Impressions Of
Amherst College

Academic Experience

Male Black Studies and English Double Major C/O 2020

Can you describe your weekly coursework for your majors?
I have a lot of reading and essays. Amherst doesn’t have any distribution requirements so I’ve been pretty much free to search out what I want to do. Recently I’ve actually been taking more quantitative classes so I do have problem sets.

How would you describe the learning environment? Do you think it’s competitive or collaborative?
It’s definitely not competitive. Everybody here tends to be pretty ambitious so everybody is competing with themselves. Between students, it’s really collaborative and really friendly. I’ve worked together with people I don’t know that well on problem sets and homework. It’s also a high-achieving school, so there is always pressure to always be doing your best in the classroom.

Do you feel people are open to multiple schools of thought in the classroom?
Definitely. Amherst has been in the news recently for being a place where conservative thinking is silenced, but, in my experience, that hasn’t been the case across all the different disciplines I’ve taken classes in, so Economics, Black Studies, English, and so on. In each one, all of my classes have had somebody from one school of thought and somebody from another and people really work together to find consensus rather than prefer one to the other.

Female Mathematics Major C/O 2020

Can you describe your weekly coursework for your major?
At least once a week I have a problem set and then about three exams per semester for each Math class.

Is there anything you feel the Math department does especially well or poorly?
They’re really good about keeping the class sizes small and all the professors really care about the students. I feel like I have a good relationship with most of the Math department professors. They’re also really good about being available outside of class. [The average class size at Amherst is 19 students.]

How would you describe the learning environment? Do you think it’s particularly collaborative or competitive?
I wouldn’t say it’s competitive, but I wouldn’t say it’s collaborative either. Everybody tends to do their work on their own. I do all my work alone.

How accessible are your professors?
They’re really accessible. They send out surveys so that they can have their office hours when the most students are available for them.

Female History Major C/O 2019

Can you describe your weekly coursework for your major?
There is definitely a heavy focus on reading. I would say I have an essay about every three weeks. Because of the way the timing works out, it’s usually all of them at once.

Is there anything you feel the History department does especially well or poorly?
I think they’re especially understanding when you receive all of your papers at once. They’re pretty lenient about extensions and working with your course load as long as you’re responsible and proactive about it.

How was managing your athletic schedule and your coursework?
It’s difficult, but something I believe, and something that almost every athlete at Amherst will say, is when you’re in season you get into more of a routine. It’s building time management skills and just not really wasting time when you’re in the library. It’s important to know how to manage your time better especially when you have practice.

Social Opportunities

Female Mathematics Major C/O 2020

What kind of weekend activities or nightlife do you like to participate in?
I go out on campus to parties in dorms or go out to bars with friends. Most of the parties are held in The Triangle, which are three dorms: Hitchcock, Seelye, and May-Smith, and the majority of parties are hosted by sports teams. Wednesday is Bar Night, Thursday I sometimes will go out but that is more rare, and then both Friday and Saturday night.

What is the impact of sports teams on the nightlife?
I think some people those parties are exclusive to athletes because people think that there is a divide between the athletes and non-athletes but I’m not an athlete and I never found that there was a divide. Most of the dorm parties start as mixers between the team that is hosting the party and the other team, and those are exclusive, but they usually open up at 11 or 11:30 and then it’s open to anyone. So, I feel like athletes are the ones hosting, but that doesn’t really change who can show up.

What’s an alternative to going to a party or bar that you like for a night out?
Going into town and getting dinner or going to a movie is fun. Amherst also offers this program called AC After Dark that will host things on campus or take people to do fun things off-campus.

Male Political Science Major C/O 2021

What kind of weekend activities or nightlife do you like to participate in?
Usually there is a team party or, I’m 21, so I can go to the bars in Amherst. When I’m in season, I can only go out on Saturday night, but then out of season I can go out Wednesday, sometimes Friday and definitely Saturday. Wednesday is a bar night and then Friday and Saturday are usually on campus. You see the same people when you go out usually based on who’s in season and out of season. The parties are usually on campus in dorm common rooms.

What is the impact of sports teams on the nightlife at Amherst?
I would say that the majority of it is run by sports teams because the people who reserve the common rooms are usually athletes. Even though they book it, anyone can show up. There’s nobody at the door letting people in.

How happy are you with the nightlife at Amherst? Is there anything you would change if you could?
For what the school is, I wouldn’t change anything. Amherst College is definitely not a party school. Everyone’s very academically motivated. With that in mind, it’s pretty good.

Female History Major C/O 2019

What kind of weekend activities or nightlife do you like to participate in?
In season we can only go out on Saturday nights. Out of season, I’ll go out three to four nights a week depending on how popular things are.

Amherst has a half bar scene and half an on-campus scene. I personally like the bar scene because we have UMass Amherst down the street from us, so it’s kind of a rare opportunity to be out with a bunch of college kids that you don’t know. That alleviates the small school problem a little bit.

How happy are you with the weekend options at Amherst? Is there anything you would change if you could?
We need more spaces. My freshman year I was in the social dorms [that were torn down] so we had suites and a lot more opportunities. Now it’s limited to four or five spaces on campuses. It also encourages exclusivity because if spaces are getting crowded people to start to limit it to only people they know, which is creating issues on campus. Besides that, I’m fairly happy with it. I like having UMass Amherst nearby, it’s a nice break to get to immerse yourself in a larger school environment. [See Amherst Student article about the social dorms being torn down.]

