UPenn vs College of William and Mary: Which School is Right for You?

July 11, 2023
By AdmissionSight
A mother and her student looking at her laptop.

UPenn vs College of William and Mary: Which School is Right for You?

Choosing the right college is an important decision in any student’s life. Two well-respected institutions in the United States are the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) and the College of William and Mary. Both schools have their unique advantages and disadvantages that can assist prospective students to make educated decisions based on their personal preferences and academic ambitions.

In this article, we’ll conduct a thorough comparison between UPenn and the College of William and Mary in various aspects to assist students in their selection process.

History and Background: UPenn vs the College of William and Mary

The University of Pennsylvania was founded by Benjamin Franklin in 1740, making it one of the oldest universities in the country. It is a private research university located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, with a total undergraduate enrollment of 9,266.

On the other hand, the College of William and Mary was founded in 1693 and is located in Williamsburg, Virginia. It is a public research institution with an undergraduate enrollment of 6,377. Both schools are steeped in history and have produced significant alumni.

Despite their differences, both UPenn and the College of William and Mary share a commitment to academic excellence and innovation. UPenn is known for its strong programs in business, law, and medicine, while the College of William and Mary is renowned for its programs in history, government, and public policy.

Additionally, both schools have a rich tradition of producing leaders in various fields, including politics, business, and the arts. Overall, UPenn and the College of William and Mary are two of the most respected and prestigious universities in the United States, with a long history of academic excellence and innovation.

Academic Programs: UPenn vs the College of William and Mary

Both schools have a wide range of undergraduate and graduate degree programs. UPenn is well-known for its business and engineering programs, while William and Mary have a strong liberal arts core curriculum. William and Mary offer over 40 undergraduate programs across their three faculties—Arts & Sciences, Business, and Education.

UPenn, on the other hand, offers undergraduate studies in twelve different schools, including engineering, nursing, and liberal arts. Both schools have outstanding programs that are nationally recognized for their excellence.

Students leaning on a wall while looking at a laptop.

Additionally, both universities offer a variety of research opportunities for students. UPenn has over 165 research centers and institutes, including the Penn Institute for Biomedical Informatics and the Penn Wharton Public Policy Initiative. William and Mary has several research centers as well, such as the Schroeder Center for Health Policy and the Center for Geospatial Analysis.

Furthermore, both universities have strong international programs, allowing students to study abroad and gain valuable global experience. UPenn has over 50 study abroad programs in over 30 countries, including programs in Africa, Asia, Europe, and Latin America. William and Mary has partnerships with universities in over 50 countries, offering students the opportunity to study in places like China, Spain, and Australia.

Admission Requirements and Acceptance Rates: UPenn vs College of William and Mary

Admission to both schools is highly competitive. UPenn received a record-high of 56,333 applications for Fall 2021, out of which only 3,202 students were admitted into the Class of 2025, marking an acceptance rate of only 5.7%. In comparison, the College of William and Mary received 17,614 applications and accepted 3,215 students for the Fall 2021 class, rendering an acceptance rate of 18.2%.

Both schools have strict requirements for admission, including high school transcripts, standardized test scores, recommendation letters, and a personal essay. Applicants must ensure they meet these requirements to stand a chance of getting admitted.

Aside from the standard admission requirements, both UPenn and the College of William and Mary also consider extracurricular activities and community involvement when evaluating applicants. UPenn, for instance, values leadership skills and community service, while the College of William and Mary looks for students who have demonstrated a commitment to their passions and interests outside of academics.

It is also worth noting that both schools offer various programs and resources to support their student’s academic and personal growth. UPenn, for example, has a robust undergraduate research program that allows students to work closely with faculty members on research projects.

The College of William and Mary, on the other hand, has a strong emphasis on interdisciplinary studies and encourages students to explore different fields of study through its general education requirements.

Campus life: UPenn vs the College of William and Mary

William and Mary have a traditional college environment that centers around a tight-knit student community and small classes. They have a strong Greek life presence, offering over 20 fraternities and sororities on campus.

