Known as a “Public Ivy,” William & Mary consistently appears at the top of national rankings for undergraduate teaching, participation in study abroad and internships. The university is a top choice for nearly 18,000 applicants each year. Due to the competitive nature of such a strong applicant pool, some candidates are placed on the freshmen waitlist; however, these excellent students still have a way to achieve their dream of attending the university. 

Now in its fourth iteration, the Spring Pathway program at William & Mary offers pathways to spring admission for waitlisted students while they pursue educational opportunities during the fall semester.

“Every year, we have a cohort of waitlisted students who are academically strong and really want to be at William & Mary,” said Tim Wolfe, associate vice president for enrollment and dean of admission. “We know we’ll have some spaces available in the spring semester, and that these students would be interested in those spaces if provided a straightforward pathway leading to W&M.”

Eligible students who choose the Spring Pathway option can either complete a full-time semester at their local community college or pursue an academic study abroad opportunity with Verto Education. Spring admission to William & Mary is guaranteed to this cohort upon completion of a full-time semester (12-16 semester credits) and maintenance of a GPA of at least 3.0 with no individual grade below a C-. 

The Spring Pathway option has granted spring admission to over 400 students in four years and welcomed 70 participants in its fourth edition this fall. The program emerged as part of a university-wide strategy designed to sustainably grow undergraduate enrollment while maintaining academic rigor and a high-quality student experience. 

“William & Mary annually attracts immensely talented applicants, each of whom is drawn to our learning community,” said Jeremy Martin, vice president for strategy and innovation. “The Spring Pathway program has allowed us to welcome even more of these students, who add to the vitality of our campus following their time abroad or in a local setting.”  

A decision worth the wait

First launched in 2020, the Spring Pathway program has already produced its first graduates —such as Maddy Meekins ’23, a government major from California who completed her degree early, graduating magna cum laude.

Maddy Meekins 23 smiles on her graduation day.
Maddy Meekins ’23 (courtesy photo).

The COVID-19 pandemic played a role in her decision to take part in the program and start later, if this meant attending the university she felt was “academically and personally” right for her. To secure admission to William & Mary, she pursued the full-time community college option — while taking additional credits from another community college.

Despite receiving acceptance offers from other universities, Meekins remained set on William & Mary because of the reputation of the W&M government program and the Study in D.C. opportunity, which she would pursue in summer 2022 as an American Politics Fellow

Meaghan Kiely ’25 from Minnesota, also a government major, had always seen herself at William & Mary, a feeling cemented through conversations with alumni and a campus visit. When placed on the waitlist, she decided to pursue the community college pathway to spring admission despite having already put down a deposit at another college.

Kiely admitted the stress of weighing uncertainty against security. “But ultimately I had to consider my overall happiness and think about the school I would feel most comfortable at, so it ended up not being a tough decision,” she said.

Emma Dunlop ’26, a Virginia student who had always thought of William & Mary as a top choice, was initially unsure about the Spring Pathway option and considered attending another college straightaway.

Though she was unsure about spending her first semester abroad, at the same time she did not want to start college while in her hometown.

Emma Dunlop '26 leans on a typical red telephone booth in London.
Emma Dunlop ’26 during her semester in London (courtesy photo).

However, she gradually embraced studying abroad for a semester.  She explored the Verto Education website, and after talking to friends, family and school counselors, she decided to join the program and spend her first semester in London.

Alongside Seville and Florence, London is one of the three approved locations for the Spring Pathway program. Verto Education courses are pre-articulated with William & Mary, thus allowing smooth credit transfer.

Of the five classes attended abroad, Dunlop specifically centered three around her intended major — marketing — and minor — theatre. As a key highlight of her semester in London, she mentioned the opportunity to see countless shows and musicals in the world-famous West End theatre district.

“A huge perk was having something to do every single weekend that let you get out of your comfort zone, helped you gain independence and helped you explore the city that you were living in while also engaging in these educational opportunities during the week with your classes,” she said.

‘I belong here’

While Spring Pathway participants don’t officially become W&M students until they enroll in the spring semester, they receive dedicated support throughout the process, from their waitlist decision through January arrival.

The Office of Undergraduate Admission holds multiple information sessions to answer questions and assist students before they commit to the Spring Pathway program. If pursuing the community college option, students work closely with Monica Pinier, senior assistant dean of admission, for fall coursework suggestions; and work closely with Verto Education staff if choosing the semester abroad pathway.

“I love that we are able to offer this unique opportunity to students. We know these students plan to enroll in the spring, so I enjoy working with them during the fall semester to help make it a seamless transition as possible to William & Mary,” said Pinier. “I am personally in touch with nearly all our pathway students to be sure that everything is lined up between their fall academic program and the university. One of the most exciting days of the year for me is January orientation when we finally meet on campus and are able to celebrate as they officially join the W&M community.” 

A headshot of Meaghan Kiely '25
Meaghan Kiely ’25 (courtesy photo).

Between mid-May and mid-June, waitlisted students interested in this opportunity need to submit a non-binding pathway intent form. Continued strong academic standing is a requirement, which must be proven by submitting an official final high school transcript by mid-July.

In August, prospective Spring Pathway students will be contacted to re-open their application and confirm their pathway choice. Official spring admission to William & Mary is subject to demonstrated high standards of personal and academic conduct throughout the pathway.

“During the whole process, we were kept in the loop by William & Mary,” said Kiely, who remembered receiving communications about grade requirements, deadlines and roommates.

Successful pathway students have guaranteed on-campus housing for their first semester and participate in a five-day orientation program.

“The orientation process at William & Mary felt just smooth because it was with all of the transfer students who had all been through similar experiences,” said Dunlop.

Meekins felt nervous when first arriving on campus. “But after a couple of months, there was really no distinction between pathway and non-pathway students,” she said. “I very much felt like, ‘I belong here, I’m really excelling here,’ and a lot of that was just due to the support I received.”

“It definitely was a very big adjustment going from community college classes to William & Mary,” said Kiely. “But I knew I would have put myself in gear and hit the ground running.” She was very transparent about being a pathway student and found that all professors and advisors were “absolutely amazing about it.”

For Dunlop, the hardest part had not been adjusting to campus life, but managing homesickness while abroad. However, she feels now proud of the independence and of the confidence she gained.

“There’s going to be times when you’re looking at social media pictures of your friends from home doing all of these cool things in college,” she said. “But you have so much at your fingertips being in London or Seville or Florence. And I do have fun stories and experiences to share as well.”

Meekins, who worked as a resident assistant for freshmen while at William & Mary, knows that pathway students may need some adjustment, but they are definitely not alone.  “I found that if you ask for help and ask questions, people are willing to dedicate a lot of their time and energy into talking with you, trying to figure out what’s best for you and just make everything work,” she said.

, Senior Research Writer