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Strongest and Weakest Majors

Jenn98765Jenn98765 2 replies9 threads New Member
edited January 2014 in Williams College
I don't have a clear direction yet for what majors I'm interested, so I'm looking to apply to well rounded schools so I keep my options open. I know many liberal arts colleges are more limiting simply because they are smaller and have fewer professors, so I just want to get a clear idea of what Williams' strongest and weakest majors are.
Thanks!
edited January 2014
17 replies
Post edited by Jenn98765 on
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Replies to: Strongest and Weakest Majors

  • jax123jax123 91 replies20 threads Junior Member
    That's your job. Look at faculty, look at courses, look at salary/internships (if that interests you), etc. Econ and math are good at Williams. I also hear bio is a good choice.
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  • FoxboroPiperFoxboroPiper 80 replies2 threads Junior Member
    Hmm...to be honest I can't think of any majors as being weak. There are a few very small departments, and there may be majors that are less rigorous than others, but these are not inherently weak. You'll have to do some research yourself and contextualize the strength of majors to your own goals. Examples: the music major, an otherwise intense curriculum, is weak for an aspiring symphony tubist vis-a-vis a conservatory performance program; the psychology major, contemporarily regarded (at any college) as unprestigious, may be just the unique springboard a particular student needs to get into a top-notch Psy.D. program.

    If by "strong" majors you mean prestigious ones, I guess the Art History and Math Departments are identifiable standouts. But I give "prestigious" only the limited (and tautological) definition of that about which people often talk as being prestigious.
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  • electronblueelectronblue 1287 replies17 threads Senior Member
    The limits you might face have little to do with what may be seen as weak or strong but by varying prerequisites within these majors. Some majors offer a lot of courses that non-majors can take, history or religion for example. Econ and psych are structured in such a way that there is something of a sequence involved that may make it hard to take an elective if you aren't a major. So while you can dabble, some majors are harder than others to schedule. The course catalog is a very valuable tool in evaluating any college. Look at the requirements for a major and then look at what courses are actually offered and what sequence is required.
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  • person5923person5923 26 replies2 threads New Member
    The question asked is most sensibly posed as comparative: what are the strongest majors at Williams when each is compared to the academic programs at competing institutions?

    The most concise answer is this: that Williams is perhaps the best place in the US for undergraduates in mathematics, computer science, and the natural sciences. However, the same cannot be said of the humanities and social sciences at Williams, with, of course, the notable exceptions of art history and economics, in which subjects again Williams no doubt has fair claim to offering the very best undergraduate education in the US. For all other subjects, there are at least a few peer institutions which offer better programs.

    The criteria used for arriving at this answer include: (1) quality of faculty research, as measured by citations, outside grants, national awards, and the quality of the university presses and journals in which faculty members publish, (2) the student-faculty ratio in the departments and the opportunities afforded for individual attention and joint research with instructors, (3) placement of students into highly desirable careers and graduate programs.

    Obviously, one would receive, all things considered, an excellent education at Williams in any subject, as one would at any of its peer institutions; equally obviously, the strength of the academic program in one's potential majors is but one factor in choosing a college.

    Nonetheless, it seems quite clear that anyone interested in the natural sciences, mathematics, economics, or art history would be foolish not to put Williams somewhere near the top of their list of colleges to consider. For other subjects, it is far less clear.
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  • circuitridercircuitrider 4275 replies189 threads Senior Member
    The most concise answer is this: that Williams is perhaps the best place in the US for undergraduates in mathematics, computer science, and the natural sciences.
    The criteria used for arriving at this answer include: (1) quality of faculty research, as measured by citations, outside grants, national awards, and the quality of the university presses and journals in which faculty members publish,

    It's interesting that person5923 would choose that criterion for evaluating faculty strength rather than the familiar liberal arts college dodge of supposedly better teaching, something which is entirely subjective and difficult to compare, unlike,say, a typical month's publishing output at a competing college:
    Faculty Achievements | The Wesleyan Connection
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  • mythmommythmom 8292 replies13 threads Senior Member
    Music and English are also strong. Romance languages (and languages in general) are weaker department.

