Welcome to Williams! The Bell Book is provided to give you a glimpse of what living at Williams will be like and to answer many of your questions about it. Scroll down the page and click on the chapters & sections to learn more.
Please note – like the rest of the world, Williams has been impacted by the COVID pandemic. So keep in mind, many of the quotes from students correlate more to the pre-COVID area, while some of the newer ones correlate to last year’s experiences.
All of us here want you to feel at home and to contribute positively to campus life. At Williams we value student self-governance, but with this freedom comes responsibility on your part. For example, in this information (lighthearted as much of it is), you will notice some heavy emphasis on safety. We ask for your complete cooperation on that score, and more.
Sometime in early/mid August, you will receive an email to let you know when the housing assignments have been finalized & made available via the Williams Housing Portal. You should also see your campus mailbox number, referred to as an SU box.
And finally, if you haven’t yet or recently checked out the Dean’s Office website dedicated specifically to incoming first-year students, be sure to do so by following this link.
If you have any questions about housing that aren’t answered by reading The Bell Book, you may contact either of us.
We send our best wishes, and we look forward to welcoming you to Williams!
Sincerely,Patricia Leahey-Hays, Director of Residential Life & Housing, Office of Campus Life Heather McCarthy, Assistant Director for Housing Operations, Office of Campus Life
The Bell Book was originally the creation of a Williams alum, Christopher Bell ’98, who thought incoming first-year students needed more information than just a room assignment. He published what he called a “Cliffnotes Guide to College Living.” Eventually it was re-named in his honor.
The Bell Book has been updated over the years:
- In 2010 it graduated from hard-copy to the web for your ease of perusal.
- In 2012, the entire Book was reviewed & updated by Laura Berk ’12.
- In 2016, sustainability information was reviewed & updated by Postyn Smith ’15, then-Sustainability Coordinator at the Zilkha Center for Environmental Initiatives.
- Additionally, many current students (see the list below) contribute to the Book each and every year, and their advice & quotes are included on many of the pages. An important editorial note – we cannot vouch for the students’ quotes & advice – we’re just passing their words along, from them to you.
Williams College will provide you with a variety of essential goodies, but the clothing and décor are up to you. The rather stark room you will walk into in August will soon become your own personalized space.
Williams College’s first-year housing arrangements are broken down into what are known as “entries.”
Things to keep in mind while transforming your room into a castle…
You are going to be living there for about nine months – not a lifetime. College rooms are smaller than you think. The college room itself is laden with college furniture, but not much else. Typically, you will find for each occupant a desk chair, a desk (with two or three drawers suitable for a filing folders box, or loads of junk), a bed, a comfy mattress, a dresser or a built-in equivalent (five-six drawers, including that thin upper drawer for miscellaneous goodies), a closet or wardrobe with a bar 3 feet across, and a bookshelf of notable size. Each room also has a MicroFridge unit (handy-dandy microwave+minifridge/freezer that’s also energy-star rated), and a pair of waste baskets; one for trash and one for paper (we do our best here at Williams to keep the forests of the world around). And for privacy/late sleeping purposes, each room is equipped with a pull down window shade. The furniture at first may seem as if Williams bought it at an auction that a Howard Johnson was having back in the 60’s. Ok, so we’re kidding. It actually works well, is incredibly durable and relatively aesthetically pleasing. Just think of it as a few tiers down from the Pottery Barn. If Pottery Barn were a HoJo from the 60’s. Trust us, it has character!
All College-provided furniture, as well as the MicroFridge unit, must remain in your room. You are responsible for ensuring the furniture remains in your room and is kept in good condition, or fines and charges will be assessed.
Please note that bringing your own comfy mattress, and/or bedframe & box spring, are not permitted – refer to the college’s Bed Bug Policy for some really good rationale.
Think about what you really need. A recent study found that incoming freshmen on average brought 13 devices that plugged into the wall. The beauty of college residential living is that every student doesn’t have to be totally self-sufficient; think about what you can share with your entry mates. ENVIRO-TIP: bring a power strip or two. All your appliances can be plugged in to the strip to eliminate “phantom draw.” It sounds like the title to a bad horror flick, but it’s actually electricity that’s used even when these appliances are off! Plus having a few extra outlets never hurts, right?
An Important Note on Unwanted Guests (aka insects & pests)
You’ll notice especially during the months that the high temperature isn’t a balmy 20 degrees Fahrenheit, there are insects in New England; additionally, sometimes mice or bats make their way into buildings, especially during the winter (and especially when food is left out or doors or windows are left open and you’ve removed the screen…).
Despite our best attempts to keep these unwanted guests out of student residences, occasionally they still make their way in. The best things you can do to help is to make sure to keep your room relatively clean (i.e., don’t leave food or food containers out – that’s like an invitation for Mickey or Minnie to become your roommate) and always leave your window screens intact.
If you believe you have an issue in your room with insects or pests, contact Facilities at 413.597.2486 during regular Monday-Friday hours. If you have an emergency situation after hours, contact Campus Safety at 413.597.4444. Here is a link to these & other correlated Facilities policies.
Want to know more about our residences for first-year students? Read on!
The Frosh Quad
For the 2022-2023 academic year, Williams and Sage form the Frosh Quad (which is great on warm days for Frisbee, studying at one of the picnic tables, or hanging out in the sun).
Williams Hall, built in 1911, was named for our collegiate benefactor Colonel Ephraim Williams. Williams fell mortally wounded leading his troops near Lake George, New York, in 1755. A month before his death, Williams had completed his last will & testament leaving funds to establish a free school (quick quiz : that became a college in 179_) in his home town to be re-named Williamstown. Did you get it? If not, we hope you applied to Amherst – we hear they’ll take anyone. It may be of interest to future Amherst College enemies that while Lord Jeffrey Amherst also fought in the same lengthy conflict in which Williams lost his life, Lord Jeff did not arrive in North America until 1758 – three years after Williams’ demise. Thus, by historical accident (or fate?), Amherst was not Williams’ superior officer as Amherst’s historically inaccurate students will claim at sporting events.
Sage Hall, built in 1923, is the mirror-image of Williams. Before there was a Sage Hall, there was a nice set of clay tennis courts, but alas, they are no more. And now there is Sage, a beautiful Georgian style building (relax, those of you who have not seen the campus, a few of the buildings may be of a similar style, but it honestly hardly will phase you. Besides, if you are going to have buildings in the same style, Georgian is a good choice). Both Williams & Sage were built by architect Ralph Adams Cram (architect of the giant St. John the Divine church in New York, just one of his many famous buildings).
