WILLIAMSBURG — On Friday alone, Williamsburg's population grew by 10 percent.
That's because freshmen flooded the College of William and Mary campus, moving small mountains of belongings into hundreds of dorm rooms.
While here they'll be counted as residents in Census tallies, are eligible to vote if they choose to register, and in many cases wind up finding jobs and spending money at local businesses in the area.
And they're happy to be here.
"I'm feeling really good. I'm excited to be here... and everyone seems to be really excited," said Ryan Wilmington, 18, who arrived from Vancouver, Wash.
Natalie Frye, 18, from McLean, said much the same. She came to Williamsburg knowing she would love it.
"It's going to be great," she said. "In the end, I felt like (William and Mary) was the right place for me from the beginning. I've always loved this area. It's a perfect size. I really like the environment."
By 8:30 a.m. Friday, piles of belongings were stacked up on nearly every square foot of available lawn and sidewalk space along Ukrop Way near Yates Hall, one of about 14 separate residence halls where freshmen reside on campus. According to William and Mary's rules for residential life, freshmen are required to live on campus unless granted an exception if their families live within 30 miles of the college. Freshmen are guaranteed housing on campus, and make up part of the 74 percent of all undergraduate students who will live on campus this year.
"When students apply to William and Mary, they know about that requirement, so even local students understand that," Deb Boykin, director of residence life, said Friday. "Many of them still want to go away to college."
About 1,000 upperclassmen, including resident assistants, orientation staff, Student Assembly members and more, collectively donned neon-colored T-shirts and volunteered to help guide the incoming freshmen to their rooms. Before that, as the new arrivals were waiting to receive their room keys, those volunteers were responsible for getting them revved up about college. There was cheering. There was music. There was dancing.
And then there were the parents, many of whom found friendly conversation with each other while their sons or daughters were off collecting room keys.
"For me, it's a mixture of excitement and anxiety," said Johanna Goulding, of San Diego. Her son Callum is starting his freshman year at William and Mary.
"It really feels like saying goodbye," Goulding said. "But you know what? I think this is a time to reflect on all the things you taught them, and I'm pretty confident that he's going to be fine. It's just some little part of you wants this to happen another time."
Mary Dene, of Sumter, S.C., said she is confident her daughter Maggie will thrive here.
"I am so excited for her," Dene said. "We have gone through years of her longing for other people that have the drive that she does, wanting the adventure. I feel 100 percent certain that she's going to find it here, so I'm not sad at all."
Yasmine Palmer, 18, of Chantilly, said her mother has been trying to make a deal with her to visit home every other week. She's not so sure that will happen.
"I do know I'm going to miss them and they're going to miss me," Palmer said. "It's sad, but we'll adjust to it."
She continued: "The day has come. Everything is happening really quickly, but my family is all really excited for me to start school, get to know people, and move into this new era of life."
Sampson can be reached at 757-345-2345.