Williams College is one of the most competitive liberal arts schools in the country, in the same league with the likes of Amherst, Pomona, and Swarthmore. While lesser-known to the general public, these schools are every bit as competitive and prestigious as Ivy League universities and sport acceptance rates in the single-digits or extremely low double-digits. In 2022, the Williams College acceptance rate was 8.5%. All colleges of this ilk, Williams included, reject a fair number of valedictorians each year as well as those with near-perfect scores on the SAT/ACT. None of this is meant to scare you—we just want to make sure that students and parents alike possess an accurate understanding of how competitive this admissions process truly is.

To accomplish this goal, we will touch on the following topics:

  • Williams’ Early Decision acceptance rate
  • Williams’ Class of 2026 acceptance rate
  • SAT, GPA, and class rank of accepted Williams College applicants
  • Admissions trends
  • Williams College’s system for rating applicants
  • A look at the demographics of current Williams College undergraduates
  • The percent of accepted students that attend the Williams College (yield rate)
  • Tips for applying to Williams College
  • Williams College supplemental essay advice
  • How to assess whether applying to the Williams College is even worth the $65 application fee (for you)

Let’s begin with an examination of the most recent admissions data.

Williams College ED Acceptance Rate – Class of 2026

Williams accepted 255 applicants in the early decision round in the 2021-22 admissions cycle. This 31.3% acceptance rate far exceeds that of the regular round.

Williams College Acceptance Rate – Class of 2026

A look at the Class of 2026 shows that out of 15,321 applicants, only 1,303 were accepted. This means that Williams College has an acceptance rate of just 8.5%. The previous year, the acceptance rate was 8.8%

Williams College Admissions – SAT, GPA, and Class Rank

For Class of 2025 members, the mid-50% SAT range for enrolled freshmen was 1470-1550; the ACT range was 33-35. The median scores were 1510 and 34 and the mean scores were 1500 and 34. Among enrolled 2021-22 first-year students, an impressive 90% hailed from the top 10%, while 100% earned a place in the top 25%.

Admissions Trends & Notes – Class of 2026

  • 2,241 applicants were placed on the waitlist, while 10,959 were denied.
  • The number of applicants increased from 12,452 to 15,321 for the Class of 2026.
  • Due to COVID-19, Williams has announced that it will continue to be test-optional for the high school class 2023. They will make a long-term decision regarding test-optional admissions in the winter of 2023.
  • 35% of incoming students participate in intercollegiate sports.
  • 41% of the Class of 2025 were admitted via early decision.

How Williams College Rates Applicants

Williams College labels five factors as “very important” to the admissions process: rigor of high school course load, class rank, GPA, recommendations, and character/personal qualities. Items that are “important” as part of the admissions process are: first-generation status, essays, talent/ability, extracurricular activities, legacy status, racial/ethnic status, work experience, and volunteer work. Factors that are “considered” are: geographical residence and religious affiliation.

Straight from the Williams admissions office: “Williams uses a holistic admission process that focuses on gaining a deeper understanding of an applicant’s academic achievements and personal character…While the academic record is the most important factor in the admission process, we seek students who will serve as leaders not only in the classroom but also in the community at large. To that end, we also consider all candidates’ non-academic involvements and achievements at school and in their communities. A strong co-curricular record might reflect a wide range of talents and achievements or distinguished accomplishment in just one or a few areas.”

Since Williams wants to see achievement and leadership outside of the classroom as well, it’s important to grasp what highly-competitive colleges are looking for when evaluating extracurricular activities. For more on that topic, visit our blog: How Many Extracurricular Activities Do I Need for College?

Williams College Demographics

Let’s look at the demographics of the Williams College undergraduate student body. The states that send the highest number of students to the college are:

  1. New York
  2. Massachusetts
  3. California
  4. New Jersey
  5. Connecticut

The greatest percentage of international students come from the following countries:

  1. China
  2. South Korea
  3. Canada
  4. Kenya

In terms of ethnic identity, the breakdown is as follows:

  • White: 46%
  • Asian: 14%
  • Hispanic: 13%
  • African American: 7%
  • Two or More Races: 6%
  • International: 9%

A look at the gender split reveals that university enrolls a roughly even number of men and women.

  • Men: 50%
  • Women: 50%

Members of one recent incoming class attended the following types of high schools:

  • Public: 55%
  • Private: 32%
  • Parochial: 11%

Williams College’s “Yield Rate”

Williams College’s yield rate—the percentage of accepted students who elect to enroll, divided by the total number of students who are admitted is 52%. For comparison, other top liberal arts schools have the following yields: Swarthmore College (45%), Pomona College (45%), and Amherst College (35%).

Tips for Applying to Williams College

If you plan on joining the 15,000+ Williams College hopefuls for the next admissions cycle, you should know the following:

  • If Williams is your top choice, you’ll want to strongly consider applying ED by November 15. The Regular Decision deadline falls in the first week of January, but the acceptance rates are significantly lower in this round.
  • This school does not use interviews as part of their evaluation process.
  • Williams College does not consider “demonstrated interest” so you will not be judged on whether or not you made a campus visit, contacted an admissions officer, etc.
  • Prospective Ephs can apply through the Common Application or Coalition Application.
  • You’ll need to submit a Mid-Year Report in late February so remember to keep those grades up throughout your senior year of high school.
  • Lastly make sure to dedicate sufficient time and effort to the Optional Writing Supplement offered by Williams College:

Williams Writing Supplement 2022-23

Williams does not require a writing supplement. However, students who are interested in submitting an example of their written work have the option of sharing an academic paper completed within the last year, ideally 3-5 pages in length. The paper does not need to be graded and can be creative or analytical. Typed is preferable, but we will accept handwritten pieces. Please do not submit lab reports. If submitting this optional paper, please include a description of the assignment or prompt.

Should I Apply to Williams?

Eighty percent of those accepted into Williams possessed an SAT score of 1400 or better; 90% earned an ACT score of 30 or higher (this does not include the last application cycle when the school became temporarily test-optional). Just about everyone finished at or near the top of their high school class. If you check these boxes then you’ll certainly be a competitive applicant at Williams, but those with additional attributes and talents will fare best. As the school states, “We want creative thinkers, diverse opinions, and people who embrace intellectual challenges. People committed to bringing as much to the community as they’ll gain from it.”

Any student applying to a school of Williams’ caliber also needs to also have a proper mix or “target” and “safety” schools on their college list. More on creating a balanced college list can be found here.


Andrew Belasco

A licensed counselor and published researcher, Andrew’s experience in the field of college admissions and transition spans two decades. He has previously served as a high school counselor, consultant and author for Kaplan Test Prep, and advisor to U.S. Congress, reporting on issues related to college admissions and financial aid.