How to Write the Williams College 2016-2017 Essays
About Williams College
Williams College is a school that has seen many firsts. Its graduating class of 1887 was the first in the country to don the now-traditional cap and gown ensemble; it was the host of the country’s first intercollegiate baseball game; and today, it is ranked first among national liberal arts colleges by U.S. News & World Report.
Founded in 1793, Williams has a long history of excellence. Today, its undergraduate student body of 2,045 students enjoys access to small, intimate classes with brilliant faculty members, a strong emphasis on undergraduate education, and a lively campus community.
Williams offers thirty-five majors across three main areas of study: languages and the arts, social sciences, and science and mathematics. No matter what area you choose to focus on, you can be sure that you’ll have direct access to some of the nation’s top academic minds; Williams boasts an impressive student-to-faculty ratio of 7:1.
One of the most exciting parts of a Williams education is the ability to take Oxbridge-style tutorials. In these unique courses, two Williams students work directly with a professor and pursue their intellectual passions on a deeper level. Considering the potential academic exploration provided by these tutorials, it comes as no surprise that more than half of all Williams students enroll in at least one during their time at the college.
We’ll discuss Williams’ tutorials in greater detail later on in this blog post, but these tutorials aren’t the only incredible academic pursuits Williams students can engage in.
The college also operates The Williams-Exeter Programme, which provides students with the ability to participate in a year-long program of study at Oxford University in collaboration with Exeter College. For those interested in marine studies, the Williams-Mystic Program may be a great fit; this one-semester ocean and coastal studies program allows students to take research-oriented courses focused on “integrating marine science, maritime history, ocean policy, and literature of the sea.”
The social and personal opportunities at this liberal arts college are just as impressive as the academic ones. On campus, Williams students can participate in quirky traditions like the college’s semi-annual, schoolwide trivia event. Originally established in 1966, the Williams Trivia Event has brought thousands of students together to compete in a night of festivities, fun, and friendly competition.
Williams also organizes a school wide Mountain Day, a tradition with roots dating back to as early as 1800. On one Friday in October, students take a break from classes to climb the nearby Mount Greylock and participate in various games and activities, including a group picnic.
It comes as no great shock that every year, thousands of applicants are drawn in by the many perks of a Williams education. In 2015, 6,883 students competed for a spot in the Class of 2019. Of those, approximately 1,159 were accepted. That makes for a considerably low acceptance rate of 16.8%, meaning that Williams is among the most competitive schools in the country.
Williams College Application Essay Prompt
This makes it all the more important that your application to Williams College is as strong as you can possibly make it. A compelling application begins with a well-crafted essay, and we at CollegeVine are here to help you with just that. In this blog post, we’ll go over the tips, tricks, and insights you need to write a supplemental essay that is sure to wow the admissions officers and help you stand out in the application pool.
Imagine yourself in a tutorial at…
At Williams, we believe that bringing together students and professors in small groups produces extraordinary academic outcomes. Our distinctive Oxford-style tutorial classes — in which two students are guided by a professor in deep exploration of a single topic — are a prime example. Each week the students take turns developing independent work — an essay, a problem set, a piece of art — and critiquing their partner’s work.
Focused on close reading, writing, and oral defense of ideas, more than 70 tutorials a year are offered across the curriculum, with titles like “Biomedical Ethics,” “Women in National Politics,” and “Extraterrestrial Life in the Galaxy: a Sure Thing or a Snowball’s Chance?”
Imagine yourself in a tutorial at Williams. Of anyone in the world, whom would you choose to be the other student in the class, and why?
At first glance, this question may seem rather daunting. It’s lengthy, it’s detailed, and it’s talking about a subject you may not yet be an expert on: Williams’ unique tutorials. However, there’s no need to stress. In reality, this question is far more open-ended than you may initially perceive it to be. At its heart, it is asking you to identify one person, living today, whom you would like to engage with in a close-knit academic setting.
The first step to answering this question is to understand the context in which it is framed. This means learning what, exactly, a Williams tutorial is like. Typically, a tutorial has no more than ten students; these students are then divided into pairs. Every week, one member of the pair writes a paper, which is approximately 5 pages in length, and the other member writes a critique. Then, the professor leading the tutorial meets with the pair to engage in a robust academic dialogue regarding the paper and the responding critique.
Naturally, this dynamic lends itself to deep intellectual intimacy. With your tutorial partner, you’ll likely be sharing raw insights, personal convictions, and passionate discussions. This is someone you’ll have to trust to be critical of your work, and in turn, someone whose ideas and opinions you’d be willing to analyze as well. Thus, the ideal tutorial partner you choose should be someone who you not only believe can help you grow as a student, but who you feel you can intellectually stimulate and challenge as well.
Now that you understand the context of the question, it’s time to actually answer it and choose a tutorial partner. Luckily for you, there are few wrong answers to this question. That being said, you should be particularly cautious about choosing extremely controversial or polarized figures, or figures linked to potentially divisive topics, such as religion or politics.
Remember that you don’t know anything about the admissions officer who will be reading this essay, and you want to steer clear of any topics that may potentially offend or simply rub them the wrong way. It is always wise to err on the side of caution, and it may be in your best interest to keep your essay rather neutral in this regard.
Beyond this, who you choose to select is entirely up to your discretion. You could identify a celebrity, a prominent intellectual, a figure in your personal life, or any other individual you deem fit. No matter who you choose, what’s most important is that you provide a clear answer as to why you are choosing them.
Think about the ways in which you want to grow as a student during your time in college, and then think about how the figure you choose will help you do so. What are your academic strengths? Where do you need to improve? In what ways do you want to be challenged? When you graduate from university, how will your approach to academia have changed?
Additionally, you should think about how your own intellectual passions can be tied back to whomever you choose. For instance, let’s say you are particularly interested in increasing female representation in politics. During your time in high school, you’ve volunteered with organizations like the League of Women Voters or the National Organization for Women, and helped start a female empowerment club at your high school.
For your response to this question, you could discuss how you would choose former Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, to be your partner in the Women in National Politics tutorial. You could describe the kinds of questions you’d ask her, what you’d hope to learn from her, and how you’d bring in your past experiences to add a new perspective to your conversations with her.
The key to successfully pulling off this essay is passion. After reading your supplement, admissions officers should not only be able to clearly imagine you as a member of a Williams tutorial, but also as a member of Williams’ greater academic community. A successful response to this prompt helps illuminate your academic and personal interests, and leaves admissions officers with a clearer idea of who you are as a student and as an individual.
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