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The Blue & Gray Press | November 14, 2018

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UMW: An Undeserved Reputation


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?


  1. Cassandra

    I found this to be a well written article with excellent observations.

    I graduated from Mary Washington a few years ago. To be frank, I hated my experience there. I stayed because all of my advanced placement credit was accepted, allowing me to finish a year early. In addition, tuition / room & board were fairly affordable.

  2. There are most definitely Mary Wash parties (I don’t like to include the rugby nor Psi U parties…those are just disturbing)! Now, they aren’t the monstrosities of bigger schools, but they’re the right size for a campus population of 4000-5000 students. Oh well, more delicious beverages for me 😉

  3. Rosa

    Great article! I for one love this school. The people that complain about a lack of challenge, either in academia or party life, simply close their mind to the possibility that this school provides so many wonderful, exciting opportunities. I have never experienced anxiety about lack of a social life, and I am extremely pleased with the weight of my courseload. I constantly feel challenged, stimulated and accepted here at UMW. Haters gon hate, and everyone loves to complain, but I would much rather be here at Mary Wash than a big state school like UVA or VTech. Don’t be a sore loser just because you can’t wear a blue and orange sundress to a football game, guys.

  4. Annie

    I graduated in 2011 and I still have mixed feelings about UMW. I love the professors at UMW and I think the academics are superb, it’s easy enough to challenge yourself academically if you feel the academics here are too easy. For example, I could have taken Chem and Society or Bio 101 or my science gen ed but I took University Physics. The party scene at UMW is really what you make of it and who your friends are, but there are definitely opportunities to party every friday and saturday night, and not just rugby/ Psi U/Houston’s.

    On the other hand, I can think of a lot of improvements that could help draw a lot more students. Some are pretty simple, others not so much.

    1. The school could do a lot more in terms of sponsoring events on campus that students actually want to attend (I will say that improved drastically from my freshman year to my senior year).

    2. Have more areas immediately around campus that draw students in (such as what they are doing in Eagle Village)

    3. Continue to work on relations with the Fredericksburg community

    4. Incorporate student life and residence life/improve amenities in common areas such as comfy/quiet study rooms, coffee bars, game rooms, etc.

    5. ALLOW OUTSIDE FOOD VENDORS ON CAMPUS. By observation, the lack of food options on campus is students #1 complaint. If UMW had a student union/student center that had Chipotle, Starbucks, Subway, Five Guys, etc. instead of this BS Mesa Jakes, Jazzmans, Pete’s Arena, etc. BS I think that would go a very, very long way in attracting students.

    If UMW considered Greek life, that would be an added attraction, but maybe not the direction the school wants to go in. I figure I’ll throw it out there anyway.

  5. Since 2011, Kappa Sigma has begun to be more prominent on the ‘Greek Life’ scene. From what they’ve done so far, on both the friendliness and party sides of fraternity’s, they’re a significantly higher class than Psi U.

    Another change is that Vocelli’s and Starbucks are now on campus. At least, their brands are on campus.

  6. Ben

    If you’re not having a good time at UMW it’s your own fault. There’s plenty to do in the area if you know how to find it. Of course the school could do more to provide fun for students but that kind of school brings with it about 20,000 more students and most often a much higher tuition as well. What I would tell any incoming freshman looking to have a good time at UMW is to not box yourself in and to be open minded socially.

    I totally agree with this article that the sense of apathy on campus is toxic though, I think that’s the worst part of going to UMW.

  7. Myself

    I dislike UMW because it’s a police state that treats it’s students like children despite the exorbitant fees we pay to “learn” here. Further is the fact that the university is clearly more focused on getting a good reputation and bringing in more students (which brings in more money for whoever is running this show) than actually teaching us.

    I also note the fact that UMW prides itself on being “multicultural” yet there is no “White American student organization” or “non-hispanic White American student organization”. A campus that is more than 90% white has no “multicultural” club that celebrates the culture of 90% of the campus population. I find this rather queer.

    And of course the weird little posters all around saying “students at UMW never have sex” or “students at UMW never drink”. Being that the LGBT organization is formed by students who are sexually attracted to members of the same sex or of both sexes or even neither in the case of certain sexual orientations I find this “never have sex” thing disgustingly archaic. If this campus is not a Christian campus why does it seem to attempt to force Christian moral values on it’s students against our will?

    Of course I refer to the recent increases in campus police patrolling at night to catch drunken students.

    I can proudly say I will never donate to this school once I graduate. This has been a wholly bad experience. But hey, at least I got to see the extent to which human beings will engage in twofacedness and hypocrisy when given the chance, right?

  8. Myself

    Psi U parties are normal parties where people drink. What do you do, play cards? You’re probably the president of Kap Sig, I remember you were pretty strongly against drinking of any kind. How laughable, a fraternity that doesn’t drink.

  9. It’s funny because I’m not even a member of any fraternity or on-campus organization. You’re probably someone who just stumbled on the Bullet page and decided to make comments on subjects that you deem yourself knowledgeable about. Please remember, as I’ve been reminded myself, to keep comments pertinent to the topic at hand so as to expand the conversation in an intelligent manner. Unwarranted personal attacks are frowned upon, however I feel as though it portrays the sort of real-life character you are.
    By the way, how is it being a member of a fraternity on campus that’s slowly dying out and being replaced by another?
    I’ll be civil with you in your next posting as long as it refrains from being personal in nature again. Unlike the majority of people on campus, I’ll become as uncivil as those I’m conversing with. Have a delightful rainy afternoon, sir.

  10. Yourself

    Ahem….we do have a “White American student organization.” It’s called College Republicans and they meet every Wednesday at 9PM in the Virginia Hall parlor.

  11. Meg

    What’s wrong with the university and-or President Hurley seeking to expand and better UMW’s reputation? All it does is gives more weight to the UMW degree that allows us the (eventual) opportunity to compete with UVa and William and Mary grads.