Mission Park is made up of four sections, each of which has horizontal entries. We’ll be the first to admit that Mission is a funny looking building (winner of an architectural award my foot) – but first-years who live there have no complaints. The rooms in Mission Park are situated in funny little zig-zag angled ways.
Mission Park takes its name from the part of campus where, in 1806, five Williams students gathered in the then-maple grove on a warm summer day to discuss their interest in spreading Christianity. When a sudden lightning storm interrupted their discussion, they took shelter in a nearby haystack (check out the Haystack Monument on your way to the building!), huddling and praying for foreign missionaries. Although not praying, ironically, to be hiding under something less flammable than a stack of hay…
Armstrong makes up the western-most section of Mission Park.
Pratt makes up the west-central section of Mission Park. Both Pratt & Mills have great views of Mission Park (meaning, the actual park – green grass, lovely trees, and the Haystack Monument) to the south, and the Mountains, the MOUNTAINS! to the North.
Mills comprises the east-central section of Mission Park. Both Mills & Pratt have great views of Mission Park (meaning, the actual park – green grass, lovely trees, and the Haystack Monument) to the south, and the Mountains, the MOUNTAINS! to the North.
Dennett is the eastern-most section of Mission Park.
Living in Mission Park (Armstrong, Dennett, Mills, Pratt)?
Read below to hear what it's like from those who have lived it.
"I lived in Mission two years out of my four years at Williams, and both have been fantastic! The Common Rooms are massive and a great, welcoming place where I've just hung out and met some of my closest friends. You get to interact a lot more with the whole entry in Mission because there's a higher student-to-common room ratio, but I thought that was great in pushing me out of my comfort zone and meeting a lot of people! Yes it does seem kind of far, but far is just a five-minute walk from the center of campus--I think it's worth it to have singles and great company!" - Mohammad Faizaan '23 "Mission is definitely a great place to live. The common rooms are big, bright, and very welcoming, so they are a great place to hang out and I usually see my entrymates whenever I walk by. Mission definitely seems more extroverted while Frosh Quad is more introverted. We share a lot in Mission and see each other a lot, while my friends in Frosh Quad have smaller common rooms for fewer people. Also, Mission is all singles so it feels like having your own bedroom in a house where the common room is the living room. The kitchenettes are super nice, too. The built-in fridges are great for storing snacks. And don't let the hill scare you! The walk from Mission is a whole lot better than the walk from some other places on campus. Life hack: if you live on the Armstrong side, the path on Park Street gets you to the back entrance of Paresky pretty quickly." - Bellamy Richardson '23 "Although Mission Park can seem to be very far from the rest of campus, it actually only takes a few minutes to get to Paresky. The fact you have easy access to a dining hall (along with - most likely - having your own room) more than makes up for this "inconvenience." In addition, having horizontal entries versus vertical ones does give greater cohesion to your entry. In short, living at Mission is a choice I have never regretted!" - Emily Kuwaye '23 "Mission is honestly such an amazing place to live your first year here! Even though you don't have private common rooms like you do in Frosh Quad, the larger common rooms really allowed me to bond with a lot of my entrymates. Whether it be through late night study sessions, entry snacks, or even just passing by, I feel like I really got to know my entrymates really well. Admittedly, Mission's distance and its notorious hill made me quite envious of my Frosh Quad peers. But I can honestly say that my calves have never looked better!" - Abed Togas '25
Living in the Quad (Sage Hall & Williams Hall)?
Keep reading this page for more from those who have lived it before you.
"Frosh Quad is a great place to live in during your first year at Williams! The location is nice because it is in close proximity to classrooms and libraries. The architecture is pretty, and the interior is interesting because room sizes can be random depending on if you are in a single or double, but this teaches you how to utilize your living space well. Also, common rooms are a perk for everyone :)" - Esther Kim '23 "Buy a mini fridge and microwave at the FCC Tag Sale at the beginning of the year. It is 100% worth the $70 investment or so (or split the cost with a suitemate!), especially if you ever need to store any leftover food or like to keep Odwallas or snacks from Lee's in there and since there's no access to a kitchen in Frosh. A Brita pitcher is also worth the $15 if you don't like the taste of the sink water and it's far more convenient to fill up from the sink than to trek to Paresky to fill up your water bottles three times a day. Despite these qualms, Frosh Quad is without a doubt better than Mission based on location alone." - Miriam Li '23 "Frosh Quad is the perfect place to be if you value common rooms - every two rooms or so open into their own common space where you can study, hang out, and meet anyone passing through. It's a great chance to make a larger space your own while sharing it with your dorm neighbors!" - Alex Cumming '25 "Living in Frosh Quad is a great opportunity to get to know a small group of people really, really well. Since there are so many common rooms, each one tends to develop their own personality, so there’s always a place you can go where you can have fun and meet great people. Also, the fact that you’re right next to Paresky/Whitman’s, one of the most central and heavily used places on campus, is definitely a huge plus." - Aaron Schroen '23.5
Don't take the list below as creed as far as what to bring - you've lived for 18 years (give or take), and you know what you like & need. Bring those things. Don't bring the others.
From zerowastehome.com: "Get your 5Rs right:
- Refuse what you do not need,
- Reduce what you do need,
- Reuse what you consume,
- Recycle what you cannot Refuse, Reduce, or Reuse, and
- Rot (compost) the rest."
When you think about what you're going to bring, we encourage you to Reuse what others have Recycled whenever you can & whenever it's appropriate.
- 1 set of extra long twin sheets (do NOT bring regular twin-sized - the mattresses are 36"x80"). 1 set is enough; you only sleep with one set of sheets. You will wash your sheets when they get dirty. Otherwise, you will just end up with two sets of dirty sheets and more laundry to do.
- 1 extra long twin mattress pad.
- 1 bath towel. Same deal as the sheets re: laundry.
- Pillow case.
- Blanket/comforter. Start with one. If you find yourself too cold as winter sets in, get another blanket then.
- Hamper or Laundry Basket – one or the other will suffice.
- Collapsable drying rack - you'll save a few bucks on the dryers while you're helping the environment!
- Laundry detergent & dryer sheets.
