University of Mary Washington

Written by Beth Cassie.

16148288408_5e67f39c3c_zUniversity of Mary Washington was perhaps the most surprising of the colleges we visited on our Virginia tour. Everything about this school looks and feels like a private college rather than the public university it is. Nestled in a bucolic, residential suburb, the university boasts small class sizes (22-25 students), low student to faculty ratios (14:1), and a strong liberal arts approach to education. With approximately 4,500 students, UMW started as an all women’s teaching college and the current female:male ratio hovers around 65:35.


There’s a big focus on experiential learning — the practical application of what’s being learned in the classroom—at UMW. Research, internships, service learning and study abroad are all encouraged. An interesting stand out program is the Historic Preservation major. UMW has the most comprehensive program of its type in the country. UMW offers a Geographic Information Science certificate addressing the growing interest and need for GIS-mapping skills.

The university has three colleges: Arts and Sciences, Business, and Education. Students must receive a 2.0 GPA in several required courses and an overall GPA of 2.5 for admission into the business school. UMW also offers a 5-year Master’s program in Education.

The new Information and Technology Convergence Center (ITCC) opened in the fall of 2014 and it is a huge “academic commons” with a variety of innovative meeting spaces and resources for students. We saw an athletic team meeting in one of the glass conference rooms, small groups of students working on white boards in the study spaces, and signs for the writing center and other academic support services housed there.

There’s a vibrant fine arts program, with amazing facilities (we saw the new black box theater).

The Honor system in place as is true across all Virginia public schools.


A commitment to activism on campus was evident from the moment we arrived. There were banners flying and tables with students distributing information. Students here like to discuss issues about controversial subjects. Students are friendly and outgoing and very inclusive. There are no fraternities or sororities. It’s a very supportive environment with great professors pushing students to do their best work. There are D3 athletics, although no football or wrestling.

The charming town of Fredericksburg is minutes away from campus and many upper classmen live in homes walking distance between campus and town. (Students are required to live on campus freshman and sophomore year.) Downtown Fredericksburg is a cute, thriving downtown with retail shops and restaurants.


UMW looks to build a diverse class of students who will be successful in the classroom and who will contribute to life on the campus. They are looking for a solid B average (they do not recalculate GPAs) and test scores for the middle 50% of admitted applicants were SAT 1060-1240 (they do not consider the Writing scores). ACTs are in the range of 22-28. They have an honors program and will extend offers to join at the time of admission. Some of the benefits of the honors program are priority registration and some UG research grants. Decisions are made on a rolling basis. They want students to reach out and demonstrate interest. Merit aid is awarded based on GPA and test scores. Tuition plus housing is approximately $20K in state and $33K for out-of-state students.


If you’re looking for a liberal arts education with small class sizes, accessible faculty, and a socially and politically active community, University of Mary Washington is a gem worth exploring.

University of Mary Washington

1301 College Avenue

Fredericksburg, VA 22401


Mary Washington
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