First-Generation Students- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Q: How can I effectively use my resident counselor?

A Resident Counselor is a student employee of the College whose responsibility it is to support students in their transition to college, foster inclusive and equitable communities, report concerns in the communities, and to assist all students as needed throughout their college experience. They are a resource for everyone in the residence hall by organizing informative and community building programs. They are also a personal resource for you to use when you need advice. Some things you can ask your RC about are academic stress, relationships, family stress, and basically anything about Amherst. They are also a gateway to other resources on campus; they can point you towards places like various student organizations, the Counseling Center, the Resource Centers, etc. 

Q: Can the meal plan accommodate my specific dietary needs (vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, kosher, allergies, etc.)?

Valentine has a variety of options available to accommodate students’ particular diets. For more information, check out the Dining Services website. 

Q: I don’t understand my financial aid award/my term bill. What do I do?

If you have questions about your financial aid award, please contact the Office of Financial Aid to clarify things. Their staff is experienced in answering a broad array of questions regarding the application process, individual aid programs, the crediting of aid to student accounts, and general policy and procedures. In some cases, a question may be referred to a dean for response if it involves review and discussion of family financial circumstances. Questions specifically about your term bill can be directed to the Office of the Controller, which deals with student accounts and payroll. Any questions you have about payments you owe to the college or that the college owes you (if you work on-campus or have a credit on your account) can be directed to them. 

Q: How do I submit an appeal to financial aid?

If you do not feel that your financial aid package accurately reflects your actual financial situation, you can request in writing that the financial aid office review your award. To find out more, check out the Financial Aid website. 

Q: How can I find a job on campus?

During the first week of classes, there will be a job fair featuring various on and off campus jobs. Campus jobs can be found across campus in academic and administrative offices, Dining Services, Catering, Resource Centers, Athletics, Information Technology, the Library, and more. If you have trouble finding a job, ask different offices if they have openings and consider trying something you’ve never done before. Note that departments generally give priority to students eligible for Federal Work Study or need-based employment during the first two weeks of each semester. Students are not able to work more than 20 hours per week during the academic year when classes are in session. For more information about the student employment process and access to employment authorization forms, check out the “Student Employment” page under the “Life At Amherst” heading on the Amherst College website. 

Q: What kind of services are available at the health center?

You can go to the health center for everything from a check-up to STD testing to gynecological services to filling prescriptions. A full list of center services can be found on the Student Health Service website. 

Q: What do college health services cost?

All of the services available to you at the health center are prepaid through your tuition. Most care off-campus is covered by supplemental student insurance. Financial aid for the college health insurance plan can be included in your financial aid package. Copayments and deductibles apply only if you need to see an outside provider (i.e. a private medical office).

Q: Are mental health services included?

The Counseling Center employs well-qualified psychologists, therapists, and psychiatrists who are invested in helping students achieve positive mental health. Their services are covered under your student fee and are open to all students, regardless of whether you have a mental condition/diagnosis or are just struggling to deal with your transition to college. 

Q: Are there resources I can access on-campus as a student with a disability?

Accessibility Services is the only designated office at the College for students to voluntarily disclose a disability(ies), submit appropriate documentation for verification, and request accommodations. Accessibility Services coordinates and provides accommodations related to classroom, housing, or dining needs to students with all types of disabilities. Accommodation information can be found on the “Accessibility Services” subpage on the Student Affairs website. You can contact Accessibility Services at 

Q: Are there specific resources I can access on campus as an international/LGBTQ+/POC/religious student?

The College has several centers dedicated to supporting our diverse student body. You can visit the Cadigan Center for Religious Life, the Queer Resource Center, the Multicultural Resource Center, the Women’s and Gender Center, or the Center for International Student Engagement to study, hang out, and attend various Center events aimed at supporting, educating about, and celebrating students’ many identities and their intersections. Additionally, there are various identity-specific student-run organizations on campus where you can find peer-support, such as African and Caribbean Students Union, Asian Students Association, Black Student Union, First Generation Association, International Student Association La Causa, Pride Alliance, and many more student organizations.

Q: What exactly is a liberal arts education?

A liberal arts education is an approach to learning that empowers students to deal with complexity, diversity, and change by developing habits, practices, and skills that are at once timeless and urgently needed: effective communication, strong writing ability, insightful problem solving, creativity, and analytical thinking. 

Q: How do I complete a major in an open curriculum setting?

Amherst College has no required courses beyond the First Year Seminar. However, each individual major has a set of requirements for completion of that major. Your goal during your first year should be to work with your academic advisor to explore broadly across the curriculum. Toward the end of your sophomore you will declare a major, which will allow you to develop a depth of knowledge and experience in particular research methods. Over the course of your four years at Amherst College, you should strive to balance depth with breadth. 

Q: Who is my class dean and when can I go to them for support?

Dean Rick Lopez, the Dean of New Students, is available to you as a personal and academic advisor during your first year at Amherst, after which your class will be assigned a dean from among the faculty for your remaining three years. It is helpful to develop a relationship with your dean early because they can point you towards many academic and personal resources on campus and mediate on your behalf with your professors or other departments of the college.

Q: What role does my academic advisor play?

All in-coming students meet with an orientation advisor at the start of New Student Orientation to discuss their interests and objectives and to develop a course schedule. After that schedule is finalized, the student is assigned to a college advisor, ideally one of the student’s instructors. Your advisor’s role is to offer you academic and personal guidance during the year and to help you register for classes at the beginning of each semester.

Q: What is the Office of the Registrar? When do I go to them with questions?

The Office of the Registrar maintains all your academic records and information: transcripts, classes, grades, credits, etc. You can contact them with questions, for example, about registration, AC Data, how to order a transcript or other documentation, how to enroll in 5-college classes, or how to convert your grades into a 4-point GPA scale.

Q: Where can I get textbooks?

If you prefer a personal copy of course-required material, you can buy new textbooks from Amherst Books bookstore, which is not affiliated with the college but does stock most (but not all) books on Amherst course syllabi. You can also buy (and sell back) used textbooks from The Option, which is a student-run service open at the beginning of each semester. Otherwise, you might want to search the internet for a digital copy. Alternately, you can check out your books from the “course reserve” in Frost Library. The front desk of Frost reserves a few copies of all books on Amherst course syllabi that can only be checked out for 4 hours at most, which means you don’t have to wait long for someone else to return it. At Frost, you can also ask about acquiring book through an inter-library loan from the 5-Colleges or having Frost acquire specific texts. Students with significant financial aid may receive a check in their campus mailbox at the start of the fall semester to cover the cost of books and other expenses. The College does not bill directly for books.

Q: How do I print and scan on campus?

There are printers on main floor of Keefe Campus Center, A-level of Frost Library, Morgan Music Library, Center for Creative Technology in Seeley-Mudd and in the Keefe Science Library in Merrill. These printers cost $0.05 per page, which is added to your student account statement at the end of term. You can find additional information on these printers in the “Services” subpage on the Information Technology website. Free printing is available in the Moss Quantitative Center in Merrill, the Queer Resource Center, the Multicultural Resource Center, and the Women’s and Gender Center. Scanning is available on the first floor in Frost Library at no cost.