The tutors behind Varsity Tutors are not just here to teach – they’re sharing their college experiences as well. Courtney is a Seattle tutor specializing in Calculus tutoring, SAT prep tutoring, and much more. She graduated from Williams College in 2008 with a Bachelor’s degree in English. See what she had to say about her alma mater:
VT: Describe the campus setting and transportation options. How urban or safe is the campus? Are there buses or do you need a car/bike?
Courtney: Williams College is in Williamstown, MA in the Northwest corner of the state, about 3 hours from Boston and about 4.5 hours from NYC. It's small so there are no buses and you won't need a car. In fact, first-year students are not allowed to bring cars, but there are always plenty of upperclassmen to take you anywhere you need to go.
VT: How available are the professors, academic advisers, and teaching assistants?
Courtney: Professors are extremely helpful, friendly, and available. Many of them regularly took my classmates and myself out for dinner or to go bowling, or hosted game nights at their homes. Your academic advisers will be as helpful as you need them to be. You generally meet with them once or twice a year to discuss your courses, major plans, and make sure you're on track. Once you declare a major, your adviser will generally be a professor from that department, so they can also answer questions for you about the best way to prepare for certain careers.
VT: How would you describe the dorm life – rooms, dining options, location, socialization opportunities with other students?
Courtney: The dorms are very nice and well kept. You can choose from lots of options including large dorms with dining halls in them, or smaller houses with character and charm. Williamstown is small and off-campus housing is limited so students are required to live on campus for their first three years. That means all of your friends are nearby. All dorms and bathrooms are co-ed and almost all rooms are singles after the first year. The other advantage to living on campus is that all the dorms are cleaned and maintained by the college so you don't have to deal with a landlord if something breaks, someone will always come let you in when you lock yourself out, and someone else will mop your bathroom floor.
VT: Which majors/programs are best represented and supported? What did you study and why? Did the university do a good job supporting your particular area of study?
Courtney: At Williams, you are able to take courses in many different areas of your choice. Until my senior year, I had two majors – Math and English, along with a concentration in Legal Studies. I was able to keep my options open because each major only requires 10 courses. I decided to complete the English major because I was most interested in completing an honors thesis in Creative Writing, which allowed me to work one-on-one with several successful authors. About 75% of Williams grads also go on to complete graduate degrees. A Williams education is excellent preparation for graduate study in medicine, law, business, and many other fields.
VT: How easy or difficult was it for you to meet people and make friends as a freshman? Does Greek life play a significant role in the campus social life?
Courtney: There are no fraternities or sororities at Williams. First-year housing is divided into "entries" which consist of 15-20 students and two "Junior Advisers." Your JA’s are not like RA’s. They're not there to enforce the rules, they're just there to help you adjust to college, help you find activities that interest you, and make sure you get the support you need. Entries host weekly meetings and plan events like mall scavenger hunts, apple picking, and bowling nights. Most of my best friends from college were in my entry, but it is also easy to meet other students with similar interests through student groups and activities.
VT: How helpful is the Career Center and other student support services? Do many reputable companies recruit on campus?
Courtney: The OCC (Office of Career Counselling) is excellent. The individual advising was exactly what I needed when I began my job search. I sat down with more than one adviser to talk about different fields. They will help you understand your options, suggest companies or programs that might be a match for you, and review your resume to make sure you're putting out your best application. They hold regular information sessions about different career tracks, and many high-profile companies and graduate programs recruit on campus. Individual departments often host similar events or ones aimed at graduate programs. Williams also has an incredible alumni network. Years after I graduated, when I was looking at a career change, the alumni network provided several great opportunities and helped me find the right path.
VT: How are the various study areas such as libraries, student union, and dorm lounges? Are they over-crowded, easily available, spacious?
Courtney: The student union building looks like a ski lodge and has excellent food. It is also home to the snack bar, which provides after-hours food and treats, as well as a popular hang out. The libraries are beautifully built, and have a variety of available work spaces. Since I graduated, they are building a brand new library which promises to be even better.
VT: Describe the surrounding town. What kinds of outside establishments / things to do are there that make it fun, boring, or somewhere in between? To what extent do students go to the downtown area of the city versus staying near campus?
Courtney: Williamstown has a few restaurants, a single-screen independent movie theater, a bar or two, and a coffee shop, but much of your entertainment will come from school-sponsored events or from exploring the outdoors. There are plenty of places for hiking, camping, rock-climbing, and white water rafting. Nearby attractions include the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, the Blue Benn Diner, and The Apple Barn, where you will find the best apple cider donuts you've ever had.
VT: How big or small is the student body? Were you generally pleased or displeased with the typical class sizes?
Courtney: There are only about 1,800 students at Williams, which means small classes, and lots of attention from professors. My classes generally contained 10-40 students, depending on the department and type of course. Discussion classes were common and generally contained 15 students or less. Williams also offers tutorials, which is a class of two students and one professor. I took several tutorials and very much appreciated the opportunity to work so closely with my professors.
VT: Describe one memorable experience with a professor and/or class. Perhaps one you loved the most or one you regret the most.
Courtney: Williams is on a 4-1-4 schedule, which means that you take four courses each in the fall and spring semesters and during the month of January, you take just one course. This month is called Winter Study and it allows for students to explore topics outside a typical curriculum. My sophomore year, a friend and I designed an independent project to travel to South Africa and study the after-effects of Apartheid and Reconciliation in conjunction with the country's response to the AIDS epidemic. We spent two weeks in Cape Town and Johannesburg visiting museums, historical sites, and, yes, the beach. Through this experience, I learned important lessons about the process of enacting large scale change, differences in national culture and politics, and the importance of sunscreen.
Check out Courtney’s tutoring profile.
The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Varsity Tutors.