You can purchase your own linens & bring them with you, or you can use the OCM Linens program sponsored by the Williams Bookstore.
Personal Care Items
By now you should know what you need in this area - so bring what you need.
The basics, of course, are:
- Also a good idea to bring a supply of your favorite pain/cold/flu meds, and be sure to bring your own thermometer.
Bring what learning tools you used in high school. You may rework your learning style a little in college, but probably not so much as that you need to buy a 228 multi-colored highlighter pack.
The basics, of course, are:
- Stapler + staples.
- A computer is very highly recommended.
- A calculator might come in handy occasionally for tests, but most of the time you'll likely just use a calculator on your computer.
- Power strips make it easier to turn off your appliances/electronics, and conserve energy.
- Extension cords.
- Removable poster adhesive.
- Storage containers, including those that will fit under your bed. Most rooms come with a dresser, desk, and a hanging area for storage so calculate that into your storage needs.
- Cell phone. Nearly every Williams student uses a cell phone. If you're a die-hard land-line person, you can bring your own land-line phone, but be sure to bring a phone-card too for long-distance calls.
And DON'T bring the things found in the next chapter - you don't really need them, and you will get fined for having some of them.
Firstly, a list of Please-Don'ts...
Though we're not going to fine you for having these, in most cases there really just isn't a need for you to bring them, OR you can find out once you get here if you really need them and then get them.
You can always catch up on your favorite shows through Netflix or Hulu on your laptop or tablet (just don't do it during class...).
Certain Wireless Devices
For bandwidth and sustainability reasons, certain wireless devices (such as routers, hotspots, wireless printers) are on the list of things not to bring. Click here for more details.
Your custodians will have pretty much everything you need to borrow (vacuum, cleaners, paper towels, etc.), so you don't need to stock your own. A deodorizing spray of a scent of your own preference might not hurt, but be cognizant of your podmates' allergies.
Plastic risers for the bed
Do you like sleeping very far off the ground on a lifted bed? If no, then don't bother. Your quality of sleep is more important than those extra couple of inches gained with risers.
Room lamps often end up unused, so hold off on this & see if you turn out to be a Williams student who spends a lot of time in your room, and then buy a lamp from someone who was not as wise as to wait & see what their Williams lifestyle is truly like.
Facilities will replace lights that come with the room when they burn out. If you bring your own lamp and want to bring extra bulbs, bring energy-efficient CFL or LED bulbs, which last longer.
Use a computer calendar - you will get a Williams Google account, and it's great. Williams also typically sends out more free calendars than you will be able to use in a year.
The power almost never goes out; use your cell phone!
Next, a list of Have/Do-And-Be-Fined(-or-Worse)'s...
Williams grants students many freedoms and treats them with a great deal of respect. However, there are rules and regulations, and students are pretty good about following them. Each rule has its reasons and we don’t find them too extraneous, but in true Williams spirit, you should always feel free to ask “why” such rules are in place - there is always an answer.
The rules include a few things that the college strictly forbids. It will save you some grief, your item being confiscated, a not-insignificant $$ fine, and possible College disciplinary action if you take note of & heed the following list of may-not-have's. If you have any questions regarding the acceptability of a particular appliance or item not listed, call the Office of Environmental Safety & Compliance at 413-597-2406.
Smoking is not allowed in any college building, nor within 25 feet of the buildings (who wants to be puffing during a snowstorm anyhow?).
Even if you have any unlit (the theory is they could eventually be lit ... who knows?), they are not allowed. They have a habit of causing college-ruled paper fires and we can not have that. After your on-campus residency comes to pass, feel free to burn all the candles you like, in your own non-Williams home, within the terms of your own lease. But for your time at Williams, leave them at home & keep the College's Fire Safety Inspector at bay. (Students who need to burn candles for religious purposes may call the Chaplains' Office at 413-597-2483).
Other than fish in a small tank (less than 5 gallons), no student–owned pets are permitted in regular undergraduate housing. Sorry - Fluffy & Fido need to stay at home. (Students who require a Service or Assistance Animal, click here for important information.)
Your Own Mattress, Box Spring, Bedframe
We have our reasons - not the least of which is Bed Bugs. The mattresses & frames provided in student rooms are well-suited for - you guessed it - college students. So leave your Purple, Casper, Nectar, Leesa, Serta, BeautyRest, or any other bed, at home.
The college has outfitted each student room with an energy-efficient MicroFridge unit that include a microwave and mini-fridge/freezer. Additional units aren't permitted - besides, they suck up a lot more electricity than the units we provide.
Appliances with Heating Units or Coils, including:
- Coffee Makers (big taboo). You can get it at breakfast. Or pick some up in the quality Tunnel City Coffee Shop on Spring Street. Or heat up a cup of water in your microwave & use instant coffee. The cost of the fine will pay for a year’s worth of java.
- Toasters/Toaster Ovens. Why bring them in the first place? Bagels go bad in a day. Bread will get moldy. It really is more of an aesthetic than functional appliance when it comes down to it. Save space and money - leave it home!
- Hamburger and Sandwich Makers. Who ever came up with this nifty little invention? Probably a Williams graduate who was deprived of such things. Is George Foreman an Eph?
- Hot plates (good for little brother pranks, but not for your good standing).
- Crock Pots (no more stews, sorry).
- Broilers (mind you we do have Dining Services).
- Bread Makers (we realize there's an uptick in baking due to COVID, but sorry, no).
- Electric Space Heaters (get another blanket/sweater).
- Electric Wok (even those purchased on TV for $19.95, stick-free or not).
- Electric Fry Pans (seriously?? who are you, Martha Stewart?).
- Electric or Gas Stoves (leave the Coleman with Dad for his camping trips).
- Deep Fryers (not just Martha Stewart, but now Guy Fieri - wannabe's as well?).
- Beer Coolers (don’t go there) and kegorators (nor there).
- Hot Pots.
- Any other appliance with a heating unit or coil.
You are going to school in Williamstown, Massachusetts, not Death Valley. Bring a fan if you are really set on a chilled environment; an AC unit will only eat space, energy, and money. (Students who require an air conditioner for health reasons must submit a Housing Accommodations request; submission of a Housing Accommodations request does not guarantee approval.)
