How to Get Into William and Mary

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The College of William & Mary is a public research university in Williamsburg, Virginia with a total student enrollment of about 9,500. It is considered a “Public Ivy,” and U.S. News and World Report ranks it among the Top 10 public universities in the nation. It’s also ranked in the Top 40 of all universities—both public and private—nationwide.

Beloved by its students and known for its academic excellence and wide-ranging student opportunities, William & Mary is a competitive university. That’s why we’re here to help you boost your chances of admission! In this guide, we’ll give you the data, information, and advice you need to stand out from the competition and earn an acceptance letter to William & Mary.

About William & Mary

Founded in 1693, William & Mary is the second-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States (and the ninth oldest in the English-speaking world).  It’s best known for its top-notch undergraduate teaching, gorgeous campus, and rigorous, interdisciplinary curriculum. Professors take the time to get to know their students, and opportunities for innovative student-faculty research are abundant.

The university has excellent facilities, with its libraries and science labs ranked among the nation’s best. It’s also known for its superb career services and career placement, ensuring students can lead successful post-college careers.

William & Mary students are described as motivated and passionate, and they say the campus is a positive, friendly place to learn and live. In fact, the Princeton Review says William & Mary is home to the fourth happiest students in the nation. Princeton Review also ranks William & Mary in the Top 15 for Quality of Life and for the category “Their Students Love These Colleges.”

There are many on-campus activities, organizations, and events for students to enjoy, and trips to nearby Colonial Williamsburg and the beach are also popular. Most students participate in community service, internship opportunities, and/or study abroad programs.

In short, William & Mary is a prestigious university that provides students with high-quality opportunities, an excellent education, and a positive experience that sets them up for success.

Is It Hard to Get Into William & Mary?

William & Mary has an acceptance rate of about 38%. For every 100 students who apply, about 38 are admitted. The other 62 applicants receive a rejection.

In comparison to other universities, William & Mary’s acceptance rate is very selective. Still, it’s less competitive than you might expect for a school with such a stellar reputation, possibly because William & Mary is not extremely well-known.

William & Mary may receive fewer applicants than some prestigious universities. But the average GPA and test scores for admitted students show that William & Mary applicants are among the nation’s best and brightest.

GPA and Test Scores for William & Mary

Students admitted to William & Mary have an average GPA of 4.27. This means you’ll need to take weighted classes, such as AP and IB, and earn straight A’s or very nearly straight A’s to have a competitive GPA for William & Mary.

If your GPA is lower and you’re a freshman or sophomore, you still have time to improve it before it’s time for college applications. But if you’re already a junior, focus on getting an impressive ACT or SAT score and enhancing other areas of your application. If your test scores and application are excellent, you have a better chance of competing with applicants who have a higher GPA.

William & Mary is test-optional, meaning you aren’t required to submit ACT or SAT scores. However, good scores can give you an edge in the admissions process, and they’re especially helpful if your GPA isn’t quite up to par.

The average ACT score for admitted students is 32. The 25th percentile score is 30, and the 75th percentile score is 34. When you apply to a selective school like William & Mary, it’s best to aim for a score in the 75th percentile (34).

Now, let’s look at an SAT score breakdown for students admitted to William & Mary.

Section Average 25th Percentile 75th Percentile
Math 715 660 770
Reading 700 660 740
Total 1415 1230 1510

Since your chances increase with a score in the 75th percentile, aim for a 1510 on the SAT, with a 770 in Math and a 740 in Reading.

Overall, our data suggests you should strive for a:

  • GPA of at least 4.27
  • ACT score of 34, OR
  • SAT score of 1510

These numbers will give you a much more competitive application for William & Mary. Of course, it’s possible to get into William & Mary with slightly lower numbers, especially if the rest of your application is compelling. The admissions committee will give your application a comprehensive, holistic review. So, let’s examine some other qualities that William & Mary looks for in its applicants.

What Other Qualities Does William & Mary Look For?

At William & Mary, every application is read at least twice. The admissions committee looks at your application as your story, and they carefully review it to determine whether you’re a good fit for William & Mary.

According to the university’s website, “Your transcript and standardized test scores tell your academic story; your extracurricular activities, recommendations, essay(s) and background tell your personal story.”

The admissions committee looks for ambitious students who are willing to challenge themselves and are passionate about serving others. They also look for a diverse range of backgrounds, talents, and skills. William & Mary wants intelligent, motivated, and empathetic students with a desire to “put their considerable talents to work on tough, real-world problems.”

