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Questions + Amherst vs Yale

ilatteilatte Registered User Posts: 12 New Member
edited September 2011 in Amherst College
Hello everyone! With the early decision/application deadlines coming up, I'm going into a bit of a panic mode over where I should apply to. I have visited both schools, and both schools have managed to capture my heart in different ways. With Yale, it is more of a gut feeling. The happiness of the students was infectious, and I loved the vibrant student life and residential colleges. Meanwhile, Amherst appeals to me for more concrete reasons, such as the open curriculum and intimate classes.

I've been doing a lot of additional research, and here are some questions/concerns I have right now about Amherst:

1. There were several student comments in a reference book that stated that students were not as academically engaged as one would expect (ie. not as much class participation, lulls in discussions). Granted, this was in a 2006 edition, but I'm wondering if this still holds true today?

2. There were also comments about how there were quite a few unremarkable teachers (again, this was back in 2006). In your experience, how have the majority of your teachers been?

3. I am an international student from Shanghai, so I was wondering - is there a significant international presence on campus? Is it generally very cliquish with ethnicities?

4. Is the student body generally intellectual? (I know that to get in Amherst one has been be reasonably intelligent, but we can all agree that there is a difference between being good at school and being intellectual). Could I strike up a conversation about David Foster Wallace's works or discuss existentialist philosophical thought and not be confronted by only bored/blank stares?

5. On a more frivolous note - how is the dating scene? :p Do Amherst girls have a bit of a disadvantage due to the many women's colleges within the vicinity? Hook-ups more prevalent, or relationships?

I'd appreciate it if anyone could help me out with any one of these questions!
Post edited by ilatte on

Replies to: Questions + Amherst vs Yale

  • johnwesleyjohnwesley - Posts: 4,610 Senior Member
    Could I strike up a conversation about David Foster Wallace's works or discuss existentialist philosophical thought and not be confronted by only bored/blank stares?

    Interesting, that you should mention that :p :
  • mchellmermchellmer Registered User Posts: 28 New Member
    1. The number one priority of Amherst students is academics. The only minor exclusion here is athletics. There are many students here that are completely engrossed in performing in their sport and place academics on the back burner. I say minor because I haven't met a devoted athlete here that doesn't take academics seriously. Otherwise, I know few people that don't kill themselves academically every semester, its fun and it makes you feel like the less than responsible choices made at parties were more than paid for in pencil lead.

    2. I have a few complaints about visiting professors, but otherwise the professors here have been amazing (Geology, Math, Russian, Physics).

    3. There are so many intl students here. They fit in really well and other than there being an international student organization and an informal intl student table in Val, I haven't seen a very cliqish group here.

    4. Sometimes I sit in Val Dining hall and come up with an extremely absurd conversation topic because there always seems to be some kind of econ/political/religious/sociological/philosophic debate/rant happening. So maybe you should just avoid me

    5. Join a sport or a good club. This is the best way to get invited to parties and meet people. You can always follow the music too. Lots of girls, Umass girls dont really travel to Amherst too often, but Smith and Holyokes do. LOTS OF GIRLS

    Go to Amherst, dont get lost at a big University
  • pmyenpmyen Registered User Posts: 539 Member
    What reference book did you use? I am very surprised by the comments regarding Amherst.
    I chose Amherst over Yale a number of years ago. Both will offer you a wonderful education but in different ways.

