How I Got Into William & Mary
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My first experience on the William & Mary (W&M) campus was during a tour. I noticed how the tour guide turned around to say hi to everyone who passed by, and I wanted to have that experience of knowing so many people. From that first moment, the campus felt like one big community, and this feeling was cemented when I bonded with my interviewer over Gilmore Girls during my admissions interview. I loved the feeling of everyone supporting one another. Now as a junior I can attest that my hopes were true. Students at W&M really do care about each other.
I went to a public high school in Northern Virginia that participated in the IB program instead of AP. I started thinking about college around the beginning of my junior year, but I really had no idea what I wanted. I decided to see a third party admissions counselor for some guidance. They helped me narrow my list and brainstorm my essays.
I decided to apply to W&M early decision. Of the other two colleges that I applied to, one had rolling admissions and the second I applied to early action. These early deadlines meant that I sent in all my applications by the beginning of December.
To cover my demographics in one go: I’m an Indian American and a U.S. citizen. I’m not a legacy or a first-generation student, but legacy doesn’t really hold a lot of weight at W&M anyway. I did apply for financial aid, which is need-based and merit based here. I also submitted an arts supplement because I sing and play the violin.
I didn’t receive a merit-based scholarship, but here are some links to help you apply! There are two main scholarships: the Monroe Scholarship and the 1693 Scholarship. The Monroe Scholarship gives research grants to students while the 1693 Scholarship is a full ride for in-state students and a partial ride for out-of-staters, in addition to research grants.
Like I mentioned earlier, my high school didn’t offer AP classes; instead we had the IB program, which has a lot more components. On top of taking eight IB courses, we’re expected to do 50 hours each for the domains of creativity, activity, and service. My unweighted GPA at the time of applying was 3.71 and my weighted GPA was 4.25; the average (weighted) GPA at W&M is 4.28. My high school didn’t do class rankings, but the average W&M student was in the top 25% of their graduating class.
These are the advanced courses I took during high school:
- IB Chemistry 1
- IB English Literature 1
- IB History of the Americas
- IB Math 1
- IB Biology 1
- IB French 1
- IB Theory of Knowledge
- IB English Literature HL 2
- IB History World Topics
- IB Math SL 2
- IB Biology HL 2
- IB French Language and Literature SL 2
- IB Theory of Knowledge
- IB Social and Cultural Anthropology
I ended up taking both the SAT and ACT because I wanted to cover all my bases, but it’s definitely not required to do so. I used a tutoring service for both tests and only took them once.
Here’s my score breakdown:
SAT Composite: 1420
Evidence-Based Reading and Writing: 710
ACT Composite: 34
Since I only submitted one score for both, my scores weren’t superscored. However, W&M does superscore in general. The middle 50% of SAT scores for W&M students is 1320-1510, and for ACT scores it’s 30-34. The SAT Subject Tests are optional.
Extracurriculars and Awards
- Field Hockey: goalkeeper; team leader on the field; undefeated 2015 conference champions
- Basketball: Sportsmanship Award; decided by team vote, given to player who best embodied kindness and encouragement
- Violinist in the most advanced school orchestra; performed five concerts per year
- Violinist in string quartet; yearly performances
- Superior rating at American Strings Teachers’ Association’s Certificate Achievement Program three years in a row
Classical Singer (9-12)
- Participated in multiple Northern Virginia Music Teachers’ Association competitions and studio recitals every year
Science Olympiad (11-12)
- Participated in various science-based events to compete for first through sixth place; placed fifth in Forensics in 2017
Virginia Governor’s French Language Academy
- Three week full French immersion program in Summer 2017
- Rigorous application process; teacher nomination followed by written and speaking tests
Community Service (9-12)
- Make-A-Wish Club co-founder; ran food/toy drives, make holiday cards for children in hospitals
- Volunteer at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital in the Occupational Health Office
I was also a peer tutor and belonged to multiple National Honors Societies. I know this seems like a lot, but you’d be surprised how much you’re already doing! Don’t feel pressured to add activities to your plate to make yourself seem more well-rounded; it’s much better to really care about the couple things you’re doing rather than take on a bunch of random extracurriculars. There are also ways to spin the activities you’re involved in so that they seem diverse and varied. Think about the impact you’re having on others and what skills you’re learning in these activities to strengthen your application.
