Orange County School of the Arts

College Tour: Amherst College

Amherst College is another great example of how dreaming big for college can mean thinking small. Located in Massachusetts, a liberal arts college like Amherst offers an undergraduate education that takes place in small classes with a Socratic method.


Amherst is a private college, which means it does not receive money from the state of Massachusetts. But that doesn’t mean Amherst is unaffordable—it offers 50% of its students full tuition scholarships.

With 21% of students from low-income backgrounds and 40% of students from under-represented minorities, Amherst is “most diverse college in the country — and the most selective,” in the words of former college president Anthony Marx.

And most selective? Amherst is certainly among that, too. The acceptance rate is around 13%, and it’s easy to see why so many students want to attend this school. While Amherst is a small town in Western Massachusetts, it is part of a vibrant and eclectic community. Through the Five College Consortium, students can access the teaching of a liberal college with the resources of a large university. In the town of Amherst, there are five colleges: University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Hampshire College, Smith College, and Mount Holyoke. Students who attend any of the schools may attend classes in any one of the other schools. Amherst is known for providing rigorous academics.

There are 35 different majors are offered, the most popular being Economics, English Language and Literature, Political Science and Government, Psychology, and History. The small class sizes, an average of 16 students, enhance this already stellar education program. With a faculty to student ratio of 1:9, students are easily able to connect and communicate with teachers. Amherst offers an open-course arrangement. This means that there are no required classes. This helps some students specialize more in their area of interest.

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There are opportunities for the arts and extracurriculars at Amherst, too.

Arts students at Amherst often intern at the Mead Art Museum, which houses Amherst’s rare texts and art collection. Amherst College is famous for its many a capella singing groups. In fact, it is called “The Singing College.” The town of Amherst offers other arts opportunities. The Emily Dickinson House, home of the famous poet, is another place where students intern. In addition, there are several arts summer programs for college students. This includes Tanglewood, a nearby town which hosts the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and Jacob’s Pillow, a world-renowned dance company.

Amherst provides a great student atmosphere. On the 1,000 acre campus, there are over 155 extracurricular student groups. This does not include fraternities, which were banned in 1984. Amherst is in the NCAA Division III Conference because of its small size.


Amherst College recognizes that embracing the future can mean quieting the past. For years, Amherst’s mascot had been the Lord Jeffs, named after Lord Jeffery Amherst, who founded the town of Amherst. However, a current day look at Lord Amherst reveals a much darker side: he knowingly distributed smallpox blankets to Native Americans, with the intent of biological warfare. So, Amherst recently voted to remove Lord Jeff as the mascot.

Whether Amherst becomes the Purple Squirrels or Fighting Moose, it will certainly stay an amazing college with stellar student life and academics.