Williams vs Middlebury: A Look at the Rivalry

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

Unknown person using a laptop.

Williams vs Middlebury: A Look at the Rivalry

When it comes to prestigious liberal arts colleges in the Northeast, Williams, and Middlebury often vie for the top spot. Both schools boast a rich history, excellent academics, and a passionate and engaged student body. However, despite their many similarities, there are also some key differences that set them apart from each other. In this article, we’ll compare Williams vs Middlebury based on various criteria to help you make an informed decision as to which is right for you.

Campus Culture: What Makes Each School Unique

Despite their close proximity and similar academic offerings, Williams and Middlebury have distinct campus cultures. Williams is known for its vibrant art scene, with a renowned museum, theater department, and art studios. Middlebury, on the other hand, is known for its commitment to environmental sustainability, with a campus that features solar panels, a biomass plant, and a farm. Both schools also have strong traditions and a sense of community, but the specifics of their cultures differ in many ways.

Group of students walking in the campus.

Another aspect that sets Williams apart is its strong athletic culture. The school has a long history of success in sports, with many of its teams consistently ranking among the top in the country. The campus is also home to state-of-the-art athletic facilities, including a new fitness center and a recently renovated sports complex.

Meanwhile, Middlebury is known for its international focus and language programs. The school offers more than 30 languages, and many students choose to study abroad or participate in international programs. The campus also hosts a number of cultural events and festivals throughout the year, celebrating the diversity of its student body.

Academics: A Side-by-Side Comparison at Williams vs Middlebury

When it comes to academics, Williams and Middlebury are both highly respected in the world of liberal arts colleges. However, there are some differences between the two schools in terms of their academic offerings and approach. Williams has a larger faculty-to-student ratio, which allows for more one-on-one interaction between professors and students.

Middlebury, on the other hand, emphasizes interdisciplinary studies and offers a wide range of majors and minors. Both schools offer excellent resources and opportunities for students, but they have different approaches to achieving academic excellence.

One area where Williams excels is in the sciences. The college has state-of-the-art facilities and a strong focus on research, which allows students to gain hands-on experience and make meaningful contributions to their fields. Middlebury, on the other hand, is known for its language programs and study-abroad opportunities. The college has a robust language school and offers immersive language programs in countries around the world. This emphasis on global education sets Middlebury apart from many other liberal arts colleges.

Despite their differences, both Williams and Middlebury share a commitment to providing a well-rounded education that prepares students for success in a rapidly changing world. Both schools encourage students to think critically, communicate effectively, and engage with the world around them. Whether you choose Williams or Middlebury, you can be confident that you will receive an excellent education that will prepare you for a fulfilling career and a meaningful life.

Athletics: How Williams vs Middlebury Stack Up Against Each Other

The Williams-Middlebury rivalry is perhaps most famous for its athletic competition. Both schools have strong athletic programs and have won numerous championships in a variety of sports. Williams tends to excel in individual sports like cross country, skiing, and tennis, while Middlebury is known for its success in team sports like football, hockey, and lacrosse. The rivalry between the schools is especially intense on the playing field, with athletes and fans alike showing great passion and enthusiasm for their respective teams.

athletes playing football

However, there are other sports where the two schools are evenly matched. For example, both Williams and Middlebury have strong track and field programs, with athletes from both schools regularly competing at the national level. Additionally, both schools have successful swimming and diving teams, with Middlebury winning the NESCAC championship in 2019 and Williams finishing as the runner-up.

Outside of traditional sports, both Williams and Middlebury have thriving outdoor programs. Williams has a renowned Outing Club that offers students opportunities to hike, climb, and ski in the surrounding mountains, while Middlebury has a similarly active Outdoor Programs office that organizes trips and events for students. Both schools also have strong ultimate frisbee teams that compete at the national level.

Student Life: A Comparison of Social Scene and Activities at Williams vs Middlebury

While both Williams and Middlebury have active and engaged student populations, the specifics of campus life differ between the two schools. Williams students tend to be more focused on academics and the arts, with a lively but intellectual social scene. Middlebury students, on the other hand, are known for their love of the outdoors and their participation in environmental activism. Both schools have a range of clubs, organizations, and activities for students to get involved in, but the emphases of these groups may differ.

At Williams, students can participate in a variety of academic clubs and organizations, such as the Debate Team, Model UN, and the Economics Society. The arts are also a big part of campus life, with opportunities to get involved in theater productions, a cappella groups, and the campus radio station. Additionally, Williams has a strong athletic program, with many students participating in varsity and club sports.

Meanwhile, Middlebury offers a unique blend of outdoor and environmental activities. The college has its own organic farm, and students can participate in the Environmental Council, which works to promote sustainability on campus. Middlebury also has a strong language program, with many students studying abroad in countries where their language of study is spoken. In terms of athletics, Middlebury is known for its successful Division III sports teams, particularly in skiing and ice hockey.

Location, Location, Location: A Look at the Surrounding Areas

Despite being located in the same region of the Northeast, Williams, and Middlebury are situated in different parts of the surrounding area. Williams is located in the beautiful Berkshire Mountains of western Massachusetts, while Middlebury is in the more rural Green Mountains of Vermont. Both areas offer ample opportunities for outdoor recreation and cultural enrichment, with nearby mountains, lakes, and cultural attractions. However, the specifics of the surrounding areas and their access to urban centers may differ.

