Being at a Liberal Arts school means I don’t compromise at W&M

We love being nerds, and that’s why we’re great

I really like math. There’s something so calming about sitting down after a long day and working with x’s and y’s. I am, however, also really bad at math. I love concepts, but simple arithmetic kills me.

I didn’t know I liked math until a few weeks ago. Up until then, I had always hated math. That hatred reached a new level of passion my senior year of high school during AP Calculus. My teacher had a hard time understanding that anyone could struggle with “simple concepts.” Needless to say, I dreaded that class. I was just not a math person.

When I got to college and found out that I had to take calculus again I freaked out. I assumed my college professor would somehow be even more intense and demanding than my high school teacher.

I signed up for calculus. I walked into class and sat down with a pit in my stomach, but was shocked when the professor assured us that he would never give a multiple choice test and that he cared more about understanding the concepts than execution of simple arithmetic.

College math homework in front of a laptop

Numbers are a nice break from all the reading and writing

His approach debunked every myth I’d heard about a college math class. He personally grades all of our tests, and, true to his word, does not take off if we make a simple mistake but still correctly demonstrate our understanding of the concepts. Freed from stressing about every minutia detail, I actually understand the concepts better and have begun to enjoy doing the homework.

People say that William and Mary is a fairly nerdy school, and in many respects they’re right. The students here are unapologetically smart, incredibly involved in academics and extracurricular, and have huge dreams for their lives. Yes, we not-so-jokingly refer to the Swem library as the social center of campus, and yes many of us have random quirks, but nerdiness is not the defining characteristic of William and Mary.

We have a dynamic social life: the Greek system attracts about 30 percent of the student body, and AMP (Alma Mater Productions), a social organization, always hosts fun things on the weekends, like booking Paramore and giving students free admission. W&M acapella groups have huge followings, and people always pack the “Wren 10”, the weekly acapella concert and party.

William and Mary has also sent athletes to the NFL, NBA, and Major Leagues. Most people on campus involve themselves in at least two or three organizations, if not more. We party, we serve, we study, we play, and most importantly, we live.

William and Mary fans enjoying college varsity sports

Photo: www.wm.edu/campuslife/sports-rec

I could never go to a school that forces me to choose between being nerdy and having fun, or between succeeding socially and academically. I could never go to a college that made it almost impossible to double major or study abroad.

The required liberal arts curriculum forces us to take courses outside of our comfort zones and the professors of those classes teach them in such engaging and interesting ways that they can become some of our favorite classes.

My calc. professor knows 75 percent of the class took it because math is a required component of the liberal arts curriculum. He knows that we don’t love calculus nor are we planning to major in math and consequently, he tests us on concepts rather than our technical math abilities, creating a learning environment of mutual respect, trust, and admiration.

College girls going to a ball or formal event

I dream of double majoring in business and psychology, studying abroad, taking a little in my sorority, leading a small group, tutoring in English, and learning how to play the piano. If I were at any other college and told people that list, they’d smile, look at my list and say, “Wow that’s so ambitious” or “So which ones will you actually pick?” Here I tell people my list and they say support me and often tell me they know someone with a similar interest and offer to put me in contact with them.

The students here view the world differently. We don’t allow ourselves to be pigeonholed into a single major, activity, or characteristic. Encouraged by our professors, we strive to be socially, academically, and civically engaged adults. I’m thankful I go to a school where I’m more than just a number and where I’m encouraged and expected to explore all academic interests, not just the ones I’m “good” at.

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