Anyone standing in front of the Chapin Hall steps Friday morning between the hours of 10:00 and 11:00 A.M. may have been unknowingly witness to a sorry sight: second-year Williams student Adam Gumbrecht sitting on the steps, discreetly using his iPhone to page through the Forbes and U.S. News & World Report college rankings, with the hopes of reassuring himself of his value in this world before the physics test he was taking at 11:00 completely destroyed his self-esteem once again. Mr. Gumbrecht had initially been delighted when the rankings released earlier this year had validated his choice of college, and he kept Williams’ #1 spot firmly in mind when he returned in September to the school where, the year before, he hadn’t been successful in classes or making friends, having in fact spent countless sleepless nights wondering whether it would ever feel like the right place for him.
Once back on campus, Mr. Gumbrecht quickly remembered what his previous year had been like, and once again found himself turning to the lists for support. This week, a combination of two difficult tests, a five-page English essay, and a continuing lack of any permanent social circle threatened to ruin what stability he had managed to establish, and Mr. Gumbrecht found himself paging through the lists even more frequently and feverishly. “Amherst is only number ten,” he could be heard muttering to himself on the steps Friday morning. “Seven to one student-faculty ratio, and classes only taught by professors… wow.” Gumbrecht took one more look at U.S. News before sliding into his seat for the physics test. “We have a semi-annual school-wide trivia contest, plus the Mountain Day tradition,” he announced loudly. “That’s really cool.” Acquaintances of Mr. Gumbrecht report that he spent Mountain Day in the library on his computer, paging through College Confidential threads about the best parts of going to college in the Berkshires.