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Course Rigor at Amherst

bhobho Registered User Posts: 19 New Member
edited February 2009 in Amherst College
I am certain that I will be able to acquire more information about this from Amherst administrators as the time for me to choose my first courses at Amherst draws closer, but I was hoping to get some feedback from Amherst students on the rigor and nature of the courses so I know how to pace myself for my first semester.

First, what is the average amount of credits each course is worth? I attempted to look on the course catalog online, but that didn't provide any credit information.

Second, in order to do well at Amherst in more humanities-related courses, like Political Science, what would be the average time commitment one should dedicate outside of class for homework and studying? Essentially, what is the rigor of the courses at Amherst (relative to other top colleges and universities)?

Finally, along those same lines, what is the average recommended number of courses, or course load, for Amherst students?

As I mentioned, I am going to be certain to get this information from Amherst faculty as well, but I was hoping a student's perspective (or parent's) might give me added insight. Thank you very much!
Post edited by bho on

Replies to: Course Rigor at Amherst

  • 'rentof2'rentof2 Registered User Posts: 4,327 Senior Member
    I'm sure you'll get the real inside information from a student... but I can answer a couple of your simplest questions:

    Generally students take 4 classes per semester. Each course is 1 credit. I believe --one of the students who post here can correct me if I'm wrong-- that you must have 31 credits to graduate. Eight semesters of 4 classes each time would give you 32, so should you fail a course or have to drop one your first year, you would still be able to get enough credits to graduate.
  • SemperParatusSemperParatus Registered User Posts: 32 Junior Member
    I'm a double-major who takes almost exclusively humanities classes. It's overall very rigorous. You will have to work hard and it will kick your butt sometimes. That said, it isn't all that bad. Professors really emphasize quality over quantity; you won't be getting any busy work really. A lot of my classes are only 2-3 papers a semester, but there is a lot of reading in between those papers. I guess you can get away with not doing a lot of the reading (as many of my peers do), but it would be really hard to keep an A average that way. If you're looking to get by with B's, you can seriously get away with doing relatively little.
  • acsophacsoph Registered User Posts: 19 New Member
    Virtually everybody takes 4 classes all the time. 1 class=1 credit. It's a weird system, because someone taking 4 lab sciences would have at least 28 hours of class/labs a week, and get the same 4 credits as a humanities major taking 10 or 12 hours a week, but that's Amherst.

    You can elect to take 5 classes in a semester, if you get special permission from your advisor. It's tempting, especially after many years of taking every opportunity to excel, but remember that almost everyone else here is also a stellar student--there's a reason they mostly take 4 classes. The fewer classes, the more time you have to really nail each of them, as well as to do the million other things people do with their time.

    Humanities classes vary a lot, but I'd say... on average you need 5-8 hours a week to get an A in one. If you're trying to pace yourself for the first semester, just try for a little balance. For example, the regular, predictable problem sets of Intro Econ (hugely popular, great class) can be a welcome break from hours and hours of reading and writing papers in your humanities. Good luck picking!
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