Amherst is one of the best schools in the nation in regard to financial aid. Not only is it need-blind, but the financial aid officers are always willing to talk to prospective students and current students alike. I have gone to the office of financial aid multiple times this year alone to simply ask a single question or get help filling out paperwork to get a job on campus. I was even able to meet with the Dean of Financial Aid to discuss my situation.
Many people do not know this about me, but I was admitted to Amherst off the waitlist. Yes, it does happen! Being waitlisted is not a complete no; there is hope! However, once you get admitted off the waitlist, you only have a week to decide and I was unable to make a decision because my financial aid package for Amherst did not match the other school I was going to go to. Amherst was about three times as much, which did not make sense since both schools I was looking at were needblind and tried to get students to graduate without debt. After multiple phone calls, I found that Amherst was missing additional documents I had submitted to the other college - hence the discrepancy. I submitted this file to FinAid and voila! Amherst’s financial aid actually ended up being better than any other school I could have gone to. It was cheaper than my state school would have been.
Amherst College has a commitment to creating diversity on campus and one way they do this is through a mix of socio-economic statuses. While the FinAid and admission departments are extremely helpful and have made me feel welcomed on this campus, there are still the occasional comments that are made about money (typically by wealthy students who don’t realize their privilege) that set me on edge. The good thing is that people are always willing to listen to me speak up and out about my experiences with money and why making a comment about “just take out a loan” can be hurtful. (You can only take out a loan if you have a good credit score and aren’t at high financial risk. Not everyone can take out large loans needed for houses and some colleges).
Another good thing is that people are willing to acknowledge the diversity of classes on campus and talk about inequity. I talked to an alumni near my house over Thanksgiving who said nobody talked about their family income back in the 1990s. Even Dean Lopez, my first-year seminar professor and Dean of New Students who has been under fire recently for signing a letter to stop low-income housing, has been happy that people are now talking about socio-economic inequity. Though, he is not thrilled that he is being portrayed by the media in a rather negative light. Dean Lopez is connected with the Meiklejohn Fellowship Program I am a part of that provides career and summer internship advising for high-achieving, low-income students on campus. Not only has this given me lots of resources and has helped me connect with alums in fields I am interested in, I also have a stipend for an unpaid summer internship that will likely allow me to work a lab this summer.
The fellowship is one example of the incredible resources available specifically for low-income students on campus. The Center for Diversity and Student Leadership also helps low-income/first-generation students (FLI students). There are likely even more resources available to me that I just haven’t explored yet, but luckily, there are many people on this campus supporting me and willing to help me get the support I need to succeed.