written by
Nadiya Atkinson

Williams College: Finding a Campus Community

Advisor Tips 6 min read
Photo courtesy of Williams College

Once I clicked close on the tab that congratulated me for my final college commitment, relief flooded my body. Twelve years of schooling had let up to this moment. This was it. The next morning I woke up with pounding anxiety.

Williams College had always been present in my college search as my first choice. A school with small enough class sizes to have dinner with professors. A place with gorgeous architecture and leading faculty, with work-study community outreach opportunities, and with a commitment to improving students as citizens, not just as career professionals. A community with an adorable purple cow as a mascot and a quirky energy that either stems from the general sleep-deprivation of the students or from the fact that it’s located in the middle of the Vermont/Massachusetts wilderness with a grand total of one (1) street.

Basically, the place for me.

Photo courtesy of Williams College

Will I be able to find a friend group? Will my personality and bold sock pattern choices match with the community? Is my roommate a serial killer? Questions pop-corned in my head during my restless preparations throughout the summer. Williams College has something called the “Entry System,” in which freshmen are split into groups of approximately 40 to live together. These entries are assigned three to four Junior Advisors (JAs), who facilitate community-building and provide guidance for students navigating campus culture.

When my lovely JAs first made our group chat, I was convinced that, because I had poor wifi at the time, I was missing out on crucial friend-making opportunities. Of course, when I stepped foot on campus, everyone was trying to slice through the “oh-hi-I’m-blank-and-I-come-from-blank” awkwardness that even social media connections can’t fix.

This informational essay was written by Nadiya Atkinson, Williams ‘21. If you want to get help writing your Williams application essays from Nadiya or other Bullseye Admissions advisors, register with Bullseye today.

Don’t put too much pressure on your first weeks.

The first week for every Williams student is an adrenaline-filled orientation period called “First Days.” I was convinced that the first students I met, the first interest forms I filled out, and the first two weeks of my time on campus would irrevocably shape my next four years. I feverishly signed up for Listservs for clubs like Bee Keeping and Cycling, although I didn’t even have a bicycle on campus. The weekends after orientation were back-to-back auditions from everything from plays to a cappella.

Williams College

It is no surprise to anyone who knows me that I was well overcommitted within a week of starting classes. In fact, my obsession with filling up my schedule actually took away from my community and social experience on campus. While I met so many people I loved and found interesting, I left myself with no time to build sustainable friendships.

The truth is that it is rare to find your closest friends in the first half of your freshman year. At a small school like Williams, your community will be large enough that every single day you cross paths with a number of students you don’t know, but small enough that gradually those faces become more familiar and you strike up conversations in the unlikeliest of places.

Please don’t believe everything on social media about meeting the love of your life and your soulmates in the first few days of college. The entire process is a continual ebb and flow, and the relationships that are most meaningful will stick.

I’ve met some close friends in the study rooms in the library, in art class, in common rooms, in club meetings, and over free bagels. The people you live with, the people you go on your orientation trip with, or the people in your first classes with won’t necessarily be your best friends. But any campus is filled with nooks and corners teeming with individuals you won’t be able to imagine your life without after four years. Just give it some time, and don’t compromise on your ethics and priorities.

Williams College

Find activities both inside and outside your comfort zone.

Always, always choose to get involved in student groups in which you are genuinely thrilled to take part. Williams is an academically challenging school, and you want to make sure that the time you will dedicate to a student org is worth the effort. If you find a group you like, it absolutely will be: student organizations are a fabulous way of meeting new students and making some of your closest friends throughout your four years. And your freshman fall is not the only time to join! These organizations are there throughout your four years for you to take part in, so don’t rush, and don’t be afraid to try several different orgs to find one with the right fit.

Williams College

Challenge yourself! Audition for something you think you’re terrible at. Like a cappella. Or join some wacky sport. Like ice-skating. Or slacklining. Take a class on a topic you’ve always wanted to explore. I signed up for a Cognitive Science class (I’m now a Theatre and English Major) that thoroughly altered the way I view consciousness and my embodied self in the world.

You don’t need to major in a field to take a class or two in it. Not only will you be able to interact with students outside of your typical social circle, but it’s an investment in yourself to build the confidence to take risks. After all, a liberal arts education is about collecting knowledge and experience with a variety of subjects that don’t necessarily pertain to a career. The organizations and departments on campus love newbies, because they’re all working together to expand our love for whatever subject you join in on.

Make sure you go to the Purple Key Fair and Academic Open House every year to stay up to date about the offerings of student groups and department courses.

Williams College

Have fun during Winter Study!

Like some other schools, Williams College has a January term where students can take classes, conduct research, study abroad, participate in internships, and more.

Use Winter Study to its full extent. Not only is taking one class at a time a welcome change of pace, it also gives you the space to work on communities that got pushed to the side during the intensity of the semester.

Although the weather is dark (take Vitamin D supplements if you can, especially for those from a sunnier state), this is a lovely moment to take the time to go out of your entry and visit new places on campus, take some Free University classes with fellow students, or finally have that meal with the person you’ve been friend-crushing on all fall.

Williams College

Remember, the whole campus community is there for you.

You’ll find your own common room, hang-out group too. Just stay open, generous, and flexible. Pro-tip? Strike up conversation with fellow students in the 24 Hour Room: there’s nothing like friendships built on mutual commiseration. I can say confidently, in fact, that there’s nothing like the friendships built on coffee, sleep deprivation, and thorough love for this little place in the middle of nowhere.


This informational essay was written by Nadiya Atkinson, Williams ‘21. If you want to get help writing your Williams application essays from Nadiya or other Bullseye Admissions advisors, register with Bullseye today.

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