UMW prides itself in its academics. All students strive for their very best performance, taking upto 18 credits every semester, making the dean's list, taking on multiple majors and studying in the library on Saturdays. This may seem overwhelming but when your teachers are as passionate about their students as they are their work any less would seem unfit. On average class sizes are 25 and student teacher ratios are 18:1. This makes it incredibly easy to get to know not only the rest of your classmates but your teachers as well. I've had great relationships with the majority of my professors in and outside of the classroom, as I've been known to bump into them at school plays and at the grocery.
Students at UMW are primarily focused on their academics. Because UMW is a small school, there are generally small classes. Because of the small class sizes, class participation is not only expected, but required. UMW's academic requirements are better now than they have been in the past. While some may appreciate the broad curriculum of the "liberal arts" education, it can be quite a nuisance to have to fit so many different disciplines into your studies. Further, it creates a "Jack of All Trades, Master of None" situation. I would have rather focused more on my major and taken more classes within it, but I was forced to fulfill a bunch of Gen. Ed. Requirements instead.
Professors know your name, despite what it may seem like, so don't skip classes. Class size can be quite small, especially for high classes in a major, where a student-professor relationship becomes important and helpful. Through office hours, most professors are available for students, whether the subject of conversation is academic or otherwise. Historic Preservation is a unique major that is rarely offered at other schools, but is a wide-ranging topic dealing with sustainability, museum studies, archaeology, and planning. UMW is the first school to have offered this as a discipline, and the department flourishes, attracting unlikely preservationists to the field.
Some professors will never bother to learn your name. Most will tell you if they won't. Most professors though, especially in the smaller classes, really take the time to try to know your name and help you. Some of the classes, mostly the ones I've been taking for general education requirements, do bore me sometimes. I'm not interested in these topics and so sometimes it is hard to pay attention. Also, I HATE that final grades are dependent upon few things. (however, most colleges are like this) As a whole, I feel like the classes are competitive and challenging. Teachers are friendly and (usually) helpful.
For the most part, professors will know your name if you make your presence known. Class sizes range anywhere from 11 to 80 students. Despite what tour guides may tell you, there are 5 lecture halls on campus. Your general education classes will likely have anywhere from 30 to 80 students while special interest classes will likely be closer to 20. The school offers classes ranging from "Anarchism and Queer Theory" to "Dramatic Literature and Performance Studies". If you're interested in an obscure discipline, there's likely to be a professor willing to teach a class on it.
The size of classes allows for student-teacher relationships. I do know all of my professors by name, and as you go further into your field, the professors are help with decisions relating to your major. The new curriculum allows for freshman seminars, which really helps with getting adjusted to school. The class sizes are small and are designed for students to ask questions that can help them will their upperclassmen classes. There are many opportunities on campus to help students when they graduate, including job fairs and mock interviews provided by the school.
At a lot of colleges and universities, the classes you take are mostly taught by the TA with the occasional visit from the professor. At Mary Washington, this is not the case. TA's do not even exist at UMW. Every class is taught by the professor, and even more surprisingly, the professors care. They will take the time to learn your name; they will do what they can to help you understand and get the most out of their class. The professors want you to succeed, not just to make them look good, but because they want you to be a success and be all you can be.
The classes are UMW are most always small which allows students to interact well with each other and the professors. Chances are you know your whole class and professor well midway through the semester. Because classes are small it is easy to tell if people are skipping or not participating. Being in class and participating in discussions is very important and may determine part of your grade. When I am in a class concerning my major or an area of my interest going to class isn't a chore as it was in high school.
The class sizes are amazing. Even the "big" classes (aka the 111 science classes) are only like 35ish people. The other classes, once you get into the higher levels, are great. The professors all know you by name, and everyone is really nice and approachable. Depending on your study methods, you should do OK. I skate by with hardly studying, but that's because I can retain information pretty easily. The gen ed's are a pain, but worth it just because you get a broader scope of knowledge and skills.
Small classes, great professors (mostly), and an intellectually stimulating student body. We have some really unique classes (anthro. of food), and some dedicated profs. (one of mine had 15 office hours a week plus by apt.). Requirements just changed, so we'll have to wait and see on that one. I know as a business major I'll be ready and in demand when I enter the work force, esp. if I stay local with UMW's connections in Fredericksburg... Overall it could stand to be more challenging.