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Williams right for me?

ardentiststateardentiststate Registered User Posts: 40 Junior Member
edited July 2010 in Williams College
I was very impressed by Williams when I saw it in the summer, but I want to know if my personality and wants for a school would fit.

I consider myself to be very much a (pseudo-)intellectual and I will most definitely take advantage of all my courses to the best of my ability and talk philosophy and politics with other students. I have had the privilege of going to school in the Bronx, so I appreciate the diversity of the city and desire some cohesiveness amongst the students. However, I originally hail from Southern Connecticut and have spent many winters in Vermont, so the change to rural New-England may not be too extreme for me. I am not an athlete, but I do like sports, such as skiing, touch football and squash. Despite Williams's isolation, I like the idea of being able to go visit a friend in a nearby college, like Amherst, or have some communication with Smith and Holyoke people. I do not drink and don't want to go to a college where the social life is determined entirely by alcohol consumption. I want to be able to go to a college where people will be friendly and intelligent, and where I can forge close friendships.

The other colleges I'm considering are Columbia, Swarthmore, NYU, Vassar, Cornell, Yale, Amherst, Dartmouth and George Washington.
Post edited by ardentiststate on

Replies to: Williams right for me?

  • ponornicaponornica Registered User Posts: 53 Junior Member
    Williams looks like a good fit for you, except that it is not so easy to visit people at other colleges; it could be done but it is a lot of bother, and few Williams students do it more than once or at most twice a semester. I am puzzled though by your saying that you are a (pseudo) intellectual - I hope that this was a joke of some sort.
  • ardentiststateardentiststate Registered User Posts: 40 Junior Member
    Thank you for your reply. The pseudo comment was a half joke.
  • person5923person5923 Registered User Posts: 28 New Member
    I was similarly impressed with Williams when I visited, with a similar athletic interests and a desire for a social scene not determined by beer-soaked hooligans playing obnoxious music, though I do drink. Talking politics and philosophy was also something I was especially looking forward to in college. Williams seemed pretty great going in.

    The reality for me was much different. Try as I might, I did not find interesting talk of philosophy and politics springing up from time to time; and when I more actively began to seek out the sorts of groups and individuals with whom it might have been possible, I was only met with disappointment. There is a broad and deep bourgeois-liberal consensus at Williams (among students---with professors it is different story) about the scope and manner of political discussion, about the way to understand the world politically, and, broadly, about the kinds of political goals we ought to endorse and exclude. So untroubled is this consensus, there is very little need to discuss anything political at all--or, often, simply to think about it. This will be roughly true at every self-consciously elite institution, but at Williams it is true in spades.

    Likewise, the social scene is dominated by partying, loud, drunken partying---and which parties you go to are largely determined by your sports team or major EC, or that of your group of friends. There is not much more to the social scene.

    For all that, you may well "forge close friendships". If you do, then these friendships will be your "scene", and hopefully that will satisfy. And Williams students are, when sober, uniformly and extremely friendly and intelligent. But being friendly and intelligent is hardly sufficient, not even necessary as likely, for being an admirable, interesting person--at least in my eyes.

    Given the chance, I would pick Swarthmore, U Chicago or Columbia. The very few Yalies I've talked to have also been impressive. Had a philosophical discussion with one of them within five minutes of meeting him.
  • ponornicaponornica Registered User Posts: 53 Junior Member
    Person, I agree with you about Williams intellectual scene, but I don't think that Yale and Chicago are very different, when you consider the general atmosphere. Majority of students (almost) everywhere on this continent seem to give primacy to body over mind. In a big university, the sheer number of students who think differently is going to be much greater. Williams is small, and isolated.
    However, the dominance of sports and drinking on campus sometimes works in favor of those who reject it: they have an easier time finding one another, and a very strong bond created by what they all reject.
    Are you still a Williams student?
  • EphmanEphman Registered User Posts: 440 Member
    Sometimes I wonder what would happen if the various folks who, on here, WSO, etc., continually lament the lack of intellectual engagement by their peers at Williams all got together and, ya know, had intellectual discussions with one another ...

