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Amherst vs. Wesleyan

ReCorc3ReCorc3 3 replies1 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 4 New Member
Hi guys!

I am a current high school senior from a medium-sized public school in North Carolina. I was recently accepted to both Amherst College and Wesleyan University! I am absolutely ecstatic about this, as they were two of my top schools, but as such, I am having a very difficult time choosing between the two. I was wondering if any of you could help me out!

For a bit of background, I'm not entirely sure what I want to major in yet, but I am extremely interested in psychology, neuroscience, economics, and social thought. I am looking for a very rigorous education with active professors, regardless of what I major in. However, I am also a very artistic person. I have been playing guitar since I was 10 and was in a band for all of high school. I also absolutely adore theater, I've been a part of almost every single show through my high school's theater program, and would really like to continue this in college.

Additionally, my family is not wealthy by any means. I would receive very close to full scholarships from both schools, so this makes money not much of an issue for either, but may possibly factor into how I fit in socially? I'm honestly not sure. I am also looking for a school with things to do in the surrounding area, and a relatively active social scene in that regard.

tl;dr - I am a motivated high school student with passions for both the arts and sciences. What are y'all's thoughts on both Wesleyan and Amherst? Thanks so much!
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Replies to: Amherst vs. Wesleyan

  • brantlybrantly 3689 replies66 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 3,755 Senior Member
    Wesleyan's student body is quirkier and artsier overall, although of course not every student fits that description. Amherst has a much smaller enrollment and a much bigger endowment per student. Sports teams are very prominent on campus. More students as a percentage of student body are on financial aid at Amherst than Wesleyan.

    As for location, Amherst is in a nice college town with a great downtown and four other colleges nearby. Wesleyan is in a suburban town with a small downtown area and no other colleges nearby.
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  • YaskwhyYaskwhy 36 replies3 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 39 Junior Member
    Have you visited both schools? I'm familiar with both, and given your self-description, I'd pick Wesleyan in a heartbeat. While it's true that Amherst is close to two great downtown areas (Amherst and Northampton), within the 5-college area, Amherst College stands out as the least politically progressive institution. The student body at Amherst stands out as quite financially and socially entitled. The academics are top-notch, but it's hard to imagine you'd actually be comfortable there.

    Good luck!
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  • circuitridercircuitrider 3157 replies157 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 3,314 Senior Member
    Amherst has made great strides in admitting greater percentages of students from lower income households, but Wesleyan is the larger school and so is liable to have a larger actual number of students that fit that description. Also, Middletown's downtown is much more diverse. I counted at least four different Asian restaurants on my last visit (Szechuan, Tibetan, Vietnamese and Thai) among many other dining establishments.
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  • BookLvrBookLvr 110 replies2 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 112 Junior Member
    They are both EXCELLENT choices!

    I agree with the advice to visit both schools. I would also research the faculty at both schools.

    I agree Wesleyan is artsier and probably has the better theater scene.

    To me, Amherst is the quintessential college town, and is part of the 5 college system which also includes Northampton, another great college town.

    I disagree that a student with high financial need would feel uncomfortable at Amherst. As @brantly points out above, a higher percentage of the student body at Amherst receives FA than at Wesleyan. 20-25% of the Amherst student body is Pell eligible. Amherst was one of the first elite liberal arts colleges to make significant strides to increase its number of lower income students. This was a very important initiative during the presidency of Anthony Marx and got a lot of positive write-ups in major newspapers. So while yes, there are no doubt some wealthy and privileged students at Amherst (AND at Wesleyan), there are plenty of lower income students as well. It is not rare at all.

    Amherst is also quite a progressive school in a very progressive town. It is a school that definitely believes in hearing things from all sides. John Kasich recently spoke on the Amherst campus, much to the consternation of some student groups.

