July 27, 2009

Williams and Bennington

Neither school is on our list, but somehow this week's adventure was spent on both campuses. Elsa's Beacon teammate, Chelsea, will attend Williams in the fall and is working some of their summer clinics. Somehow it seemed like a good idea to attend this clinic in case a possible link or connection might somehow be established. Most college researchers know that Williams is tied with Amherst for the #1 and #2 spots on the US News and World Report ranking of LACs in the US. While I am not someone who cares much about rankings, these positions make Williams and Amherst extremely hard to get into and allows them to be incredibly selective of their applicants. I have often been dismayed in this college search process because schools that we like are ranked high on these lists. For our family, high rankings will only serve to deter us rather than encourage us in the application process.

Unlike the Swarthmore clinic last weekend, the Williams clinic was an all day affair, beginning at 8:30 and ending after 4. There were two practice sessions and two scrimmages, as well as lunch and a campus tour. Sophomores and juniors got a brief 'how the application and recruiting process works' talk at the end of the clinic from the assistant coach, but nothing as detailed and informative as the athletes day at Haverford.

The head coach, Michelyne Pinard, spoke briefly with her interested seniors also after the clinic, but Elsa thought we were leaving and declined an appointment. Too bad!

During the clinic, Elsa's boyfriend, Chris, and I had lots of time to kill. We began with a self guided tour of the campus. Williams is a very attractive campus in a lovely area of Massachusetts. The campus is set on a hilly area with magnificent mountain views all around. The architecture is varied. One negative is that, to me, the buildings did not seem to be well planned out in terms of their placement. There was lots going on and plenty of people around for football recruiting, tennis camp, squash camp, a golf event and other things. Chris and I also joined the end of Elsa's campus tour and got to see a dorm common room, which looked just like another school's but I don't remember which. It was not especially nicely decorated and included couches, oversized chairs and a flat screened TV. On our own we found a few shops in what we believe to be the town of Willamstown. There are also banks and other businesses sprinkled into the campus. My favorite aspect of Williams is the many large sculptures placed in lovely and surprising places all over campus.

Chris and I also ventured to The Clark, an impressive art gallery set in a scenic park, complete with walking trails and picnic areas. Two parking lots were full of cars as visitors flocked to see an exhibit of Georgia O'Keefe paintings. While Chris, a student, could enter for free, adult admission is $12.50, which I found a bit steep for the half hour we had available. I would have happily offered a $5 donation, but I was not willing to pay more, so we left without seeing Georgia. We also spent time in a coffee shop in town where while I ate a great quiche, neither of us could log on to the internet. A bit frustrating! We ended the day watching the girls scrimmage.

We had spent the night before in Bennington, Vermont (about 8 miles north of Williamstown?) at a cute, clean motel called America's Best Value Inn, (great water pressure.) After we checked in, we set out to see Bennington College. One odd thing we noticed is there is not one, and we drove through many times, not one sign in town directing visitors to the campus. We happend upon it eventually, after driving 24 miles north and back out of our way because I had misread the map. While lost, we saw a moose on the side of the road! By that time we found the college, it was getting pretty dark, but we managed a self guided dusk tour in the car. Verdict: Bennington is tiny, although very beautiful. It reminded me of my son Jeremy's camp, Hidden Valley, as it has a huge red barn in the center of campus, aptly named "The Barn."

The next day, Chris and I returned to Benington in the daylight to get a better look. The place was deserted. We saw some dorms, the library, and the admissions office, which looks like a grandma's porch equipped with rocking chairs overlooking the mountains. I filled out an admissions card for Elsa on which the school asks applicants to recommend a book that "everyone should read,"-nice evaluative assessment of your applicant pool- and I consulted Chris about what Elsa might recommend.

All in all, it was a relaxing, interesting and enjoyable adventure, at least for me.

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