Past students used them to raise their beds for additional storage. While carrying them up three flights of stairs might sound like a good beginning-of-year workout to you as you move into your room, many cinder blocks have been left behind in the past, making for an unnecessary end-of-year workout for the custodial crews. Save the workout for both you & your custodians, and if you absolutely need to raise your bed, bring the plastic risers instead.
Lack of parking on campus makes it impossible to allow first-year students to have cars. Only approved registered vehicles are authorized to park or operate on campus. Any vehicle found in violation will be issue a citation accordingly. If you have questions about this policy, please contact Campus Safety Services - Parkins at 413-597-4698.
So what’s the real story on the weather?
From the stories & advice below, you might think we live in Antarctica - but we don't. Well, not quite anyhow. What they say about many parts of the United States holds true here too - "If you don't like the weather in the Berkshires, just wait five minutes." The weather changes with the seasons, and while we do experience a real winter here, it does get above the freezing mark as well.
And yes, it's truly beautiful here - no joke."You should bring an umbrella! While it is good to have a raincoat with you on campus, it might be too hot or cold to wear one. That's when carrying an umbrella around with you in your backpack comes in handy!" - Gabby Lopez-Ona '24 "If you are coming from a warm place, then Williams is most likely going to be very cold for you. But - as long as you layer - you have nothing to worry about. Still, always check the temperature before you leave the dorm. The temperatures here can rise and fall very quickly, so, if you are planning to be out all day, you may want to take an extra jacket for any night time activities." - Emily Kuwaye '23 "The weather is quite turbulent here. The falls are beautiful, while winters can be windy and cold. Sometimes it can look sunny outside while the temperature is below freezing. Layering not only keeps you cozy, but it also can prevent you from potential sickness. Hats can keep your head and ears warm, and snow boots are a lifesaver because the sidewalks can be very slippery. Also, hot packs can be useful if you are outside for longer periods of time or have cold hands. Reusable or rechargeable ones are nice for sustainability!" - Esther Kim '23 "As a Midwesterner, I was pleasantly surprised that autumn is quite long and very pleasant in the Berkshires! It doesn't really get cold until November." - Gwyn Chilcoat '24 "Weather here is very crazy. Don't forget to layer, but also don't forget to look at the beauty that's all around you! Williams and the surrounding area is very beautiful during all months so keep your eyes peeled even through the crazy weather! " - Mohammad Faizaan '23 "This might be a controversial statement, but it is one in which I firmly believe: winter in Williamstown is great, but the spring is not. There are a couple caveats to this statement, the first being that winter is 1000% more bearable if you can find a winter activity like skiing, ice skating, snowshoeing, or sledding that you enjoy, and if you can invest in an insulated coat (bonus points for buying it used instead of new). Second, people define spring differently. I define it as the months (March to May) when it is 75 degrees in Georgia, where my family lives, while it is still 40 degrees and snowing/raining/icing/melting here in Williamstown. If you are used to lengthy, lush springtimes, I recommend planning a spring break trip to Florida or California and deleting all warm-weather locations from your weather app (seriously)." - Charlotte Luke '25
Part of leaving home to live in a new place is learning about responsibility in your own terms. Sustainability is one of Williams' core values. Williamstown is a beautiful place as you'll find out soon enough first hand, and we all want to keep it that way. An important thing you can do to help in the weeks leading up to arriving here is making your college purchases wisely:
- Only get what you absolutely need.
- Re-use things from home.
- Ask friends if they have something you're looking for and ask to borrow it.
- Wait until you get here to buy things (a lot of times it turns out you don't need half the things you thought you did).
- Think about where the things you're buying are coming from and the impact they have on our environment.
- Do NOT bring a mini-fridge for your room (one of the largest energy-consumers on campus) - we've provided you with an energy-efficient MicroFridge unit to use in your room.
- Power strips enable students to easily turn off appliances and electronics and to stop energy vampires (who knew there were vampires here?!? But now that we know, they must be stopped!).
- If you bring your own lamp, bring energy-efficient (and longer-lasting) CFL or LED light bulbs, rather than incandescent bulbs.
- Clothes Drying Racks - use a collapsable drying rack to dry your clothes. You'll save money and help the environment by reducing energy usage!
While you can participate in the College's sustainability efforts in simple ways like above, you can get more directly involved through working with College offices & groups like the Zilkha Center, the Williams Environmental Council (WEC), & the Davis Center.
Once you're on campus, you'll want to familiarize yourself with the college's recycling guide. There are signs posted above the waste stations, but the link provides a more comprehensive version. You'll learn where you can take your batteries to be recycled and that pizza boxes can be recycled on campus.
Additionally, we compost food waste & compostable to-go items on campus. Click here to find more information about what is & isn't compostable.
One of the many college rites of passage, laundry is one of those things best experienced and mastered early on. Williams makes it relatively painless - each one of the first-year buildings has a large number of washers and dryers available. Laundry is managed by Dining Services.
Laundry is FREE for all on-campus students.
Some advice from those who have come before you:"Start a routine for yourself in regard to laundry, so dirty clothes do not have the chance to accumulate in your room. One of the best times to do laundry is in the early mornings (especially on Sundays). If you cannot wake up early enough, you can always check the "WilliamsMobile" app under the tab "Resources" - they have a "Laundry View" that shows which washers and dryers are currently in use." - Emily Kuwaye '23 "You can throw it all in together, it's fine, just wash on delicates and dry on cool. It's better for the environment, anyway." - Gwyn Chilcoat '24 "Doing laundry is definitely not the hardest thing to do at Williams, and often a good time to take a break from staring at your computer screen for too long! A few pieces of advice from my own experience: make sure you have a good load to do as the washer and dryer can hold quite a lot, and if you don’t throw in enough pieces of clothing, what might end up happening is they will start foaming after they are done. I also find Tide Pods the easiest to use as they don’t leak like a bottle of detergent could, and they are a lot lighter to carry downstairs." - Chen Chen Huang '23 "For the love of all things sacred and holy, set a timer on your phone when you do laundry! People will (and, in my opinion, have the right to) move your belongings out of the washing machine or dryer if you are not quick to move them yourself. Laundry can be cutthroat, especially at peak times, e.g. Sundays." - Charlotte Luke '25 "Definitely try to keep yourself accountable with your laundry! You don't want to be scrambling the day of an important event to wear an article of clothing that is buried deep within your laundry bag. If it seems grueling to do in the moment, remember that doing laundry is the best form of multitasking! Doing readings, watching an episode of a TV show, or cleaning your room while washing or drying your clothes is a great way to kill two birds with one stone. You will also be sharing machines with a bunch of other people in your building, so test out the waters the first few weeks and see which days are the most efficient with your own schedule." - Abed Togas '25 "Laundry is free! That alone is so incredible. Have some detergent, dryer sheets, and especially a laundry bag/basket on hand. Also, while there are quite a few laundry machines, they tend to fill up during busy times, especially afternoons after everyone gets out of class. It’s a good idea to find a time where no one else will be doing it but you’re available to make sure that you can get it in the machine! Also, set a timer for when it’s done! No one likes to have to take out someone else’s laundry, but it definitely happens if your laundry sits in the machine for too long." - Aaron Schroen '23.5
Step One: Arrive at Check-in (Locations and Times To Be Determined)
This is where you will pick up your room key (Williams, Sage, Tyler Annex) or room code (Armstrong, Dennett, Mills, Pratt), and your brand-new official Williams student ID.
