BackgroundInterview Date:April 2019
Gender Identity: Male
Sexual Orientation: Heterosexual
Graduation Year: 2022
High School Experience: Public school in the Midwest with a graduating class of about 475 students. There was not a strong culture of going to college.
First-Generation College Student: No
Major: Computer Science
Extracurricular Activities: I was recruited to be a student-athlete but I decided that wasn’t for me because it was a lot of work to keep up with. I now play club soccer.
Have any of your extracurricular activities had a particularly big impact on your experience?
The club soccer team has only made my time here better. I have a good group of friends and we can always go to social events because of them. It benefits me a lot.
Can you describe your weekly coursework for your major?
There are about two midterms a semester and a final. Every week you have a lab that takes around 1-3 hours. We also have a few projects a semester. It is not bad at all.
Is there anything you feel your major’s department does especially well or especially poorly?
One thing they lack when compared to bigger schools is a variety in the classes. One thing that’s great is there are small classes. I’m in an intro class right now that has about 25 people, so you can always go to office hours and always talk to the professors and learn more.
How would you describe the learning environment? Do you think it’s competitive or collaborative?
It’s competitive in that students are always pushing each other to do better. But, it’s collaborative in that people help each other and there is also forced collaboration in classes. I never have to work against others to get a good grade, it’s just that when I see people around me doing well it makes me want to do well.
How accessible are your professors?
They always have office hours and we also have T.A.’s that have hours twice a week, so there’s a lot of help.
How was transitioning academically as a freshman? Were there any resources that helped you adapt?
They have the Summer Bridge Program here from worse public high schools that are similar to mine that I didn’t do but now wish I did. I wish I did that because my first three to four weeks was a very rough transition with getting used to all the work you have and dealing with professors. After that, it was smooth sailing.
Why did you pick your major? Are you happy with your major choice?
I took a high school class in computer science that was very much for beginners. I’ve always been a computer guy and I enjoy it so far and I’m happy with my choice.
On and Around Campus
Where have you lived on campus?
Freshman: Stirn Hall in a forced triple. It’s just not enough space for three people. They did give us some compensation for it, but I would much rather prefer to have a standard double.
How was transitioning from your hometown to Amherst, MA?
That was a lot. My hometown is a lot more rural. There is a large focus on [socioeconomic] class here where it seems that people judge others based on how wealthy they are, which is something I’ve never had to deal with. That was a hard transition. There is a large number of wealthy people here. [Socioeconomically, 21% of students come from the top 1%.]
Can you describe the level of safety you experienced on and around campus?
I’ve always felt safe. I’ve never felt that I was in danger at any point. The police here are nice and I feel protected.
Pros and cons of being in Amherst, MA?
(1) New York and Boston are a bus ride away.
(2) The food is pretty good in the town.
(1) There are not many entertainment options.
(2) It’s kind of an awkward in between of not being a city and not being rural. You don’t get a ton of nature here.
What kind of weekend activities or nightlife do you like to participate in?
There’s a recording studio so I like to go there to make music on the weekends. My club soccer team will also have mixers with women’s teams and those are a good time. There are always larger parties in dorms that you can go to after the mixers, but I think those have gotten old already. Those usually happen on Saturdays and sometimes on Fridays.
What is the impact of sports teams on the nightlife at Amherst?
Since there are no fraternities, parties revolve around sports teams, both varsity and club teams. All the mixers are exclusive to the teams invited. After the mixer, the teams transition to the one big party that is an inclusive thing that anyone can show up to. [About one-third of students are athletes.]
What is an alternative to going to a bar or party that you like for a night out?
The school tries to offer some activities, like, they host movies sometimes. Different clubs and organizations will also host weekend activities. It’s more about making your own fun on the weekends.
How happy are you with the nightlife at Amherst? Is there anything you would change if you could?
The only issue is that it’s a small school so if you go out every weekend you’re not going to meet anyone new. It can get repetitive going out to the exact same party every weekend. I start to dislike it every now and then so I take a break and then come back and it’s alright.
How did you meet your closest friends?
My closest friend is one of my roommates. I then started hanging out with some of the club soccer guys and that has become the main friend group that I hang out with.
How would you describe the social scene?
It’s alright. You can go out and have a decent time if you really want. It does get old from time to time, but it’s not too bad. The lack of population leads to limited options.
To what extent do people of different races and sexual orientations mix socially?
I would say people mix across all different backgrounds and identities. My friend group is very diverse. There aren’t any issues with that here. I haven’t encountered any issues with that.
How would you describe the student body?
There is definitely a large population of northeastern rich people and that can get old, but thankfully the school is diverse and there are people from different backgrounds who are less wealthy and are other races. Besides that group, there are a lot of different viewpoints and perspectives that I wasn’t able to get in high school because it’s a diverse population. Like, there are international students and it changes your mindset when you hear about their experiences. [About 9% of students are international students. The median family income of students at Amherst is $158,200.]
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.]
It can be hard to find people that you have a lot of similarities with just because there is such a limited pool of people. Romantically it can be difficult to find someone you want to date because you kind of know everyone.
What have you used the career office for? How helpful are they?
I’m doing an unpaid internship this summer and the school is helping compensate for it, which is really helpful.
Have you learned any computer programs or languages through your coursework that will be helpful to you professionally?
As of now, we’ve only been learning Java.
Have you used financial aid? If so, how easy is the office to work with?
Yes, I get financial aid, and it’s good to work with. They give you some leeway if you’re late on deadlines and it wasn’t too bad of an experience to get financial aid through the school. It’s not too complicated.
Advice for Prospective Freshmen
What is something you wish you knew about Amherst before entering as a freshman?
I wish I knew how much appearing wealthy goes through people’s minds here. I had no clue about it and it was a big wake up call. Everywhere you go you see Canada Goose coats and such and I just can’t compete when it comes to fashion with people here. I’ve actually had people make comments about my clothes, so it can be judgmental in that sense.
What is something that a student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
You get no sense of what the nightlife is like when you visit. Since I was a recruit, I was able to spend the night with the team and that gave me a whole different vibe of what the school is actually like.
Reasons to attend Amherst:
1) If you value having close relationships with professors, definitely come here.
2) You have a good liberal arts education.
3) You have a community here and aren’t just another person in a giant sea of people.
Reasons to not attend Amherst:
1) If you want to meet a lot of new people and want to go to every party, Amherst is not a good place for that.
2) The school doesn’t teach a lot of technical skills.