Total Undergraduate Enrollment: 2,073
Institutional Type: Private
Curricular Flexibility: Very Flexible
Academic Rating: 5
1. OC&C Strategy Consultants
2. Teach for America
3. M&T Bank
5. Trinity Industries
2. Late Night with Seth Meyers
3. Whitney Museum of American Art
5. Social Services
2. Goldman Sachs
3. Morgan Stanley
4. JPMorgan Chase
5. Bain & Company
1. New York City
3. San Francisco
4. Washington, DC
5. Albany, NY
College Scorecard (Early Career): $59,000
EOP (Early Career): $62,600
PayScale (Mid-Career): $127,500
Massachusetts is home to many of the finest and most historic institutions of higher learning in the United States. Starting in Boston and travelling west you would encounter many schools— MIT, Harvard, BU, BC, Northeastern, Tufts, Brandeis, Wellesley— and, eventually, the more remote campuses of Amherst and Mount Holyoke and, lastly, tucked in the Northwest corner of the state just below Vermont you would encounter the Bay State’s second-oldest school and one of the most prestigious liberal arts schools, Williams College. Set on 450 rural acres in the Berkshires, Williams educates just over 2,000 of the brightest and most talented undergraduates one can find.
The school’s twenty-five academic departments offer thirty-six majors and a number of concentrations rather than minors. Students only take thirty-two total courses—four per semester—as opposed to the standard five. A Winter study session also runs for twenty-two days in January when students can dedicate all of their attention to one course. Prior to graduation students must complete three courses in each of three Divisions: Languages and the Arts, Social Studies, and Science and Mathematics. Additionally, two writing-intensive courses and one course in quantitative reasoning are required. Rare for a liberal arts school of this caliber, no foreign language is required. Instead, the option exists to take a class exploring how different cultures interact with one another. While not quite as open as the curriculum at Brown or Amherst, Williams certainly gives its students their fair share of autonomy when it comes to course selection.
The college possesses an excellent 7:1 student-faculty ratio, and 99 percent of professorial attention goes to undergrads (they only run two small graduate programs). An unparalleled 44 percent of courses have fewer than ten students enrolled; over three-quarters have an enrollment under twenty. Thanks to relationships built with faculty through such small classes, one Williams student said, “Students often just need to talk to a professor to find a research opportunity.” However, many formal opportunities to engage in undergraduate research exist in the summer, during a semester, or as part of one’s senior honors thesis. Close to 50 percent of the junior class connects with the International Education and Study Away program to pinpoint the study abroad opportunity that is right for them. Included on that menu is the opportunity to study at Oxford for an entire year.
The greatest number of degrees are conferred in the social sciences (25 percent), math and statistics (12 percent), biology (9 percent), and foreign languages (8 percent). Any degree from Williams will be viewed most favorably by graduate schools and employers, but programs in economics, English, history, math and political science are especially renowned.
For a supremely studious, tiny liberal enclave buried in the woods, Williams is unexpectedly sports-centric within the NCAA Division III. The Ephs (a shortened version of Ephraim Williams, the school’s founder) compete in thirty-two varsity sports, most of which are members of the New England Small College Athletic Conference. Overall, 35 percent of the student body competes in intercollegiate sports, and many more join intramural athletic clubs. Fraternities were banished from campus more than fifty years ago, just before the school became co-educational. In the absence of Greek life, extracurriculars take on a larger social role as 96 percent of Williams undergrads are involved in at least one of the 150 outside-the-classroom organizations. Situated in the Berkshires, there is no big city that makes an easy day trip (Boston and NYC are two or three hours away), but natural beauty is ubiquitous. The largest studentrun group, the Williams Outing Club, has 750 members who engage in regular hikes, campouts, and polar bear swims in the Williamstown wilderness. The vast majority of the student body—93 percent—live on campus, making the school’s breathtaking residence halls the epicenter of social activity. Freshmen live together in one of two large, nearly identical residence halls that form the bustling Frosh Quad. Upperclassmen reside in one of twenty-seven more modestly sized buildings.
The ’68 Center for Career Exploration (CCE) employs thirteen full- time staff members who focus on career advising, alumni relations, and employer relations. Specialized help is available for those eying law school, a health profession, entrepreneurship, or a career in technology. The center’s 160:1 student-to-advisor ratio is one of the best of any school featured in this guide. Major events hosted by the center’s crew include the Fall Job and Internship Fair that is attended by seventy employers including big names like Bain, Credit Suisse, Deloitte, Epic Systems, The New York Times, and T. Rowe Price. The Spring Job & Internship Fair is primarily focused on nonprofit employers.
Williams alumni are extremely available and willing to lend a hand to current students, and 65 percent of current students report consulting with an alum to plan their next steps after college. Additionally, alumni-sponsored internships provide 143 undergraduates with a $3,800 stipend to pursue non-paying summer internships. The center also has introduced a new program of winter study internships with an alum. On-campus interviews are brokered through the CCE, but no data is available on the number of interviews taking place or about on-campus recruiting, although a fair amount of both definitely occur. The college recently identified its tracking of alumni outcomes as being an area of weakness, and it has begun making strides toward remedying the situation. Thanks to its superhuman work
The top three areas of gain that Williams graduates self-report are thinking critically, writing clearly and effectively, and the ability to learn on their own. It’s hard to name three traits that speak more to one’s employability, so it shouldn’t come as a shock that the most desirable employers adore the school’s alumni. Companies/organizations that consistently snatch-up Williams graduates include Apple, Google, Goldman Sachs, McKinsey & Co., the Metropolitan Museum of Art, National Institutes of Health, and the New York Times Co. A significant number of students join the Peace Corps or are accepted into Teach for America. Business and education are the industries that attract the most students. At age thirty-four Williams grads earn a median income similar to Brandeis alums but a bit less than graduates of comparable Amherst. New York City, Boston, and San Francisco are the three cities most favoured by Ephs post-undergrad.
For Ephs, the bachelor’s degrees earned at Williams are unlikely to be their last diplomas. Approximately 75 percent pursue an advanced degree within five years of leaving the college. The most frequently attended graduate programs are a not-too-shabby trio of Harvard, Columbia, and Yale. The top business, law, and medical schools attracting grads are Harvard, Columbia, and Penn. Using LinkedIn data we were able to determine that Williams College sends one of the highest percentages of graduates to prestigious medical schools of any institution in the country. It also ranked eighth overall on our list of the top producers of future PhDs and was the second-leading producer of economics PhDs.
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