Your numbers matter, but your character, personal attributes, and fit for William & Mary are important too.

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What Should You Do in High School?

Now, it’s time to get strategic! Based on the information and data we’ve shared, what should you do in high school to increase your chances of admission to William & Mary?

Excel in Challenging Classes

With an average GPA of 4.27, it’s clear that students admitted to William & Mary take rigorous classes, like AP and IB courses. And they don’t just take those challenging classes—they excel in them too.

So, take the most challenging classes offered at your high school and earn straight A’s (or nearly straight A’s). If your school doesn’t offer a lot of AP or IB classes, it won’t count against you. But if those classes are available, take advantage of the opportunity. Excelling in AP or IB classes shows the admissions committee that you’re ambitious and willing to challenge yourself, and you’ll be able to handle William & Mary’s rigorous coursework.

Work hard in all your classes. Take notes and review them weekly, and turn all your assignments in on time. Brush up on your study skills and prepare thoroughly for every test. If you start to fall behind, don’t wait until your grades slip—take immediate action. Ask for extra help from your teacher, a tutor, or a classmate who’s excelling in the class.

Prep for the ACT/SAT

William & Mary is test-optional, and 39% of the Class of 2025 applied without test scores. Still, we recommend taking the ACT and SAT. If you earn strong scores, including them in your application gives you another opportunity to impress. And if your GPA is lower than 4.27, high test scores can help balance it out.

The university superscores both the ACT and SAT. This means that if you take an exam multiple times, the admissions committee will consider only your best section scores. If you submit both the ACT and SAT, they will look at the score that is “most advantageous for [your] case for admission.”

Competitive scores for William & Mary are a 34 on the ACT or a 1510 on the SAT. These are great scores, so it’s important to prepare for standardized exams well in advance. We recommend the following strategy:

  • Take both an SAT and ACT practice test to see which exam plays best to your strengths. (While you can take both tests, it’s better to focus all your studying on one exam.)
  • After choosing an exam, use information from your practice test to build a customized study plan.
  • Start studying a few months before your scheduled test date.
  • Answer practice questions, read high-level texts, and work on the skills that are most challenging for you.
  • With a month left until your test date, focus exclusively on your area(s) of weakness.
  • Continue taking timed practice tests to work on your pacing and adjust your study plan as needed.
  • If your first test score isn’t up to William & Mary standards, determine what went wrong and take it again.

And remember that if you don’t get a score you’re happy with, it’s okay not to include it with your application. It won’t ruin your chances of admission, especially if the rest of your application is competitive.

Pursue Your Passions

Remember that William & Mary looks for passionate students with a diverse range of talents and skills. This means you shouldn’t try to “collect” extracurricular activities that you think will impress the admissions committee. After all, many students will take this approach, and you want to stand out.

Instead, choose a few extracurricular activities that align with your passions. Commit to these activities long-term. Try to take on leadership positions or make significant contributions. If possible, submit yourself for competitions, awards, or other recognition for your favorite activities. Receiving recognition will show that you’re not only passionate, but talented too.

Keep a detailed record of your extracurricular participation so you can report it thoroughly and accurately on your application. List when you started each activity, what role(s) you held, and how you contributed. Include any achievements or awards in your records as well.

Serve Your Community

Another quality William & Mary looks for in its students is a desire to serve their communities and the world. Community service and positive innovation are pillars of the university and its mission, so serving others demonstrates that you’re a good fit.

Find meaningful ways to serve your school, community, or the wider world. Join an existing community-based project or organization, or even start your own initiative or nonprofit organization. One issue that’s important to William & Mary is sustainability. If it’s important to you too, a sustainability-related project is a good way to go.

Whatever you do, make sure it’s something you genuinely care about. What problems in your school or community are important to you? What social issues are close to your heart? And what can you do about it?

Once again, make sure to keep a record of your community service involvement. List the projects you were involved in, how you contributed, what you learned, the impact you made, and how much time you spent.

William & Mary Application Process and Checklist

To apply to William & Mary, you must submit the Common Application. Your application will include:

  • High school transcript
  • Test scores (optional)
  • Activities list
  • Secondary School Report Form with a counselor recommendation
  • Personal essay
  • Supplemental essay (optional)

You may also submit an optional Teacher Evaluation Form with a teacher letter of recommendation, and you can participate in an optional interview. Currently, William & Mary offers virtual interviews conducted by Senior Interviewers. These interviews are casual, informative conversations that last 20-40 minutes and give you the chance to talk with a current William & Mary senior.

