8,800 (6,400 undergrads)

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About William & Mary

William & Mary is the second oldest institution of higher education in the United States, after Harvard University. Several American presidents are alumni of the school. Noted for many firsts in American higher education, including the first fraternity. One of the school’s earliest goals was to educate both colonists and Native American young men. Founded under a royal charter with letters issued by King William III and Queen Mary II. The campus spans 1200 acres, and is considered one of the most beautiful campuses in America.

William & Mary Statistics

Year Founded: 1693

4 Year Graduation Rate: 85%

Gender Distribution: 59% female, 41% male

Acceptance Rate: 37%

Residency: 62% in state, 31% out of state, 7% international

Location Type: Suburban

Schedule System: Semesters

Student/Faculty Ratio: 12:1

Average Class Size: 20

Demographics: 55% Caucasian, 12% Other, 11% Asian, 9% Hispanic, 6% Black

Need assistance with the college admissions process?

National Rankings

US News Rankings:

  • #5 Best Undergraduate Teaching
  • #12 Top Public Schools
  • #13 Undergraduate Research/Creative Projects
  • #14 First Year Experiences
  • #18 Best Colleges for Veterans
  • #40 National Universities

Independent Rankings:

  • #9 Public Colleges per Forbes
  • #21 Research per University World Ranking
  • #45 Best Value for Your Money per Money Magazine
  • #47 Top Colleges per Forbes
  • #53 Best Value Colleges in America per Niche
  • #61 Best Value Colleges per Forbes
  • #79 Overall per University College Rankings
  • #89 Colleges with the Best Professors in America per Niche

William & Mary Admissions Information

Application Deadlines:

  • Early Decision I: November 1st
  • Early Decision II: January 1st
  • Regular Decision: January 1st
  • Transfer Deadline: March 1st

Notification Dates:

  • Early Decision I: Early December
  • Early Decision II: Early February
  • Regular Decision: April 1st
  • Transfer: May 1st

Acceptance Rates:

  • ED: 58%
  • RD: 37% 
  • Transfer: 52%

Average Applicant Pool: 14,700

Average Number of Applicants Accepted: 5,400

Average Number Enrolled: 1,500

Application Systems: Common App, Coalition App

Average GPA: 4.27 weighted

SAT Scores: 25th% – 1320, 75th% – 1510

ACT Scores: 25th% – 30, 75th% – 34

*Test mandatory. Writing sections are not required.

Demonstrated Interest:

William & Mary does not consider demonstrated interest.

Recommendation Letter Policies:

They require one letter from a guidance counselor. You can send additional letters, but no more than two.

William & Mary Essay Prompts:

  • Beyond your impressive academic credentials and extracurricular accomplishments, what else makes you unique and colorful? We know nobody fits neatly into 500 words or less, but you can provide us with some suggestion of the type of person you are. Anything goes! Inspire us, impress us, or just make us laugh. Think of this optional opportunity as show and tell by proxy and with an attitude.
  • How to write supplemental essays

Special Notes:

It should be noted that students apply for liberal arts ed without a declared major and are expected to take two years to explore various academic disciplines. Students wishing to major in business must apply once they are already students at the school. The same goes for students wishing to study education.


  • Students must apply using the Common App.
  • High school and college transcripts are required, as is a college report. 
  • Standardized test scores are optional for transfer students.
  • An arts submission may be included if you would like to demonstrate your talent.
  • Recommended courses for transfer students.
  • Students in Virginia Community Colleges may earn guaranteed admission if they meet certain criteria.

William & Mary Admission Strategy

Admissions Criteria:

Important: GPA, course rigor, class rank, test scores, essay, recommendations, extracurriculars, talent, character, and state residency. 

Considered: legacy status, first-generation status, geographic origin, race/ethnicity, and interview.

Recruited athletes do have a slight advantage in the admissions process, though they must still meet the academic benchmarks.

What is William and Mary Looking for?

