Helping Your Student Make the Most of Williams

Welcome to the community of Williams families.

Rob White, Director of Parent & Family Programs

As the father of three very recent Williams graduates, I’ve witnessed from a front-row seat the intellectual and personal growth that transforms young adults at this extraordinary college.

And I’ve learned that we have a hugely important role to play in our students’ college experience. After all, we know them—and they know us—better than anyone.

As they have all their lives, our students may naturally come to us first for help at Williams. (“I got a C on my first paper!”  “My roommate sleeps with all the lights on!”) Our own first response may be to “fix it.”

This is our moment to step up by stepping back. It’s important to let our children navigate their own, sometimes delightfully unpredictable, paths through college. Here are ways to help them do so:

  • to a professor, a dean, a counselor, a coach, an academic support specialist, a chaplain). Williams is filled with spectacularly qualified, deeply dedicated faculty and staff whose jobs are to support students in every way possible to get the most out of their undergraduate experience. Encourage your student to get to know at least one faculty member well enough to feel entirely comfortable asking for a graduate school or job recommendation—and to befriend one adult on campus with whom they can be completely themselves.

  • and share what we’ve learned with our students. Taking classes outside their comfort zones, studying away, exploring a new personal interest or hobby, exploring Williams’ beautiful natural surroundings, and getting engaged in the local community are only some of the ways our students can learn and grow beyond their wildest expectations.

  • Unlike hometown peer relationships, the ones formed at Williams are between students who also live with each other in close quarters on a small campus.

    Students learn so much from each other in this unique campus environment that we often refer to it as the “second-half” of a Williams education—one that broadens perspective, deepens understanding, and increases empathy in ways that serve students well throughout their lives. Most of our alumni cite fellow Williams students among their very best friends and those with whom they’ve had very meaningful relationships.

    But that doesn’t mean all Williams personal relationships are easy or simple. Roommates, classmates, teammates, close pals, and intimate partners all present challenges at one time or another, particularly within such a diverse student population during the deeply formative years between 18 and 23.

    Williams takes these relationships seriously and sets clear expectations for the ways in which students conduct themselves with one another. You can help your student flourish at Williams, and contribute to the health and wellbeing of the student community, by talking to them about expectations and challenges around peer relationships in college.

    Here are some simple “starter” questions:

    • Who do you know now, in our family or hometown community, who’s deeply respectful of others?
    • What are some of the ways you show someone you respect them?
    • If you saw someone treating a new friend in a way that’s unacceptable, how would you respond?
    • Where would you go at Williams if you wanted to talk about these kinds of things?

    The Williams answer to this last one is “to any one of dozens and dozens of adults on campus who are trained and prepared to do so. Your student can find these people in the Dean’s OfficeIntegrative Wellbeing Services, the Chaplains’ Office, and in many other places here.

    More ways to extend and enrich these discussions can be found here and here.

    And encourage your student to explore Williams’ Rape, Sexual Assault, and Sexual Misconduct Policies.

  • The Center for Academic Resources houses a number of services and programs designed to support students’ academic and intellectual engagement and to help them take full advantage of the curriculum

  • The ’68 Center for Career Exploration is a one-stop shop for career exploration, internship and job searching, resume critiques, interviewing advice and networking. From first-year students to seniors ready for their first jobour staff is here to help them define and reach their greatest career potential.

  • Many students say that studying away marks the high point of their Williams careers—real adventures resulting in profound personal change

  • From making the most of college to raising an adult to "letting go," these titles have been hugely helpful to many Williams families.

  • Beyond partnering with us in your own student’s Williams education, we invite you to contribute your experience, skill, and resources to improving the Williams experience for all of our students.

Again, welcome to the Williams community. We’re delighted to have your student—and you—join us.

Rob White P’11, P’13, P’17
Director of Parent and Family Programs
[email protected]