Student Identification Cards
A student identification card is issued to each student upon check in. First year students shall submit a photo to: email@example.com. The photo should be a color photo (jpg format) no larger than 2mb, headshot only, with a white background and no hats or sunglasses should be worn.
Access to Student Residences
Student identification cards are equipped with a RFID chip and a magnetic stripe. The RFID chip is used with proximity readers by holding the card closely to the reader which allows access. The magnetic stripe is used with magnetic stripe card readers when the card is swiped through the card reader to allow access. Tampering or misusing the card reading system will result in a $50 fine to the house or individual responsible, and disciplinary action. Do not punch holes in the identification cards. Doing so may damage the RFID chip and you will be responsible for replacement costs.
Students are required to carry their student identification cards and to produce these identification cards at the request of any College official, including Faculty and Administrative Staff members and Campus Safety Services Officers. Refusal to do so will be considered a serious offense. Any student who alters a Williams student identification card or who allows any card issued in his or her name to be used by any other person is subject to disciplinary action. If a student loses or misplaces their ID card, they should report it to Campus Safety immediately so the card can be disabled. Not doing so may allow someone who finds the card unauthorized access to student areas. Students shall not leave their ID cards on or near any card readers as this too could allow unauthorized access to student areas.
If your ID card is lost or damaged, you can complete an online form that can be found on the Campus Safety Services website or by clicking HERE. The card will be replaced and the student charged $15.00. You will be notified via email when your card is available for pickup. ID cards may be obtained during regular hours: Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Students who lose or misplace their cards can also receive a temporary ID card 24 hours a day at the Campus Safety Services Office at no charge that will allow them temporary access to their assigned housing until their ID card can be replaced. The cards are only meant to be temporary and the student will be charged if the card is not returned to Campus Safety.
A room key or code is issued to each student upon check in. Students must sign for and pick up keys or codes in person—keys may not be picked up by friends or other acquaintances. When not in their rooms, students should lock their doors and carry their room keys with them. If a room key is lost, the Facilities Office should be contacted for a replacement and a lock change. A charge of $100.00, billed to a student’s account, will be assessed. Student identification cards will be requested to confirm identity and room assignment. Students who do not return keys when they vacate their rooms will be charged $100.00 for the unreturned key. This charge is not refundable. Dorms with Locknetics coding systems also carry a $100.00 charge if codes are given out to friends and then requested to be changed.
Students should carry their room keys with them. When requested by a student, the Campus Safety Services Office will open an inadvertently locked room or lock a room inadvertently left open once during the academic year, but will charge $10.00 for each subsequent request for room opening or locking by the same student. Students whose rooms are locked or unlocked by Campus Safety and cannot produce a key at that time, must then show their key to the Facilities Office within 24 hours or the Facilities Office will notify the College locksmith of a lost key. The room lock will be changed and the student billed as described above.
Step Two: Go to your residence hall, find your room, and move your things in. Remember to pack lightly and in multiple smaller boxes/bins, to make it easier on yourself to move in! (You can always ship things in later to pick up at the Mailroom.)
Step Three: find your Junior Advisors (JA's). They'll welcome you, introduce you to others in your entry, and let you know about first-year orientation, or what we at Williams call "First Days."
Be sure to visit the Dean's Office Website for more information about Getting Here & Moving In
To get a great overview of all of the existing student clubs & organizations right off the bat, be sure to attend the Student Jamboree and the Purple Key Fair. The Jamboree showcases many performing student groups (like a cappella groups, dance, etc.), and the Purple Key Fair gives all student organizations an opportunity to show what they do and how to get involved, and you can sign up then or later on. And if you don't see a group that fits what you're looking for, you can start a new one!
After the Jamboree & Purple Key Fair, the Office of Campus Life is the place to go to seek out these opportunities and to participate in leadership development workshops. You can also visit the Davis Center to engage in opportunities and activities that explore the ways culture, history, and identity inform your educational experience. And the Center for Learning in Action will help you explore ways to get involved in the community beyond the campus here in the Berkshires, such as through the Lehman Council.
Your Junior Advisors (JAs), of course, will probably be some of the first people you talk to when you need help with something - and that's great, because that's what their role is! But sometimes you'll need some help from someone other than your JAs. Here are some pointers on where to go and who to connect with.
When you're not feeling well or if you'd like to talk with a counselor about something that's on your mind, the Student Health Center is a great place to connect with for support.
- Medical Services (413.597.2206), on-site medical practitioners for general medical services and consultation including orthopedic clinic and well-woman exams are available. Information can be found at this link.
- Integrative Wellbeing Services (413.597.2353), individual and group therapy/counseling as well as medication consultation and outreach - including workshops. Click here for more info.
- If you need a medication, you can set up an account at the soon-to-open Apothecary on Spring Street, or at the local Walgreens Pharmacy. Your prescription, faxed from Health Services, will normally be delivered the following business day to the Center for your pick-up.
- Transportation (413.597.4545) for scheduled healthcare appointments is provided free to charge by appointment only in the local area. Call to schedule transport.
- Several student/faculty/staff groups are advised by the Health Services staff, including Peer Health, the Mental Health Committee, and Active Minds.
Here's a quick run-down of other offices & people who are really good at lending a listening ear or a helpful hand:
The Dean's Office (413.597.4171) - the Deans and their administrative team will help you with personal & academic concerns. They work with specific class years, and have focused areas of support (including for first-gen students, transfer students, veteran students, and international students).