I had to apply through both the Common App and the Coalition App, because between the three colleges I applied to they ended up using both platforms.
The Common App personal essay prompt: Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.
Here’s an excerpt from my personal essay:
After encouragement from my tenth- and eleventh-grade French teachers, I applied to the Virginia Governor’s French Language Academy on a whim…I was ready to retreat back into myself, to become the person that the public saw. No initiating conversations, no raising my hand, just keeping to myself. I did not know anyone, so this seemed like the best and most obvious course of action. But the people were so nice, so friendly- so much like me- that I was instantly at ease. Slowly, I started to change. I was happy. I made friends. I did not want to put on a façade. I conversed with everybody, students and faculty alike, and for the first time in my life, I felt… free. Comfortable. Being completely cut off from the outside world and forced to speak a foreign language for three weeks while interacting with the same 60 people day after day meant that we formed lasting bonds. My friends and I are still in contact, both online and through rendez-vous in person, two months after the end of the academy. I’ve realized that the friends we make are only temporary if we treat them that way. Our relationships are in our control. I know that this lesson will stay with me, especially as I begin college.
The friends I made at Governor’s School are so dear to me, so cherished, because they accepted the real me. They made me feel comfortable in my own skin. I will forever be grateful to them for allowing me to be myself, and for loving me for it.
W&M also had an option to submit an additional essay.
Prompt: Beyond your impressive academic credentials and extracurricular accomplishments, what else makes you unique and colorful?…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.
Here’s an excerpt from my essay:
Baking has always been a favorite pastime of mine. It is a science, a chemistry; I have always felt that the attention to detail it demands has allowed me to become more focused in other aspects of my life, too. Baking serves as a way for me to decompress, whether from a math test that did not go quite as planned, to preparing an English presentation that is just not working, to the ever-growing pile of homework burning holes in my bag. When I bake, I can forget about the real world for a couple of hours and lose myself in the calming precision that is making madeleines, creating a cake, or even layering a lasagna. Afterwards, I can go back to my work with a fresh mind and re-energized ideas.
Above all, baking is a connection. The act of “breaking bread” has always been seen as an act of peace, of communion – how is “breaking brownies” any different? Food brings people together, one satisfied stomach at a time. When I am the one who makes that happen, I feel like it is what I was meant to do.
Letters of Recommendation
W&M asks for one to two letters of recommendation. I asked my biology and history teachers; since I developed good working relationships with both of them. They were both very happy to write the letters and I made sure to ask two teachers that I had in my junior year so that I could present W&M with more recent insight into my academics.
W&M offers interviews that are actually conducted by current seniors at the college. I really enjoyed the experience of talking to an actual student, because I was able to ask them questions about the school that may not have been answered as thoroughly if I had been speaking with an adult who had never had a student experience at W&M. If you’re able to do an interview, I would highly recommend it because W&M cares about something called demonstrated interest, which is where the applicant goes out of their way to show that they are interested in the college. Smaller schools generally consider this in the application process, so an interview really does give you a bit of a leg up in those cases.
Wrapping it Up
Before I wrap up, I just wanted to share some helpful links. This is a really nice application checklist that W&M has, so you can make sure you’ve got all components together. Like I mentioned earlier, visiting or interviewing at W&M can really help because you’ll be showing demonstrated interest, so here’s a link for visits, tours, and interviews.
If there’s one tip I could give you, it’s that W&M really cares about its students. They want to know what makes you unique, what your quirks are, and how you would round out the student body. So if you do end up submitting a supplemental essay, make sure to really tell a story that makes you stand out—even if it’s a little weird. We embrace that here!
Overall, I’m really happy at W&M. I’ve met so many great people, I love my classes, and the professors are amazing. I know that the college application process is terrifying and nightmaric at times, but there really is a light at the other end of the tunnel.
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