What is it Like to Attend Williams College?

The tutors behind Varsity Tutors are not just here to teach – they’re sharing their college experiences as well. Clare is New York City tutor specializing in SAT prep tutoringACT prep tutoring, Reading tutoringWriting tutoring, and Spanish tutoring. She graduated from Williams College in 2011 where she studied Spanish and Art History. 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?

Clare: Williams College is located in an amazingly beautiful little town nestled in the Berkshires. You certainly do not need a car, there is a bus to nearby towns, and the Peter Pan Bus service can get you to New York City and Albany. 

VT:  How available are the professors, academic advisers, and teaching assistants? 

Clare: Professors at Williams are there to teach undergraduates, pure and simple. I had life changing experiences with professors who invited me over to their homes, helped me to get jobs, and guided me to what I wanted to do with my life.

VT: How would you describe the dorm life – rooms, dining options, location, socialization opportunities with other students?

Clare: Williams has an incredible first year housing arrangement called the entry system. Each entry is approximately 20-25 first-years who are designed to be a cross section of the freshman class. They are diverse not only racially, but financially, geographically, and in terms of interest. Each entry is led by two junior advisors, one male and one female, who have committed to live with freshmen for the full year. They are not compensated in any way, but because of the richness of the program, there is fierce competition to become a junior advisor. JA’s love to give of themselves to make sure each first year at Williams is supported. 

Beyond freshman year, most students live on campus and are allowed to choose with whom they live. Roughly two-thirds of upperclassmen have singles, and the housing options are varied and all very nice. Seniors have the option to live off-campus (which in reality is in the center of campus, Spring Street) or in co-ops, college-owned autonomous housing.

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?

Clare: Williams has legendary liberal arts and science programs. Because the student body is small and the endowment is large, students have incredible opportunities for research and exploration. 

I studied Art History at Williams, which might be the best place in the country to study Art History. There is a storied past of Williams professors and alumnae being utterly central to the arts in the United States. Scholarship and intern opportunities were abundant, and I learned a huge amount.

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?

Clare: There is no Greek life at Williams, which is ideal for most students there. It’s a small student body, but the entry system, extracurricular activities, and sports all help to create micro-communities. Overall, the effect is that students at Williams feel comfortable and included in whichever circle they find themselves in. 

VT: How helpful is the Career Center and other student support services? Do many reputable companies recruit on campus?  

Clare: I am still getting advice and help from the Career Center! The staff is really well-connected and helpful, and lots of amazing companies (Bain, McKinsey, Teach for America, Goldman Sachs, etc.) recruit on campus. 

VT: How are the various study areas such as libraries, student union, and dorm lounges?  Are they over-crowded, easily available, spacious?

Clare: The facilities at Williams are really spacious and lovely. The library is currently being replaced by an amazing, eco-friendly new building, and the academic buildings and student center have lots of comfortable study nooks, group rooms, and couches. Dorm lounges are abundant (at least one on every section of the floor) and most buildings have really beautiful views of the mountains.

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? 

Clare: Williamstown is a naturally breathtaking place. They call it the “Purple Valley” because when the sun sets on the mountains, they look purple. Over the decades it has become an arts and cultural hub of Massachusetts, home to the Clark Art Institute, Williamstown Theater Festival, and very close to Tanglewood, MassMOCA, Edith Wharton’s home, the Rockwell Museum, Jacob’s Pillow, and much more. Even if you’ll live in a city for the rest of your life, I think Williamstown is the ideal place to spend four years.

The college would never bring 2,000 students to northwest Massachusetts and expect them to fend for themselves in terms of fun. There is always so much to do on campus that it’s difficult to find time for it all! The school brings comedians, bands, ensembles, dance groups, and plays to campus, and there’s always a ton of college sports games, theater shows, and concerts to see.

VT: How big or small is the student body? Were you generally pleased or displeased with the typical class sizes?

Clare: Class size is a strength of Williams College. Aside from Intro lectures, most classes will be under 20 and then once you are a junior or senior, classes often shrink to 8-12 people. You get an incredible chance to learn from your fellow students and get personal attention from professors.

VT: Describe one memorable experience with a professor and/or class. Perhaps one you loved the most or one you regret the most.

Clare: Williams is one of the only schools in the U.S. to have such a huge tutorial program, adapted from that of Oxford and Cambridge Universities. In every single department, there are multiple course offerings every semester that consist of two students and a professor. Each week, both students read a great deal (sometimes 200-300 pages) and one student will write a paper based on a prompt. The other student will respond to that paper, and then during the weekly class meeting (which is usually 2 hours), the two students will engage with the material and with the professor directly. It puts the onus of education on the students, and these kinds of classes are available at every level, from freshman spring to senior spring.

My favorite tutorial was on violence and atrocity in Latin American literature. We discussed the effect of los conquistadores, wars, dictatorships, and genocide on the development of Latin American culture and literature. We read primary documents, poems, novels, and satire. We discussed the trends of trauma in literature, all in Spanish, and were able to guide the direction of conversation.

Check out Clare’s tutoring profile.

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Varsity Tutors.