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Historical America: The Top Five Colleges for History Majors

Historical America: The Top Five Colleges for History Majors
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Is History a Part of Your Future?

OK, I will be right upfront from the start, I love history, and I graduated from college with a BA in History. So some of my comments regarding History Majors are a bit slanted, but they are honest and sincere. Picking the top five colleges for History Majors was not easy, and my alma mater did not make the final round.

So the question I start with is this; do things that happened in the past fascinate you? Are you concerned that if you follow your love for history, your options for employment will be limited? Are you frightened by the prospect that your only real option with a degree in history will place you in front of a class full of underaged demons whose only interest is not what happened in the past but what’s next?

Some rights reserved by thudfactor
Some rights reserved by thudfactor

Well, before you pull in the reins of majoring in history, let me remind you of the words of the Spanish Philosopher George Santayana in his book “The Life of Reason” published in 1905, “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” How many times in our lives have those words played out when it comes to economics, diplomacy and the making of critical decisions on a personal and international level?

History is an integral part of our lives, and we at America Unraveled encourage you to check out the following five colleges. They are known for their History Departments which offer a multitude of career ideas and opportunities. We have ranked them based on campus attractiveness and student life, total cost, average loan debt at graduation, the percentage of those accepted, and annual salary at graduation.


5. College of William and Mary

The College of William and Mary is a public research university located in Williamsburg, Virginia. As a liberal arts university, the college assists students with attaining knowledge about the many options and career opportunities that come from a liberal arts education. William and Mary is the second oldest college in the nation and is considered by many to be a “Public Ivy”.

By Larry Pieniazek (Taken by uploader with Nikon Coolpix 2100) [GFDL, CC-BY-SA-3.0 or CC BY 2.5], via Wikimedia Commons
By Larry Pieniazek (Taken by uploader with Nikon Coolpix 2100) [GFDL, CC-BY-SA-3.0 or CC BY 2.5], via Wikimedia Commons
William and Mary offers an exceptional education and helps to develop a strong academic foundation for its graduates.  Here are some of the rankings of this university; “Forbes Magazine” in 2016 ranked William and Mary 5th in “America’s Top Colleges: Public Schools”, “Best Public College Values: Out-of-State Students” ranked 7th by “Kiplinger Magazine”, “Best College Values: Public” ranked 10th by “Kiplinger’s Magazine”, 36th “Best Colleges for Your Money” by “Money Magazine in 2016 and overall William and Mary was ranked in the “America’s Top Colleges” 38th by “Forbes Magazine” in 2016. One important fact for the History Majors among us, William and Mary was ranked 3rd for “Best Graduate Schools: U.S. Colonial History” and ranked 36th in the nation as the “Best Grad Schools: History”.(wm.edu)

William and Mary is ranked #1 in the”Highest Undergraduate Study Abroad Participation: Public Universities” by the Institute of International Education. (wm.edu) One of the core values of W&M is diversity where inclusion and equality are lived out. Finally, research by the students sits as a core value at this liberal arts college.

The Acceptance Rate at William and Mary is 34%. There are over 6300 undergraduate students and 2,000 post graduate students. In-State tuition fees for the 2016 – 2017 academic year are $18,687, Out-of-State tuition is $41,718, Room and Board is $11,382. 33% of full-time undergraduate students receive some kind of need-based financial aid, and the average need-based scholarship or grant is $15,857. The average student debt upon graduation is $27,368. The average starting salary for a History Major upon graduation is $42,000.

How can we talk about one of the 5 top colleges for History Majors without telling some of the history of the College of William and Mary? The College was founded in 1693 by “letters patent” issued by King William III and Queen Mary II. As stated in my introductory remarks W&M was the 2nd oldest college established in the U.S. The first college was Harvard University.

William and Mary is awash with famous historical people who were educated here in the early development of our nation. Some of those key figures were Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe, and John Tyler. There were 16 members of the Continental Congress who were also educated at W&M and four signers of the Declaration of Independence.

The history of the “Honor Code” in our institutions of higher learning began at William and Mary. William and Mary was the location where the academic honor society Phi Beta Kappa was established in 1776. W&M is also the home of the oldest academic building in America the Wren Building designed by the famous colonial architect Sir Christopher Wren in 1695.

Originally founded as an Anglican Institution, students were required to be members of the Church of England in order to attend the school. Williamsburg was granted a royal charter in 1722 and became the capital of Virginia from 1699 to 1780. When George Washington was 17 he received his surveyor’s license through the college and would eventually return to become the first American Chancellor. W&M was the first college in America to establish a graduate school for Law and Medicine in 1779.

During the Civil War, the college was closed down because so many students left the school to join the Confederate Army. Many of the buildings were used as barracks for the Confederate soldiers and later, as the war progressed,  buildings were used as hospitals for both the Confederate and Union soldiers. The school was reopened in 1869. In 1906 the General Assembly of Virginia passed an act that made W&M a publicly supported institution as it remains today.

Student life on campus includes a plethora of activities with something for everyone.  The student body consists of athletes, artists, researchers, hikers and students who like adventure. Let’s begin with the more than 450 clubs and organizations. There are organizations that have to do with the arts, media, religion, fraternities and sororities, astronomy, dance, community service and sports just to name a few.

Opening Convocation begins the academic year. Incoming students are greeted as they walk through the Wren Building by the upper-class men and women. Some of the activities that  await students are ; Muscarelle Museum of Art Fall Festival: Brafferton Stomp Dance which features a stomp dance performance, great food and an art exhibit; 3-Part Monday Relaxation Sessions at Campus Rec, the Fall Festival and Petting Zoo, music, pumpkin carving, decorating and of course great food, there are concerts, speakers, and comedians ongoing at the Kaplan Arena.

Most students live on the beautiful campus right next door to Colonial Williamsburg. The rumor among the students is that the food on campus is to die for…yes we are talking about college food. Williamsburg offers the students many exceptional restaurants, live music, art galleries, movie theaters, and wonderful shopping opportunities. If the outdoors is what you seek, you will not be disappointed at W&M. There are many local parks; there is the Virginia Capital Trail, there are horse stables for riding, there are all kinds of trails and clubs for biking, hiking and running and there is always Virginia Beach within striking distance of W&M.

In downtown Williamsburg, students will find the Farmer’s Market and a number of different festivals throughout the year. Sports are huge at W&M. Eighty-five percent of all students participate in athletics or a recreational program. W&M has 23 Division I varsity sports teams known as the Tribe. They play in the Colonial Athletic Association.

The undergraduate programs at W&M are many and challenging, but we are focusing on the History Department. Can you imagine studying American colonial history with Williamsburg right next door?  What an opportunity! Colonial Williamsburg is a few steps away from campus and continues to be a living portrait of what life was like in the US 220 years ago.

History is offered on the undergraduate, graduate and Ph.D. level. W&M describes their History curriculum in this way, “The diverse History curriculum explores the human experience across the globe, from the end of the ancient world to the dawn of the 21st century. Students of history read intelligently, think critically, and write effectively.”(wm.edu) The Lyon Gardiner Tyler Department of History encourages a close working relationship between students and faculty. Many of the professors have won awards for teaching, for scholarship, and for excellence. As mentioned in the introductory paragraph, W&M is ranked as one of the top three places in the country to study U.S. Colonial History.

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Jamie Stewart America Unraveled's resident expert on all things higher ed!

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