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How wealthy are the students?

bearlover1bearlover1 Registered User Posts: 7 New Member
edited April 2009 in Amherst College
This summer I visited the Amherst campus and fell in love. When I was there I noticed students driving around in audi's and bmw's. I am from a small town in the midwest and am not used to this. So I was wondering first, how wealthy are the wealthiest? Are they like the kids on gossip girls, summer in the hamptons, or just richer than the normal person? And second, being that I am from a lower-middle class family will I feel left out. I mean.. will the students go out to eat every night?

Post edited by bearlover1 on

Replies to: How wealthy are the students?

  • 'rentof2'rentof2 Registered User Posts: 4,327 Senior Member
    My kid doesn't have a car at all. He can't spend any more than he earns at his workstudy job, which isn't much. Almost never goes out to eat, not even pizza. He comes from a small town in the west, and has had no problem making friends and feeling happy there. I don't know about "most" students, but I don't think he's met people at Amherst that spend any time at all comparing how much money they have.
  • kwukwu Registered User Posts: 4,759 Senior Member
    Haha, I noticed the 3 Series BMWs the first time I visited campus too.

    50.9 percent of 2012 are receiving some form of financial aid, and 20 percent (2012) are from "low-income families."

    You won't feel out of place at all. I have a lot of friends who are from "small town in the midwest," and the middle to lower middle class population is surprisingly high.
  • jaykoblivesjaykoblives Registered User Posts: 228 Junior Member
    I'm just an applicant, but I've visited the campus as well. An aquaintance of mine goes there and he's from a lower class family from an urban neighborhood. He told me he loves it there, but that he was a bit taken aback by the affluency of a good chunk of the student body. He actually used the phrase "culture shock".
  • kwukwu Registered User Posts: 4,759 Senior Member
    I'm "from a lower class family from an urban neighborhood," and so were a majority of my high school classmates, so I can understand where he might be coming from.

    I suppose "culture shock" is the right word to use if one were referring to our large WASP-athlete and boarding school constituency. Being a WASP doesn't necessarily make one "affluent," though.

    I'm only a first year, so my experiences are admittedly limited.

    Maybe some of the older students would care to chime in?
  • middsmithmiddsmith Registered User Posts: 1,005 Senior Member
    bearlover1 wrote:
    Are they like the kids on gossip girls, summer in the hamptons, or just richer than the normal person?
    No, no, and probably yes.
    No girl wears Proenza Schouler to school. The closest display of wealth is North Face, which is hardly GG accoutrement.
  • ModadunnModadunn Registered User Posts: 6,263 Senior Member
    What would probably be ironic is that the wealthier the student the more they would probably say wealth isn't noticeable. (just to put that out there). Meaning, to some, North face is just a coat/fleece or whatever.

    THIS SAID, I think it's less about wealth per say than it is about inclusiveness. I've been around very wealthy people who, if I didn't know differently, would seem very middle class and I've met moderately above middle class who act as if designer clothes, shoes, bags etc are the hallmark of good taste (not). So, it's more about how people are treated that becomes important. Because the truth is, perhaps you wouldn't mind someone inviting you to their retreat in spain if in all other ways they were as "down to earth" as you perceive yourself to be. On the other hand, you probably would mind someone who constantly referred to their trip here or what "daddy" bought them there even if they had no money whatsoever.
  • ilikeorangeilikeorange Registered User Posts: 37 Junior Member
    Hi..I go to a school where lots of kids end up at Amherst

    anyway...my best friend's big sister got in two years ago and we go up once in a while

    maybe it was just the people she was hanging out with...but I am pretty sure there are definitely LOTS of wealthy kids there, but they are very friendly

    however...i know Amherst is trying to diversify...and i feel like the student body in general is very friendly to everyone