Additionally, the school has over 450 registered student organizations, including students’ government, academic, cultural, and sports clubs. William and Mary’s athletics consist of 23 varsity sports teams.

On the contrary, UPenn has a bustling urban campus in the heart of Philadelphia, with numerous opportunities to explore cultural events and activities in the city. UPenn also offers a broad range of clubs and organizations, including an active Greek life scene. Moreover, the campus has a robust sports program that boasts 33 varsity sports teams.

Male student reading a book in the hallway.

One of the unique aspects of campus life at William and Mary is the emphasis on community service. The school has a strong commitment to giving back to the local community, and students are encouraged to participate in service projects and volunteer work. There are numerous opportunities to get involved, including service-oriented clubs and organizations, as well as service trips during school breaks.

At UPenn, students have access to a wide range of academic resources and support services. The school has a robust tutoring program, as well as writing and research centers to help students with their coursework. Additionally, UPenn offers a variety of study abroad programs, allowing students to gain international experience and broaden their horizons.

Housing options for students at UPenn and College of William and Mary

Both schools have a variety of housing options for their students. William and Mary require their first- and second-year students to live on campus, which fosters a strong sense of community and belonging among students. The school has over nineteen residential dormitories to house students.

UPenn offers on-campus housing for first-year students, and most students live off-campus or in university-owned apartments and housing units. Additionally, UPenn has a program called College Houses, which allows students to live in smaller residential communities that offer additional opportunities for socializing and academic pursuits.

It is important to note that both schools also offer resources and support for students who are seeking off-campus housing. UPenn has an Off-Campus Services office that assists with finding apartments, understanding leases, and connecting with landlords.

William and Mary has a similar office called Off-Campus Housing that offers resources and advice for students who are looking to live off-campus. Both schools prioritize the safety and well-being of their students and provide guidance to ensure that students are making informed decisions about their housing options.

Cost of attending UPenn vs. College of William and Mary: Tuition fees, room & board, financial aid opportunities

Attending either UPenn or William and Mary is an investment that requires financial planning. During the 2020-2021 school year, the estimated cost of attendance for William and Mary for in-state students was $31,108, and for out-of-state students, it was $52,682. This cost included tuition, fees, and room and board.

Similarly, the estimated cost of attendance for UPenn was $79,496, inclusive of tuition fees, room and board, and other personal and academic expenses. However, both schools offer financial aid opportunities to help students pay for their education. William and Mary provides need-based aid, merit-based scholarships, and work-study programs.

UPenn offers a robust financial aid program, with over $10 million in merit scholarships handed out to eligible students annually.

Aside from financial aid opportunities, both UPenn and William and Mary offer a wide range of academic programs and extracurricular activities. UPenn is known for its strong business and engineering programs, as well as its prestigious Wharton School of Business. William and Mary, on the other hand, is known for its strong liberal arts programs and its historic campus, which dates back to the 17th century.

Two students walking in the school campus.

Another factor to consider when choosing between UPenn and William and Mary is location. UPenn is located in Philadelphia, a bustling city with a rich history and culture. William and Mary, on the other hand, is located in Williamsburg, Virginia, a small town with a strong sense of community and a focus on history and tradition.

Ultimately, the decision between these two schools will depend on a variety of factors, including academic interests, financial considerations, and personal preferences.

Career prospects after graduation from UPenn vs. College of William and Mary

Both schools have impressive career prospects for their graduates, and many alumni have gone on to work for top Fortune 500 companies or started their own businesses. UPenn has a dedicated Career Services Office that supports students in their career development and job search.

The school has a strong alumni network that often provides opportunities for new graduates. William and Mary has a similarly dedicated Career Development Office that offers services such as career coaching, resume review, and job search assistance. Additionally, William and Mary hosts career fairs and on-campus recruitment events to connect students with potential employers.