    And I want to also give a shout out to physics.
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  • Momof2EphsMomof2Ephs 15 replies1 threads Junior Member
    I don't know about any other languages, but Japanese is a very strong program.
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  • Falcon1Falcon1 1919 replies31 threads Senior Member
    "The most concise answer is this: that Williams is perhaps the best place in the US for undergraduates in mathematics, computer science, and the natural sciences. "

    Pretty sweeping statement. I'll just pick on CS. There are what eight faculty members? The depth and breadth of course offerings and areas of research are a fraction of what is offered at places like MIT, Carnegie Mellon, Stanford and Berkeley. Not saying that the faculty at Williams aren't absolutely terrific and interesting research opportunities don't exist right off the bat but the best place to study CS in the US? C'mon.
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  • ManusiaManusia 31 replies2 threads Junior Member
    How strong is the Astronomy program at Williams?

    Also, how many students do the 3-2 Engineering each year? Which partner institutions do they usually prefer?
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  • honeybee63honeybee63 581 replies11 threads Member
    Pre-Engineering | Physics
    Engineering 3-2 is with Columbia.
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  • Rad-in-Plaid96Rad-in-Plaid96 3158 replies49 threads Senior Member
    The Art History is very good as well
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  • JrockJrock 1267 replies22 threads Senior Member
    @Manusia: in my (obviously biased) opinion, physics is the hardest and, consequently, one of the strongest majors at Williams (astro comes close and we take practically the same classes for the most part). Same goes for music. And I'm sure anyone can argue for their major as well. I don't think you can go wrong with whatever major you choose. Study what you love. You can take at least 32 regular courses and 4 WS courses. Enjoy it all.

    Very few students do the 3-2. A friend did the 4-2 to Columbia, but he was the first in over a decade! If you want to get a phd in engineering, I'd rather apply directly to grad school from Williams (I'm currently in a grad CivE program; pm me with any questions).
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  • JrockJrock 1267 replies22 threads Senior Member
    Also, it's really all relative and you have a say in determining how strong your major is.

    I don't know if the stats are public, but see if you can find the majors that tend to be paired. There is something to be said for this. Most music majors I know (myself included) doubled in something else. Music at Williams is certainly intense, but we are not Oberlin! Also foreign languages are not our strong suit (French, for instance) but things have definitely changed since the new facilities appeared.
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  • firecracker3firecracker3 15 replies4 threads New Member
    Most well-known are probably Art History, Economics, and Math. The Chinese department is also said to be very good; Williams is where the famous Wang Li Hong learned how to speak Mandarin. He's a superstar in China now, so the teachers must be pretty good. :)
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  • etondadetondad 1092 replies31 threads Senior Member
    There is also a very strong student ethos of the double major--I almost think that nearly a majority of kids double major. It is quite easy to do. If not double major then with a "concentration" (like a minor) in another field, esp a language.
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  • WasatchWriterWasatchWriter 2432 replies96 threads Senior Member
    The criteria used for arriving at this answer include: (1) quality of faculty research, as measured by citations, outside grants, national awards, and the quality of the university presses and journals in which faculty members publish, (2) the student-faculty ratio in the departments and the opportunities afforded for individual attention and joint research with instructors, (3) placement of students into highly desirable careers and graduate programs.

    I know it's an old thread, but since it got revived, I must take exception to items 1 and 3 here. Research and publication do not automatically translate into good teaching. You're as likely to find a positive correlation as a negative or null correlation. As to job placement, well, you can't place people where the jobs are scarce. It would be absurd to say that a STEM department is of higher quality if it places a higher percentage of students than an English department.
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  • Violet1996Violet1996 837 replies1 threads Member
    "Williams is the place where kids get converted from bio to art history" I quote my tour guide.
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