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Pros and Cons of Williams?

topp25topp25 5 replies11 threads Junior Member
What are the best part of Williams? What are the worst?
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Replies to: Pros and Cons of Williams?

  • PublisherPublisher 9040 replies110 threads Senior Member
    edited August 2019
    I find it a bit disturbing that such a wealthy school would have "run-down parts of campus" as noted in the pst above.

    Any concern regarding lack of name recognition is misguided as employers and grad schools are well aware of Williams College's stellar academic reputation.
    edited August 2019
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  • writingpumpkin03writingpumpkin03 158 replies6 threads Junior Member
    I haven’t seen any areas of the campus that I would describe as “run-down”. There are definitely old and outdated buildings, for sure, but nothing is “run-down” in the sense that it is badly maintained. In fact, I’ve always had the impression that the college spends quite a lot on facilities and landscaping—probably more than is necessary, to be honest.

    I agree that prospective students shouldn’t get the wrong impression regarding name recognition.
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  • EphmanEphman 458 replies4 threads Member
    I think the GreyKing's points were mostly fair, but I disagree vehemently with the "run down" facilities comment. I don't think any school in the liberal arts category can top Williams in terms of facilities, and most are far behind. In fact, the critiques I've heard are that Williams has poured too MUCH money into construction over the past few decades. The difference between the campus now vs. what it was even 20 years ago is truly dramatic.

    Consider: the student center (including the main dining halls), a second, smaller student life building, the theater and dance complex, the campus library, the two main humanities buildings, and the football / track / lacrosse complex are all very new, absolutely state-of-the-art facilities. The studio art building is also spectacular and still relatively new. I don't think any liberal arts school offers a better student center, set of dining halls, library, or theater complex in particular, and that covers where students spend the bulk of their free time outside of their dorm rooms. Williams is in the process of finishing a massive 200 million dollar science complex, which along with Amherst's impressive new facility will now be the state of the art for liberal arts colleges. Williams also just built two brand new upperclassmen dorms and regularly updates all of its dorms. Those dorms towards the end of their life-cycle will soon receive gut rehabs ... college dorms take a beating, but Williams is pretty on top of major rehabs for every dorms on pretty regular schedules. Some of the indoor athletic facilities could use some upgrades, but Williams did just pour a few million into improving the field house (which was the worst of them) this summer. Williams also just completed a brand new Williams Inn and is in the planning stages for a new art museum.

    When I highlight the best things about Williams, I like to point out what distinguishes it from its main peers (Amherst, Swarthmore, Bowdoin, Middlebury, Pomona), all of which offer tremendous undergrad educations, small class sizes, great reputation, and so on. Williams' unique attributes to me are:
    - Tutorials
    - Winter Study
    -a lot of great, quirky, really cool institutional traditions (some relatively new and some very old) including Mountain Day (in particular), Williams Trivia, the WALLS program, and watch dropping at graduation
    - Williams-Oxford
    - the entry and JA system
    - close proximity to world class museums (which feature not just art but a lot of great events) in a rural environment (the Clark and MassMOCA, and coming in about two years, EMRCA, plus likely even more forthcoming)
    - and of course, the mountain setting cannot be emphasized enough!
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  • bresdobresdo 25 replies1 threads Junior Member
    I think the only thing run down is the athletic facilities...for a school that has basically won every Lear Cup since it started the locker rooms, weight rooms, etc and all out dated. Compared to all the other NESCAC school Williams is far behind.
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  • circuitridercircuitrider 3473 replies173 threads Senior Member
    I think the days when even the wealthiest LAC could just dip into its endowment and solve all their deferred maintenance problems with one fell swoop are long gone. Old New England campuses are like museums devoted to the history of American architecture and like any museum, the constant curating and upkeep can be expensive. Most of Williams' peers sort projects according to priorities - student safety being #1 - and assign routine things like fresh paint or new carpeting, to specific rotational schedules. Bottom line: Leave the endowment for more important probems like maintaining need-blind admissions (which I suspect takes up much of its functioning), and be aware that just because something looks "run down" doesn't mean it's being neglected.
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  • TheGreyKingTheGreyKing 2214 replies103 threadsForum Champion Williams College Forum Champion
    Above, Ephman mentioned Mountain Day as a special traditional “pro” for Williams. Today was Mountain Day 2019!

    Here is the announcement:

    https://www.williams.edu/feature-stories/its-mountain-day-2/

    Here is a detailed schedule for the day:
    https://woc.williams.edu/mountain-day-2019/
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  • CottonTalesCottonTales 1362 replies21 threads Senior Member
    Pro, it's Williams.
    Con, it isn't Amherst.

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  • EmpireappleEmpireapple 1920 replies27 threads Senior Member
    I see the location as a negative. The area is remote and IMO, not easily accessible. North Adams is the major town adjacent to Williams (the bubble) and it is very depressed. North Adams suffered greatly during the long recession and their major employer (a hospital) shut down. The Williams campus may be attractive to IMHO, it is an area that is less desirable than it was many years ago.
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  • TheGreyKingTheGreyKing 2214 replies103 threadsForum Champion Williams College Forum Champion
    edited October 2019
    Whether the location is a plus or minus depends on your opinion. For my son, the rural location was a major factor in favor of Williams. It is so beautiful!