However, there are some differences in the career prospects between the two schools. UPenn is located in Philadelphia, which is home to many large corporations and industries, providing students with a wide range of job opportunities.

On the other hand, William and Mary is located in Williamsburg, Virginia, which is a smaller town with fewer job opportunities. However, the school has strong connections with the government and non-profit sectors, which can be advantageous for students interested in those fields.

Another factor to consider is the majors offered at each school. UPenn has a strong business program, with the Wharton School of Business being one of the top-ranked business schools in the country.

This can be a significant advantage for students interested in pursuing a career in business. William and Mary, on the other hand, has a strong liberal arts program, which can be beneficial for students interested in fields such as education, public policy, or the arts.

Faculty quality: A comparison of the teaching staff at both universities

Both schools have an excellent roster of faculty members who are experts in their fields. William and Mary prides itself on its 12:1 student-to-faculty ratio, which allows for personalized instruction and mentorship opportunities. Additionally, the school has a high percentage of tenured and tenure-track professors.

At UPenn, the student-to-faculty ratio is 6:1, indicating a more intimate learning environment that allows for in-depth class discussions and one-on-one interactions with professors. UPenn has a similarly high percentage of tenured professors, indicating a commitment to faculty development and retention.

Two students walking in front of a building.

However, there are some differences in the faculty composition between the two universities. William and Mary has a higher percentage of adjunct professors, who are often working professionals in their respective fields. This allows for a unique perspective in the classroom and real-world connections for students.

On the other hand, UPenn has a larger number of full-time professors, who are able to dedicate more time to research and scholarship.

Both universities also have a strong emphasis on diversity and inclusion among their faculty. William and Mary has implemented a Faculty Diversity and Inclusion Committee, which works to recruit and retain diverse faculty members. UPenn has a similar initiative, with a focus on increasing the representation of women and underrepresented minorities in faculty positions.

Student-faculty ratio: Class sizes at UPenn vs. College of William and Mary

The student-to-faculty ratio is a vital indicator of the quality of education offered. With a smaller student population, William and Mary has a class-size that offers more opportunities for close student-teacher interaction.

The average class size at William and Mary is 25 students, with an average size of 18 students for the smaller seminars. UPenn’s average class size is 30 students, though this is lower for smaller seminars. They offer numerous research opportunities, including engaging in interdisciplinary research with professors or conducting independent research projects.

Aside from class sizes, another factor to consider when comparing UPenn and William and Mary is the diversity of their student bodies. UPenn has a larger international student population, with students from over 100 countries. This provides a unique opportunity for students to learn from different cultures and perspectives.

On the other hand, William and Mary has a higher percentage of in-state students, which may create a stronger sense of community and local connections.

Furthermore, both universities have strong academic programs, but they differ in their areas of focus. UPenn is known for its business and finance programs, with the Wharton School being one of the top business schools in the world. William and Mary, on the other hand, has a strong emphasis on the liberal arts and humanities, with a highly regarded English department and a prestigious law school.

Research opportunities for students at UPenn vs. College of William and Mary

Both schools offer impressive research opportunities for students to explore their academic fields by working with faculty members and conducting experiments. William and Mary has a flourishing research program, and their mission is to allow students to engage in research actively.

UPenn’s academic programs also provide abundant opportunities for research, and their faculty members are renowned in their fields of specialization. The school offers paid research opportunities in many departments, and students can also participate in co-op programs to gain industry experience.

However, there are some differences in the research opportunities offered by the two schools. At William and Mary, students have the chance to participate in interdisciplinary research projects, which allow them to work with faculty members from different departments and gain a broader perspective on their research topics.

On the other hand, UPenn has a strong focus on research in the health sciences, with many opportunities for students to work in medical labs and hospitals. Additionally, UPenn has a well-established network of research centers and institutes, which provide students with access to cutting-edge research and technology.

