Williams College Supplement Essay Prompts and Examples (2018-19)

Posted 2 months ago
Williams College

Note: The Williams Writing Supplement is entirely optional.

So, you're applying to Williams -- great choice!

Another great choice? Write the supplemental essays for Williams.

While not required, the Williams supplemental questions allow you to express the parts of yourself that admissions officers want to see most.

This is your chance to make yourself stand out from the thousands of impressive resumes and test scores that Williams admissions officers see every year.

Writing these essays well will drastically improve your chances of being accepted.

Williams College supplement essay prompts

Please respond to one of the prompts below in a short essay of 300 words or fewer.

Williams College essay prompt 1

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 60 tutorials a year are offered across the curriculum, with titles like Aesthetic Outrage, Financial Crises: Causes and Cures, and Genome Sciences: At the Cutting Edge.

Imagine yourself in a tutorial at Williams. Of anyone in the world, whom would you choose to be your partner in the class, and why?

Williams College supplement essay prompt 2

Each Sunday night, in a tradition called Storytime, students, faculty and staff gather to hear a fellow community member relate a brief story from their life (and to munch on the storyteller's favorite homemade cookies).

What story would you share? What lessons have you drawn from that story, and how would those lessons inform your time at Williams?

Williams College supplement essay prompt 3

Every first-year student at Williams lives in an Entry—a thoughtfully constructed microcosm of the student community that's a defining part of the Williams experience. From the moment they arrive, students find themselves in what's likely the most diverse collection of backgrounds, perspectives and interests they've ever encountered.

What might differentiate you from the 19 other first-year students in an entry? What perspective(s) would you add to the conversation with your peers?

Williams Supplement Essay Writing Tips

Williams is a small liberal arts school in western Massachusetts with a rich history and tight-knit community. Williams is all about the magical power of small groups interacting - they care about a deeply shared and collaborative academic process. Williams wants to see how you'll contribute to this process. What kind of questions will you ask of others and of yourself in a discussion about Toni Morrison's Beloved? How will you work together with a partner to form new perspectives about the role of CDOs in the 2008 financial crisis? What questions would you ask Einstein about gravity? What kinds of conversations would you be having at 2:00 AM with your Entry mates?

Let's take a look at how to show these parts of yourself through each of these supplementary essays.

Williams College supplement essay 1

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 60 tutorials a year are offered across the curriculum, with titles like Aesthetic Outrage, Financial Crises: Causes and Cures, and Genome Sciences: At the Cutting Edge.

Imagine yourself in a tutorial at Williams. Of anyone in the world, whom would you choose to be your partner in the class, and why?

If you can feel genuine excitement over the chance to nerd out about _____, then you can write a great essay here. Imagine someone just asked you to ramble to them about the most interesting person you've read about. Talking about this person and your relationship to them intellectually tells the reader a lot about you: what ideas and interests you have inherited from them directly, where you as the "student" may differ from the person, and potentially how you relate in real life to others with whom you interact, learn, and disagree along your intellectual journey. More important than who you talk about is why you want to work with them.

For example:

I would love the opportunity to be able to hash out questions about music cognition and pedagogy with music education YouTuber Adam Neely. As a young jazz musician, I went through the process of practicing the songs, scales, and chords my teacher insisted I memorized, but I often questioned the things I was studying: "Major doesn't always sound happy to me - why was it taught to me as happy?". When I found Adam's video about that very question, I became obsessed with his curiosity about and explanations of music teaching dogmas. "Why is music theory useful?" "What is the best way to learn music by ear?" His videos often leave me with more questions than answers, which is the way I've always loved to learn.

In a tutorial with Adam, I would go on quests to find out things like why most pop songs are structured in the same way. What proportion of top 40 songs has deviated from traditional form and by how much? What might explain this?

Adam boils music down to its fundamental elements and constructs arguments from basic principles. When he has a bias, he openly admits it, and he's not afraid to be unsure of something. This willingness to put curiosity and the process of asking questions over the desire to be correct is a trait that I highly admire and try to emulate in my own life. His desire and ability to create and defend ideas and frameworks that isolate truths in the rather nebulous process of learning music make him an ideal partner for a two-person deep dive into a topic that fascinates us in similar ways.

This response illustrates what I would be like in a tutorial.

  • It SHOWS what makes me tick and the questions that I would ask.

  • It describes what I value in a learning partner and environment

  • Those values ALIGN with the values of Williams College.

  • As long as the person isn't overtly evil (e.g., Stalin) or so controversial that you could potentially offend an admission officer's sensibilities, it doesn't matter who you choose--only how you talk about them.

Williams College supplement essay 2

Each Sunday night, in a tradition called Storytime, students, faculty and staff gather to hear a fellow community member relate a brief story from their life (and to munch on the storyteller's favorite homemade cookies).

The second essay similarly uses a Williams tradition to give you a chance to show them a side of you not reflected in the rest of your application. Again, the key here is sincerity. Storytelling can be a great way to show someone who you are instead of just telling them. If you appreciate lightheartedness and consider yourself a fun or funny person, tell a story that shows that. If you find a lot of beauty in a time in your life or a relationship of yours, talk about that. What story would you tell a group of friends? What gives you the feels? What makes you smile when you think about it? This story should make them want to hang out with you. It couldn't hurt to let them know what your favorite cookies are to bake! Just be authentic.

Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • When did you feel most loved? What made you feel that way?

  • When did you feel most alone? What did that feel like? What did you learn about yourself from that time?

  • Talk about a time that revealed a weakness that you're still working on. How did you discover it? How are you working on it? Why is it important? How does it make you who you are today?

  • What is the funniest thing that ever happened to you? Why is it funny and what did you learn from it?

  • When did you find something so beautiful that you couldn't help but smile?

  • What is your fondest memory from high school? Why was it fond? What does it say about you?

  • What was the best thing you ever ate and why was it so good?

  • What was the best concert you've ever been to? Best movie? Why was it?

  • What do you love about X family member? What was a time that illustrates that love?

Williams College supplement essay 3

Every first-year student at Williams lives in an Entry -- a thoughtfully constructed microcosm of the student community that's a defining part of the Williams experience. From the moment they arrive, students find themselves in what's likely the most diverse collection of backgrounds, perspectives and interests they've ever encountered.

What might differentiate you from the 19 other first-year students in an entry? What perspective(s) would you add to the conversation with your peers?

The third essay option is in some ways similar to the second in that it's a way for you to differentiate yourself using your background and the things that matter most to you. Get specific here! Make sure you don't leave this one surface deep; don't rest on labels or definitions or platitudes or buzzwords or cliches. Talk about lessons learned from your mom value systems: the way you always turn off the lights when you want to share your music with someone. The goal here is not to write a manifesto on your personality.

Find ONE THING that is unique to your experiences or relationships and really go deep into it. Ask yourself: is someone else likely writing about this? If yes - are they likely writing about it in a similar way? If yes, choose something else.

Example

  1. I learned the value of taking care of a space from my mom. (this is somewhat common and perhaps even trite, but could be good depending on how you write it!)

  2. If you talk about being responsible and cleaning up after yourself and others, that's a good lesson but that's baseline courtesy and responsibility - not unique or insightful!

  3. On the other hand, if you talk about the way your mom was always thinking about the way a physical space affects the people in it - the way the movement of a table can change whether a space is meant for doing work together or relaxing together, and how that has instilled in you a desire to make rooms conducive to community building - that's freakin' cool.

Good luck with these essays and just remember to be sincere, honest, and vulnerable, and you will be golden!

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