    For others, who feel they need things like shopping malls and clubbing and big crowds of people, being in a rural area might not be fun.

    Williamstown and the Berkshires are charming and lovely. And North Adams has revitalized and has become a tourist venue for art and music.

    Here is an article about Williamstown from the Boston Globe:
    http://realestate.boston.com/location-location-location/2017/08/24/what-is-it-like-to-live-in-williamstown/

    Here is a New York Times article with a positive portrayal of North Adams: Betting on the Berkshires
    https://nyti.ms/2ISweZ5

    Forbes lists Williamstown/ North Adams as a best travel destination, along with Charleston and Colonial Williamsburg and their ilk: https://www.forbes.com/sites/laurabegleybloom/2018/12/06/where-to-go-next-best-places-us-travel-2019/#6f3226196928

    Definitely the location should be considered by any applicant. Some won’t care about the location one way or another, some will hate it, and some will love it. Those who love it, really love it, from their freshman orientation when they backpack on a WOOLF trip OR visit the local art museums and a waterfall and other local attractions on a “Where Am I” orientation, etc., to when they return to Williamstown as alumni for years to come.
    edited October 2019
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  • writingpumpkin03writingpumpkin03 158 replies6 threads Junior Member
    @Empireapple Personally, I love Williamstown, but it certainly isn’t for everyone.
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  • EmpireappleEmpireapple 1920 replies27 threads Senior Member
    I'm sorry, I go to North Adams a few times a year and it has not revitalized. It is downright depressed and parts are not even safe. Yes, the Berkshires are beautiful and Williams is an attractive campus but the entire area is different than it was 20+ years ago.
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  • TheGreyKingTheGreyKing 2214 replies103 threadsForum Champion Williams College Forum Champion
    ^Interesting. I think it is much nicer than I went there 30 years ago. I guess opinions vary!

    Now there are restaurants with a wider selection of cuisines. Back then, you couldn’t get a New York City quality slice of pizza or a bagel in Williamstown (the only bagels were frozen bagels in plastic bags, and the pizza at the pizzeria on Spring Street was, er, ‘unique‘), and to get decent Chinese food you had to drive to Bennington. But now there are many ethnic restaurants on Spring Street and in the surrounding neighborhood, including Coyote Flaco on Route 7, which serves Mexican food that is among the best we have had (and we live in the New York metropolitan area and my spouse’s favorite cuisine is Mexican).

    It takes ten minutes to drive into North Adams, so it is not a huge factor in most students’ feelings about the college as many students almost never go there, but I think North Adams is much nicer now than it was 30 years ago. It has MassMOCA, and nice stores and restaurants, and a new railroad museum coming in, instead of the rundown former mill buildings with broken windows that I used to drive past 30 years ago. Colleagues at work, upon hearing where my son goes to college, tell me about their annual visits to music festivals in North Adams, and many people mention they have gone to MassMOCA or the Clark. The area is a tourist destination. The articles I attached above note that North Adams is an up-and-coming place, where real estate values have increased.

    But I do not think most college students spend a ton of time in the surrounding towns anyway— there is so much on-campus action!— unless they are involved in a service organization that works with local children or adults, or in the consulting club that works with local businesses. And, of course, when students do venture off-campus, the Outing Club is among the most popular options, as students hike, canoe, etc.

    Of course, not everyone will like a rural area. The least happy students at Williams seem to be those who went there purely for the prestige, often using it as a safety for the Ivies, without considering how they would feel about a small college social environment in a small rural town. Happy students love the close campus community and often mention the rural area as one of the things they love about Williams. The alma mater song is even entitled, “The Mountains.”

    It’s a quiet, beautiful setting, with the mountains its most noteworthy feature. Whether that is a pro or a con depends on one’s personal perspective.
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  • ivegraduatedmomivegraduatedmom 50 replies0 threads Junior Member
    Our family members are "mountain people." Each needs access to the mountains regularly for their physical and mental health. Both our kids chose it ED. DS hikes, rock climbs, skis and snowboards. DD is a big hiker, snowshoer, and is ticking off parts of the Appalachian trail, especially since it runs through campus along Mt. Greylock. They chose Williams ED because of its location, not in spite of it. YMMV

    BTW, Williams is not a safety compared to the Ivies, regardless of the higher admit rate. And anyone who thinks that will be sorely disappointed there and probably suffer for it. WC students have a harder workload, higher expectations from their professors, and are more broadly talented than most Ivy students. Many Ivy students couldn't hack Williams. It self selects serious students who can create their own fun.

    Good luck to everyone!
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  • TheGreyKingTheGreyKing 2214 replies103 threadsForum Champion Williams College Forum Champion
    edited October 2019
    Someone mentioned Winter Study as a “pro,” and I just want to expand on that. Winter Study is a month-long term in January. Everyone must take a class during Winter Study. But the options are unique and endless:

    —Freshmen take a course on campus. Starting sophomore year, you can study either on or off campus.