    however there are going to be some kids who show their wealth whenever they get the chance...but you have those at every school
  • z09z09 Registered User Posts: 137 Junior Member
    modadunn makes a very good point
    many rich kids born into wealth are actually very humble/nonchalant about it.
    however, the more annoying ppl are the mediocre/(sometimes less) rich who act pretentious and so focused on designer brands.
  • paying3tuitionspaying3tuitions Registered User Posts: 13,330 Senior Member
    Ou son is from a middle class family and went to Amherst from a small rural town in the mountains, and a public school education. At that time, Amherst was moving into a leadership position among top LAC's to encourage middle class kids to apply. Since that time, they have made adjustments in how they award financial aid (grants, not loans) because they realized the excessively burdensome student loan total upon graduation was causing students to choose majors or otherwise have limited options in their work life immediately after college. Please read some of the early speeches by President Tony Marx upon his arrival to campus, discussing how he was committed to this part of the campus body. He lamented that while the majority of the country was middleclass, only 14% of the Amherst student body came from that sector. He hoped to improve on that.

    That said, when my son arrived, he kept a great sense of humor as he got to know everyone. Try not to let yourself self-define according to your background, is my suggestion.

    He never owned a car, kept a tightly budgeted life and worked hard off-campus, and had friends from every background although most were middle-class I'd say. He would sometimes describe his astonishment at the kid who went home for break, and home was an entire island. Or how hard it was for him to imagine a family where they needed no aid whatsoever. How could it be possible to write a check for that large tuition in the same way we, as a family, write off a monthly check for the electric bill, right out of the checkbook. He was speaking of the families who needed absolutely no loans or other help whatsoever.

    He found that a difference was the role that thinking about money played in his life, but not in the lives of some of the wealthier students. Example: a group had to go to Boston together for a project using their cars. Original plan was to leave at 10 a.m., but the day wore on and finally the group decided to leave at l0 p.m. This would require an overnight stay in a Boston hotel to accomplish the same project. For my son, that was almost a dealbreaker, but he realized that to them, this extra cost had absolutely no bearing on their decision of when to leave town. He pulled more from his job earnings that week, because he certainly didn't want to be left out of the trip. He realized he had to pull and tug at his resources to do what they could do without a thought.

    These are nice people. Had he voiced a protest I wouldn't be surprised if someone would have covered his part of the hotel tab, too. It's just a different way of having to make decisions. It doesn't mean the others are snoots.

    There were times when he went to restaurants with friends as a special thing, and his strategy was to order a salad while they ordered--whatever they wanted. Then he got the benefit of their friendship and company. He wouldn't accept them picking up a tab because he wasn't a "mooch." But most meals were taken on campus at Valentine. When it got tiresome, there were some places right on the Main street that offered some more Spanish-style take-out for around $8 - $l0. It seemed to me he pulled one of those meals around once per week, and in the company of other friends needing Variety, not Valentine.

    Sometimes there are distinct advantages, too, such as getting invited for breaks to stay in friends' homes where there is much generosity, big rooms, great food. While he couldn't share in the big ski vacations or go overseas for a Spring Break or summer, he did enjoy home-based vacations with many friends being invited home by that family.

    He also had friends who thought he was rich because we live in our own house, not a crowded apartment. It's all relative. If you imagine how you'd want to seem available as a possible friend to someone, that is the same issue for some kids of great wealth. My other son now meets wealthy students whose concern is, "do they like me for me, or for my money?" So put yourself in the other guy's shoes and realize they, too, have a wish to make sincere friends, undefined by the differences of wealth across backgrounds.

    It was my impression that he had to work a bit harder because his offcampus job took away one day per week from his studies. OTOH, upon graduation, he parlayed that work skill into his first post-graduation job. And he was always proud of working hard.

