Student Achievement

Student Achievement at the College of William & Mary

William & Mary’s mission describes the College as a "... predominantly residential ... nationally acclaimed undergraduate program [that] is integrated with selected graduate and professional programs ..."  To evaluate success with respect to student achievement consistent with our mission, William & Mary 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 William & Mary’s Liaison to the College’s regional 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 William & Mary.

Retention & Graduation

William & Mary tracks retention and graduation rates.   The College’s retention rate (the percentage of first-year students who remain for their second year) is 95%.  Ninety percent of admitted students complete the degree at William & Mary within six years.    Among the 280 research universities included in the IPEDS Carnegie Classification group of very high, high and doctoral research universities, William & Mary is ranked 21st in its retention and 27th in its six-year graduation rate. Among the 175 public institutions within this group of 280, William & Mary is ranked third in retention and graduation rates. Even so, the College has established a goal of increasing the graduation rate from 90% to 93%.

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

Retention & Six-Year Graduation Rates
Retention* Graduation* Transferred Out *+
2005 95% 91% 5%
2006 96% 91% 4%
2007 95% 91% 6%
2008 96% 91% 5%
2009 95% 91% 4%
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%

*Data source: IPEDS
+Began using new data source: National Student Clearinghouse

 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. 

 School of Education

Among graduates of all Virginia colleges and universities, graduates of William & Mary's teacher education programs consistently maintain the highest scores on all sections of the Praxis series. Praxis tests are taken by individuals entering the teaching profession as part of the certification process required by the Virginia State Board of Education. In addition to licensure, passing scores on this test are required for entry into student teaching. 

School of Law

The Law School tracks bar exam pass rates.  Graduates sit for the bar exam in the state where they expect to practice law.  William & Mary law graduates choose to practice, and thus sit for the bar exam, in states throughout the country.  Bar passage rates where five or more students sat for the exam in the year indicated are as follows:  


Takers   Pass %


Takers    Pass %


Takers    Pass %


Takers    Pass %

ALL 218         92% 210         86% 198         89% 209         89%
Virginia  94          88% 100         90% 95           85% 95           86%
New York  20         100% 33            81% 30           94% 38          89%
Maryland  15          87% 11            62% 9              89% 11           91%
Pennsylvania ---------------- 14             93% 14            93% 9            100%
California  16          81% 10             71% 10            90% 8              87%
Massachusetts ---------------- ---------------- 5             100% ----------------
New Jersey   8           100% ---------------- ---------------- ----------------
Florida   5            100% ---------------- ---------------- ----------------

Employment & Other Indicators of Student Achievement

William & Mary collects first destination outcomes within 6 months of graduation for all undergraduates, with a response rate of over 60%.  In 2017, the response rate was 74%. A summary for responses show the breadth of post-graduate professional and educational pursuits of our most recent graduates. Typically, about 60% of recent graduates are employed; 29% are enrolled in or planning to enroll in graduate or professional schools and 11% are looking for work or doing other things, such as traveling and volunteering. William & Mary’s Cohen Career Center publishes a summary of first destinations and outcomes (see W&M Class of 2017). 

The College also looks at external references to monitor student achievement. For example, the National Science Foundation (NSF) created a list of the fifty baccalaureate-granting institutions with the highest percentage of graduates going on to earn doctorates in the sciences and engineering.  William & Mary was one of only three public schools to be placed on that list. (Baccalaureate Origins of U.S.-trained S&E Doctorate Recipients, InfoBrief, NSF 13-323, April 2013). 

Arts & Sciences graduate programs compile portfolios of student achievement that include awards/honors, fellowships, research grants, internships, conference presentations, publications, community service/outreach, and recent alumni employment/positions. The compilations attest to the high quality of graduate students' scholarly work and successes. The portfolios also can be useful to prospective students looking for a sense of how they might achieve their own academic goals through pursuit of a particular graduate degree. Programs also collect information on their graduates (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 School of Business collects data on graduate business student who have received offers of employment by graduation and three months after graduation, type of industry, and compensation.  For example, 92% of the 2017 full-time MBA Class received job offers within three months of graduation with an average base salary of $84,966.

In the Law School, the Office of Career Services tracks and publicly reports employment data for the most recent graduating class as of ten months after their graduation (March).  For the class of 2017, information about post-graduate placement was obtained for 206 of 208 graduates. Of those, 187 were employed and 1 was pursuing a degree full-time. The Law School also posts employment highlights of the graduating class.

Evidence of the quality of William &Mary’s academic programs is also provided by various rankings. Academic excellence and other key components of William & Mary’s mission are noted when, for example, U.S. News & World Report ranks the College sixth among public universities in the nation, seventh among public universities for best undergraduate teaching, and 32nd overall among national universities.  Forbes ranks William & Mary as the tenth best state supported school and 30th among reaearch universities. Specific programs also are ranked: Bloomberg Businessweek ranked William & Mary's undergraduate business school the 12th in the nation. U.S. News & World Report ranked the graduate program in U.S. Colonial History third and the History program 27th, the Law School 41st  and the School of Education 46th.