International Student Services - this office provides holistic advising, immigration services, programs, workshops, training, advocacy, and more!
The Chaplains' Office (413.597.2483) - the chaplains are awesome listeners and are happy to chat with you about anything, religious or not.
Institutional Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion dedicates itself to a community where all members can thrive. They work to eliminate harmful bias and discrimination, close opportunity gaps, and advance critical conversations and initiatives that promote inclusion, equity, and social justice on campus and beyond.
The Davis Center (413.597.3340) - the staff advises the student groups that are part of the Minority Coalition (MinCo) and works closely with the students who are involved with those groups. Davis Center staff is committed to providing an inclusive and equitable experience for our students. They work to ensure traditionally underserved & marginalized populations have access to a holistic, intentional learning environment.
Pathways for Inclusive Excellence makes sure all students thrive academically at Williams and beyond through opportunities and programs that work to eradicate racial and socio-economic disparities in higher education.
The Office of Campus Life (413.597.4747) - the staff manages residential life, student housing assignments & concerns, student organization involvement & leadership, student activities & programs/events, etc., and we're at Williams because we love working with students.
Office of Accessible Education (413.597.4672) - they coordinate several services to help you improve you quantitative skills and/or writing skills (including the Writing Workshop and the Math & Science Resource Center), and provide services and advisement for students who need support around accessibility.
The Registrar's Office (413.597.4286) - they'll help you with choosing classes, drop/add, etc.
The '68 Center for for Career Exploration, aka the Williams Career Center (413.597.2311) - the Career Center is here to help everyone, from students who have no idea of what they want to do, to those who have identified their ideal company, position, & start date. It's never, ever too early to connect with the Career Center!
Student Financial Services (413.597.4286) - can help with all your questions about your bill, your financial aid award, and can be a first stop for any money related question you might have. The advisor team is always willing to meet with students about their need on campus, during the summer, or while you might be abroad.
The Critical Need Team - Williams College is fortunate to have resources (although not unlimited) to assist students with unexpected financial challenges they face throughout the year. We know that emergencies are stressful. This for is designed to make it as easy as possible to request funding.
Campus Safety Services (413.597.4444) - The Williams College Campus Safety Services Department (CSS) is available 24 hours a day, every day, to assist all members of the College community.
Faculty drop-in office hours - don't be afraid to make use of those times, the faculty love to work with you!
There are many more people around campus who are willing to listen & talk with you. Be open to finding those connections with faculty, staff, and other students as you experience Williams.
Some advice from those who have come before you:
"If you need help in class, don't be afraid to reach out to your professors and fellow classmates! The atmosphere here is incredibly collaborative, and I have never met someone who would refuse to help me. In addition, take advantage of the resources the college provides - TutorTrac (for individualized help), MSRC (for assistance with homework for most introductory Div. III courses), and Writing Worship (for feedback on essays)." - Emily Kuwaye '23 "Williams can be a challenging place, but keep in mind that various support networks are available if you choose to use them. Whether that be academic (your professors, academic advisors, classmates, Writing Center, MSRC, Dean's Office, etc.), social (your JAs and close friends), or lifestyle (the Health Center, IWS, Chaplain's, etc.), everyone here is dedicated to making sure you are having the best experience possible. So don't be afraid to reach out when you need help -- we all want you to succeed." - Kaiz Esmail '23 "Accessibility Coordinators are a new and underutilized resource. They are students in OAE who have experience navigating disability and accommodations at Williams who can help talk through your needs in a low-stress environment." - Gwyn Chilcoat '24 "This will come in different forms for everyone, but personally I found my friends, professors, and the ’68 Career Center staff very helpful. Hang out with your friends—don’t always stress too much about getting that 100 on your chemistry test, it’s both healthy and important to spend time with people who make you laugh and relax. Reach out to your professors—as long as you are willing to take a step and connect with them (office hours, emails, Lyceum Dinners, etc.), you will find that they are genuinely caring and supportive of your struggles and dreams. As you start exploring your career paths, go to the Career Center as much as you’d like! It is a place full of very kind and very experienced people who help you review your resume and cover letters, provide information on opportunities that you might have otherwise missed, and in large shape and nurture your goals! Again, the common theme is that do reach out to different kinds of people--You are here, and we are all so happy you are here:)" - Chen Chen Huang '23 "I have had some of my highest highs and lowest lows during my time at Williams--but even through those good and bad times, I've always had support no matter where I've gone at Williams. My Professors, Office of Accessible Education, the Davis Center, and the Deans Office are some notable mentions, but I also wanted to highlight the Chaplains Office--even though they have a religious connotation, they've also been some of the best people to sit down with and work through your problems. Every department is willing to sit, listen, meet you where you're at, and push you to be the best version of yourself! It's ok to struggle at Williams and seldom do people go through their time here without ever struggling--ask your peers, JAs, and campus resources for help, and don't be afraid to do so!" - Mohammad Faizaan '23 "Your Junior Advisors (JAs) should and will be your best friends and first resource for anything! The Career Center is also great and the sooner you go, the better; they'll help you figure out what you want to do after Williams, and create a road map for you to get there." - Alex Cumming '25 "This small campus has a boatload of resources that have helped me out in my most dire times. Different services work for different people and purposes so definitely reach out to those around you—especially upperclassmen—on who they reached out to to find success. In particular, I have found the '68 Career Center staff to be incredible in helping me and my endeavors. They are great for resume advice, seeking out career-related programs, and even just figuring out where to start! College can be extremely overwhelming and it may seem scary to feel so "inexperienced," but I believe that people here truly want to see you succeed and will try their hardest to offer you the help you need or point you to places where you can get the answers and expertise you need." - Abed Togas '25 "Firstly, find your people. Whether through a performance group, a sports team, a political club, or anything in between, having peers to share the struggle of college with is absolutely crucial. There’s so many clubs to join here that you’ll definitely be able to find something that you fit right into! Additionally, professors here want nothing more than to support you. Reaching out to them with questions or personal struggles is always a good idea. Finally, there is no shame in reaching out to Integrative Well-being Services and getting therapy. I certainly have, and it was incredibly beneficial for me every year I have attended this school. There are few times in your life where it’s as accessible as Williams makes it, so take advantage of what they are offering!" - Aaron Schroen '23.5
Homesickness happens to almost every student at some point in their college career. For many, it happens early on, though it's not restricted to that specific time period. Homesickness is to be expected, and rest assured, if you're feeling it, you're not alone. Keep reading for some stories & helpful hints from other students.
