After reading this article in the Washington Post on Tuesday, I was struck by the absence of Williams. It reminded me that despite the U.S. News rankings, even here in DC, I often receive blank stares when I inform people I went to Williams. One can only wonder how many times in a row Williams would have to rank first to receive more publicity.


Somewhere, then, there is a disconnect: among certain groups of people in DC, most people have heard of Williams. Yet in the population at large, Williams doesn’t even seem to have the name recognition of Amherst, Wellesley, or Middlebury. Although it’s frustrating (especially so when I meet people from Massachusetts who have never heard of it) to have to explain to people that Williams is a great school, over the past two years I’ve started to think that perhaps our anonymity isn’t purely coincidental.

Consider the oft-maligned rankings: if during the past three years prospective ephs applied in higher numbers or were of higher caliber, those students and their families would know about Williams. But few else would. The combination of high selectivity and relative anonymity might be the perfect ingredients to keep our student body excited to be ephs, because most students I knew didn’t come to Williams *because* it was a college called Williams. They came for the academics, sports and environment. A student who goes to Amherst or Wellesley, by contrast, might be more likely to attend simply because the two are *known* as good schools.

If we assume that the lack of general knowledge about Williams is a *good* thing on the micro level of college admissions, then wouldn’t the college actively try to keep the status quo in place? Obviously, at site like EphBlog and others, mentions of Williams in the main stream press do not go unnoticed. But for the most part, the purple bubble receives only passing glances in most discussions on the web. I find it hard to believe that an institution with as many famous alumni and influence would manage to be so low-profile without some effort on the part of the college itself.

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