The College of William and Mary

Hey! I got accepted!

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I couldn’t think of a less abrupt way to open this post.  I tried.

On February 10 I got the call.  Up until the graduate director actually said “the history department has selected you for admission,” I thought he was going to tell me I was waitlisted or not accepted at all. And then of course I had to struggle to keep from breaking down into a bizarre combination of cheering and crying as he gave me the details.

It feels like a dream come true, this acceptance.  I visited Colonial Williamsburg over the summer — in the early stages of my GRE studying — and because the College of William and Mary is right across the street, Elizabeth and I ventured over to have a look.  We didn’t go into any buildings or take a proper campus tour, but I loved it enough to tempt fate by buying a William and Mary sweatshirt in the bookstore. (I stopped wearing the sweatshirt while working on my William and Mary application later on, just in case that was too cocky for Fortune’s taste.)

Now, nothing is final yet.  There are a few more schools I’m waiting to hear from before I decide where I’m going next year. This decision has been a year (+3 years?) in the making, and I’m being as careful as I can about it.

But because we’re talking about William and Mary, last weekend I took the train from DC to Williamsburg, Virginia to attend their graduate history open house. On the way there, I wrote this:

I left on Friday after work, when the world was brilliant in the sunset.  Even the glass in high-rise windows absorbed orange light and tossed it back across brick, concrete, asphalt.  Cars blurred into red streaks creeping along the beltway, each one a pocket, a seasoned commuter, perhaps talking to her partner about dinner plans, perhaps listening to the news, perhaps merely breathing in the self-contained silence after a long week. And it struck me, as I watched this unworldly world, barely feeling part of it, that I was a pocket of my own.  And that I, despite my doubts a year ago, had accomplished something that this trip was proving.  I could go to graduate school.  I can.  I was going, right that minute, in a train, over the same Virginia soil seaworn colonists had first stumbled onto four-hundred years before.

The open house was exactly what I needed to get a better feel for what the program — and the school — is like.  Other potential MA and PhD candidates were there as well, and we all had lots of opportunities to chat with faculty, staff, and current students.  One thing I couldn’t get over is how much William and Mary values their history department.  History is one of the things the college is known for, and so the department actually receives significant funding and has beautiful facilities even though it’s not science.  Amazing!

I know, of course, that graduate school won’t be like undergrad.  I understand that I won’t have time to be involved in every.single.student.organization the way I was in Morris. I realize that I’ll only be there for a year, and will need to spend that year researching and writing and becoming the best historian I can be. But still, one of the things that struck me about William and Mary is that it feels like Morris.  It has the same small-town, close-knit, we’re all smart and driven but also do weird things like play Quidditch and tug o’ war over a hollow of grass we call a lake feeling I associate with Morris.

I felt at home, in short.  And that is more important to me than national rankings and state-of-the-art libraries.

As I said, nothing is decided yet, but it bodes well. It certainly bodes well.

Since we’re talking about college, here’s one of my favorite Morris stories.

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