"While being away from home is definitely difficult, it is still manageable, especially once classes start - you find yourself extremely busy with homework, which is a great opportunity to get to know your fellow classmates better. In addition, if you don't find a friend during First Days, that's okay! It takes some people longer to find a friend group than others; the important thing is just to keep on trying to introduce yourself to new people. Eventually, you will find your group." - Emily Kuwaye '23 "Communication is what you make of it. You can choose to maintain the relationships that you value or to lose contact. I miss my family often and realized that calling my parents or sister, even if just for a few minutes, fills me with joy. My dad often brightens up my day by texting me funny jokes and pictures, and I think having pictures of family and friends on my phone or on my desk lessens my loneliness. Also, you are probably not the only one who feels homesick! Talk to others about your loved ones, and cherish fond memories together." - Esther Kim '23 "Almost none of my friends back home went to schools like Williams, so it's been really weird to see those people live a very different life from me: getting engaged, married, and having kids; joining the workforce/military; staying in the same social groups; etc., and not really understanding my college experience. It's hard to have that rift between you where you can't really relate to one another's lives anymore. Sometimes that means you'll drift apart and mostly relate over shared memories, and sometimes those friendships persist but change in nature. It's weird and hard but it's part of growing up and you'll learn to navigate it with time." - Gwyn Chilcoat '24 "I feel like it's safe to say that virtually everyone experiences homesickness in some capacity at Williams. For me, connecting with others about this shared feeling of discomfort has created such rich and important conversations on identity and culture. It's also nice to cultivate little pieces of home on campus. This can take shape in may forms. From cooking food from family recipes to calling people back home routinely, home doesn't have to feel so far away." - Abed Togas '25
The Office for Information Technology (OIT) has some great resources available on their website. Be sure to check it out!)
As one might imagine, the personal computer is an integrated part of the educational experience at Williams.
The College supports both Mac and PC platforms and educational discounts are available for Apple and Dell computers through their online stores. Laptops are preferred to desktops due to their portability and energy savings. All student residences have wireless access. Some public buildings including restaurants on Spring Street do as well. Some students also make use of tablet computers, though mostly as a secondary tool rather than a primary one.
For those of you who prefer to be wire-connected for higher performance, you can connect to the internet jack in your room. All dorm rooms have a network jack to accommodate a wired (ethernet) connection. The jack is off by default in order to save energy, however it is easily activated by filling out a form and sending it to OIT. Again, most places on the Williams Campus have wireless access.
If and when your computer (or other computing equipment) has breathed its last breath, hold onto it so you can responsibly dispose of it at the end-of-year OIT sponsored GreenUp Program - for free. Why recycle this stuff? Computers have all sorts of toxins that are hazardous if disposed of incorrectly. Additionally, computers will have their hard drives removed & destroyed to eliminate the possibility of data theft. Equipment which can be reused will be refurbished by OIT and donated to local schools and non-profit organizations. The rest will be removed by a recycling firm.
Moving on to phones, all student rooms are equipped to accommodate a land-line phone. For information about land-line phones, click here. The reality is that most students no longer make use of them, instead walking around campus on their individual mobile device of choice, looking like zombies while they text, tweet, snapchat, instagram, check-in, update their Facebook status, or tell their parents on the phone how awesome Williams is (seriously folks, as important as it is to let the Twitterverse know about your most-recent latte purchase at Tunnel City, be polite & look up from time to time to use your words to say Hi to someone you’re meeting on the sidewalk… or at least to avoid running into them). If you’re going to bring a cell/smart phone, check with your provider about coverage. Verizon, AT&T, Spectrum, and T-Mobile have been known to work here in town (partially thanks to the towers mounted on our own power-plant smokestack).
If and when your cell phone decided to call it quits, you can responsibly recycle it for free at the College as well. Learn more by looking under Electronic Equipment on the Campus Recycling Guide.
Is there a place to store extra goodies, such as a trunk, giant pieces of luggage and boxes, or to store things during the summers?
While you are in residence on campus: there is limited storage in the basement of some residential buildings. Custodians & other Facilities staff manage this storage on-campus.
Summer Storage Program: this storage program is offered for storage over the summer period.
Risk & Liability: Using storage options are entirely at the risk of the student. Neither the College nor the storage provider accepts responsibility for your things should they be damaged, lost, or stolen. We do not recommend storing high-value items. You might want to check to see if you have any coverage through your homeowner’s policy.
May I have a car during my first year?
No. Lack of parking makes it impossible to allow first-year students to have cars. If you have questions about this policy, contact Campus Safety Services at 413-597-4444.
What about cell phones?
Check with Verizon, T-Mobile, Spectrum, or AT&T - most of these providers have fairly good service throughout campus and much of the Berkshires. Just remember to SILENCE YOUR PHONE when you’re in class, whether in-person or remote!
Can I have a land-line phone in my room? How does voice mail work?
Although most students prefer to use cell phones for more convenient communication with friends and family, one can bring a landline phone to use in one’s room. The service is for local and incoming calls only and you must sign up with a private carrier for a long distance calling card if you want long distance service. To use the landline phone you must request that your landline phone jack be activated. To activate the phone jack in your room, you need to log into PeopleSoft self-service and go to Self Service > Campus Life > Dorm Phone Activation. You will need to bring your own phone to plug into the jack in your room after you activate it. Without a long distance calling card, you can only use a land-line phone to call locally, including 4-digit campus numbers and 1-800 numbers. When you pick up the receiver of your land-line phone and you hear a stutter dial tone it means you have a voice mail message. You will receive voice mail instructions when you pick up your personal access card after you arrive.
What's my mailing address?
All mail must be addressed to your S.U. Box number. The full mailing address is:
- (Your Name)
- (39 Chapin Hall Drive should be added here for packages)
- (your S.U. Box #) Paresky
- Williams College
- Williamstown, MA 01267
Are there kitchens in the residence halls?
Most campus residence halls do offer kitchens and/or kitchenettes for students to use.
I have been a heavy coffee drinker for a while and was planning to bring my coffee maker. What if I decide to ignore the advice about appliances?