Location comparison: Urban Philadelphia vs. Historic Williamsburg, VA

UPenn’s urban setting in the heart of Philadelphia offers students the opportunity to be in close proximity to a vast array of cultural, social, and scientific opportunities that only a city environment can provide. William and Mary, on the other hand, is situated in the historic city of Williamsburg, Virginia, providing students with a colonial-style, small-town atmosphere that enhances its quaint charm and is ideal for those seeking a relaxed, slower-paced lifestyle.

Students walking in the school campus.

Despite being located in a bustling city, UPenn’s campus is designed to provide a sense of community and a peaceful environment for students to study and relax. The university has several green spaces, including a large park in the center of campus, which offers a respite from the busy city streets.

In contrast, William and Mary’s campus is steeped in history, with many of its buildings dating back to the colonial era. The campus is also home to several museums and historical sites, providing students with a unique opportunity to learn about the country’s early history.

Another advantage of UPenn’s location is its proximity to several major companies and organizations, providing students with opportunities for internships and networking. William and Mary, on the other hand, is located in a region known for its natural beauty, with several state parks and outdoor recreational areas nearby.

Students can take advantage of hiking trails, kayaking, and other outdoor activities in their free time, providing a balance to their academic pursuits.

Campus safety comparison: Crime statistics at UPenn vs. College of William and Mary

Both schools have comprehensive safety and security measures in place, with low crime rates on and off campus. According to the Annual Security Report, UPenn’s campus has seen a decline in crime rates over the years, with no reported cases of murder, sexual violence, or robbery in 2020.

William and Mary has a similar track record, with fewer incidents of violent and property crime. Both schools offer escort services, emergency telephones, and Campus Safety departments to ensure student safety and security on campus.

However, there are some differences in the types of crimes reported on each campus. UPenn has had a higher number of drug and alcohol-related incidents, while William and Mary has had more incidents of theft. It’s important for students to be aware of these differences and take appropriate precautions to stay safe.

Additionally, both schools have implemented new safety measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. UPenn has increased cleaning and disinfecting protocols, implemented social distancing guidelines, and required masks to be worn on campus. William and Mary has also implemented similar measures, as well as offering virtual learning options for students who prefer to stay off-campus.

Alumni network strength comparison: The influence and reputation of UPenn vs. College of William and Mary graduates in their respective industries

UPenn and William and Mary have significant alumni networks that create vast opportunities for collaboration, mentorship, and networking. UPenn’s alumni include individuals in high-ranking positions in various fields, including business, academia, government, and nonprofit organizations.

Group of students looking at each other while talking in a table.

William and Mary’s alumni network is vibrant, with a fantastic reputation for excelling in law, public service, and entrepreneurship. Both schools have proud alumni who have gone on to make a significant impact on the world.

Overall student satisfaction levels at UPenn vs. College of William and Mary

Ultimately, student satisfaction is a key factor in customer retention and referrals. According to US News & World Report’s National University Rankings, UPenn ranks 8th in the country, and William and Mary ranks 41st. Both schools have a high rate of student satisfaction, with students commending the quality of academics, faculty, and campus life. Nevertheless, student satisfaction levels vary based on personal preferences, academic interests, and lifestyle choices.


Choosing the right college is one of the most critical decisions a student will make. Both UPenn and William and Mary are excellent choices that offer unique advantages and disadvantages. By thoroughly assessing the academic programs, campus culture, faculty, research opportunities, location, and financial aid offered, students can select the institution that is the best fit for them.

Whatever your preference, one thing is for sure: a degree from either UPenn or William and Mary is sure to open up the doors to a wealth of opportunities, whatever your career aspirations may be.

If you’re set on getting into a world-class college but aren’t sure how to make it happen, we can help! AdmissionSight is a leading college entrance expert with over a decade of experience helping students just like you get into the schools of their dreams.

At AdmissionSight, we focus on offering a wide range of services, all aimed at helping students perfect their applications to catch the attention of admissions officers. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation and learn more about what we offer.

College Admissions

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Sign up now to receive insights on
how to navigate the college admissions process.