Next Steps for First-Years: Updates from Williamstown

Hello Class of 2024,

It has been a little over a month since we last communicated and, as you know, much has been decided since then. Whether you are choosing to enroll on campus or remotely, we are excited to welcome you to the Purple Valley and the beginning of your Williams career come late  August. This email will be the first of several that will come this summer with updates on the fall semester and updated tasks that you’ll need to complete. Please be sure to read these carefully and always feel free to reach out to [email protected] if you have any questions.

First-Year Housing
As mentioned in our first communication, we will still be placing all enrolled students in first-year entries with Junior Advisors (JAs), whether you’re remote or on campus. The entry system is a longstanding Williams tradition, and we are working to ensure that it continues despite some of the shifts that COVID-19 has brought to the world and our community. Our goal is to provide opportunities for new students to meet multiple members of their class and start building strong relationships.

The first step in this process will be completing your housing questionnaire, which was sent to you from the Office of Campus Life earlier today. You must complete that questionnaire by 11:59PM EST on July 19.

Campus Life will assign you to a single room in one of our first-year residence halls. Within entries there will be smaller living units called pods. The housing form will ask about your preferences or needs so that we can take these into account while forming pods and entries. Once everyone is tested and COVID-19 negative, students within each pod will share a designated bathroom and be able to interact without masks.

Moving In
In the coming days, you will be asked to complete information about when you will move onto campus. You’ll be asked to choose a time slot over the course of several days (August 27, 28, or 29) to schedule your exact time of arrival. As mentioned in Campus Life FAQs, public health protocols preclude us from allowing families into the residence halls. Williams staff will be on hand at check-in with information for you. Students are expected to minimize what they bring and move themselves into their spaces. More details, along with information about transportation to Williamstown, were sent to you earlier today from the Office of Campus Life.

All students will be tested for COVID-19 prior to moving into their dorms. You will then quarantine for 36 to 48 hours in your  dorm room until we have your test results. Food will be delivered to your room during this time. Over the next few weeks, more information will come from the Office of Campus Life as to how that process will look.

Virtual First Days
Our First Days orientation program will be almost entirely virtual this coming school year. Closer to move-in, you will be given access to the First Days GLOW (Williams’ campus e-learning system) course, where you will find a series of online modules and videos to help you settle into a better understanding of Williams.

Normally, students would enroll in one of our mid-orientation programs as part of First Days. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, we’re unable to offer EphVentures this year. Intead, we’ll ask you what types of activities you might be interested in that align with the usual focus of each EphVentures group: those groups will then offer targeted  programming during First Days. This should be available for you to begin before the end of the week. Please complete this preference form in your task list by July 24. 

Placement Exams and WQLRA
Several academic departments require placement exams. We’ll continue to update this information as more departments finalize their own requirements. You should aim to take these placement tests before pre-registration (August 10 -17) and/or as soon as they become available so that you can be placed in the appropriate level of course for each department.

All incoming students also must complete the Williams Quantitative Literacy and Reasoning Assessment (WQLRA). While WQLRA is not a placement test, the scores help us identify students with deficiencies in math preparation, as well as those who may need additional advising before enrolling in quantitative courses. You should find this assessment on your task list, and we ask that you complete it by August 3. 

First Year Advising, Peer MentEphs, and Pre-Registration
You’ll be assigned an academic advisor, who’ll support you during your first two years as an Eph. While you and your advisor may share common academic interests, that is not always the case. Our aim is to pair you with a faculty member who will be able to help you navigate the early stages of a broad liberal arts curriculum and help you in building a team of advisors as you navigate the academic side of Williams. You will receive this pairing in the first week of August and will  schedule an initial conversation with your advisor before pre-registration begins on August 10.

You will also be assigned a Peer Mentor—a current student who shares some of your academic interests—to help answer questions about navigating Williams academics from a student perspective. We hope to have those pairings with your peer mentors complete in the same time frame as with your academic advisor.

Williams Reads
Williams Reads aims to foster new connections among students, staff, faculty, and community members by exploring diversity through a common reading experience.This year’s book is Subject to Change, edited by H. Melt. Featuring poetry and interviews, Subject to Change collects the work of  five poets who are unapologetically transgender. Lauded by 2016-17 U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera as “a culture and power border-smasher & a piercing examination of brilliant, painful, and transcendent Trans consciousness and experience,” this anthology is a testament to the power of trans poets speaking to one another—about family, race, class, disability, religion, and the body. A copy of the book will be mailed to you in the next week or two. Over the next few weeks, you will be sent a form to sign up for a Williams Reads discussion section time during First Days. These discussions sections will be led by faculty, staff, and/or upperclass students.

Health Insurance and Medical Forms
You should receive information about the college’s Student Health Insurance Plan (SHIP) later this week. Please be on the lookout for an email from our partner, Gallagher Student Health, with information about accessing their online portal. All students will be automatically enrolled in SHIP and premiums will be charged on the first term bill. If you and/or your family already has health insurance, you will have until August 15, 2020 to waive Williams coverage and have that premium charge removed from your bill. (As a reminder, students receiving financial already have been automatically enrolled in SHIP and will have the full cost of that plan covered by the  college via the Health Insurance Grant unless they choose to enroll in their own comparable plan.)

Also, just a reminder that required student health forms were due July 1. That deadline was understandably impossible for most to meet, and we’re impressed that so many students have been able to submit forms already. We do urge those students who’ve not submitted forms to do so absolutely as soon as possible. Please refer all questions about forms to [email protected].

‘68 Center for Career Exploration
In the next few days, you will receive a welcome email from the team at the ’68 Center for Career Exploration. This message will introduce you to your career advisors and provide information about how to get started utilizing Handshake, the Career Center’s software platform. The ’68 Center’s Career Preparation program and the expert Career Community Advisors are excited to work with the class of 2024 to help you explore and pursue your goals.

I know that this may be a lot of new information but we are here to support you through the process!


Dean Christopher Sewell ‘05
Associate Dean of Students
Dean of First Year Students