Ignore our advice?? Bite your tongue! We’ve have already gone into a slew of options, which can save you some money, time, and will support the local businesses. But, if you choose to ignore the advice, as mentioned before, the Fire Safety Inspector or someone from the Safety & Environmental Compliance Office will fine you and treat themselves to a night on the town (OK we made that last part up - but the fine is real).
I know it's a long way off, but I'm thinking about what I want to do when I graduate. Who can help me think this through?
Funny you should ask - that's exactly why the '68 Center for Career Exploration is here! As Don Kjelleren, Director of the Career Center, says, "All Dreams are Welcome Here!" If you don't have a dream, that's OK - they'll work with you to build it together.
To take advantage of the Career Center as a first-year student...
- Make an appointment with an Advisor on Handshake. The '68 Center is here to help you throughout your time at Williams and beyond! Appointments can range from resume and cover letter review, to mock interviews, and even simply learning more about the '68 Center and resources that are available. Advisors can help you make more intentional career & academic decisions.
- Fill out your Handshake Profile & Career Interests. Handshake is here to help you get internships! By filling out your profile, you provide the '68 Center staff with details on your industry, academic, and personal interests, which inform the types of employer information sessions, career treks, workshops, and emergent opportunities they'll send to you.
- Register & Connect with Alumni via EphLink. As a Williams student, you're part of a network of 25k+ alumni positively impacting the world in just about every field imaginable. Better yet - the '68 Center has designed a tool to help you better tap this network and connect you with people who specifically want to help YOU. Register for EphLink and start connecting with alumni.
I’ve never voted in a local, state, or federal election because I wasn’t 18 in previous elections. How can I vote while I’m at Williams?
Many states allow you to register or pre-register to vote even if you’re not fully 18 years old yet; you can learn more about your home state’s rules here. This means that you will likely be able to submit a voter registration application in your home state before you even get to Williams! Registering to vote while you’re at home might actually be easier because you’ll have the ability to visit your county registrar’s office in person if any issues arise. If you can’t register or pre-register before you come to campus, there are still plenty of opportunities for you to register to vote once you're here!
At Williams, most students vote by mail or by absentee ballot because they’re on campus during elections. Once you get your Williams mailbox number, you should make sure to update your voter registration so that election mail is sent to campus instead of your home address.
Voting as a college student can be confusing because the rules differ from state to state. EphVotes is a student-run, non-partisan organization dedicated to making it as easy as possible for Ephs to vote by helping students register to vote, providing election information, distributing resources like stamps, and sending out reminders about deadlines. If you have any questions about voting while you’re a Williams student, you can reach out to [email protected] and a student will help you!
Any other helpful tips about life at Williams?
- The Williams College Bookstore on Spring Street is the place in town to get your books.
- With a $10 membership fee, you can rent outdoor equipment from the Williams Outing Club (WOC) in Paresky.
- Check out summer travel fellowships, summer research opportunities with faculty, summer campus employment, & alumni sponsored internships for good options for summer involvement on campus or affiliated with Williams.
- There are change machines in Paresky & Mission, though most vending machines on campus will accept bills.
- You can check out movies/cd's/video games from Sawyer.
- You can get a locker at the library to store your books - different from a carrel - so you don't have to lug your stuff.
- As strange as it may be to think about moving out before you move in, we're here to give you the holistic view. At the end of the spring semester, the Center for Learning in Action organizes Give It Up!, a program that enables students to donate unwanted items to local charities and non-profits, and in the process - to decrease waste. All you need to know, as of now, is that by mid-May you will see moving/storage pods outside of the dorms with Give It Up! signage - these pods are dedicated to any items that you want to give up.
What are some of the things you should do before you graduate from Williams? Here are some suggestions from those who have come before you.
"Take advantage of all the events Williams has to offer. You should definitely try to see at least one Zambezi Marimba Band, Sankofa Step Team, and Kusika performance. Also, going to Frosh Revue's performance during Family Days is definitely worth it, as well as attending performances by the Berkshire Symphony and other musical ensembles." - Emily Kuwaye '23 "-See the cows on Stone Hill! -Try every flavor at Lickety -Spend a summer at Williams and see a show at the Williamstown Theater Festival" - Alex Cumming '25 "-Hike! Even if you're not a big hiker, just go out and take walks in the beautiful landscapes and admire the amazing foliage around us! -Stargaze! I'm from a bigger city and so I've never had the opportunity to look at Stars--during my first day at Williams, my entry went Stargazing and it was so beautiful seeing all the constellations that I've heard of with my own eyes for the first time." - Mohammad Faizaan '23 "Hang out at the Clark, swim in the Green River, go to the Grafton Peace Pagoda, volunteer for a WRAPS packaging shift, go on a sunrise hike with WOC, prowl around Sawyer at night, cook in Mission kitchen, attend a Shabbat dinner, join a club that is totally foreign to you, see live music on Hoxsey Street, take the bus to Stop and Shop, go to Mass MOCA, join Williams Switchboard, take a winter study class that has no connection to your major" - Charlotte Luke '25 "Take that obscure class that you may never have the chance to take! Even if it falls outside of your major, it is best to explore and develop your academic interests while you still have the freedom to do so! I feel like some of my favorite educational experiences have been in courses or academic settings where I explore a topic I would never have been able to if I had stuck to a rigid academic path." - Abed Togas '25 "Hike! A Pine Cobble sunrise with WOC, Stone Hill and Stony Ledge on Mountain Day, sledding down the hill behind Garfield, and jumping in the Green River are great options. Go see and support the tons of different acapella and dance groups this campus has to offer! Cap & Bells, Williams’ theater group, also always has an amazing performance to attend. In fact, JOIN a performance group! Nearly all of them are open to beginners and to teaching new people. Attend a Thursday Trivia Night with your friends at The Log! Go and support campus athletes and root for the Ephs at the many athletic events! In general, never turn down an opportunity to get out there, have fun, meet new people, and make this campus the amazing, worthwhile place it can be." - Aaron Schroen '23.5
Student Contributors to The Bell Book for the Class of 2025:Kaiz Esmail '23 Chen Chen Huang '23 Esther Kim '23 Emily Kuwaye '23 Bellamy Richardson '23 Mohammad Faizaan '23 Aaron Schroen '23.5 Gwyn Chilcoat '24 Abed Togas '25 Charlotte Luke '25 Alex Cumming '25