UMW: An Undeserved Reputation
By MOLLY SULLIVAN
Before deciding to attend the University of Mary Washington, I researched student opinions online. It seemed like the vast majority of testimonies were negative—mentioning that the party scene was practically nonexistent, the professors impossibly hard and the school lacked in overall appeal.
Despite these mild grievances I acted against internet advice, and enrolled here. However, having read those negative reviews, one of my first questions for my peers was: why did you pick Mary Washington?
While we have a strong academic reputation (at least in my experience) and a beautiful campus, it seemed as though there was a pattern in the responses—a striking number of students I encountered came here because they didn’t get into their first, second or sometimes third choice schools. I talked to countless students who had gotten rejected from the University of Virginia or Virginia Tech and ended up at their safety school instead.
At least one-third of the people I have met here have considered transferring at some point. My question surrounding this prevalent—and serious—UMW problem is “why?” What aspects of our school make it so much less appealing than its larger, better known counterparts? In addition, how does this lack of enthusiasm affect the college experience of all Mary Washington students?
In my opinion, dissatisfaction with Mary Washington comes from all ends of the spectrum. While we have strong academics, having “University of Virginia” or “William & Mary” printed on an alumnus’ resume resonates much more than the measly, “University of Mary Washington” which many people are unaware even exists. Our college’s academic strength does not match its national reputation, which can be discouraging as students slave over piles of homework assigned by distinguished professors while failing to receive enough prestige.
Universities such as UVA and Virginia Tech offer either comparable or superior academics yet are bursting with school pride, parties and strong athletic programs. Lacking a football team, standard greek life and a student-geared downtown, it seems like Mary Washington is merely a school you go to when your test scores simply don’t cut for the better known top tier schools.
What consequences does this sense of apathy have on our college experience? Students are disengaged with the Fredericksburg community, and often the only day of the year that offers any sense of strong school spirit is homecoming. Many students walk to class pondering what collegiate alternatives exist.
As someone who loves the small feel of this beautiful, challenging school, it is hard to understand other’s disappointment. While I have met a great deal of students who love this school as much as I do, the dissatisfied population is too large. Perhaps Mary Washington students enjoy their school more than they say they do; frustrations with administration and the party scene may lead to an inflated sense of discontentment. If this is the case, then ask yourself this—why did you choose Mary Washington?