I’m considering schools like Williams, Amherst and Swarthmore and would love some insights into what they are like.
I’m currently in my first semester as a first-year at Amherst College, so I can give you some fresh insight into my life here.
- My courses aren’t too hard at the moment to be honest, because I got some great professors and chose pretty fun/interesting courses. Also, although a typical high school day used to be 6 hours long, here, I only have around 15 hours of classes per week - just more homework and assignments to work on in my own time. However, it’s not uncommon to see ambitious students (who stacked up challenging, higher-level courses) studying til 3am almost every night.
- Because this is a liberal arts college, choosing courses is very flexible and this is a great place to really discover your true academic interests. You can choose 4 courses per semester (from any of the 38 academic areas) and you only have to declare your major at the end of your sophomore year.
- Professors are really passionate! I can’t say every single professor is perfect, but they put in a genuine effort to help students. Students can use office hours to go talk to professors (to talk about exams, studying, your hobbies, their life story, whatever!) and especially for those classes with only 10-15 students, it’s really easy to build intimate connections with both your professor and fellow classmates. I’m having an ice-cream outing with my seminar classmates this weekend!
- There are really unique classes offered. For more information, it would be best to check out the college catalogue yourself (search: Amherst college course scheduler).
- I go to free events and performances all the time here, especially music related ones since that’s what interests me. But there are all sorts of things you can go to - workshops, discussions, festivals, free food events, performances, etc. You can also go to five-college events (using the bus lines which are free for five-college students to use!)
- TBH, the social dorms here at Amherst college have been demolished because they were so run-down (from over-partying). And so, the Amherst College party scene is apparently not as good as last year, but thanks to the five college consortium, there are lots of opportunities to go to other colleges’ parties (I went to a UMass party last week!). Because the school is super liberal, despite the drinking age being 21 here, the party/drinking/etc. culture is very common (yes, people have fun at liberal arts colleges too…)
- It’s easy to get to know people because the school is quite small and tight-knitted. I bump into familiar faces literally every day - but if I want to get to know “more” people, I can always get to know people from the other 4 colleges (one of the groups I joined is a five-college club, so I already know multiple people from other schools). One of the benefits of getting to know people through this tight-knit community is that opportunities can open up more easily in the future (eg: someone you got to know through Amherst could offer you a job or project collaboration or something like that).
Life in general/other:
- The food here is pretty decent, but people always complain just because UMass literally has the best dining hall in the country, so our food seems worse in comparison. I think it’s nice and generally healthy though. You can check out the menus online, and there are also things like: smoothie station, stir fry station, waffle station, etc.
- The campus itself is really beautiful, and there’s a wildlife sanctuary nearby too (great for biking/running along). The school isn’t actually as isolated as some may think, as there’s the small town of Amherst (with restaurants, a cinema, shops, etc) and with some bus rides, there are other towns nearby (eg: Northampton, which has Smith College). There are no huge cities nearby, though - but you can get to Boston with a 2 hour ride and New York with maybe a 4 hour bus ride (? These times are an estimate). I went to Boston a few weeks ago for fall break.
- People are friendly and even though people may seem really ‘normal’, everyone has some unique talent or interesting life story to tell. I think 30-40% of the school is comprised of athletes? There is somewhat a split between the “athletes” and “academic students”, but not really at the same time - there are athlete parties that are open for anyone to attend, and my roommate is an athlete and I get along pretty well with him.
- Dorms are really great (apparently one of the best in the country according to college confidential)
- Weather can be extreme - winter is really cold and snowy, summer is blazing hot, spring and autumn are nice. I had to buy snowboots recently to prepare for the winter! The good thing is that the changing seasons provides some variety in how the school looks. Also, I personally like the snow (though many complain about the cold).
- There are many clubs you can join - there are some really interesting ones too, like the happiness group (?) who do projects to make people happy, Amherst safe space for kinksters, etc.
- Virtually everyone is an advocate for social equality here - we have a ■■■■■ resource centre, multicultural resource centre, and woman and genders centre which reflect this. It’s pretty hard to be discriminated against, and if you are, there are always people to support you and there can even be huge movements to prevent anything of that sort in the future.
- We have a farm! The farm’s produce (vegetables and stuff) is directly sent to the dining hall to be eaten by us!
- A lot of my friends like to take a break by going to NYC or Boston from time to time using a zipcar (a system you can use to borrow cars at a pretty good price). Or, I like to sometimes study at a cafe in town or go to visit other schools if I feel like I’m spending too much time on campus
- Lots of internship opportunities and support for that sort of stuff etc
- Awesome healthcare system - I’ve gone to the health centre several times and even gotten physiotherapy treatment (which is covered by the school insurance system). Money hasn’t been much of a problem for me here thanks to their generous financial aid
I think that sort of sums up my experience at Amherst College so far, but feel free to add onto what I’ve said or to ask any further questions on anything I may have missed