Welcome to the class of 2020. The Berkshire Eagle reports (or, rather, reposts a College news release):

The 552 students who make up the Williams College Class of 2020 will arrive on campus on Aug. 29 for First Days, their official orientation to the college.

The tradition of First Days introduces first-year students to the college through meetings with academic advisers and opportunities to learn about academic departments and get to know the campus. Students will also take placement exams and the college’s mandatory swimming test. In between the scheduled events, students will settle into their dorms and get to know their classmates.

Williams really ought to change First Days to First Month. Anyone see any interesting changes in the official schedule this year?

During the second half of the week, first-year students will participate in EphVentures, a program designed to enhance students’ orientation experience, provide them with opportunities to build lasting friendships, and help them develop an appreciation for the campus and community. Students choose from among one of several programs that help develop leadership skills, give them the chance to learn about the Berkshires, experience arts and culture in the region, or explore intersections among environmental sustainability, identity, and social justice.

What is the breakdown in participation among the EphVentures activities? My sense is that WOOLF is far and away the most popular, but I can’t recall seeing any data.

Also, would Williams be better off if the only option was WOOLF and participation was required? Such everyone-goes camping trips are still a common part of the New England prep school experience. Advantages of universal WOOLF would be two-fold. First, it would encourage greater mixture among different personality types in the class. Why have the first event separate people by interest? Second, to the extent it caused some applicants to choose a school like Tufts over Williams — because they just can’t stand the idea of spending 5 nights in the woods — we might be doing them a favor. If you hate the wilderness that much, Williams might be a poor fit.

On Sunday, Sept. 4, students will return from EphVentures for a picnic dinner on Chapin Lawn. On Monday, they will participate in Williams Reads, for which each student received over the summer a copy of “The Sixth Extinction” by Elizabeth Kolbert, Class of 1946 Environmental Fellow-in-Residence. Facilitated conversations about the book provide an introduction to the intellectual life at Williams.

Very snarky! Or Straussian?! The surface reading here is that the “intellectual life” of Williams means reading/discussing quality books in the spirit of open debate. But is that really what Williams is like? Does Williams really encourage debate about climate change? I have my doubts! The Straussian reading (or Foucauldian deconstruction) is that this discussion will provide a perfect introduction to the one-sided, propaganda-like reality of intellectual life at Williams. Recall Williams Reads One Idea.

By all standard measures of academic talent, including test scores and academic performance, the Class of 2020 is impressive, selected from among 6,984 applicants. SATs for the cohort averaged 715 on critical reading, 712 on math, and 714 on writing; the ACT average was 33.

This seems similar to the scores for the class of 2015, although clearly we have some rounding issues.


A special welcome to our fellow EphBlogger, Eph ’20! I hope xe (!) enjoys xer (!) four years as much as I enjoyed mine.

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