Winter Break Conversations

December 12, 2022

Dear First-Year Williams Families,

Yesterday’s four-inch snowfall reminds us that Winter Break is fast approaching.

This two-week vacation offers ample time for you to check in about their first few months at Williams. Whether in person, by phone, or online (if your student won’t be with you over the break), we hope you will have the opportunity to hear about all the new experiences and opportunities your student has encountered so far.

While we know that first-year students have lots of exciting news to share, they might also want to talk to you about the aspects of college life that have been particularly challenging. Broaching those topics can be challenging; simple questions can be a great way to begin. You might ask them what surprised them most about their fall courses—what did they discover that they didn’t expect at the outset? In what ways might those experiences shape their course selections moving forward?

Now is also a good time to remind students that speed bumps are a normal part of the college experience. If your student feels let down by an exam or paper that didn’t go as well as hoped, or by a deadline they weren’t able to meet, it is worth reminding them that all students face these hurdles at one time or another. Most importantly, let them know that while these are helpful reminders to reach out to their professors, the Dean’s Office or Academic Resources, they are not helpful in determining who’s “good at” or “not good at” a particular discipline, or determining whether students should pursue or abandon a particular course of study. The truth is, absolutely nothing that happens in the first few months of college life should suggest to students that they need to limit their course options or intellectual pursuits.

Of course, college life extends far beyond academics. In terms of their social lives, students often feel a bit in limbo at this point in the semester. They might feel slightly less connected to their high school friends while at the same time not yet feeling fully connected with new friends at Williams. Once again, this is a normal reaction to a big transition—both geographically and developmentally. Students’ childhood friends tend to grow out of common backgrounds and shared experiences (same neighborhood, same school, etc.). For many students, Williams represents the first opportunity to get to know people with very different backgrounds from their own. Building strong relationships in this way takes time and effort. Ask your students how they are working to get to know other people: In class? In their entries? Through common activities? While these new relationships will take time to blossom, they offer incredible opportunities to learn and grow, and will shape your children’s lives here at Williams and beyond.

Expect that, in addition to catching up with you, your student will be eager to sleep in, eat good food, and enjoy a slower pace for a few days. If they’re concerned about how things are going, please remind them of the resources here to help them, including the Dean’s Office, Chaplain’s Office, Davis Center, and Health Services. We’re all glad to help them make their way to the end of this first, intense year as college students.

Best wishes to your student and your entire family,

Rob White
Director of Parent and Family Programs