    As far as a liberal consensus, that is most certainly not unique to Williams (UChicago, Swarthmore, and Columbia undergraduates are all probably more uniformly liberal than Williams, in fact; Williams has, from time to time, had some very active groups of vocal conservative students / groups / publications on campus, depends on the era, really, as well as some prominent conservative alums like William Bennett).
  • GTalumGTalum Registered User Posts: 2,706 Senior Member
    "Had a philosophical discussion with one of them within five minutes of meeting him" vs. "extremely friendly and intelligent." I know several students going to and at Williams (small sample size of 4). They are all extremely friendly and intelligent and I had no intellectual conversations with any of them (besides D) even though I may have talked to them for longer than 10 minutes. I don't know how much time I would need to talk to them in order to have a philosophical discussion. I suspect these kids are typical Williams students: Friendly (one voted most likely to succeed), smart (one voted most intelligent) and involved with EC's (some of them athletic, some not) but not given to frequent philosophical discussions.
  • minimini Registered User Posts: 26,431 Senior Member
    If you check out archived issues of the Williams Record, you will see that the college actually publishes its binge drinking rate. Rather than start an argument here, I suggest you research it yourself.
  • collegekylecollegekyle Registered User Posts: 25 New Member
    it's a little annoying to read about the lack of political/ philosophical discussion going on at williams. I'm a junior at Williams and can very easily start a discussion about how Kant's theories have holes or how a true leftist sect no longer exists in America (both debatable right?) It's actually one of the things I love about Williams. I don't know if there is many other places where you can get back to your dorm at 1am and talk about world governments with peers in your dorm until 3 while simultaneously playing super smash bros on N64. Maybe Williams students dont advertise themselves as intellectuals but engage any of them and its easy to see that they are willing to debate anything worth a debate. I think that the down to earth mentality of most williams students is one of their greatest traits because really I'd rather not argue a point with a pretentious "intellectual" who believes they have superior opinions.
  • anonymouspleaseanonymousplease Registered User Posts: 5 New Member
    I'm in a bit of a similar position as the OP, and I hope they don't mind if I hijack the thread a little bit.

    I visited Williams in the spring and loved it- how the surrounding area is so gorgeous, how small and isolated it is, the Oxford-style seminars, the entry format, how friendly and nice everyone is supposed to be. But as I've read more about Williams on CC and other review sites, I've started to have more reservations about the whole wealthy/WASPy/white element. I've gone to schools with varying levels of privileged kids, and over the last few years and months I've started to want to distance myself from that world more and more. I know that there will be people who aren't part of that world, but I'm worried that the privileged attitude dominates everything else on campus. (Is it even possible to escape it when what I really want is a small rural LAC? Or is college entirely what you make of it and the people you decide to associate with). Plus little things in admissions--they don't interview, they don't take into account how much you want to go or your personality as much--make me think that Williams mainly cares about looking good on the rankings.

    I also visited Swarthmore and loved it- how intelligent and interested in learning and successful and socially awkward everyone is (no more classmates being disrespectful to teachers and not caring about school and saying dumb things?!), Screw Your Roomate, honors classes, the liberal atmosphere. But I'm worried that Swarthmore would be too intense for me or that the pseudo-intellectuals would be insufferable and pretentious, and Swarthmore is a little too close to home for me and not isolated or cold enough. (Is it a horrible idea to make a college choice based mainly on location? Driving around Williamstown just made me so happy).

    I can't decide which college to apply ED to and how much to weigh certain factors, and I guess I was hoping that someone would have some words of wisdom for me or maybe that typing everything out would help me sort through things. I'm planning on staying overnight at both schools in the fall, but until then I figured I could agonize and unmake my decisions and opinions on CC. Thanks for reading this and I would really appreciate any input. And I'm sorry if this is slightly incoherent. I guess that's what I get for writing things late at night?

