George Mason University
George Mason University Mason
George Mason University

For freshman triplets, three isn’t really a crowd

September 15, 2016   /   by Cathy Cruise

Zachary (from left), Julia, and Nicholas Baines are all freshmen at Mason this year. Photo by Evan Cantwell.

They don’t look much alike, and they certainly aren’t interested in the same areas of study. But the Baines triplets—Nic, Julia and Zach—are all newly enrolled Honors College students at George Mason University this fall, and living in freshman dorms only steps away from one another.

Move-In Day found the trio excited but tired, having just finished up a camping trip with other George Mason freshmen through Project Peak, an outdoor excursion offered to first-year students.

“We were camping in the George Washington National Forest,” said Zach. “Our first day we went canoeing, the second day rock climbing and the third day we went on a nine-mile hike. It was super fun and all three of us enjoyed it a lot.” 

It was Zach, in fact, who took the lead in choosing to come to Mason.

“This was my first choice,” he said, then corrected himself. “First and only.”

Since the family has lived in Warrenton, Va., the past two years, Zach wanted to attend college close to home. He’s interested in studying cybersecurity, or maybe economics. That’s another reason he chose Mason, he said, because of the wide range of degree programs.

“And I like the location, since it’s close to Washington, D.C.,” he added.

Brother Nic had planned to join the military after high school. But when a case of asthma kept him from enlisting, he decided to apply to Mason too. Although he’s an undeclared major for now, he plans to study international government and politics, and is especially interested in “working with other countries and diplomats to figure out how to broker peace between countries and help with conflicts.”

Julia plans to major in psychology, and hopes to get a master’s in industrial/organizational psychology. Someday, she said, “I’d like to get a job with a big company like Google.”

The siblings were born in Bethesda, Md., and have lived in a number of states across America, plus seven years in Germany. Their younger brother Lukas, 14, is still at home, having just started high school.

Being in the same classroom as kids was nothing new for the triplets, Julia said, “but it depended on the principal. Sometimes they wanted to split us up, so some years we weren’t together in class. If we had our way, we’d prefer to be together.”

That closeness, Nic explained, is something that just naturally happens, even now. “We don’t have to be together all the time, but eventually it just tends to work out that way,” he said.

“People are usually interested in how we interact with each other,” Julia added. “So they like to have us all hang out together.”

To offset triple tuition costs, the three are making use of the Post-9/11 GI Bill. Since their father was in the military for 30 years and was on active duty during 9/11, they receive four years of paid tuition, which they’re dividing among themselves.

The triplets’ parents, Angela and Mark Baines, said that, while they were open to where their kids would attend college, Mason met each of their children’s needs by offering majors and opportunities for relevant work experience leading to jobs after graduation. The university also met the parents’ own needs of “manageable logistics and compatible vacation times,” Angela said. “We want each of them to be happy and inspired! So far, so good."

After college, Julia and Nic said they’d like to go back to Germany. Zach isn’t sure where he might end up. Asked how it will be if they’re off in different areas of the country, or even the world, Julia shrugged.

“I’m not sure we’ll be physically close to each other,” she said. “But we’ll always be best friends.”