    Just realize you'll meet people in much better and much worse shape than your own background; be open to all. Don't even judge someone negatively if they do drive a great car, since they might be an amazingly interesting and open-minded, open-hearted person. They just might not get it when you hesitate over decisions that to them are no-brainers. Don't let it bother or limit your college experience. You have as much to offer them as vice-versa, only measurable in different ways. Good luck!
  • phil harmonicphil harmonic Registered User Posts: 54 Junior Member
    Very well said, p3t. Your words reassure me, too (I will attend Amherst this fall). I come from a middle class family in the midwest and our financial resources will not match the resources of many of the other Amherst families. But it appears the average Amherst student is well grounded and friendly, regardless of how much money he/she has in his/her college bank account.
  • shawbridgeshawbridge Registered User Posts: 5,588 Senior Member
    It is an unavoidable fact that half or more of most elite schools will be from kids whose families do not qualify for financial aid. Some of these will be very wealthy. Some will be sons and daughters of celebrities. Some will be upper middle class and paying for school will be noticeable or tough. But, they will not be thinking about the same tradeoffs that paying3tuitions describes so well.

    This is many eons ago, but I was a middle-class student at Princeton and the student body had a bunch of really wealthy kids (likely more than now). I think there was a segregation of sorts that was natural, just comfort level in terms of common experiences. It was not mean-spirited. If anything, I benefited from the exposure. I learned how to interact with a different world. I was entertained in a Fifth Avenue apartment overlooking the Park with a Dubuffet sculpture in the foyer and lots of original museum-level art on the walls. I visited for a few weekends on Martha's Vineyard. My girlfriend's family had several generations of Princetonians on the father's side and, on the maternal side, came over on the Mayflower and was proud of it (and not so excited to see her daughter going out with a Jewish guy). It was all a new world for me. And I learned a lot. Meeting someone at a New Canaan cocktail party helped me make an important career-related decision -- I decided not to do something I'd been planning to do after hearing how excited, for the wrong reasons, it made one of the executives I was talking to. Most of those experiences helped me walk comfortably in corridors of power in the US (I get a stroll there every once in a while). The connections are useful as well. So, I wouldn't limit yourself out of fear. You may get invited on a trip to Utah for skiing that you'll have to forgo, and as p3t advises, don't prejudge people.

    We're now more fortunate economically than I was growing up. My daughter attends a local private school where a significant part of the student body is impressively well-to-do. But, others are not. We're probably some place in the middle. My wife and daughter took a friend who probably is on the mid to lower end to my mother-in-law's house on one of the Florida Keys for spring break. The girl would likely not have been able to go -- all she had to do was cover airfare and I found a pretty good deal -- and everything else was covered. p3t's advice is very good. Be open and accepting and honest to yourself and others about what you can and cannot do.
  • scociousscocious Registered User Posts: 3 New Member
    My life experience says this: Wealthy people, taken as a class, are just not that nice or worthy as human beings. (And I'm being extra polite here.) But you have to take each and every individual on a case by case basis, because individual variations and exceptions to what one might expect abound in every social class. I also note that on paper Amherst has achieved fairly good diversity.
  • CatfishCatfish Registered User Posts: 725 Member
    Wealthy people, taken as a class, are just not that nice or worthy as human beings

    I'm not sure what your life experiences have been, but they certainly can't have been with the sort students who attend Amherst. I'm midwestern and middle class, and I've found that people at Amherst from all backgrounds are generally quite friendly and down to earth. I've met people whose parents make orders of magnitude more than mine, and my experience has been that 1) Usually I don't even realize that this is the case for quite some time after I've known them (if I ever do at all) because no one particularly cares about it or wants to broadcast it and 2) They are all certainly "nice and worthy as human beings". Yes, some wealthy people are jerks and a**holes, but so are plenty of people who aren't wealthy. I don't think that the proportion among the wealthy at Amherst is appreciably different than the proportion among any other economic group.
  • melanie999melanie999 Registered User Posts: 26 New Member
    "My life experience says this: Wealthy people, taken as a class, are just not that nice or worthy as human beings."

    Despite coming from your life "experience," this is a pretty ignorant statement. I think you knew that when you posted something like this you would get called out.
  • atom_and_eveatom_and_eve Registered User Posts: 77 Junior Member
    Yes and poor people, as a class, are just lazy thieves. You see what you want to see, scocious. It's much more of a commentary on who you are on than who wealthy people are.
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