The College of WIlliam and Mary is the second oldest institute of higher education in the nation, second only to Harvard University
. While technically a university
, the college retained its title for the sake of tradition, which plays a large part in college life there. W&M was founded in 1693
in Williamsburg, Virginia
, thanks to a Royal Charter
from the British monarchs King William and Queen Mary, the only institution in the United States
to have one. William and Mary also has the oldest law school in the nation. It joined the colonies in cutting all ties with the British Empire
and remained a private institution until 1906
when it became a state-sponsored school. It first began admitting women in 1918
. It is the first school to implement an honor code
and was the home of the first chapter of Phi Beta Kappa
. Famous graduates include George Washington
, Thomas Jefferson
, James Monroe
, John Tyler
, Glenn Close
, Mark McCormack and John Stewart
. Chancellors of the College have included Chief Justice Warren Burger
, Margaret Thatcher
and Henry Kissinger
William and Mary is an academically rigorous liberal arts school with strong programs in biology, english, history and business administration. It has 36 undergraduate programs as well as professional schools of business administration, law and education. However, W&M emphasizes undergraduate education and, as a policy, has no classes that are taught by TAs. Classes are generally small and students get to know their professors quite well. It is very difficult to simply coast by at William and Mary. Most classes require quite a bit of work.
W&M is located at the western end of Duke of Gloucester Street (known to students as DOG Street), the main thoroughfare of Colonial Williamsburg, which extends for about a mile to the east of the college grounds. Students at the college are given a free pass to any of the activities and attractions in CW (as it is called). The atmosphere of Colonial Williamsburg extends into the college, giving the school very historic and distinguished air. The first thing one sees upon entering the campus from CW is the Wren Building, the oldest educational building still in use today. It is assumed to have been designed by Sir Christopher Wren (though, in fact, it has burned down two or three times since its first incarnation). Also in the main courtyard is the President's house, currently occupied by Timothy Sullivan.
On the other side of Wren, there lies the Sunken Garden, flanked on both sides by old, ivy-covered academic buildings housing the History, Music, Anthropology, Computer Science and other departments. The Sunken Garden is a magnificent Ultimate Frisbee (the school has the 4th best UF team in the nation, btw) field as it actually bears much less resemblance to a garden than it does to a large expanse of grass. Also in the general area of the Sunken Garden is the Monroe Building, home to the college's freshman Monroe Scholars, the Campus Center (which is geographically as far from the center of campus as possible), as well as most of the administrative buildings and other lovely residence halls. These and the surrounding areas make up the majority of Old Campus.
The rest of the campus lies to the West and contains much more recent additions, such as the school's rec center and sports facilities, science buildings, Phi Beta Kappa Hall and the more modern residence halls. The school owns Lake Matoaka, a respectably-sized body of water on the shore of which is the Lake Matoaka Amphitheatre, a ramshackle, old roman-style one that is great for watching meteor showers, but has seen better days. A large chunk of the nearby woods are owned by the college and are kept in their natural state for the students to appreciate.
Housing can vary wildly on campus, from the old, rustic charm of Talliferro (pronounced Tolliver, believe it of not. Those crazy Welsh...), to the cramped, cockroach-ridden slums of Spotswood (where they house students involved in the school's community service program), to the cozy, suite-bathroomed luxury of Dupont. Sophomores are not guaranteed housing, as there is a slight shortage, and as a result have to draw straws on a rather large scale. Those lucky enough get to live in a lodge, a small building with all the comforts of home for 10 lucky students, located right near University Center and The Daily Grind, and that leads us to....
William and Mary is probably on the quiet side as far as the party life goes. College officials will be more than happy to tell you all about how sober W&M students are. They're simply too busy to be otherwise. Nonetheless, the frat scene is far from nonexistent and the usual array of parties await those who are so inclined. Major fraternities on campus include Sigma Alpha Epsilon, Pi Kappa Alpha and Kappa Alpha. Some of the predominant sororities are Delta Delta Delta, Kappa Kappa Gamma and Alpha Chi Omega. One can also join the music fraternity Phi Mu Alpha and Nu Kappa Epsilon or the service fraternity Alpha Phi Omega which is coed.
The food on campus is edible, though, as with most places, it varies on a day to day basis. There are three main dining halls, The Marketplace at the Campus Center, The University Center and The Commons (known colloquially as The Caf). It's also possible to get food at Lodge One in the basement of the University Center at most hours of the day or night and chill in front of a big honkin' TV or take in the evening's UCAB offerings which include performances by students or occasionally professional comedians and the like. Just out the door from Lodge One is The Daily Grind, the college's coffee shop. If you're still desperate for food, there's always the College Delly (I recommend the cheeseburger sub) or Chanello's Pizza (open til 3AM).
The major drawbacks to the William and Mary are the somewhat bland and preppy student body and the school's current financial crisis. If you're one of the crowd, I'm sure it's a great place to go, but if you're not much of a social butterfly, you may have a hard time finding people to hang out with. The student body is also very conservative, in general. Despite popular belief, W&M is not the "college suicide capital of the U.S." as VT_Hawkeye so eloquently put it. Depression is not uncommon, however. Princeton Review quotes a student as saying, "Though half of the students are probably depressed, there exists an undeniable spirit of solidarity among them." Take that as you will. As a state school, the college has fallen on hard economic times, of late. Budget cuts have forced the school to axe much of the kinesiology program and raise tuition. While this still leaves the school very affordable, it is a shame that public education should be forced to become more expensive. All in all, though, W&M is not a bad place to go to school. The teachers know what they're talking about, and the classes are interesting, by and large. The campus is gorgeous and, if you don't mind hot summers, is a great place to just go out for a walk and take in the sights, particularly if you're a fan of colonial history.