    Yale's residential college system does provide a sense of community but it not have the same feel as it ultimately is a university located in an urban setting. I personally felt more comfortable in a smaller environment where I knew most of my classmates and professors. I also was attracted the undergraduate focus at Amherst and the curricular freedom. Although Yale has a strong undergraduate focus, it nonetheless is a university with all the advantages and disadvantages that are associated with it. At Amherst, almost all my courses where seminars. I also took a one-on-one science tutorial with a professor which we designed together-I am not sure how easy that would be able to be done at a university. Additionally, I preferred living in a safe and bucolic NE college town than living in New Haven where some areas surrounding the Yale campus have deteriorating neighborhoods and crime problems. I also enjoyed the opportunity to walk, hike, bike, ski, etc. in areas that were very nearby. The 5 College system also provides the opportunities to meet a large number of students (both international and throughout the U.S.) as well as attend events and parties on other campuses. By virtue of its size and calibre of students and faculty, Amherst is an intellectual place. I remember late night discussions with my two freshman roommates-one who majored in philosophy and became a Quaker minister and the other was a classics major who became a photographer and commercial film maker. We came from very different backgrounds-a farmboy from Vermont, a preppie from Andover, and a first generation immigrant from Asia.

    Yale offers the benefits of a university such as a wide range of courses (although one can cross-register for courses in the 5 college system) and larger, hence more diverse, student body. There also is the possibility of taking more advanced courses in graduate school. At Amherst, many students do not find the latter to be a disadvantage as they may branch out and take courses in very different areas than their major. A liberal arts education places emphasis on breadth as well as depth. For example, a math major might also minor in music or foreign language; a chemistry major may also major in English literature (choices made by two of my friends). There is always graduate or professional school to prepare for one's chosen career. Yale is much more widely known than Amherst among the general public. On the other hand, graduate schools and employers at major companies recognize the value of an Amherst graduate education. My classmates and I all have done very well in our educational and job options post-Amherst. On the other hand, if you plan to work in Asia, Yale will be immediately recognized by most educated people whereas that may not be the case for Amherst. I certainly weighed that aspect but ultimately decided to attend where I thought I would best fit in and grow personally, intellectually, and socially.
  • pmyenpmyen Registered User Posts: 539 Member
    In my haste, I noticed I left out some prepositions and had at least one typo. Hopefully, they are obvious to you.
  • Anonymous315Anonymous315 Registered User Posts: 103 Junior Member
    1. I always told people that one of the things I love about Amherst is how academically engaging the student body is. Because of the open curriculum, people are only in classes they want to take, so students are normally very excited about their classes and invest a lot in them. I'll agree that the only minor (very minor) exception is the occasional athlete. But keep in mind that because it's such a small school, over half the student body plays some form of sport (not that everyone does, but a lot), and academics still come first.

    2. At this point, I've had 2 professors that I would describe as less than great. One was a first-semester hire, so she was slightly nervous and getting things worked out, but she had potential. But all of the other professors I've had (I'm a junior at this point) have been amazing. I still bump into some of my profs from freshman year, and they immediately recognize me and stop to talk. I've also found myself really enjoying and becoming quite engaged in subjects I would otherwise have avoided, purely do to the professors. I'm not really big into poetry or literary works for example, but my english professor somehow managed to make me look forward to going to class. Something I never thought would happen.

    3. Huge international presence. I don't know the exact percentage (I know it's on our website though), but there is an astonishing number of people from countries all around the globe. Diversity is something we REALLY pride ourselves on, and it brings a lot to discussions in the classroom, conversations in your dorm, and the friendships you make. You become best friends with someone who can bring an entirely new culture to the table, and it really opens your eyes even more.

    4. I actually chuckled at this, because I have an ongoing joke with a lot of my friends about how every person at Amherst has a certain amount of nerd of them. You could strike up a conversation about anything you like and someone would get really excited. I've actually witnessed (and participated in) a lot of those philosophical debates you mention, and they never get old.

    5. Whatever you're looking for, you can find it. The hook-up scene is pretty evident, but probably half (or more) of my friends are in serious relationships. Casual dating is always met well, and it seems pretty common for that to evolve into something more serious, but not always. I know some people who just like going on casual dates with different people and getting to know them. So really, there's a scene for everyone.

    Just to put some background to my answers, I'm a Junior Bio-major who's Pre-Med. So I can testify heavily for the Sciences (and math). I've also had great experiences in the humanities and social sciences, but other people can probably speak more to them than I can.
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