Campus Culture

Male Black Studies and English Double Major C/O 2020

How would you describe the social scene?
I think it’s a pretty happy place and the social scene is fine. I’m personally really happy here. I think, compared to other institutions, it can be more isolating because you have to be part of team or organization to participate in the nightlife and also because Amherst students are really, really busy during the week. To use myself as an example, between extracurriculars, jobs, and school, I only have an hour or two at the end of the day to socialize. That is probably pretty typical of students at Amherst. Everyone has a good-sized group of friends, but you don’t get to hang out with them that much. This is a bit of a more work and less play environment.

How do you like the size of Amherst in terms of undergraduate enrollment? How has that impacted your experience? [Amherst has about 1,900 students.]
I really like it. It’s given me the opportunity to at least know of most people at the school and know what their interests are and that sort of thing. It’s been a really good opportunity to collaborate across a broad range of experiences. It’s also small enough that it’s given me the opportunity to distinguish myself and feel that I have a stake in the community here and make actions that impact the whole community rather than a small subsection of it.

Female Mathematics Major C/O 2020

How would you describe the social scene?
I think it’s good. If you want to go out, there’s always stuff to do and pretty much anyone can walk in. The issue is there’s a lack of spaces so things can get pretty repetitive.

How would you describe the student body?
We have a diverse population but the majority of students are White and from the East Coast. There are also a lot of athletes. Even though athletes don’t make up the majority of the population, it can feel like they are the majority, especially in the social circles that like to go out. [About one-third of students are athletes. About 45% of students identify as students of color.

How do you like the size of Amherst in terms of undergraduate enrollment? How has that impacted your experience?
Academically, it’s perfect. I know all my professors on a personal level and get a lot of attention from them. If you get a bad grade, they care, and I think that is only accessible to me because it’s a small school. Socially, it makes it more difficult. The people who go out is a small group, so seeing the same people every weekend gets repetitive. It also means that there are only three or four parties each week on campus, while at bigger schools there are more options.

Male Political Science Major C/O 2021

How would you describe the social scene?
For me as an athlete, it’s always been that in season I can’t go out until Saturday, then we have a game, and then we party at night. I was friends with a lot of other athletes in my season because of that. The athletes [for the other season] would come out on Saturdays, but that would be the only time I’d see them. We’re also friends with a lot of non-athletes who maybe played sports in high school and didn’t want to play in college. Over time you become friends with people who play in the other seasons, but especially when you first get there, you become friends with the people who you’re seeing the most often so that’s how it works out.

To what extent do people of different races and sexual orientations mix socially?
To a pretty high extent. I have a really diverse group of friends because the diversity of my team is pretty high and everybody hangs out together. We also have people of different sexual orientations who hang out with us from time to time, so I think it’s pretty mixed.

Amherst, MA

Pros of

  • “You’re in the center of a community of five colleges because there’s the Five College Consortium. There are always academic and 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 small town so everything’s really accessible.”
  • “You’re in a quiet town so you don’t have the busy and distracting city life.”

Cons of

  • “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 isolated in that way. I actually spent 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 really cold spending the whole winter in Amherst, MA.”
  • “It’s pretty isolated. The closest city is Boston which is about two hours away.”

Advice for Prospective Freshmen

Male Black Studies and English Double Major C/O 2020

What is something you wish you knew about Amherst before entering as a freshman?
I wish that somebody told me that even though there is an open curriculum and you can pretty quickly decide what you want to take classes in that, to spend the first year and a half taking classes across the board. Because there aren’t distribution requirements, it’s easy to completely neglect certain aspects of your intellectual development because you can graduate from Amherst and only know how to write a paper and not know how to do any kind of science and math.

What is something that a student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
There is Memorial Hill right by the first-year quad and it has a beautiful view over the mountains and is one of the most scenic spots on campus. To get a sense of what Amherst is like, I think prospective students should go up to the second floor of the library and down to the basement to get a sense of the study culture because that will be something that will be a big part of their time.

Male Political Science Major C/O 2021

What is something you wish you knew about Amherst before entering?
I knew it was small, but I didn’t really understand how that would feel. When you go to college you don’t expect to see the same faces every day, but here it’s hard not to. It would have been good to know the actual impact of how small the school is.

What is something that a student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
I think prospective students should see a day or night in the social life because they won’t’ get that on a tour. If my friends ever complain about something, it’s the social life. If you come in with different expectations and you get here and it’s not that, it might ruin it. If you come here and expect it to be the stereotypical four years of fun, you’re going to be disappointed. It’s really focused academics with additions of social life.

Female History Major C/O 2019

What is something you wish you knew about Amherst before entering as a freshman?
I wish I knew how small the school is. I think my sophomore year I knew probably over 50% of the school, which is kind of scary. The size definitely has its pros because I know a lot more people at a smaller school than I would have at a larger school, but I think people need to understand how small and confined the school gets.

What is something a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
I would go check out the new science center because it’s new. So, the science center, the Beneski Museum, or Antonio’s because it’s the best pizza I’ve ever had.

Reasons to attend and not to attend Amherst College

To Attend

  • “It has brilliant professors, excellent instruction, and brilliant classmates. Anybody who graduates from Amherst will have learned so much, not just information but also how to think and how to make decisions. Intellectually, I think Amherst has been the best experience in my life.”
  • “There are a lot of opportunities outside of sports, like investment clubs, consulting clubs, outing clubs, etc.”
  • “The alumni network is very dense. There are alumni in every sector you 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 running into the same people and it can get repetitive socially and academically – even professors get old sometimes. I went to a really small high school and after 3 years at Amherst, I thought it was getting small.”
  • “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 encourage students to compare their background to the typical student at Amherst and think about the challenges they may face that other Amherst students won’t be facing, and think about how they’ll cope with those challenges.”
Notice: Amherst College is a trademark. Induck uses it for descriptive purposes, not to imply affiliation with, endorsement from, or sponsorship by Amherst College.

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