Williams College Requirements and Campus Guide
School Name: Williams College
School Location: Williamstown, MA
School Type: Liberal Arts
Class of 2025
- Applications: ~12,000
- Admitted: 1,000
- Acceptance Rate: 8%
Historical SAT / ACT (Test Optional)
- SAT ERW: 700-790
- SAT MAth: 710-760
- ACT: 32-35
- High Reach
- Early Decision: November 15
- Early Results: December 15
- Regular Deadline: January 10
- Regular Results: April 1
- Schedule: Semester
- Curriculum Type: Distribution Requirements
- Greek Life: No
- Athletics: D III: NESCAC
Williams College Requirements and Guide to Campus Life
How do I get into Williams?
Williams is a very competitive school, with an acceptance rate of 12.4%. This selective admissions process makes the Williams College requirements for application quite high. 267 applicants were admitted to the class through the QuestBridge Match program and Early Decision. Williams is test optional (submitting a standardized test score is not a Williams requirement) for the 2020-2021 application round, but if you want to attend a top tier school like Williams, it’s in your best interest to submit standardized test scores. For the class of 2023, the average scores on the SAT were 733 in Evidence-based Reading and Writing and 749 in Math; the average superscored ACT is a 33. Even without factoring in standardized tests, the admitted student profile is rather impressive, with 92% of the students who submitted high school rank in the top 10% of their class.
Here’s everything you should know before you apply to Williams College
“The people who know, know.”
That’s the common refrain from Williams College students when confronted with the fact that, despite the school’s stellar reputation, very few people have ever heard of the small liberal arts college in the mountains of northwestern Massachusetts. Common reactions when hearing about the school is either a blank stare (sometimes combined with confusion with Wesleyan, Wellesley, or William & Mary). However, the people who have heard of it have an extremely high opinion of the school. The reaction or an immediate raise of the eyebrows and something along the lines of “wow, that’s a great school.”
Williams College is widely considered to be the best liberal arts college in the United States, and among the top ten or twenty best institutes of higher education when colleges and universities are ranked together. Here’s what you should know about Williams College.
What is Williams College known for?
Williams College is known for its stellar academics and overall reputation. It’s also known for some of its traditions, like Mountain Day. Mountain Day is a widely popular tradition at Williams where, on one Friday in October (which Friday is a closely-guarded secret and somewhat spontaneous decision), the President will announce early in the morning that all classes have been canceled. There will then be a host of planned events on- and off-campus, including the most iconic: a mass hike up to Stony Ledge, where students are met at the peak with cider, apple donuts, a view of Mt. Greylock, and performances by various a cappella groups. The random nature of Mountain Day has also given rise to the unofficial tradition of “Mountain Day Roulette,” where, every Thursday in October, students may decide to throw parties, stay up late, or otherwise not prepare for their Friday classes on the off-chance that tomorrow will be Mountain Day and those classes will be canceled.
Williams is also known for some distinctive choices when it comes to course schedules and formats.
- On tours and in promotional materials, probably the most talked-about feature of a Williams education is the Oxford-style tutorial classes—two-on-one classes where two students meet with one professor once a week. Each week, the three will meet and one of the students will present a paper or presentation, and the other and the professor will offer feedback. Although they’re part of what makes Williams unique, they’re most popular with humanities majors in their junior or senior year—plenty of students go through all four years without taking one and it is not a Williams College requirement to graduate.
- Williams is also known for its Winter Study program and consequent 4-1-4 course schedule. Typically, students take four classes in the spring and fall and then spend the “Winter Study” period in January taking a single class pass/fail. Winter Study classes range wildly in topic and intensity, including several international offerings, but are designed to allow students to spend time studying and enjoying the campus without worrying about grades. The classes offered during winter study are academic classes with a twist—like Podcasting: Writing and Producing for the Ear and Cooking Moroccan Food From Couscous to Tea. Students are also welcome to conduct independent study during this period.
- Williams is also known for its lack of a credit-hour system—instead of designating different amounts of credits to courses and requiring a certain number of credits to graduate, students are simply required to pass 32 regular classes and four Winter Study classes in order to graduate.
- The “Division of the Day” ensures that student athletes can thrive athletically and academically. Williams only allows classes to be scheduled from 8 am – 3:50 pm M-F and 7 pm – 9:40 pm on Monday evenings. All extracurricular activities are to be scheduled outside of these times. This generally means that, although they’re pretty quiet and respectful about it, Williams students are quick to slip out the door if a class runs overtime and student-athletes do not have to choose between academic or athletic commitments.
Is Williams College an Ivy League?
Although Williams is not technically an Ivy League school, it is consistently ranked higher than some Ivy League schools (US News ranks universities and colleges separately but Forbes, which ranks them together, has ranked Williams at #1 or #2 for six of the eleven years they’ve released college rankings). The “Ivy League” is technically an athletic conference consisting of eight private universities that all play at the NCAA Division I level. Williams College is part of the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) and plays most sports at the NCAA Division III level. NESCAC schools are sometimes referred to as the “Little Ivies,” with Williams, Amherst, and Wesleyan called the “Little Three” (as compared to Harvard, Yale, and Princeton called the “Big Three”).
How big is Williams College? How many students does Williams have?
Williams College is about the same size as most other liberal arts colleges — around 2,000 students. The school generally aims for a student body of 2,200, with incoming class sizes of 550 students.
Is Williams College affordable?
Princeton Review gives Williams a 99/99 Financial Aid Rating, and Williams states that it will meet 100 percent of demonstrated need with few or no loans. Williams is unique in also guaranteeing free textbooks and course materials for all students on financial aid. Additionally, Williams is need blind for all domestic applicants.
Does Williams College have Greek life?
No, not even a little bit. In fact, Williams College was one of the first colleges to ban fraternities, in 1962, eight years before becoming coeducational. That being said, with one-third of the students being varsity athletes, those teams, as well as certain student organizations, function similarly within the social dynamic of the college.
What is Williams culture like?
Williams is viewed as less liberal, or more low-key about its liberalism, than other selective liberal arts colleges like Bard, Mt. Holyoke, or Reed. Although there have been several high-profile cases of more-conservative talks being canceled, they were typically canceled (by the organizer or speaker, not the school), due to the anticipated backlash, not actual backlash. Based on the Princeton Review, Williams ranks highly in terms of “politically active students” and being an “impact school.” In terms of partisanship, however, Williams appears neither on the list of “Tree-Hugging Vegetarians” nor “Future Rotarians and DAR.” That being said, it is still a selective school in the Northeast so it’s certainly more liberal/left-leaning than the country at large.
Academically, Williams fosters a collaborative, rather than competitive culture. The lack of curves in most classes means that students aren’t competing against one another for high grades. Instead, you’ll often see students studying together before big exams, because working together is in everyone’s best interest.
Is Williams College fun?
Williams College ranks #1 on the Princeton Review’s list of schools where “Students Study the Most,” outranking notorious ‘grind schools’ like UChicago. That being said, it’s relative isolation means that campus parties and house parties are generally well-attended, and there’s a general attitude of ‘work hard, play hard.’ In general, larger parties keep to Friday and Saturdays, with the exception of unofficial “Mountain Day Roulette” Thursday night parties in October.
Regardless of how many parties students can attend per week, Williams students certainly like being on campus. They also have the highest percentage of students who stay on campus during the summer to conduct research.
Is Williams College D1?
Williams College is in Division III for most athletics. However, NESCAC does allow DIII schools to play at the DI level for one or two sports. For Williams, those DI sports are cross-country skiing and volleyball.