People joked about how I would go to Harvard because I was just so smart. The advanced classes they stick anyone slightly advanced in really alters perception of how smart people actually are. I worked hard for 13 years to keep my grades up, so I did have options when the time came to choose a college. I toured so many colleges in Virginia and Maryland, plus a few in Pennsylvania and Massachusetts. The more colleges I visited, the more I realized exactly what I wanted in college.
I wanted a college with a good reputation. I wanted a college with options. I wanted a community.
That’s a pretty standard list of “must haves” for most colleges. In the end, the reasons I decided on William & Mary were a lot quirkier than “reputation” or “options” or “community.”
Reason #1: People walked on the grass.
I know, right? I picked my school over grass. Over being able to walk on grass. There was one college I visited where no one walked on the grass. The college had giant manicured fields and lawns but not one person walked on it. They had little ropes around the edge of the brick walkways and it made all the grass feel unwelcome. I even found one brochure where they photoshopped students onto the grass. They forgot to add shadows under the fake people playing frisbee. Despite the beauty, it gave me such an incredibly unsettling feeling that I immediately crossed that school off my list.
But at William & Mary, everyone walked on the grass. On my tour, people were picnicking in front of Wren, walking their dog in front of ISC. People played frisbee in the Sunken Gardens. For real! With shadows! All the grass that seemed so unwelcoming at that other college seemed alive here. Friendly. Fear of moving away from home started to dissipate.
Reason #2: The main science building didn’t smell bad.
I know, it sounds so petty. I was going to choose a school based on the smell of a building? But at a different school I visited that was pretty amazing, with the best creative writing program I had ever heard of, with a gorgeous creative writing house on a fabulous campus, I couldn’t get over the fact that their science building smelled so bad. I wanted to double major so I would’ve spent every day in that disgusting smell. I’d have to wash it out of my hair every night and run outside between classes to get it out of my nose. No matter how much I loved that school, I couldn’t deal with the headache that would bring.
William & Mary’s Integrated Science Center lives around a Starbucks. The warm welcome smell of coffee permeates the halls. Chemicals are well handled, bathrooms are properly cleaned. I didn’t get a headache spending time inside. I have class in ISC every day and never once had to run outside for a breath of fresh air.
Reason #3: It’s home.
I was on the fence about what college I would choose after I got my acceptance letters. I honestly loved all three of the schools I’d gotten into and the one where I was waitlisted. But the moment I stepped onto William & Mary’s campus for Admitted Students Day, I knew I was home. Students seemed happy. They were passionate about the clubs they wanted us to join, about helping us find where we were supposed to go, about college in general. The school just radiated with happiness, welcome and support. It was home.
That was the day I paid my deposit and accepted my place among the Tribe. It wasn’t because William & Mary was a great school, which it is, but for reasons so small that most others would never think about.