On the last day of classes for the fall semester — as winter graduates rang the Wren Bell to mark the completion of their degrees — the first members of William & Mary’s Class of 2027 were finding out about their acceptance to the university.

The Office of Undergraduate Admission sent out notifications to Early Decision I applicants on Dec. 9 after seeing a significant increase in interest in the program with 25% more applications received this year than last, including increases from both Virginia and out-of-state applicants.

Many of the accepted students and their families celebrated on social media, sharing congratulations with other members of the class and looking for ways to connect. Other members of the W&M community chimed in with best wishes and remembrances of their own acceptance to the university.

“So excited to make this my new home,” one newly accepted student commented on Instagram.

The Early Decision process allows prospective students whose top college choice is William & Mary a chance to apply early to the university by committing to accept the offer to attend, if extended. At William & Mary, there are two phases of Early Decision. The deadline for the first was Nov. 1, and the deadline for the second is Jan. 2, 2023, the same day that regular admission applications are due. 

The larger pool in the Early Decision I group this year allowed the undergraduate admission office to be both more selective in its decision-making and to also admit more Early Decision applicants, with 10% more admitted this year than last. The overall size of the freshman class will not increase, however.

“We are thrilled to see an increased interest in applying to William & Mary through Early Decision,” said Dean of Admission Tim Wolfe. “These are students who already feel a connection to the university and have made it their top choice. These decisions are always difficult for our team to make, but having a larger pool gives us an increased opportunity to build the best Class of 2027 that we can. It also signals that our efforts to recruit students and provide them with affordable pathways to the university are working.”

Wolfe said that the uptick in Early Decision I applications may be due to a number of factors. One is a general trend in higher education where more students are applying through early programs such as Early Decision.

Additionally, this is the first admission cycle since the pandemic in which applicants have been able to spend more time researching and visiting campuses, making it more likely they are prepared to apply early.

“We continue to strengthen and highlight our campus visit programs, and we think that’s an area we do very well in,” said Wolfe. “The campus visit experience is one area where the efforts of our team, our admission student volunteers and our partners across campus have definitely contributed to students seeing themselves as part of the William & Mary community and making it their clear first choice.”

Wolfe’s team has also been able to resume recruitment travel for the first time since the pandemic, and they have been working closely with University Marketing to strengthen other communications and outreach to prospective students.

Another potential factor, said Wolfe, could be the announcement of the university’s new initiative to guarantee scholarship aid to cover at least the cost of tuition and fees for all in-state, undergraduate Pell Grant eligible students. The new program will apply to all in-state undergraduate students enrolled at W&M in fall 2023.

“That announcement only further highlighted the university’s commitment to affording exceptional students the opportunity to attend W&M by providing strong financial aid and scholarship support for in-state students,” said Wolfe.

The admission office saw an increase in applications from in-state students, first-generation students and students applying with an application fee waiver. As a result, the office also saw increases during the admit stage for first-generation students and those using fee waivers.

Early Decision II notifications are expected to go out at the end of January, and regular decision applicants are expected to receive notifications by the end of March. Wolfe expects that when the number of Early Decision I and II applications are combined, the university may reach a new total record for Early Decision applications. 

“We’re excited about this incredibly strong Early Decision applicant pool and a strong start to the Class of 2027,” said Wolfe. “However, we know we’re not done. There will be even more tough decisions ahead as we dive into our Early Decision II and Regular Decision applicant pools and finish building an incredible entering class we can all look forward to welcoming to campus in August.”

, Senior Associate Director of University News