One of the premier liberal arts colleges in the US—and one the most selective—Amherst College is an Ivy-equivalent institution that offers its brilliant studentbody a one-of-a-kind academic experience. A mere 1,850 undergraduates grace this picturesque rural campus located seventy-five miles west of Boston. Yet, a small-town location is not at all indicative of an isolated existence. If the forty majors and 850 course offerings on campus aren’t enough, Amherst belongs to the Five College Consortium that allows students to take any course offered at Mount Holyoke, Smith, Hampshire College, or UMass-Amherst.
Similar to Brown’s “New Curriculum,” Amherst operates its “Open Curriculum” that requires no specific courses or distribution of credits. Students have the flexibility to pursue their areas of passion and interest from the very start of their collegiate experience. With no burdensome requirements, double majoring is commonplace with over 30 percent of the student body electing to study at least one additional discipline. The college encourages students to “take full responsibility for their intellectual growth, in the same way they will take responsibility for important choices later in life.”
If you crave facetime with your professors, Amherst delivers. A 7-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio allows for 71 percent of courses to have fewer than twenty students and 30 percent to have single-digit enrollments. That level of intimacy pays off with the forging of student-faculty relationships. By senior year, 98 percent of seniors report feeling close enough to a faculty member to ask for a letter of recommendation. The eight-to-ten-week Summer Science Undergraduate Research Program is available for students as are plenty of grants aimed at funding original student research projects. 43% of students study abroad, in countries as diverse as Namibia and Trinidad. The school’s student body has become increasingly diverse in recent years, now boasting double-digit percentages of African-American, Latino, and first-generation students.
A true liberal arts college, Amherst possesses strong offerings across the board, most notably in economics, English, history, mathematics, and law (through its one-of-a-kind major in Law, Jurisprudence and Social Thought). Amherst also boasts of one of the most esteemed (and highest paid) liberal arts faculties in the country. Students are always competitive for postgraduate awards and fellowships.
Amherst is the rare school where 98 percent of undergraduates reside in school-owned housing. There are no Greek organizations, but a colossal 37 percent of Amherst students are rostered on one of the college’s twenty-seven NCAA Division III sports teams, which means that many are dedicating a good portion of their time to athletics. For everyone else, over 150 student organizations are operating on campus. The school's six a cappell a groups and four- ensemble Choral Society play a notable enough role to have earned the school the nickname “The Singing College.” Membership in the Five College Consortium opens the door to a variety of other clubs and activities within close proximity. However, it is important to note that the other four campuses are not adjoining—UMass and Hampshire are about a ten-minute drive, and Smith and Mount Holyoke take twenty minutes to reach by car. Guest speakers are regularly on campus. Each year, the Amherst Leads organization brings up to twenty-five well known athletes, business leaders, and writers/ journalists to speak on campus. Dorms, food, and other amenities generally receive positive reviews. For students who want to be in touch with nature, a 500-acre wildlife preserve is located on campus, and it can be freely hiked and explored.
Unlike at just about every other institution of higher education, the vast majority of the Amherst student body actually takes advantage of the Career Center’s offerings. In fact, the Loeb Center for Career Exploration and Planning advises more than 1,400 students and alumni each year for a total of more than 6,000 sessions. That prodigious output comes from the office’s thirteen full-times members who focus on either career advising or employer relations. Loeb’s 142:1 student-to-advisor ratio is among the best of any school featured in this guide.
Amherst does a superb job recruiting companies to campus with more than 175 visiting per year and close to 450 interviews taking place on campus,which is roughly the size of the graduating class. There were fifty-nine days last year on which interviews were taking place on campus. Other programs, such as Career Treks, involve organized trips to Boston, New York City, and Los Angeles. Those trips allow students the chance to meet with alumni in the areas of finance, government, entertainment, education, and philanthropy. The Pathways program facilitates hundredsof additional mentoringrelationships between alumni and current students each year. Nearly one-quarter of freshmen are enrolled in the Amherst Select InternshipProgram, which allows first-year studentsto jump directly into a hands- on learning opportunity.
Whether you are interested in going directlyinto the workforceor continuing to graduate school,Amherst’s reputation and connected alumni network will open doors. A few months after graduation, 98 percent of last year's batch had already found its way into the world of employment, graduate school, or a volunteerorganization. The highest number of recentgrads went into finance (37 percent), with education (21 percent) and science/technology (11 percent) next in popularity. Recent graduates found jobs everywhere from Bain Capital to the United Talent Agency to the US Department of State. By sheer volume, the largest employersof Amherst grads is a high-end list including Google, Deloitte, Morgan Stanley, and Goldman Sachs. The average starting salary for Amherst graduates is around $60k, makingthem among the highest-paid liberal arts grads in the country.That is even more impressive when you considerthat Amherst doesn’teven have an engineering program,the profession that usually bolstersstarting salary figures.
Amherst grads fare well at gaining acceptance to elite schools.It regularly sees 50 percentor more applicants get into law schoolslike those at Georgetown, Columbia,Harvard, Berkeley, and Stanford, more than twice those schools’ overall acceptance rates. In total, the schoolswhere the highestnumber of Amherstgrads can be found pursuing advanceddegrees includes University of Cambridge (UK), MIT, Dartmouth, and the University of Pennsylvania. Fifty to sixty Amherst grads apply to medical school each year, and the acceptance rate hovers around75-80 percent. As with law schools, studentsattend many of the finestmedical institutions in the world.The greatest numberof alumni settle in New York City, Boston, San Francisco, and Washington, DC.
Pros of Amherst, MA
• “You’rein the center of a community of five collegesbecause there’s the Five CollegeConsortium. There are always academicand social events going on there and you can take a bus to them.”
• “There’s a lot of good food and bars in the area. I think the town of Amherst is pretty nice.”
• “It’s a smalltown so everything’s really accessible.”
• “You’re in a quiet town so you don’t have the busy and distracting city life.”
Cons of Amherst, MA
• “There isn’t a ton of interaction between the five schools, so, because the school is so small and the town is so small, you can feel isolatedin that way. I actuallyspent the summer here and when there aren’t a lot of students on campus it can feel really lonely and isolated.”
• “Amherst is kind of small and it’s just one little street.There’s not much going on there and it gets repetitive.”
• “It gets reallycold spending the whole winterin Amherst, MA.”
• “It’s pretty isolated. The closest city is Bostonwhich is about two hours away.”
• “It has brilliantprofessors, excellent instruction, and brilliant classmates. Anybody who graduates from Amherst will have learnedso much, not just information but also how to think and how to make decisions. Intellectually, I think Amhersthas been the best experiencein my life.”
• “There are a lot of opportunities outside of sports,like investment clubs, consulting clubs, outing clubs, etc.”
• “Thealumni network is very dense.There are alumniin every sectoryou might want,so it’s not hard to find someone from Amherst who has had similar experiences as you.”
• “A lot of one-on-one opportunities with professors and easy accessibility.”
To Not Attend
• “Don’t come here if you’re looking for a party scene and for the stereotypical college time, because that’s just not what it is.”
• “It doesn’t seem as small as you think. But, after 4 years you keep runninginto the same people and it can get repetitive socially and academically – even professors get old sometimes. I went to a reallysmall high schooland after 3 years at Amherst, I thought it was gettingsmall.”
• “The farther your background is removed from the White, New England,private school, jock atmosphere, the harder your transition to Amherst will be. I would encouragestudents to comparetheir background to the typicalstudent at Amherstand think aboutthe challenges they may face that other Amherst studentswon’t be facing,and think about how they’llcope with those challenges.”
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