Aerial scenic shot of Williams College

For example, Williams is located just over an hour away from the bustling city of Albany, New York, which offers a variety of shopping, dining, and entertainment options. Middlebury, on the other hand, is located further away from major urban centers, with Burlington, Vermont being the closest city at about an hour’s drive away. However, Middlebury’s more rural location offers a quieter, more peaceful atmosphere, with plenty of opportunities for outdoor activities such as hiking, skiing, and fishing.

Admissions and Enrollment: The Differences Between Williams vs Middlebury

When it comes to admissions and enrollment, Williams and Middlebury have slightly different approaches. Williams has a slightly smaller student body, with around 2,000 undergraduates, while Middlebury has closer to 2,500. Both schools are highly selective and admit talented and motivated students from all over the world. However, their approaches to admissions may differ, with Williams emphasizing academic achievement and Middlebury emphasizing holistic evaluations of applicants.

Another difference between Williams and Middlebury is their enrollment process. Williams has a need-blind admission policy, which means that they do not consider an applicant’s financial need during the admission process. However, they do meet 100% of demonstrated financial need for all admitted students.

On the other hand, Middlebury practices need-aware admission, which means that they do consider an applicant’s financial need during the admission process. This may affect the admission decision for some applicants who require significant financial aid.

Furthermore, Williams and Middlebury have different enrollment rates for international students. Williams has a higher percentage of international students, with around 8% of its student body coming from outside the United States. Middlebury, on the other hand, has a lower percentage of international students, with around 6% of their student body coming from outside the United States. This may be a factor for international students who are considering applying to either school.

Faculty and Staff: A Comparison of Teaching Styles and Expertise at Williams vs Middlebury

The faculty and staff at Williams and Middlebury are both highly accomplished and respected in their fields. However, there are differences in their approaches to teaching and expertise. Williams has a larger percentage of tenured professors, which allows for more stability and continuity in teaching styles and content. Middlebury, on the other hand, has a larger percentage of visiting professors and adjuncts, which allows for more diverse perspectives and expertise in the classroom.

Another difference between the faculty and staff at Williams and Middlebury is their research focus. Williams tends to prioritize teaching over research, with professors often incorporating their research into their courses. Middlebury, on the other hand, places a greater emphasis on research, with professors often taking sabbaticals to focus on their scholarly work.

Additionally, the size of the institutions also plays a role in the faculty and staff’s teaching styles and expertise. Williams is a smaller institution, which allows for more personalized attention and mentorship from professors. Middlebury, as a larger institution, has more resources and opportunities for research and collaboration among faculty members.

Diversity and Inclusion: Exploring the Differences in Student Body Composition

Both Williams and Middlebury are committed to diversity and inclusion, but their student bodies may differ in composition. Williams has a slightly larger percentage of students of color, as well as more international students. Middlebury has a larger percentage of students from the Northeast but also boasts a strong commitment to diversity and inclusivity. Both schools offer a range of resources and initiatives to support students from a variety of backgrounds.

It is important to note that while both Williams and Middlebury strive for diversity and inclusion, their approaches may differ. Williams has a strong focus on recruiting and supporting first-generation college students, while Middlebury has a program specifically for students from underrepresented backgrounds in STEM fields.

Additionally, Williams has a student-led affinity group for LGBTQ+ students, while Middlebury has a center for multicultural affairs that hosts events and provides resources for students of all backgrounds. Despite these differences, both schools are dedicated to creating a welcoming and inclusive environment for all students.

Tuition and Financial Aid: A Comparison of Cost and Affordability at Williams vs Middlebury

As with many liberal arts colleges, the cost of attending Williams or Middlebury can be significant. Both schools offer financial aid and scholarships to support students in need, but the specifics of these offerings may differ.

Williams has a slightly higher tuition and a lower percentage of students receiving financial aid, while Middlebury has a slightly lower tuition and a higher percentage of students receiving aid. However, both schools are committed to making their education accessible and affordable to as many students as possible.

Scholarship document, admission paper or letter on table.

It is important to note that the cost of attending a college or university goes beyond just tuition. Students must also consider the cost of room and board, textbooks, and other expenses. Williams and Middlebury both offer resources to help students budget for these additional costs, such as work-study programs and financial literacy workshops.

Additionally, both schools have a variety of merit-based scholarships available to students who excel academically or in extracurricular activities. These scholarships can significantly reduce the cost of attendance for students who qualify. It is important for prospective students to research and apply for all available scholarships and financial aid options to make their education as affordable as possible.


In conclusion, the rivalry between Williams and Middlebury is a fascinating and deeply rooted tradition in the world of liberal arts education. By examining the similarities and differences between these two schools in terms of campus culture, academics, athletics, student life, location, admissions, alumni networks, faculty, facilities, diversity, and affordability, we can gain a greater appreciation for both institutions and the power of a liberal arts education.

While there are differences between the two schools, both are committed to providing their students with the knowledge, skills, and resources they need to succeed in their chosen paths. In this way, the Williams-Middlebury rivalry is not just a competition between two schools, but a celebration of the power and potential of a liberal arts education.

Want to learn more about comparing Williams with other top and well-known Universities and Colleges in the country? You’ve come to the right place. At AdmissionSight, we have over 10 years of experience guiding students through the competitive admissions process.

AdmissionSight can help you put your best foot forward when applying to college this fall. Contact us today for more information on our services.


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