I'm considering applying to Williams, and I was wondering how isolated it is from the nearest city. Are there bookstores, shopping malls, etc. near the campus? And if one does not have a car, how accessible are they? Is there a lot to do in the town near campus? Are there buses (or any type of transportation) to get to nearby places? And for current students, does the campus ever feel cramped or confined?
Sorry if these seem like obvious questions, but any answers will be critical in helping me decide whether to apply or not. Please reply & thank you!
Williams is one hour from a city of any size, Albany, NY, with large malls or entertainment centers. There is a college bookstore in Williamstown which has a substantial but not large selection of books. The nearest mall is 15 miles away, but its shops and merchandise are predictable (Target, Sears, BestBuy, Macy's, etc).
The college sponsors a large number of events in the course of the year (consult its calendar for details), and there are regular performances by dance troupes, musical groups, and others at MassMoCA in North Adams (5 miles). Some students doubtlessly feel confined, but most of them are so busy with all of the activities, organizations, and happenings at the college that there are few murmurs about boredom or cabin fever.
Speaking for D, there is so much she wants to do at Williams that she doesn't have time for.
But, it is very rural with one stoplight in town. There is a free shuttle to the mall and a weekly weekend shuttle to NYC and Boston Williams Motorcoach Transport Weekend Trips to NYC & Boston.
The way I see it, if walking to the top of a mountain on a random fall day sounds like fun, Williams may be for you. If not, you might want to look elsewhere.
The small town feels vibrant. It does not feel isolated to me, as let's say, Bard, which still has a wonderful campus but is really remote.
Williams has an independent cinema, restaurants and other necessities right on campus because the town is the campus and the campus is the town in many ways.
DS has worked at the Clark Museum, a world-class museum, while living on campus.
It is meant to be rural and remote and to celebrate Mt. Greylock. The folks who wanted hustle and bustle went off to start Amherst, certain that Williams would eventually fail.
As a point of fact, Pittsfield, a quite large town or tiny city is a half hour bus ride away.
North Adams, a larger town, is about a ten minute ride away. And I personally talked to President Falk about establishing a shuttle bus to North Adams weekends. There are many cafes there, a four screen movie theater, and Mass MoCA, the largest museum of contemporary arts in the world. I am going to see Alec Baldwin there Saturday night with my Williams senior as part of the Williamstown Theater Festival. The showings are at Images Theater, and we'll catch a flick Sunday morning.
You won't find clubs, much live music in the area or that kind of life. If you'd miss that Williams is probably not the right place for you.
And even though you may not have a car, the JA's (Junior Advisors) probably will, at least one of them. My S spent so much time at Walmart with his JA I thought he was moving in.
Good luck with your choices.
I don't mean to push Williams. My DD attended Barnard, and anything smaller than NYC is the boonies to her. She would not be happy at Williams, though she does love Tunnel City, the Williamstown coffee house.
Williamstown, apart from Williams College, is rural. Wooded and hilly and studded with farms. But, like every little town, Billsville, as it is fondly referred to by College residents, has its charms. During your first couple years, if you don't leave campus too often or don't have a car, you won't really notice the isolation.
A few random facts:
- No one really goes to Pittsfield, except for jury duty. The mall is actually in Lanesboro, which is right next to Pittsfield.
- North Adams may have cafes, Mass MOCA, etc, but no one really goes there, either, except to shop at WalMART and StopNShop and see movies at the theater. Beyond that, there is no reason to go eat there when Snack Bar, Spring Street, and others are within walking distance.
- Bennington College is 20 minutes North, but gone are the days when students from both colleges mingled and had fun. There is very little contact with MCLA in North Adams, as well.
- Amherst is only an hour away via Rte 2 if you have a car. Peter Pan takes about three hours or more to get there. The only way you could get to see Amherst regularly without a car is join a sports team.
- There are lots of fun spots students have discovered in the area but you will need a car to get around.
- ZipCar currently has 3 cars on campus. Popular among students.
- Albany (or should I say Latham) is probably the most popular city destination among Williams students for incessant airport trips.
If getting around is a big concern, that should not deter you from attending Williams. Students are extremely nice and if you make good friends, some will have no qualms with your borrowing their cars for quick trips or will even offer to give you a ride. It's a great community.
Um my S goes to Lanesboro, Pittsfield, and No. Adams frequently. He went to Mass MoCA this weekend. He does have a car. He goes to the movies in No. Adams too. It may not be the norm, but those resources are there.
"Is there a lot to do in the town near campus?"... The "town" main street is about 100yards long, has a school-centric clothing store, a very good coffee stop, an excellent ice cream shop, a couple of restaurants and... that's about it. Williams students don't appear to mind the lack of a vibrant or exciting "town", rather, embrace what is on campus or the outdoors aspects of the area. If you are into the "outdoors" and "artsy" venues then you will be very happy. If not, it's either on campus or non-existant unless you have a car and want to drive 7-17 miles to a larger store or want to travel 1.5-2 hrs to a large city. Mapquest your airport entry point and you will see the time/distances. Many Williams students appreciate and embrace the relative isolation. If that's a fit, great. If you are look for something else, verify with at least one trip to the school.
I also just recently visited Williams for Preview Days; here are my two cents.
Williams is incredibly isolated, and definitely very rural. It's quiet there, safe, and the college is really the only "social" hubbub of the town. With that said, I love the location in the Berkshires, because I'm a big outdoors fan and the opportunities to go on impromptu weekend hikes sound like bliss to me. One piece of advice that my uncle gave me during my college selection process that I found very helpful was this: During your next four years, your biggest responsibility to yourself is to grow, and let your environment challenge you to think in different ways. The purple bubble of Williams will give you plenty of time to develop according to your own pace, and offer you respite from possible distractions that might detract from your own growing process--such as those that are present in large, urban-situated schools. I was originally a little skeptic about the degree of isolation at Williams--especially in the first few days after I visited. But after I considered what it was that I really need out of a school--I realized that the contained environment was exactly what I needed.