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.  A placement exam given during First Days, available to first-year students with a score of 5 on the biology AP exam, must be taken to determine whether you may place out of BIOL 101 and/or 102.  Students who do place out of BIOL 101 and/or 102 are eligible to enroll in other BIOL courses for which 101 and/or 102 are prerequisites; they must still take nine BIOL courses to complete the major.

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!  Some students get hired as summer research assistants following their first year.

3.  How large are the Biology classes?

Introductory biology lecture classes range in size from 50 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 (so students like us!) 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, arrange this before coming to campus by emailing the Biology department administrative assistant, telling her when you plan to visit campus.  She will arrange a meeting with one of the Biology department faculty members.