    —One off-campus option is to apply to intern somewhere. There a ton of places that are thrilled to take Williams students for the month, providing real-world experience that helps students learn about certain careers while building a resume and connections.

    —Another off-campus option is to take one of the many travel courses offered by professors. These vary year to year, although the program in Georgia (the ex-Soviet Union Georgia, not the state) has been offered for over thirty years. Some of these trips are to nice, warm locations- Morocco, Nicaragua, the Bahamas- a fun contrast to the Berkshires in January!

    —Another off-campus option is the Gaudino Fellowship, which covers your expenses for immersive experiential learning in another country. Students propose their own projects and apply for the fellowship.

    —Students can propose their own independent study- a “99” course- which may involve research and/or travel and/or just a deep study of a topic of interest.

    —On campus, there are opportunities to take courses on campus from experts in their fields (often alumni). There are a ton of offerings in consulting, investment banking, law courtroom simulations, etc.

    —There are some quirky on-campus offerings, like songwriting or cooking or the mathematics of contract bridge. Professors seem to have fun designing playful course topics and titles.

    —And, of course, there are plenty of seriously intellectual course offerings.

    If you are on campus, you will have lots of free time with only one course. All Winter Study courses are pass-fail to encourage exploration. That also means they are relatively stress-free.*

    So, that means there is plenty of time to play outdoors in the snow, attend social events, devote more time to your clubs, etc. Students also design and offer non-credit courses for one another, just for fun— like teaching their schoolmates to dance the jitterbug, or to cook a type of ethnic cuisine, or to watch and debate a favorite television show.


    Winter Study website: https://winterstudy.williams.edu/


    (* But not work-free— students may be required to write ten-page papers, make presentations, etc. )
    edited October 2019
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  • PublisherPublisher 9040 replies110 threads Senior Member
    edited October 2019
    You had me at "the Bahamas".

    Decades ago, I attended an LAC with a four week term in January during which students took one course that met 5 days a week or travelled abroad with a group from the school.

    Incredible experiences. I still remember one travel abroad option offered by psychology & sociology profs was titled "People watching in Montreal."
    edited October 2019
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  • merc81merc81 10804 replies173 threads Senior Member
    edited November 2019
    Williams merits recognition for 1) adhering to a traditional size that virtually defines the LAC model and 2) continuing to require standardized testing as a component of an application. In these examples, Williams signals that academics, not cultural currents, determine its priorities.
    edited November 2019
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  • OCDaddyOCDaddy 89 replies1 threads Junior Member
    I visited Williams College as it’s on my daughter’s list (though it remains to be seen if she is on theirs) and couldn’t resist the opportunity as it was absolutely not on my way to somewhere else but what’s a four hour detour to a college-obsessed dad? My brief impressions:

    Distance/convenience to home is not the issue I thought it would be. Driving would undoubtedly be a slog but direct BWI to ALB was a snap, and like many airports of that size ALB is inherently easier than larger airports. I just walked to the rental car facility and I was ten minutes from jetway to highway. Drive was gorgeous and varied, passing first through/near some potentially interesting towns and then over the mountains. Sure it was fall and a glorious sunny day but I found it all very beautiful. i might have been singing in my rental car. Like a lot, and loudly.

    The campus is gorgeous. Though it lacks my preference for architectural cohesion (or more accurately “buildings lookIng the same” - honestly what I know about architecture?) and a fairly busy road dividing campus in two, I was nevertheless completely charmed. Spring Street that also essentially runs through campus is super cute and convenient and as an old guy makes me want to move there. Coffee shop at the bottom of the street is fantastic. The Inn sitting nearby is brand new and close to perfect. Can I live there? As someone said above, the key facilities (library, bookstore, student center) are absolutely stunning. Sometimes older campuses have great exteriors but lack comparably impressive interior spaces, largely because the historic brick shells don’t allow for light and space. Nope, not this place. I also loved the cute little bedroom community that surrounds campus. The athletic fields are bordered by cute homes and leafy streets. Again, made me want to live there.

    One unconscionable eyesore is that quasi-dome field house monstrosity that looks more like something from a combat airfield or munitions factory than a college building, much less one on this otherwise stunning campus. I kept thinking the doors would pop open and a brand new B-17 bomber would be rolled out. Yikes, how has that thing not been bulldozed?

    Lots of energy on campus. Activity on college campuses is a hit-and-miss thing, more a product of timing than anything else (exams? breaks? a big football game?), so what’s buzzing one minute can be completely dead another. But there were lots of students walking together, laughing, and wearing the purple gear. Seems like a happy place with kids who really want to be there.

    I left reluctantly, swearing to myself that I wouldn’t let what I’d just seen become a part of my daughter’s process and choice. But jeez, it’s going to be hard. If she gets rejected I’ll console myself with the fact that the mascot is the stupidest thing ever.
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  • PublisherPublisher 9040 replies110 threads Senior Member
    @OCDaddy: OCDaddy, Banana Slug; Banana Slug, OCDaddy.
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  • OCDaddyOCDaddy 89 replies1 threads Junior Member
    Ha! At least the banana slug doesn’t turn its butt to the camera.
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