Academics

Amherst is an undergraduate, residential, liberal arts college that awards the Bachelor of Arts degree in 38 different majors. Special features include the open curriculum; opportunities for collaborative faculty-student research, community-based learning, and participation in colloquia and special seminars throughout the year; a long history of distinguished teaching and scholarship; and membership in the Five College Consortium. Amherst students may take courses for credit at Smith, Mount Holyoke, and Hampshire Colleges and the University of Massachusetts. Browse the Amherst College Course Scheduler and Five College Course Catalog.

The Liberal Studies Curriculum

Under the Liberal Studies Curriculum, the first-year students are required to take a First-Year Seminar. These courses are planned and taught by one or more members of the Faculty as a way to introduce students to liberal studies through a range of innovative and often interdisciplinary approaches. The subject matter of the courses varies, as do the capabilities they seek to encourage. Each seminar constitutes an inquiry-based introduction to critical thinking and active learning at the college level. To achieve this goal, all courses have an enrollment limit of 15 students and provide discussion-based classes, writing attentive instruction with frequent and varied assignments, close reading and critical interpretation of written texts, and careful attention to the analysis of argument in speech and writing.  

Amherst’s liberal studies curriculum is based on a concept of education as a process or activity rather than a form of production. The curriculum provides a structure within which each student may confront the meaning of his or her education, and does it without imposing a particular course or subject on all students. Students are encouraged to continue to seek diversity and attempt integration through their course selection and to discuss this with their advisors.

Under the curriculum, most members of the Faculty serve as academic advisors to students. Every student has a College Advisor until he or she declares a major, no later than the end of the sophomore year; thereafter each student will have a Major Advisor from the student’s field of concentration. As student and advisor together plan a student’s program, they should discuss whether the student has selected courses that:

  • develop fundamental capabilities such as critical reading, written and oral expression, quantitative reasoning, and proficiency in using information resources
  • achieve breadth of understanding through study in a range of disciplines and modes of inquiry.
Majors

Amherst offers the Bachelor of Arts degree in 38 fields of study in the arts, sciences, social sciences and humanities. Students can carry more than one major, create their own interdisciplinary major, or engage in independent scholarship. Many students choose to delve more deeply into their major field by undertaking honors theses during their senior year. Often the equivalent of graduate-level work, theses have taken the form of a major paper, scientific investigation or creative work.

Five College Consortium

While Amherst is a small liberal arts college, through the Five College Consortium Amherst students may access a much wider array of courses, library resources, lectures, concerts, research opportunities, and activities. The consortium is an unusual cooperative arrangement among Amherst, Smith, Mount Holyoke, and Hampshire Colleges and the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. All five campuses are linked by a free bus system, and all are located within a 10-mile radius of Amherst. Amherst undergraduates can enroll in credit-bearing classes at any of the other campuses at both the undergraduate and graduate level without paying extra tuition; earn Five College Certificates in 10 fields; and learn 27 languages through Five College supervised independent and mentored language programs.

The Amherst Faculty

Amherst College prides itself on its outstanding and dedicated faculty, who are committed to expanding the realm of knowledge through teaching, scholarly research, and artistic creation at the highest level. Current faculty have received awards from the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, National Endowment for the Humanities, American Council of Learned Societies, Mellon Foundation, Tinker Foundation, Luce Foundation, and Ford Foundation, as well as Guggenheim and Fulbright fellowships. Students often work one-on-one with the faculty both in class and in the pursuit of independent research. To learn more about faculty members, along with their research interests, publications, and more, browse our faculty profiles.

Mentoring, Advising, and Support

With its close-knit community, Amherst offers a strong support network. Students find encouragement, inspiration, and advice throughout campus. Incoming students benefit from the knowledge of their academic faculty advisor, along with that of a group of about 50 other professors who work with new students to navigate the course selection process during Orientation week. Students also develop informal relationships with professors, deans, and upperclassmen who serve as mentors and offer guidance on how to take advantage of Amherst’s many resources.

A range of academic support services are available to support the academic work of students, including the Moss Quantitative Center, the Writing Center, the Academic Peer Tutors, and the Academic Peer Mentoring Program.

 

Amherst’s Faculty

A student-to-faculty ratio of eight to one and an average class size of 16 enable Amherst students to interact closely with professors who are internationally known scholars, researchers, authors, and artists.