AMHERST COLLEGE looks, above all, for people of intellectual promise who have demonstrated qualities of mind and character that will enable them to take full advantage of the College’s curriculum. The College seeks qualified applicants from different racial, ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds; students whose several perspectives might contribute significantly to a process of mutual education within and outside the curriculum. Admission decisions aim to select, from among the many qualified applicants, those possessing the intellectual talent, discipline and imagination that will allow them most fully to benefit from the curriculum and to contribute to the life of the College and of society. Grades, standardized test scores, essays, recommendations, independent work, the quality of the individual’s secondary school program and achievements outside the classroom are among the factors used to evaluate this promise, but no one of these measures is considered determinative.
Founded in 1821 as a non-sectarian institution for “the education of indigent young men of piety and talents for the Christian ministry,” Amherst today is an independent liberal arts college for all genders. Its approximately 1900 students come from most of the fifty states and many foreign countries.
The campus is near the center of the town of Amherst, adjacent to the town common. A few miles away are four other institutions of higher learning—Hampshire, Mount Holyoke and Smith Colleges, and the University of Massachusetts—with which Amherst engages in a number of cooperative educational programs.
The College offers the bachelor of arts degree and cooperates with the University of Massachusetts in a Five College Ph.D. and a number of accelerated programs. The College curriculum involves study in the humanities, the social sciences and the natural sciences, and combines a broad education with knowledge of some field in depth. Students may construct an interdisciplinary program or participate in an Independent Scholar Program free of formal courses in their junior and senior years; honors work is encouraged and, in recent years, has been undertaken by more than 40 percent of the graduating class.
Whatever the form of academic experience—lecture course, seminar, conference, studio, laboratory, independent study at various levels—intellectual competence and awareness of problems and methods, rather than the direct preparation for a profession, are the goals of the Amherst program. The curriculum enables students to arrange programs for their own educational needs within established guidelines. Faculty advisors, representing all academic departments, assist undergraduates in their course selections, but the ultimate responsibility for a thoughtful program of study rests with the individual student.
The College’s Faculty is engaged in two primary activities: first, the education of undergraduates; and, second, research and writing. Its 245 full-time members hold degrees from colleges and universities throughout this country and abroad. Classes range in size from a few courses of two students to a lecture course of more than 100 students; more than 80 percent of the classes and sections have fewer than 30 students.
Amherst has extensive physical resources: libraries with more than 1,500,000 volumes, 483,000 e-books and 100,000 other media materials; science laboratories; a mathematics and computer science building; theaters; gymnasium; swimming pool; skating rink; squash and tennis courts; playing fields; a museum of fine arts and another of natural history; a music center and concert hall; a dance studio; a central dining hall for all students; a campus social center that includes a snack bar and movie theater; dormitories; media center; and classroom buildings. There is a wildlife sanctuary and a forest for the study of ecology, an observatory and planetarium, and varied equipment for specialized scientific research. At Amherst, and at its neighboring institutions, there are extensive offerings of lectures, concerts, plays, films and many other events.
The College provides a variety of services to support the academic work of students. In addition to the advising and teaching support provided by the Faculty, the services include a tutorial program, reading and study skills classes, an Interterm pre-calculus course, a full-time writing counselor and tutoring for students for whom English is a second language. For more details, please contact the Office of Student Affairs.
Amherst has a full schedule of intercollegiate athletics for men and women in most sports. About 80 percent of all students participate in the physical education program or in organized intramural athletics.
Undergraduates may also take part in a variety of other extracurricular activities: journalism, community service, publishing, broadcasting, music, dramatics, student government, College committees and a wide assortment of specialized interests. Religious groups, working independently or through the religious advisors, maintain a program of worship services, Bible study, community service projects and other activities.
Most graduates continue their formal education to enter such professions as teaching, medicine, law, business and public service. At Amherst, presumably, they have only begun their lifelong education at “commencement,” but have developed attitudes and values that will encourage them to participate thoughtfully and generously in the service of humanity.
Amherst College is pleased to provide the following information regarding our institution’s graduation rates in compliance with the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended. The rates reflect the graduation status of students who enrolled during the 2015–16 school year and for whom 150 percent of the normal time-to-completion has elapsed. During the fall semester of 2015, 477 first-time, full-time, degree-seeking undergraduate students entered Amherst College. As of August 31, 2021, 95 percent of those students had graduated from our institution.