College Spotlight – Williams College

College Spotlight: Williams College

Freshman Year Update

By Lila Anderson
March, 2016

Williams College
Thompson Memorial Chapel

Thompson Memorial Chapel

Freshman year went fantastically! I had very few problems adjusting to college life. The randomly assigned roommate model worked fine for me and for most of the people I talked to. Socially, it was very easy to make friends and meet people because everyone was in the same boat of not knowing anyone else; there are no frats at Williams which made parties much less intimidating, and constant party-going is really not an expectation, even for “cool” people.

Academically, I think I was definitely prepared for the classes etc. However, I perhaps was not personally prepared to put as much time into studying as I should have been right off the bat, but I figured this out quickly, and second semester I earned a 4.0 with five classes. One thing to know about Williams vs. other NESCAC schools is the divisional requirements, which demand that I take 3 science/math, can really put a damper on someone who wants to focus early on their majors. That said, it is only three classes and they’re there for a reason, however annoying they might seem at the moment!

Some more specific observations, in case anyone considers Williams in the future…

A lot of freshmen (probably 100) and just as many upperclassmen enroll in Art History 101-102, a full year class. While this is a good class that anyone can take, it’s also meant to prep you to be an art history major, so it’s NOT an easy fluff class in any way!

Chapin Hall y SERSeanCrane (Flickr) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Chapin Hall

Other classes that should not be taken lightly or without purpose are lab sciences like biology, chemistry & physics. The “non-science person” science classes would, of course, be things like geosciences or physics for non-majors. After my experience in biology lab, I can say that these hard science classes are GREAT prep for research, etc., but not something I really would have wanted to do had I known what I was in for, simply because of the massive time commitment and trial-by-fire nature of them.

While the liberal arts idea of taking a variety of classes is good, so is focusing in one area early! It reduces anxiety and can let you take more interesting classes sooner because you have already done pre-reqs.

I LOVE Williams–I didn’t want to leave this summer! It’s a tiny community of people where everyone knows everyone else in certain circles, and even professors and students are able to talk about each other (this sort of intimacy is sometimes not a great thing but usually makes it much more personal in a good way). I think that the general type of student who goes there (that I observe) is someone who is flexible, outgoing, and projects positivity. It is the kind of place where, at first, you feel like nothing can ever go wrong (of course, it can, but the point is it’s very utopic especially at first). I visited a friend in January at U Chicago, and that has a very different vibe–not in a bad way whatsoever, it’s just much more hipster/ironic/clever than the extremely bright/cheerful/sunny Williams…sometimes I wish there were more of the U Chicago in Williams!