William & Mary students take many different paths to pursue their individual passions, but one thing is clear: financial assistance plays a critical role in giving them access to these opportunities that distinguish the College.
Ashby Gaines ’13, a government and Russian and post-Soviet studies major at William & Mary, has traveled to Belize, Russia and Washington, D.C., where she has met “some of the most influential people of my life.”
But Ashby’s William & Mary education, including those life-changing trips, may not have been possible without scholarships, which help open the College’s doors to academically qualified students, regardless of their economic status. Ashby said she was drawn to William & Mary because she sensed it was a place where she could pursue and develop her own passions.
“I chose William & Mary because it embraces curiosity and uses it to offer endless opportunities,” she says.
Adrian Bravo ’12, a psychology and history major, said financial aid assistance, as well as William & Mary’s reputation for academic prestige and the school’s proximity to his family, is what initially attracted him to the College. At William & Mary, he has been able to work closely with faculty and other students to conduct research with real-world implications, including the effects of maternal incarceration.
“I have done research that most undergraduates at other colleges would not have the opportunity to accomplish,” he says. Small class sizes foster close student-faculty relationships and facilitate undergraduate research, Adrian added.
Dakota Willis ’13, a sociology and elementary education major, dreamed of attending the College as a child and scholarship support made it possible.
“William & Mary is prestigious and challenging, yet small enough that I feel like I really matter,” she says. “I’m not just a number in a sea of thousands of students.”
A William & Mary education, Ashby says, prepares students well for today’s complex world.
“Both in and out of the classroom, I am encouraged to approach tasks with engagement, dedication and skepticism,” she added. Adrian, who plans to attend graduate school in preparation for a career as a developmental or clinical psychologist, is grateful for the experiences he has been allowed as “a member of the William & Mary family.”
“Telling people that you are from William & Mary comes with an assumption that you are intelligent and passionate about academics,” he says.
Dakota, Adrian and Ashby are among the more than 36 percent of William & Mary students receiving financial assistance — up from about 29 percent five years ago. As the College competes with peer institutions to attract top students, increasing the availability of need- and merit-based financial aid is a critical goal.“I encourage anyone who is able to give, to seriously consider doing so,” Dakota says. “Without your contributions, students who love William & Mary — students who dream of coming here and changing the world — might be unable to do so because of the financial burden. Financial status should not be what prevents a deserving student from achieving his or her greatest potential in life.”