Campus Tour: Virginia is for Students

Take these campus tours where Virginia is for students.

By Jenny Blackman,

March 10, 2009

Campus Tour: Virginia is for Students Campus Tour: Virginia is for Students

With only another hour drive west, you’re nearing the end of your road trip. The temptation to drive directly to Virginia Beach and frolic in the waters of the Atlantic Ocean is strong. Instead, you should schedule a day to visit Williamsburg, widely considered one of the most family-friendly vacation spots in the country. Not only will the whole family enjoy Busch Gardens, Water Country USA, and the historic sites at Jamestown, but you will be charmed by the quaint nature of the College of William and Mary, the second oldest institution of higher education in America. (You may know the nation’s oldest university-hint, it is an Ivy League university in Cambridge, Massachusetts.) Many are surprised that the College of William and Mary is a public institution. Like UVA, William and Mary is considered a “Public Ivy”; Virginians love that they have two wonderful public institutions to choose from. Unlike UVA, however, William and Mary is much more intimate, consisting of fewer than 6,000 undergraduates. With only three professional schools (business administration, education and law) and a national reputation for excellent undergraduate teaching, William & Mary is a great place to receive a lot of personal attention at a public institution.

History, as with most Virginian universities, defines W&M. Founded by King William III and Queen Mary II in 1693, the college educated sixteen signers of The Declaration of Independence and three of the first ten U.S. presidents. Not surprisingly, this is a college rich in tradition. As you walk by the landmark Wren Building (the oldest building in the United States continually used for education), keep in mind whose footsteps you’re stepping in-not only those of our country’s forefathers, like Washington, Jefferson, and Madison, but also a few of today’s celebrities, such as Jon Stewart and Perry Ellis.

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Be sure to ask your tour guide about William and Mary’s long-standing traditions. Freshman serenade the school’s president at his home during orientation and, upon graduation, some students participate in an unofficial tradition called the Triathlon, where they are given three unusual tasks that generally require a little bit of athleticism and a whole lot of bravery. Phi Beta Kappa, a prestigious honor society found at several institutions, was established here. Yes, there are secret societies as well-so provoke your tour guide by asking a few questions about their whereabouts. If you can’t uncover them, spend a few minutes on the campus’s Sunken Gardens. It will be a great way to reflect on how William & Mary has influenced our nation’s history.

At the end of your road trip, you might want to spend a few days in Hampton Roads, visiting the towns of Newport News, Norfolk and Virginia Beach. There are a few colleges here that might interest you (Old Dominion University in Norfolk, for example), but perhaps it’s time to take a break from the campus tours. Instead, shop at the newly renovated MacArthur Mall in Norfolk’s revitalized downtown or stroll Virginia Beach’s mile long boardwalk. With your feet in the sand, look back at your Virginia road trip and reflect on four colleges that truly demonstrate why the motto, “Virginia is for Lovers,” is so appropriate. It’s for lovers of history, lovers of thought, and lovers of lifelong learning.

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