By ALISON THOET
The University of Mary Washington was ranked 18th in the top 25 public colleges from which students graduate within a four-year period by a recent Money Magazine study conducted through the U.S. Department of Education.
According to the article, UMW is one of “the schools that will help you avoid the wasted time and added expense of spending a fifth year (or more) in the classroom.”
The national average has climbed steadily upward to an average matriculation time of 4.6 years, with only one-third of public college and university students earning their bachelor’s in four years, according to the article. UMW’s current graduation rate is at 66 percent and costs about $101,952 on average for a bachelor’s degree.
Like many other schools, UMW uses the Common Application method for admissions and receives about 4,000 freshmen applications every year. Last year, application numbers jumped to a record 5,000, according to Kimberley Buster-Williams, associate provost for enrollment management.
“Our trends mirror national trends,” said Buster-Williams.
The higher applicant pool is a side effect of students applying to more schools on average during their college application process.
Last year, about 900 of those 5,000 applicants enrolled at UMW even though 4,000 were accepted in total. According to Buster-Williams, the acceptance rate at UMW is in the 70 percent range and has been for the past five years.
According to Buster-Williams, students chosen for acceptance are screened to determine if they will be a good fit for the university, as well as academic merit.
“We do tend to attract a high achieving applicant,” said Buster-Williams.
Some students do not make it to graduation in four years though, whether they transfer because they do not feel UMW is right for them, drop out or spend extra time at UMW. According to Buster-Williams, UMW retains about 80 percent of freshmen. The number of transfers increased last year, resulting in about a 78 percent retention rate, which is still well above the national average, according to Buster-Williams.
There are a variety of reasons why students leave UMW, including personal reasons, medical or simply that UMW did not fit.
“There’s always that goal to retain more, graduate more and that’s really any school that wants to improve on those statistics,” said Buster-Williams. “I think we’re very good at presenting who we are as a university and delivering on the things that we promise. I think when you don’t deliver then I think that’s when you start to run into problems.”
Senior environmental science major Max Hammerton knew a few students who transferred from UMW in the past.
“I know some of the people who transferred out of here transferred for the size,” he said.
UMW is also trying out new methods and techniques for admissions, including on-site acceptance, which began last year, and the possibility of not requiring an SAT score for applicants.
The on-site acceptance began for this year’s freshmen class, with the first event occurring last fall in Richmond. There were specific requirements for the event, including a pre-registration for students who wanted to have their information reviewed for acceptance. About 20 people applied on-site of the 75 people in attendance, according to Buster-Williams.
“It really, I think, attracted the student that was already excited about Mary Washington,” said Buster-Williams.
Buster-Williams believes a removal of SAT score requirements, an idea she proposed before the Board of Visitors last month, will allow students who do not test well but excel in other areas to still be reviewed by UMW, adding a new group to the applicant pool.
“I think we’ll still attract a high-achieving students,” she said.
English major Kelsey Roach will be graduating this May and weighed in on the possible removal of the SAT requirement for applicants.
“I think it’s interesting the SAT won’t be considered anymore because I never really saw the SAT correlating with my education at UMW,” said Roach. “It never really helped or affected my education at Mary Washington, so I think it will be beneficial.”
According to Buster-Williams, UMW is currently at its desired size in terms of classes and uniqueness. Ultimately, admissions will continue “looking for a student that is going to be successful here,” she said.