William and Mary practices holistic admissions, which means they want to see both academic achievement, and who the student is as a person. While weak academics will make admissions more difficult, perfect academics do not guarantee acceptance. They want to see the entire story of the student, what they’re passionate about, and how those passions will play out if they are admitted.

William and Mary is trying to grow the overall enrollment in the school. They are, however, deeply worried about how they are perceived, especially in terms of selectivity and overall rankings. While the school downplays how much it cares, it is caught in a bind by wanting to admit more students, but also not wanting to slip out of the top 40 in the rankings. The need for more students comes from a need to address rising costs, while fewer students are applying overall each year.

Admission is more difficult for out-of-state students, as the school is a public one in Virginia, and so the majority of the student body must come from within the state. Here, they are competing for the state’s top students with UVA and with other highly ranked schools outside the state.

The school cares a lot about mid-year grade reports, to see how the student is doing in the senior year and to gauge their current performance against their track record. A very strong performance senior year can send a candidate over the edge, while a weaker one can reverse previously favorable views.

William and Mary Strategy:

While the supplemental essay is technically optional, it is one of the “optional” requirements which is nothing but. It is an important way to demonstrate your character and passions to the admissions committee, and to give them deeper insight into your personal narrative.

Applying Early Decision is a very good way to boost your chances of admission. Schools appreciate the commitment shown by ED admits generally, and the binding decision allows William and Mary to fill their class early and depress the RD acceptance rate, something many top schools do.

Applying Early Decision II is a good option if you aren’t ready to apply by the ED deadline. The advantage given by applying ED II is smaller than the one given for applying ED, but it still gives a boost to admissions chances. This is a good way to boost your odds if you missed the ED deadline, or if you were rejected by your first choice school ED, and William and Mary is your second choice.

While interviews are optional, they can greatly help an application if you complete one. It will not be counted against you if you are unable to, but can add points or fill in gaps in your narrative if you do.

The college is a liberal arts school first, and while they do have a very strong business program, freshmen are not allowed to enter it directly. For the application to the college, it is therefore best to focus on what about the liberal arts portion of the school you relate to. It is wonderful to be interested in business, but for a liberal arts institution like William and Mary, coming across as too focused on career or financial success can be detrimental.

William & Mary Academics


Core Requirements:

  • The core curriculum at William & Mary is unique as it lasts all four years. The goal is to connect and integrate knowledge across the academic disciplines.
  • Core College Curriculum

Programs of Study: 

  • The most popular majors are: Social Sciences; Biological and Biomedical Sciences; Business, Management, Marketing, and Related Support Services; Multi/Interdisciplinary Studies; and Parks, Recreation, Leisure, and Fitness Studies.
  • It is relatively easy to change majors.
  • 62 Minors Offered
  • Course Catalog

AP Credit Policies:

  • William & Mary accepts test scores on Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate examinations for credit from incoming students. Typically, a score of 4 or 5 on an AP exam or a score of 5, 6 or 7 on a Higher Level IB exam will earn a student credit and/or exemption.
  • Detailed Breakdown

Special Programs

Honors Programs:

  • Departmental honors provides eligible students with the opportunity to complete two semesters, with 6 credits of research projects under faculty supervision and ends in the culmination of a thesis and an oral defense.
  • It should be noted that not all departments award a hierarchy of honors, such as high honors, and that some only designate a student with honors.
  • Honors upon graduation are independent of departments and will be awarded as follows: Summa cum laude (overall grade point average >3.80), Magna cum laude (>3.65), and Cum laude (>3.50). This honor is noted on the student’s diploma and on the academic transcript.

Research Availability:

Study Abroad: 

Business Options: 

  • Ranked #34 in Best Business Schools per Bloomberg
  • The Business School offers four majors, and must be applied to separately by students who wish to major in business.
  • The school also offers minors, these also require an application to take.
  • Concentrations Offered: accounting, consulting, entrepreneurship, finance, general management, health care administration, international business, leadership, marketing, production/operations management, organizational behavior, supply chain management/logistics, and quantitative analysis/statistics and operations research.

