Williams College is a small liberal arts college. This fact dictates the type of education, social life, and general atmosphere that exists at Williams. Before deciding to apply to Williams, one should consider everything that makes up small, liberal arts college life.
Williams' academic reputation is excellent and students receive an education that cannot be found at universities or larger institutions. Except for introductory courses, classes are small. Classroom participation is encouraged and often demanded. A history class I visited featured primarily discussion.
All of the students I talked to said that one of Williams' great assets was the accessibility of professors. Its drawback seems to be that Williams does not have the resources of a larger institution. Consequently, Williams' science program seems to suffer. However, the science professors I talked to insisted that the pros of a Williams education in science outweigh the cons. Without the interference of a graduate program or hefty research requirements, Williams professors are able to concentrate on the undergraduate program, and meet often with students, and can offer more fruitful research opportunities.
The campus is small (most classes can be easily reached by walking) and beautiful. Hills and mountains surround the college. Williamstown is nothing more than a few streets: you can find what you need but not much more. The closest actual town is North Adams, ten minutes away by car.
Basically, Williams offers isolation and a closed environment of 2,000 students. Without any metropolitan life, the students become close. Many of the freshmen I talked to commented they knew almost everyone in the freshman class. Other visiting high school students I met were concerned that they might start to feel claustrophobic after a few years. But most people at Williams want exactly this kind of environment.
With no city life and nowhere to go, what can you do at night or on weekends at Williams? There is a lot of enthusiastic participation in the intramural program. Almost everyone can find an activity to interest them. Good skiing areas are fairly close. But without anything else to do, many seem to end up drinking on the weekend.
Overall, I liked the intimate atmosphere and felt very comfortable with the people. I felt that all college classes should be like the history class I visited. Decisions involving Williams should be fairly easy. It's hard to be apathetic about the school.
Reviewed in 1990
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.