Arms laden with plastic storage boxes, bedding and other assorted goods, William & Mary’s newest undergraduate students began moving into residence halls Thursday, nearly one week before the university officially kicks off the fall semester.

“Everything’s going pretty smoothly,” said C.J. Dinapoli ’26, whose family helped him move into Lemon Hall. “The walk from the car, it’s not that bad. But we got everything moved into the room. Now we’re just trying to organize it.”

Hailing from Mechanicsville, Virginia, Dinapoli is among approximately 1,650 students who will make up the Class of 2026. They were selected from a pool of 18,088 applications – a 3.5% increase from last year and a 27% increase in the past two years. The university is also welcoming about 165 new undergraduate transfer students this fall.

“It’s a pretty highly respected school for academics, and that’s important to me,” said Dinapoli. “So that’s why I landed here.”

While freshmen and new transfer students moved into residence halls Thursday and Friday, returning residential students will continue to move in over the weekend and into next week. Undergraduate classes begin on Wednesday, and the Opening Convocation ceremony that same evening will officially mark the beginning of the 2022-2023 academic year.

But for the university’s newest students, their journey at the university will begin with orientation and just getting to know their new home.

“I’m on the baseball team,” said Dinapoli. “So I’m pretty excited just to get acquainted with all my new teammates and just get things rolling.”

By the numbers

This year’s entering freshmen were selected from a record-breaking pool of applicants and bring with them an impressive record of academic and personal accomplishments and experiences.

“As was evident through their applications, this is an incoming group of students who have excelled academically and will be prepared to flourish at William & Mary,” said Associate Vice President for Enrollment and Dean of Admission Tim Wolfe. “Beyond that, though, this is an entering class that has much to offer through their personal experiences, talents and interests. No doubt, they are excited to be members of our community and will be an excellent fit for W&M.”

An infographic that showcases the various numbers related to the Class of 2026. All numbers are contained within the text of the story, too.

Among freshmen, approximately 33% are students of color, 5% are international students and 9% are first-generation students. Additionally, 60% are from Virginia; the most common home states among other students include New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York, Maryland, Massachusetts and California.

The freshmen boast a stellar academic record, with about 77% of students ranking in the top 10% of their classes and the average GPA for the class coming in at 4.3. While test scores are now an optional part of the application process, for those who did submit them, the middle 50th percentile for SAT scores was 1380-1520 and 32-34 for ACT scores.

This year’s entering students also have a wide range of extra-curricular talents and interests and include multiple students who host podcasts ranging in topics from roller coasters to advice for teens, a three-time BMX state champion, a student recognized on the Ellen Show and NBC News for building hundreds of desks for students in need, a world-class powerlifter and the sole U.S. ambassador for Elephants Alive.

“I continue to be impressed with William & Mary’s ever-expanding reach as we welcome students from almost every state and around the globe,” said Wolfe. “We are fortunate to have them as a part of the W&M campus community for the next few years, and I’m confident they will leave here ready to make an impact on a global scale.”

W&M’s graduate students also boast impressive accomplishments and experiences. For instance, 98 new students will be entering graduate programs in Arts & Sciences.

Seventy-eight percent of those students conducted research as undergraduates, with most receiving awards or honors for their scholarship. Approximately 73% have contributed to their communities through volunteer service, and more than 43% have been teachers or mentors to people ranging from preschoolers to senior citizens.

Twenty-five percent of the entering Arts & Sciences graduate students self-identified as students of color, including international students from 12 countries. Among the new students are a former chief logistics officer for the USPS, a linguistic assistant who taught their native language Kinyarwanda, a research assistant at a deaf and communicative disorders lab, an analyst for the remains of “The Woman in the Iron Coffin” and a Presidential Volunteer Service Award winner.

For information on other new graduate students, including W&M Law School’s new students, see the schools’ websites.

Providing a warm welcome

Outside of Lemon Hall on Thursday, Cate Barrett ’23 and Payton Dick ’25 welcomed new students like Dinapoli and answered their questions. The two were among the many orientation aides (OAs) around campus who volunteered to assist with move-in and orientation.

For Barrett, this was her final year serving as an OA, something she described as being one of her “most meaningful involvements on campus.”

“My favorite part is just getting to know all the new students and welcome them,” Barrett said. “I know mine always were so great, and I felt so welcomed and the transition went pretty smoothly. So just to be able to pay it forward and do the same is something I love.”

Dick was inspired to volunteer by a similar experience with the people she encountered as a new freshman.

“I’m from California, and so I was really, really nervous to come here,” she said. “I felt like I wasn’t gonna fit in because everyone here is from Virginia. And so OAs were really great resources for me. I totally felt like part of the community and my hallmates really took me in, and so I wanted to be that for others.”

People wearing bright yellow shirts wave and hold up signs that say "Blue"
Orientation aides welcome new students and their families to campus. (Photo by Stephen Salpukas)

Barrett, who experienced move-in and orientation before COVID-19 and then volunteered as an OA during the limitations of the pandemic, said she is glad that this year’s new students get to have the full experience again.

“I feel like now it’s finally kind of getting back to normal, which I’m super excited about,” she said. “So I think it should be a fun week for sure.”

, Senior Associate Director of University News