Last month Williams College hosted the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) Men’s Swimming and Diving Championships. My husband and I sat in the stands to watch our son Ryan (a senior at Hamilton College) swim his final swim meet. The bleachers were packed with parents, students, and fans from the 11 NESCAC schools. Lots of school spirit and team camaraderie filled the pool deck and stands. Between swimming sessions, I toured the picturesque Williams College campus and attended the information session.
Williams College is a highly selective liberal arts school with 2000 undergraduates located in the quaint Berkshire town of Williamstown, MA. It often edges out Amherst for the number one spot in the college rankings. Assistant Director of Admission, Rachael Rosten, began the packed information session by asking the prospective students to introduce themselves and state their academic interests. The students represented a cross section of the US and overseas as well. They expressed interest in the humanities, sciences, economics and the arts. Rosten said that these prospective students mirrored Williams’ diverse student body.
The college embraces the liberal arts philosophy and encourages students to explore all of their academic interests through its flexible curriculum. This allows students to double major, minor and/or have a concentration. Williams does not require students to fulfill a math or foreign language requirement as part of the general curriculum. You will not find engineering or business degrees here.
Williams has a 4-1-4 calendar. Students take four courses fall and spring semesters and one course or experiential experience during the mandatory short winter term. Freshmen must remain on campus during winter term, but upperclassmen may participate in off-campus options. All winter term experiences are pass/fail and designed to be low stress.
Unique to Williams is the vast, accessible tutorial program. A tutorial is a semester-long course with two students and a faculty member, where in depth research on a single topic is explored and debated. More than 50-percent of all students participate in at least one tutorial during their tenure at Williams. Each semester there are 60-70 tutorial courses offered across all disciplines.
Approximately 50-percent of all students take advantage of the more than 300 Williams approved study away programs. Williams has three unique programs of its own. Williams-Exeter Program at Oxford accepts 26 Williams students to participate in a full year program. Students live in the Ephraim Williams House on the UK campus and engage in tutorial style learning. Williams MYSTIC at the Marine and Sea Base at Mystic, CT is a hands-on research-based program. Williams in Africa is based in Cape Town, South Africa. Students study at the Cape Town Policy Institute and are assigned to a Parliament member for the tutorial portion of the program.
Students are uber involved on campus. Williams athletes compete in Division III athletics and consistently dominate in the NESCAC. There are plenty of athletic opportunities for those who want to compete in intramural and club sports too. The Outdoors club is the largest club on campus. Skiing, hiking and kayaking are very popular activities and all are just a short drive from campus. There are many opportunities for those talented in the performing arts. Williamstown is home to the Williamstown Theater Festival. One of the admissions interns told us about his experience with the festival last summer. There is also an amazing on-campus art museum and many art museums and galleries in the surrounding towns. Opportunities to write for student-run newspapers and literary magazines are abundant. Our tour guide was editor for William’s student newspaper, The Record, and he told us that all writers are encouraged to submit articles. If you are looking for Greek life, you won’t find it here.
Traditions are cherished here. The rivalry between Amherst is longstanding. We saw many students wearing shirts and caps saying, “Friends Don’t Let Friends…Go to Amherst.” The Amherst vs. Williams football game is dubbed the, “Biggest Little Game in America.” Winter Carnival was underway during our stay. There are lots of winter sporting events and games. Ice sculptures adorned the campus but no natural snow this year. New England was having unseasonably warm temperatures.
Admissions and Financial Aid Admissions to Williams is highly competitive. The acceptance rate for the class entering in 2015 was just 18%. All students must submit the SAT or ACT and two subject tests. Williams no longer will require the writing portion of the “new” SAT. Interviews are not offered on or off campus. Williams meets full demonstrated need. No merit aid is available.91% of all aid is grant money.
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