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Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Building a freshman class: What William & Mary looks for in applications

Freshmen and transfer students moving into on-campus housing at William & Mary in 2018. (WYDaily/Courtesy Stephen Salpukas)
Freshmen and transfer students moving into on-campus housing at William & Mary in 2018. (WYDaily/Courtesy Stephen Salpukas)

It’s that time of the year again: Colleges are releasing their lists and demographics of the newest pool of accepted students.

On Thursday, William & Mary released the rundown for its newest class of admitted undergraduate students, keeping the freshman class size stable around 1,540 students despite a gradual increase in class size of the last decade.

Here’s the rundown:

  • Size: 1,540 students expected to enroll
  • 48 states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and 60 other countries
  • Students of color: 37 percent
  • International students: 7 percent
  • Median SAT score: 1470
  • Median ACT score: 33

So, what do those numbers about the newest freshman class at William & Mary show?

First, students from Virginia who apply to William & Mary are more likely to get admitted — the university received 14,670 applications for the class of 2023.

The school’s acceptance rate is around 45 percent for in-state students, and 29 percent for out-of-state, according to 2017-2018 data from the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia.

Second, William & Mary has worked to diversify the race and ethnicity makeup of its incoming classes, some of which can be attributed to a gradually changing applicant pool, said Tim Wolfe, associate provost for enrollment and dean of admission.

“It’s a holistic and it’s a dynamic process,” Wolfe said, adding admissions does not only look at test scores and extra curriculars. “We have background information the student provides in their application about their family, parents. We know if a student is a first-generation student … or from a single-parent household… That contextual information is something we can get from the application.”

How W&M picks its students

Overall, Wolfe said the application process for William & Mary is highly competitive, and officials look at numerous aspects of an application when considering a student for admission.

In the United States, college acceptance rates average about 65.4 percent, according to the most recent data available from the U.S. Department of Education.

Wolfe said William & Mary prioritizes in-state students and aims for them to make up about 65 percent of each incoming freshman class. The university does not focus on particular regions of the state.

“I would say it makes our job extraordinarily difficult because we’re not really bringing in or building one class,” Wolfe said. “… but from a building standpoint, a numbers standpoint, we’re looking to bring in a set number of in-state students and a set number of out-of-state students.”

For certain students, coming to the college for an interview during the application might be the best option. Wolfe said interviews are optional and run throughout the summer. The interviews are done by current William & Mary students.

Wolfe said that can be beneficial because it allows the student’s personality to come out stronger than it might on an application.


While class sizes have grown gradually over the last decade, so has the percentage of students of color in each class, SCHEV data shows.

University spokeswoman Suzanne Clavet said 32 percent of the class of 2019 — accepted in spring 2015 — included students of color. From there, it went down to 30 percent the following year, then climbed up each year to about 37 percent in the class of 2023.

SCHEV data also shows the percentage of enrolled white students slowly increased between 2009 and 2013, stabilizing around 59 percent since then.

Wolfe said William & Mary does look at a student’s race when reviewing an application, but it’s “one factor among many” when looking to contextualize a student’s application and experiences.

“Race and ethnicity is just one factor in that very large holistic process,” he added.

But it’s not only about accepting a diverse student class, it’s about getting those students to graduation. Wolfe said the college does well in minority retention because of the heavy focus on community. One of the sayings at the college, he said, is “If you come here, you belong here.”

“That’s a point of pride for us here at William & Mary. I think the reason we do well in that, in retention … it just goes back to that who we are as a university,” Wolfe said. “If you come to William & Mary, then this is your home.”

Alexa Doiron
Alexa Doiron
Alexa Doiron is a multimedia reporter for WYDaily. She graduated from Roanoke College and is currently working on a master’s degree in English at Virginia Commonwealth University. Alexa was born and raised in Williamsburg and enjoys writing stories about local flair. She began her career in journalism at the Warhill High School newspaper and, eight years later, still loves it. After working as a news editor in Blacksburg, Va., Alexa missed Williamsburg and decided to come back home. In her free time, she enjoys reading Jane Austen and playing with her puppy, Poe. Alexa can be reached at

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