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Williams College 2019-20 Supplemental Essay Prompt Guide

Regular Decision: 

Williams College 2019-20 Application Essay Question Explanations

The Requirements: 1 essay of 300 words

Supplemental Essay Type(s): Why

*Note: The Williams Writing Supplement is entirely optional. 

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

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?

This is a thinly veiled version of “who would you have over as a dinner guest, alive or dead?” However, there is a big difference: rather than choosing someone who would be entertaining or make a great party guest, you’re going to choose someone who will challenge and enlighten you academically. Who has expertise in what you want to learn? And sure, there are obvious choices, like Van Gogh for an art major, or RBG if you’re pre-law. But what about someone who can enrich your learning from a different field? Could an English major choose Einstein? Yes. Could a Physics major choose Edgar Allen Poe? Yup. Try to come at this question from a new angle and show them that you’ve thought this through–do some research and give them receipts by proving why your person would be the best partner.

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?

This one is fun. It’s a chance for you to grab the mic at The Moth Story Hour. Details, details, details. Even though we don’t normally think of these essays as being “entertaining” per se, this one is an opportunity to flex your writing muscles and get creative with your delivery. Clocking in at 300 words, you don’t have much room to write, so one option is to start in the middle of things (or in medias res, for those who love Homer). Something has just happened and you are going to regale us with the fallout: bad news just hit and you can’t believe that things are about to get worse; your family has arrived at the campsite, but you forgot to bring the tent. What happens next? We don’t need a lot of preamble; we want action, reaction, and lessons learned. 

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

Upon first glance, this reads like a community essay, but it’s actually a bit more specific. They want to know less about what you do and more about who you are. Sure, you teach kids piano, but why do you do it? What do you love about the act of teaching, or why do you think music has healing power? What do you bring to the conversation that will open the minds of your peers? Maybe you grew up with seven brothers and sisters and conflict mediation fascinates you. Maybe you helped out on your family’s farm and learned how much water a cow consumes in its lifetime, leading you to become a vegetarian. Or, if you’re like us, you love to read and can recite Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 42” by heart. Your collective life experiences have made you who you are, and you will add a unique facet to the community of your Entry. Dig deep, and maybe even ask your family and friends for their opinions to find out what you contribute to those around you.

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