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School Name: Williams College
School Location: Williamstown, MA
School Type: Liberal Arts
Category: High Reach

Williams College Admissions Rates Fall 2020

Applications: 8,744
Admitted: 15%

Williams College Map | Command Education | School

General Info


Test Optional for 2021-2022
Admission Cycle


Early Decision: November 15
Early Results: December 15
Regular Deadline: January 10
Regular Results: April 1

School Information

Schedule: Semester
Curriculum Type: Distribution Requirements
Greek Life: No
Athletics: DIII 

Williams Application Requirements, Admissions Tips, and University Guide:

“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.

What are academics like at Williams?

Williams is also known for some distinctive choices when it comes to course schedules and formats.

  1. 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.
  2. 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 Introduction to Animal Tracking and Cooking Moroccan Food From Couscous to Tea. Students are also welcome to conduct independent study during this period.
  3. 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 as well as complete their distributional requirements in order to graduate.
  4. The “Division of the Day” ensures that student athletes can thrive athletically and academically. Williams only allows classes to be scheduled from 8 am – 4:00 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 #18, above Ivy League Brown University at #26). 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?

Williams states that it will meet 100 percent of demonstrated need with few or no loans. Only about 50% of Williams students who receive financial aid are asked to take out loans, and these are expected to be under $4000 per year, although some students may choose to take out more. Williams is unique in also guaranteeing free textbooks and required 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 being an “impact school.” 

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.