If you want to pursue music, art, photography, theatre, or dance, you have the option to submit a sample of your work.

William & Mary Writing Supplement

In addition to the Common Application’s personal essay, William & Mary has an optional 500-word supplemental essay.

We strongly recommend writing the supplemental essay. It’s another opportunity to show the admissions committee who you are, and taking the time to write it shows you’re a motivated student who’s serious about attending William & Mary.

Most recently, William & Mary’s supplemental essay topic was:

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.

Tips for the William & Mary Supplement

This topic is very open-ended, which can feel intimidating to some students. But it’s not scary: the admissions committee simply wants to know something about you that doesn’t appear anywhere else in your application. And they’re asking you to have fun with it!

Think about some personal characteristics you have that you couldn’t demonstrate elsewhere in your application. What makes you different, unique, or “you?” What do you want the admissions committee to know about your character, resilience, spirit, or strengths? And what’s a fun anecdote that shows these qualities?

Tell a story about a fun or meaningful moment in your life and explain what the story says about who you are. Use this opportunity to show your personality. Even if you believe you aren’t “different” or “unique” enough, you’re the only person who can be you. So, be yourself, and you’ll write an essay that only you could write.

Additional tips include:

  • Choose one anecdote. Don’t try to tell your life story in 500 words. Tell about a favorite morning with your grandmother, a game of chess with your younger sibling, or the time you tried to invent something as a child. Choosing one moment or event will make your essay both more focused and more memorable.
  • Include specific details. Specific details are another way to ensure your essay is unique. William & Mary describes the supplemental essay as “show and tell by proxy.” Make your anecdote come to life with vivid, specific details about your experience.
  • Write in your genuine voice. Your essay should sound like you. Don’t worry too much about being impressive. Focus on writing from the heart, in your voice. If this is challenging, start by writing for at least 30 minutes without stopping or overthinking. Then, go back and polish your writing as needed.
  • Proofread, proofread, proofread. Check your essay for grammar, spelling, punctuation, capitalization, word usage, concision, and clarity. Cut anything that’s unnecessary or repetitive. Then have a teacher, parent, or trusted friend proofread your essay as well. You should also ask them if the essay sounds like you and accurately represents who you are.

Should You Apply Early to William & Mary?                

William & Mary offers Early Decision I, Early Decision II, and Regular Decision. The Early Decision I deadline is November 1, while the deadline for both Early Decision II and Regular Decision is January 3. Decisions for Early Decision I applicants go out in early December. Early Decision II applicants receive a decision in early February, while Regular Decision applicants receive a decision by April 1.

At William & Mary, Early Decision is binding. That means you’re committed to attending William & Mary if you’re accepted. You should only apply early if you’re certain that William & Mary is your first choice.

So, does applying early to William & Mary give you an advantage? The acceptance rate for Early Decision applicants is 46%, which is higher than the 38% acceptance rate for Regular Decision applicants. However, William & Mary notes that statistical comparisons of admit rates are affected by the much smaller size of the early applicant pool (1,200 applicants, in comparison to 15,000 overall applicants).

Ultimately, it doesn’t hurt to apply early if William & Mary is your first choice. Applying early shows you’re committed to attending the university. You’re competing with a much smaller pool of applicants, which may give you a slight edge over Regular Decision applicants. Plus, you’ll find out whether you’ve been accepted much sooner!

Final Thoughts: How to Get Into William & Mary

William & Mary is very selective, meaning it’s not an easy university to get into. Your application must demonstrate academic excellence, ambition, a heart of service, and the potential to excel at William & Mary.

Take the most difficult classes available at your school and excel in them. Shoot for a GPA of 4.27 and an ACT score of 34 or an SAT score of 1510. If you aren’t happy with your test scores, you don’t have to include them in your application.

Commit to a few extracurricular activities you’re passionate about and try to make positive contributions, take on leadership roles, and/or earn awards and recognition. Serve your school, community, or the world in ways that are meaningful to you. Keep a record of both your extracurricular and community service involvement.

When you write the William & Mary supplemental essay, write an essay that is uniquely you in your genuine voice. Include, specific details, proofread carefully, and don’t be afraid to have fun with it! If William & Mary is your first choice, it’s worthwhile to apply Early Decision I or Early Decision II.

Armed with the info and tips in this guide, you’ll improve your chances of becoming a William & Mary Griffin!