Amherst College Offers the College Experience That Students May Be Looking For
By Yanpeng Wang
On Oct. 10, Mr. Justin Barry, an admission counselor from Amherst College, visited Northside to answer questions from prospective students about the school. A group of five or six students crowded around the table in the lunchroom hallway, interrogating Barry about what academic and student life at Amherst entails. Although the rapid-fire questions paired with the loud chatter in the cafeteria may have been a bit stressful and distracting, Barry tackled each and every one of the student’s questions thoroughly and efficiently. In the short time that Barry was afforded, he provided students with valuable information about the school, showing that the college experience at Amherst may be exactly what they are looking for.
Amherst College is a private liberal arts college located in Amherst, Massachusetts. The school is unique in the sense that it is part of the Five College Consortium, comprised of Amherst and four other schools: Hampshire College, Mount Holyoke College, Smith College, and the University of Massachusetts Amherst. The Five College Consortium allow Amherst students to attend classes across all five schools, giving them access to a diverse set of courses. This means that in addition to the 850 courses offered on campus, Amherst students also have access to the additional 6,000 courses available at the other schools. The best part is that students are able to take advantage of this opportunity without paying any additional fees. Attending the Five College Consortium is also a great option for students who cannot decide if they want to attend a small or large school. According to Barry, students get the benefits of both a small and large campus: “a sense of community in a small class” and “anonymity in a large lecture class.” While cross-registration is completely optional, 50% of Amherst students take courses through the Five College Consortium. The campuses are all within a 10-mile radius from one another, making it easy for students to commute from one campus to another, especially with the free bus systems that connect the campuses.
Another distinct feature of Amherst is its open curriculum. The school has no core curriculum or distribution requirements, allowing students to take courses they truly want to take. Not only can students take more classes pertaining to their major but they also have the flexibility to explore other interests as well. Barry believes that the open curriculum is a key component of the environment that students are immersed in. “Students follow their own paths,” said Barry. “There isn’t one student who is taking the same courses as another student.
Amherst is diverse not only academically, but culturally as well. The school is one of the most racially diverse liberal art colleges in the country: 45% of Amherst's American students self-identify as people of color and an additional 10% of the student body are international students. Amherst further exhibits diversity through its housing. Known as Theme Communities, the residential houses emulate different cultural or educational ideals. For instance, the Asian Culture House promotes cultural diversity by educating the student body about Asian culture through events and programs. Theme Communities are open to only upperclassmen, but their cultural background does not play a factor in their eligibility to live in the Houses, once again showing Amherst’s emphasis on inclusivity.
To expand their cultural awareness, more than 40% of the student body take advantage of the 240 study abroad programs offered. Students can travel to a number of places such as China, Ireland, Morocco, or Brazil, while still receiving credit for participating in the program. For students who choose to stay in Massachusetts, they also have the option to pursue research opportunities and internships on campus. When asked about the research opportunities at liberal art colleges, Barry said, “A lot of students are deterred from applying because they think that a liberal arts college cannot offer the same type of opportunities.” Proving this misconception wrong, Barry talked about how there are research opportunities nearby, such as the Amherst College Wildlife Sanctuary. The 500 acres of open fields, wetlands, upland woods, ponds, and other types of ecological areas play a big part in environmental research at the school. And with daily bus service taking students to Boston and New York City, students have the option to look for opportunities off-campus as well.
The cost of attendance, including direct costs (tuition, room, board) and indirect costs (books, supplies, personal expenses, and transportation), can range from $75,954 to $78,404. While the cost of attendance is substantial, Amherst promises to meet 100% of students’ demonstrated need for both domestic and international students. Amherst has also adopted a need-blind and no-loan policy, ensuring that students graduate debt free. About 57% of students receive financial aid and the school’s average financial aid award surpassed $53,200 last year.
Amherst is a school where students from all walks of life can find a niche. Whether it is academically, culturally, or financially, Amherst strives to build a sense of inclusion for its students.
Total Undergraduate Enrollment: 1,849 students
Female-Male Ratio: 50:50
Student-Faculty Ratio: 8:1
Tuition, Room, and Board (not including books, personal expenses): $70,260
Percentage of Financial Aid: 57%
Endowment: $2.2B (as of 2017)
Location: Amherst, MA (Rural)
Acceptance rate: 14%