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Student Achievement

Student Achievement at William & Mary

William & Mary’s mission describes the university as "A preeminent, public research university, grounded in the liberal arts and sciences ... William & Mary is a vibrant and inclusive community. Through close mentoring and collaboration, we inspire lifelong learning, generate new knowledge, and expand understanding.  ..." To evaluate success with respect to student achievement consistent with our mission, the university employs multiple measures, including retention and graduation rates, passage rates on state licensing examinations, and information on employment. We encourage you to contact our Associate Provost for Institutional Accreditation & Effectiveness if you have questions or would like additional information about this website. The Associate Provost serves as W&M’s Liaison to the university’s accrediting agency, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) and can assist you in finding what you are looking for with respect to student achievement at W&M.

Retention & Graduation

William & Mary tracks undergraduate retention and graduation rates. The university’s retention rate (the percentage of first-year students who remain for their second year) is 93%. Ninety-one percent of admitted students complete the degree at W&M within six years. Among over 250 research universities included in the 2018 IPEDS Carnegie Classification group of doctoral universities with very high and high research activities, W&M is ranked 40th in its retention and 26th in its six-year graduation rate. Among the over 170 public institutions within this group, W&M is ranked third in graduation rates (August 2020) . Even so, the university has established a goal of increasing the graduation rate from 91% to 93%.

In order to understand why some students who start at W&M do not stay through graduation, the university conducts exit interviews and analyzes data from the National Student Clearinghouse. Analyses indicate that most students who start at W&M as freshmen but do not graduate from the university transfer to other institutions. The reasons for transferring vary considerably (e.g., to pursue degrees not offered at W&M, location, health, and other personal reasons). 

Retention & Six-Year Graduation Rates
Four-column table of retention, graduation, and transferred out rates for year indicated.
Retention* Graduation* Transferred Out *
2010 95% 90% 5%
2011 95% 91%    7% 
2012 96% 90% 8%
2013 96% 90% 7%
2014 95% 90% 8%
2015 95% 90% 8%
2016 95% 91% 7%
2017 95% 92% 5%
2018 95% 91% 6%
2019 95% 90% 7%
2020 93% 91% 6%

*Data source: IPEDS

Licensing and Certification Examinations

As measures of student achievement, the School of Education and Law School monitor student performance on licensure and certification examinations with the goal of maintaining or improving scores over time. 

The School of Education tracks scores and pass rates on Virginia licensing exams.  The Law School tracks bar exam pass rates. Graduates sit for the bar exam in the state where they expect to practice law.  W&M law graduates choose to practice, and thus sit for the bar exam, in states throughout the country. 

Employment & Other Indicators of Student Achievement

William & Mary collects next destination outcomes within six months of graduation for all undergraduates, with a knowledge rate (data from survey responses and reliable knowledge) of over 60%.  For the Class of 2020, the rate was 79%.  A summary of responses shows the breadth of post-graduate professional and educational pursuits of our most recent graduates. About 46% of recent graduates are employed; 40% are enrolled in or planning to enroll in graduate or professional schools and 14% are looking for work or doing other things, such as traveling and volunteering. 

The Arts & Sciences graduate programs collect information on their graduates such as placements, publications, and research completed (Anthropology, Applied Science, Computer Science, History, Physics). The School of Education also posts current positions and comments from their graduates. The School of Marine Science presents alumni portfolios that include professional positions and activities of marine science graduates and describe how their degrees contribute to their professional pursuits.

The Raymond A. Mason School of Business collects data on graduate business students who have received offers of employment by graduation and three months after graduation, type of industry, and compensation. For example, 94% of the 2021 full-time MBA Class seeking employment received job offers within three months of graduation with an average base salary of $100,048.

In the Law School, the Office of Career Services tracks and publicly reports employment data for the most recent graduating class as ten months after their graduation (March).  For the class of 2020, 168 of the 182 graduates were employed. 

As indicators of student achievement, the School of Education reports employment measures of its graduates, as well as other measures related to graduate impact and outcomes.  Impact measures include graduates' impact on student learning and development, graduates' effectiveness in teaching, graduates' performance, and satisfaction of graduates with their preparation.  Outcome measures include graduation rates, the ability of graduates to meet licensing requirements, the ability of graduates to be hired in the field in which they have been prepared, and student loan default rates.

Evidence of the quality of W&M’s academic programs is also provided by various rankings. Academic excellence and other key components of W&M’s mission are noted when, for example, U.S. News & World Report (2022) ranks the university 10th among public universities in the nation, ninth among public universities for best undergraduate teaching, and 38th overall among national universities.   Forbes (2019) ranks W&M as the ninth best state-supported school and 31st among research universities. Specific programs also are ranked: Poets & Quants (2021) ranked W&M's Mason School of Business 15th among undergraduate business schools in the nation. U.S. News & World Report (2021) ranked the graduate program in U.S. Colonial History first and the History program 26th, and the Law School 35th.