Morty discussed the issue of how Williams can/should ensure that the students we accept want to come and will be happy here. We have a big advantage in that lots of people seek the number one liberal arts college, especially from abroad. But does someone from Shanghai really know what they are getting into? Do they understand what it means to spend 4 years in rural New England? Morty noted that the Common Application makes it easy for someone who is already applying to Harvard and Swarthmore to just add Williams to their application list. Why not? [It is free for someone who checks the financial waiver box and, since elite colleges want more poor kids, why not check it?] Morty noted that we want to somehow tell which applicants really understand Williams and want to come here for the right reasons.
A committee of trustees (led by Bob Scott ’68?) is actually looking at this issue and actively considering having Williams add a special essay section. Morty used the example [Not sure if this was actively under consideration?] of pointing out the course catalog and asking students to pick a few classes that they really wanted to take and to explain why. The expectation would be that students who really want to come to Williams would take the time to write these essays, would have the energy to look up the CVs of the professors and tell a compelling story. Even if this causes several thousand applicants not to apply [which seems plausible], Morty argued that this would be a feature rather than a bug. Why bother with students who aren’t that interested in Williams? They are unlikely to come even if we accept them. [And don’t forget adverse selection since the ones that would come from this category are the ones that couldn’t get in to any place better.] And even those that do come are less likely to be happy, contributing members of the community.
[I think that this is a great idea. In general, there are two models of Williams admissions. First is the contest. Once you set the rules (grades count for this much, SAT scores for this, X number of slots for athletes and URMs), you select the best candidates, regardless as to whether you think that they will come or be happy at Williams. You let them decide since they “won” the contest. The second model for Williams admissions is the dinner party. (Perhaps I need a better analogy? Suggestions welcome!) Although there are standards for who you most want at your party, you are especially interested in inviting people who will come and have a good time. Miserable guests make other people miserable as well. At the very best parties, all the attendees will be excited to be there.
In order to have a sense of whether this is a good idea, you would want to measure the happiness and contribution to campus life of different sorts of students, especially those who you think would have gone to the trouble of filling out an extra essay and those who wouldn’t have. One (imperfect) way of getting to that would be to compare early decision Ephs (both those accepted early and those admitted regular) with other Ephs. One assumes that the ED Ephs are more likely to understand what Williams is all about and be making an informed choice. If such students are much happier and more involved in the community than a matched sample of non-ED students, then requiring an Williams-specific essay makes some sense.]
If Morty and/or the Trustees go very far down this path, it promises to be the biggest change in undergraduate admissions in a decade. Comments anyone?Print • Email
Applying to Williams College this fall? Take some notes from the following personal statement examples that got students accepted to Williams!
Williams College is one of the top liberal arts colleges in the U.S. The small liberal arts college offer students a supportive and collaborative community, where students are encouraged to pursue the passions and think outside the box. In particular, Williams offers one of the best undergraduate teaching programs, so if that’s an area of study you’re interested, consider putting Williams on your college list!
If, after your research and campus visits, you’re set on applying to liberal arts colleges, there are a few insights AdmitSee’s data can help you craft a winning application! To start with, did you know that liberal arts colleges are more interested in personality-driven personal statements? We applied data science to college essays to show you significant trends in application essays.
Don’t believe us? Here are 5 personal statement snippets from current Williams students:
Williams College ‘19
I enter from stage right and feel the audience staring at me. My impulse is to just keep walking—to leave the stage—but my partner is there and I know I have to turn and start singing with her. We begin: “Tumble out of bed and I stumble to the kitchen ... Pour myself a cup of ambition!”
It was opening night of 9 to 5: The Musical, and we’d been rehearsing for months. Once I got over my initial trepidation, I felt elated and sang my heart out. By the end of the performance, pride in my accomplishment had me beaming from ear to ear. Keep reading.
Williams College ‘19
The large Japanese war fan has been crafted into a piece of artwork that hangs above our piano. The family crest of swans is represented throughout the folds of gold paper that depict bending bonsai trees and white winged birds flying through berries. Beneath this piece are three small dolls that sit atop a piano littered with Beethoven’s music. Carefully brought over from the southern hemisphere, the dolls and their colorful robes and festive flowers are the epitome of culture in Ecuador—vibrant and upbeat. Read full essay.
Williams College ‘19
I couldn’t get the words out. Confound this speech! I practiced so tirelessly, and here it was, dancing around on the tip of my tongue, refusing to make the vital transition into audible sound. I paused for what felt like an eternity, locked into a statuesque torture of mortification as I struggled to recall my next line. As it came to me, I regained my composure, and carried on with an outward expression that disguised my inner panic. I finished with a smile, shook the hand of my judge, and walked out of the room with as much poise as I could muster. The moment the door was shut, I fell into my teammate’s arms and gave way to the flood of tears crashing against my eyelids. Continue reading.
Williams College ‘19
I like to be prepared.
So when, in the rainy winter of 2013, my friend invited me to join my school’s Ski and Snowboard Team for the district tournament, I did my research. I looked up professional alpine ski races, carving tutorials, and race day tips. I visited my local sports shop to get my skis sharpened. I dug up archives of previous records from the depths of the Internet and tried to estimate where I would fall. Keep reading.
Williams College ‘19
I stood next to a wall, wanting to do a body wave, but failing to do so in front of my siblings. My sister laughed as she attempted to do her body wave using the wall, “Julie, I know a way! Bump your head first on the wall, then your chin, your chest, stomach, and lastly your knee.” I was amused at the sight of my sister perfecting a body wave using the wall, getting faster and smoother as she repeated her rounds of waves. Maybe it was the temporary urge to become a K-pop star and taste the satisfaction of fame like my friend who became a trainee in a Korean entertainment company after perfecting her stunning dance skills for years. Maybe it was the urge to lose weight or impress the cute guy in math class who never even glimpsed one second toward my direction.
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About The Author
Frances was born in Hong Kong and received her bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University. She loves super sad drama television, cooking, and reading. Her favorite person on Earth isn’t actually a member of the AdmitSee team - it’s her dog Cooper.