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George Washington

It’s spring break season, which means college-visiting season for many families of high school students. Fredericksburg is home to both the University of Mary Washington and Germanna Community College. The wider community also has a lot to offer students seeking a well-rounded education. Here are five points to ponder.

1.     It’s where our first president became a man. George Washington grew up right across the river from downtown Fredericksburg, at Ferry Farm. He probably would have been shipped off to boarding school in England if his father hadn’t died, leaving him with much responsibility. So he undertook an “independent study” of sorts by using the city of Fredericksburg as a training ground where he learned the gentlemanly arts of fencing, cards, dancing and more. The people he would have seen passing on the ferry and road that ran by his family’s home would no doubt imbue him with an adventurous spirit, all of which helped make him the first leader of the United States of America. The University of Mary Washington bears the name of his mother.

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2.     Off-campus dining won’t break the bank… Fredericksburg has a culinary scene with many accolades. Chef Joy Crump of Foode and the soon-to-open Mercantile has appeared on Bravo’s Top Chef and has been a finalist in several state-level chef’s competitions. Kybecca Chef Wade Truong is constantly churning out creative dishes that rival those found at trendy spots in bigger cities like Richmond. All this is available at prices far more friendly to a college budget than bigger-city restaurant scenes. So you can educate your palate at the same time you’re feeding your mind.

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3.     …and neither will tuition.  The University of Mary Washington was listed as one of the 200 best value colleges by the Princeton Review earlier this year. Kiplinger’s personal finance magazine has also included UMW in its annual list of the 100 best college values since 2006. In the 2015 rankings, the school was ranked 6th out of Virginia’s best-value schools and 92nd out of best values nationwide.

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4.     It’s easy to spend time outside. Studies have shown that access to nature can enhance academic performance in young people. Fredericksburg’s extensive network of trails, and the easy access it provides to recreational activities on the Rappahannock River, Potomac River and Lake Anna make it a great place for nature-loving students. (Find a listing of outdoors-related activities here.) On the weekends, you can access hiking in Shenandoah National Park or exploration along the Northern Neck with a drive of less than two hours.

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5.     No car? No problem. University of Mary Washington students don’t necessarily have to worry about the always-stressful hunt for a parking spot. If you choose to come here without a car, you’ll still have access to a rich and engaging selection of activities. Walk downtown for coffee, dining, quirky bookshops and cute boutiques. Take the pedestrian bridge over U.S. 1, where student housing mixes with shops and restaurants in Eagle Village. Walk to the train station for excursions to Washington, D.C., New York and beyond. All without turning a key in the ignition.