Pre-Med Options:

  • No pre-med offered. Pre-professional program advisors are available to help you make sure you are taking courses that will ensure your readiness to enter into that program upon the completion of your undergraduate degree.

Pre-Law Options:

  • No pre-law offered. Pre-professional program advisors are available to help you make sure you are taking courses that will ensure your readiness to enter into that program upon the completion of your undergraduate degree.

Computer Science Options: 

Additional Specialty Programs: 

  • Accelerated masters degrees in several areas allow you to complete your bachelors degree and then with one additional year you will complete your masters: Computer Science, Public Policy, and Education.

Programs for High Schoolers:

  • Pre-College Programs rising seniors and newly graduated students can take college courses for credit in the summer at William & Mary.
  • The Pre-College Program in American History offers high school students the ability to study at WIlliam & Mary over the summer earning four college credits. This opportunity is unique because you learn in textbooks and travel to significant historical sites to mesh the dynamics of history together.

Student Life at William & Mary

School Motto: I can’t, I need to study

Mission and Values:

  • Mission: A preeminent, public research university grounded in the liberal arts and sciences since 1693, William & Mary is a vibrant and inclusive community. Through close mentoring and collaboration, we inspire lifelong learning, generate new knowledge, and expand understanding.
  • Values: belonging, curiosity, excellence, flourishing, integrity, respect and service.
  • Additional Information
  • Student Testimonials: (Unigo, Cappex, Students Review)

Residential Housing System:

William and Mary offers both hall and suite style housing for under and upperclassmen. Special interest housing is also available for students looking for a designated community. Some students choose to live in Greek housing as well. Students are able to live in coed rooms, not just dorms, by special request.

Housing Statistics:

  • 100% of Freshmen and 75% of Sophomores live on-campus
  • 71% of undergrads live on campus overall

Campus & Surrounding Area:  



  • Opening Convocation leads all new students through the Wren Portico and then a picnic dinner with live music.
  • Raft debate – faculty members representing different disciplines are stranded on an island and each must convince the audience they are the rightful person to sail back to civilizaiton. 
  • Yule log occurs right before winter break where students are treated to live holiday music, and warn cider and sugar cookies.
  • Charter Day in February is when students celebrate the birth of their school from the king and queen of England.
  • LDOC – Last day of spring classes is greeted with lots of celebrations including the university throwing a huge party with food and games.
  • The King & Queen formal ball celebrated by the entire student body for the conclusion of the academic year includes food, music, dancing late into the night and a toast by the president of the university.

Student-Run Organizations: 


Greek Life: 

  • 33 percent of women and men participate in Greek life. Chapters at W&M include 16 Fraternities and 13 Sororities. With ⅓ of students participating in Greek life it has an impact on the culture of the university’s student life.


Financial Information

Yearly Cost of Attendance:

  • Total: $40,034
  • Tuition: $17,434
  • Fees: $6,194
  • Room & Board: $13,356
  • Incidentals and Supplies: $3,050

Financial Aid:

Offers Grants, Loans, and Student Employment & Work-Study to help students create a package to afford their stay at W&M. The School of Education Financial Aid offers departmental scholarships.


Fun Facts

  • Harvard opened first, but William & Mary had already been planned.
  • Three U.S. presidents went to school at William & Mary: Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe, and John Tyler. George Washington would be number four if we count his surveyor’s license.
  • One of only 8 public Ivies, meaning it is a state assisted institution that offers a superior education at a cost much lower than some Ivy League Schools.
  • The Wren Building is the oldest college building still standing in the U.S., and classes are still taught there.
  • Legend states, every couple who share a kiss on the crest of the Crim Dell will be together forever.
  • The youngest coach in the NFL, Mike Tomlin, head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers, played football for William & Mary.
Wendy Y.
Below is my son's review. He was accepted to his dream Ivy League school!

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