Amherst, MA: How do you know what college is right for you? On my search for the answer, I asked college friends and tour guides. Everyone said that it is a feeling you get that tells you. My problem was: what is this feeling and how will I know it? My answer came to me as I stood atop a hill at Amherst College.
The view was beautiful. All around were the autumn-colored trees of the Berkshires. Below were the school's soccer and baseball fields, and behind me stood the Freshman Quad. As I stood there, gazing at the beauty of the campus, I could picture myself visiting this very spot to unwind between classes. I went to Amherst to see the college, but more importantly to visit my friend in her freshman year at the school. When I left, I knew it was going to be hard to top.
The college is situated adjacent to the town of Amherst. This small town has everything a student needs, from a movie theater to a grocery store. Also the University of Massachusetts, Mount Holyoke, Smith and Hampshire Colleges are all nearby. Amherst takes part in the Five College Consortium, in which a student enrolled at any of these schools may take liberal arts courses for credit at any of the other four. The five schools also sponsor a computerized library interchange and a free bus system linking the campuses.
Housing at Amherst is guaranteed for all four years, with many varied living arrangements. Most underclassmen are divided into single, double, or triple rooms, while the upperclassmen have the option of living in a suite with single rooms joined by a common room and bath. While Amherst has no sororities or fraternities, there are "theme houses," made up of students with similar interests. In each residence, there is an upperclassmen counselor who is available for any questions of the students. The dining hall for all students is Valentine Hall, which has been newly renovated and offers many menu choices.
A unique aspect of Amherst is its curriculum. Unlike most liberal arts schools, Amherst has no distribution requirements and no core classes. The only course required of all incoming freshman is Introduction to Liberal Studies, from which there are many classes to choose. Because of this open curriculum, students have the opportunity to explore many fields, or focus on their main interest. Many students double-major and create their own independent study opportunities where they often venture off campus to participate in research. Another aspect that provides for academic freedom is the January Interterm. At this time no formal courses are offered. Instead students seek independent study in different fields. Students often pursue laboratory study, field work abroad, or follow their personal interests. This gives seniors time to work on their thesis and underclassmen the opportunity to seek career possibilities.
These are just some of the aspects of this wonderful school. If you still haven't found the answer to that dreaded question, I suggest a trip to Amherst.
The students are some of the friendliest around. An overnight stay is the best way to tell if it's for you. You'll get the opportunity to see what it's like to be a student at Amherst. I promise you, when you get that feeling of what is the right school, you'll know it.
Reviewed in 1996
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.