    Edit: The other colleges I'm considering are Bowdoin, Haverford, Carleton, UChicago, honors college at my state school, maybe Bryn Mawr or Wellesley (my dad is pushing them ;-). And over the last week or so I've started thinking about maybe looking at Yale or Dartmouth or something, even though I'd ruled them out before because I thought they were overrated and pretentious and too big and they wouldn't have the same connections with professors and I might get lost in them (not to mention I don't really need another reach school). And I like to second-guess myself.
  • clarissclariss Registered User Posts: 69 Junior Member
    I was in the same situation as you (though after RD decisions came out), and I had a Williams vs. Swarthmore thread on both forums. I don't think it's a problem to choose a college based on location if everything else pretty much balances out. Like many posters told me, you really can't go wrong with a choice like that.

    Personally, reading what you said about both schools in your post, I think you prefer Swarthmore a bit more. No bias intended because I'm going to Williams. Though I'm pretty sure "no more classmates being disrespectful to teachers and not caring about school and saying dumb things?!" applies to Williams too, and much of your reservations seem to based only on CC hearsay. Wait until you visit both and try to keep your mind as open as possible.

    If you have any other questions, feel free to PM me. Good luck!
  • GTalumGTalum Registered User Posts: 2,706 Senior Member
    "But as I've read more about Williams on CC and other review sites, I've started to have more reservations about the whole wealthy/WASPy/white element."

    I personally know 3 kids who are going to Williams. Neither is wealthy and all went to public school. They are all relatively quiet and intellectual. About 50% of the kids are on some sort of financial aid.

    My D considered Swarthmore as well and was admitted without an interview so they aren't mandatory. I think with all things being equal, it's fine to choose a school based on location. We liked the Swarthmore location better though. You sound a lot like my D with her list of schools as she did not want anything larger than a LAC. The one Ivy she agreed to consider was Dartmouth and disliked it. Too large and pretentious.
  • hoveringmomhoveringmom Registered User Posts: 383 Member
    Just to toss out a reality check: It's moot to debate which college you'll go to until you get accepted. Honestly, in this environment, it's a crap shoot. The last few years in particular have been brutal. I can't tell you how many students I considered a shoe-in, who haven't gotten into a college. One example: Valedictorian, Merit Scholar, zillions of leadership positions, all 5's on APs, and THREE legacies at Yale (both parents and a grandparent). Yale rejected him. You just can't count your chickens until they're hatched. And of course there's the financial end of things, unless you're rich--for instance, you may find you get a great scholarship offer from a second tier school.

    But most importantly, this is an incredibly personal decision. PLease don't let peer pressure influence you, particularly on an internet site. Really, I read CC, but it's kind of silly to get an opinion from a college from this site. People tend to write when they feel strongly, positive or negative; everyone has their own baggage and you have no idea how to contextualize what they're saying, as you don't know them or where they're coming from. You just cannot know how their experience will end up matching yours. For instance, my S thought he'd LOVE Columbia based on what other people said and its reputation. But one visit there and it was obvious at a glance he didn't fit in at all. Does that mean that Columbia is 'bad'? Absolutely not. It means only that it was bad for my S, for his own personal reasons, and these reasons are far too personal and complex to make any generalizations.

    When you do visit, listen to your gut. Heed any warning signal, no matter how small; don't dismiss it. It's sort of like a first date: the warning signs are almost always right there.
  • GTalumGTalum Registered User Posts: 2,706 Senior Member
    HM, anonymous was trying to figure out where to apply ED in which case you really have to decide where you most want to go. Your advice is excellent.
  • anonymouspleaseanonymousplease Registered User Posts: 5 New Member
    Thank you so much for your responses clariss and GTalum and hoveringmom; you all have some expert advice :-) I know that I should wait until my overnight visits, I guess I just don't like the feeling of not knowing what I want and thought that maybe reading reviews online and typing things out would make my decision clearer. (Little did I know that it would make everything much more confusing. Or that it's sort of toxic too). I'm just starting to realize that there is no such thing as the perfect college and the experience is what you make of it. Anyway, here's to feeling in limbo for the next couple of months. Thank you all for reminding me to pay attention to POVs; I really appreciate your posts and I think the advice is going to help :-)
  • BringItOnBringItOn Registered User Posts: 30 New Member
    Is williams good for jocky people?
This discussion has been closed.