Two weeks ago, class was canceled for the enlightening Claiming Williams Day. Although not everyone treated it as a day off, the fact remains that on that Thursday there were no classes, and therefore no work to do. This Friday is the Williams Winter Carnival. I really don’t know too much about the Winter Carnival, but I imagine that it’s a day full of revelry and the start of a three-day weekend. A couple weeks ago, we had Dead Week, a week when only Williams students were home from college, and I guess what was supposed to be a short break in order to rest our minds from our rigorous Winter Study classes and prepare for the next semester. In about a month, we have spring break, which unlike at other schools is actually two weeks. Is Williams getting soft on us? Do we have too many days off and too much vacation time? As Williams students, we take pride in knowing that we are getting the best education in the country and therefore working harder than students at peer institutions to bolster the learning that we do in class. However, can Williams still maintain its status as the premier college in the nation if whenever classes start there is some kind of vacation or day off to break the academic flow?
But wait, it’s pretty absurd to claim that Williams is all sunshine and rainbows and that we don’t work hard at all. “Almost every night I’m studying late into the night at Sawyer, it seems endless,” said Ai Tran ’12. For each class at Williams, there are multiple hours of work, and that’s not even taking major papers and exams into account. First semester, I had a class where I had to read at least 300 pages before each class. In high school they told me that all the work I was doing then was preparing me for college because by the time I finally would be at college, the workload would seem so much lighter. False. I am definitely working much harder at Williams than I ever did at my intense high school. When I do talk to my high school buddies, they all say that college is much easier than our high school was. They are able to go out at least four times a week and spend about an hour on homework each night. Such a lifestyle would be an impossibility for Williams students. Basically, when we do have classes here, we are working much harder than students are at other schools.
However, rigorous academics are a hallmark of this institution and a necessary ingredient in Williams’ charm. We all could have gone to universities, some of which are just as selective, that would have offered only a fraction of the Williams workload. But we chose this school because we wanted the best education available, and for that to be possible, a heavy workload is needed. We push ourselves to the intellectual limits so that after four years when we leave, we have much more than a degree. This is one of the few schools in the country where I think that you pretty much get your money’s worth in terms of the education. It is because of how hard the Williams students are pushed that so many applicants around the globe try to gain admission here (because they certainly don’t apply here for name recognition). The education is the heart and soul of this school and that is rare in most universities today.
Nevertheless, even though the challenging work load is necessary at a school like Williams, I think that it at times is just a little too overburdening. Now at the same time, with Winter Study, a long spring break and other random days off and vacations, Williams students don’t have as much class time. Therefore, if we were to have fewer of these vacations, then even though the workload still wouldn’t be easy, it would definitely be more manageable. The addition of a few more days of classes really could make a big difference at Williams, and we would still be receiving the same world-class education, except this time we might gain a few more hours of sleep each night.
Raphael Menko ’12 is from Narberth, Pa. He lives in Armstrong.