Prospective Student FAQ

1.  Can I get credit for having taken AP Bio in high school?

The Biology Department does not give credit toward the BIOL major for AP biology, nor does it automatically place you out of our introductory biology sequence. While a placement exam is not necessary to enroll in Biology 101 or Biology 102, it is required to place out of Biology 101 or 102.  To be eligible to take the placement exam, students need an AP exam score of 4 or 5 (or a score of 5, 6 or 7 on the IB exam) or permission from the chair of the department.  The placement exam will be administered in person during First Days.

2.  What research opportunities are there for First-Year students?

First-year students can sign up for BIOL 022 as their Winter Study course.  This allows them to do research in a faculty research lab as their sole academic responsibility for 3½ weeks—a great introduction to scientific research!

3.  How large are the Biology classes?

Introductory biology lecture classes range in size from 40 to 90 students, and lab sections in these courses are ≤24 students. Most upper level lecture classes are capped at 24 and labs at 12. Senior level classes are capped at 12. Note that the enrollment caps are the maximum permitted; usually, the actual class size is lower than the enrollment cap.  All BIOL classes have a small class atmosphere—your professor will get to know who you are very quickly!

4.  Should I take BIOL 101 and 102 my first year, or can I wait until sophomore year?

If you are planning on majoring, it is suggested that you take BIOL 101 and 102 the first year, although it is not difficult to start the sequence as a sophomore and complete the major.  Taking the required 100- and 200-level BIOL courses during your first two years also makes it easier for you to study away during your junior year.

5.  What extra-curricular activities do BIOL majors have time for?

Any they want to pursue!  BIOL majors are active participants in BMAC, athletics, music, theater, volunteer services, etc.

6.  How specialized can I get in my Williams Biology education?  Or how broad a biology education can I receive?

The major has minimal distribution requirements so students may tailor the major to their respective interests and goals.  Pursuing a concentration in ENVI, BIMO, PH or NSCI can add a flavor of specialization to your BIOL major.

7.  What would you say are some notable attributes of the Williams College Biology Department?

We have lots of majors and also lots of faculty so the faculty:major ratio is ~1:7.  All areas of biology are represented in our curriculum and in our faculty research interests.  Students who choose to do research work side-by-side with a faculty member as their mentor.  Our graduates go on to post-graduate education or jobs in a variety of biology-related fields (many in medicine, and similar numbers to graduate programs and teaching positions).  In recent years our BIOL graduates have won prestigious fellowships such as NSF Graduate Fellowships, Gates Cambridge Scholarships, Watson Fellowships, Fulbright grants, etc.  Many have also signed on for the Peace Corps and Teach-for-America.

8.  If I plan to visit the campus and want to find out more about the Biology Department, how can I do this?

When visiting campus definitely take a campus tour and attend an info session arranged through the Admissions Office.

The tours will take you through many of the science buildings.  If you think it would be helpful to speak to a faculty member during your visit, you can email the faculty member whose research you are interested in.