    Good luck with this choice. You really cannot go wrong with either school!
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  • ReCorc3ReCorc3 3 replies1 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 4 New Member
    Thank you for your help! I have only visited Amherst, and going in completely blind to the social atmosphere, I actually liked it a lot! It's been my top out of all of the schools I've visited thus far, albeit not many. I'm trying to visit Wesleyan at some point within the next month, before I have to actually make a decision, but living so far away I might not be able to. Would you say that the Amherst student body is politically and socially progressive? I think I could be comfortable going to school with people from a different financial background, as long as they were open to understanding where I, and others, are coming from. Also, would you happen to know where both Amherst and Wesleyan fall in terms of racial diversity and acceptance? Again, thank you so much!
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  • BookLvrBookLvr 110 replies2 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 112 Junior Member
    According to CollegeData.com:

    AMHERST:
    Ethnicity of Students from U.S.
    0.7% American Indian/Alaskan Native
    15.7% Asian
    12.5% Black/African-American
    14.0% Hispanic/Latino
    5.8% Multi-race (not Hispanic/Latino)
    0.1% Native Hawaiian/ Pacific Islander
    48.2% White
    3.0% Unknown

    https://www.collegedata.com/en/college-profile/18/?tab=profile-students-tab

    WESLEYAN:
    Ethnicity of Students from U.S.
    0.1% American Indian/Alaskan Native
    9.2% Asian
    7.3% Black/African-American
    12.8% Hispanic/Latino
    6.1% Multi-race (not Hispanic/Latino)
    0.1% Native Hawaiian/ Pacific Islander
    61.2% White
    3.1% Unknown

    https://www.collegedata.com/en/college-profile/205/?tab=profile-students-tab
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  • lloyddobler85lloyddobler85 24 replies2 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 26 Junior Member
    You are very fortunate to have this choice! Having spent time in both Middletown and Amherst in the last year, I'd say the Town of Amherst and the entire Pioneer Valley have A LOT more to offer to the college set. The area caters to over 30,000 undergrads within about 10 miles of each other with a robust free bus system and myriad choices of restaurants, shops, bars and music venues. The Town of Amherst and nearby Northampton are quintessential New England college towns. The Pioneer Valley area certainly has more varied and diverse restaurant choices than Middletown. Within one mile of the Amherst College campus, there are 44 different restaurants including Tibetan, Vietnamese, Taiwanese, Japanese, Himalayan, Nepalese, Peruvian, Mexican and a brand new Korean fried chicken. Downtown Northampton offers even more dining choices.
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  • Rivers4Rivers4 81 replies2 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 83 Junior Member
    At Amherst students can audition for any of the five college's theatre productions:

    https://www.fivecolleges.edu/theater/
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  • circuitridercircuitrider 3157 replies157 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 3,314 Senior Member
    According to many, many posts on the CC Forum, the dining hall food is better at Wesleyan.
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  • MeddyMeddy 460 replies33 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 493 Member
    My daughter was blessed to get into both of these wonderful schools last year. Her interests at the time were not dissimilar to yours. Up to that point in her life, she'd never been faced with a more difficult decision than having to turn down such wonderful schools like Wesleyan, for Amherst College.

    IMHO Wesleyan is a theatre person's dream! Lin Manuel Miranda and so very many more of their talented and successful Alumni have become such a force in the entertainment industry and this makes opportunities for internships and networking, rich and exciting. Also this year former Governor Hickenlooper of Colorado has thrown his hat in the ring as a Presidential candidate. He is a very smart and succesful businessman who has an interesting autobiography that speaks to the time spent and many people he met while attending school there.

    Amherst is magical. I know, I know. It is not perfect, but the education and resources are incredible. My daughter has not had an easy first year. Health issues, housing issues, but once she sets foot in the classroom, she is in her element, she has found her people. And no they aren't all just like her. She has friends and classmates that are conservative politically and although she is not, the brilliant discussions and intelligent arguments made are very stimulating to her. These are her people. Not necessarily all the same opinions or beliefs, but so very interesting and bright. This has been the highlight of our facetime conversations with her.

    She loves most of the professors and her hard work is rewarded well in high marks. The emails and attention professors give her is beyond what she received from her public high school education. She has had opportunities to participate in a book club at the home of the President of Amherst College and has had professors give her books during office hours that they thought she would enjoy. Her Advisor has also had her and his other students over to his home for dinner.

    The towns are not in big cities. Neither one is going to be Los Angeles or New York kind of exciting. Amherst is a quaint little New England town. Most of the fun happens on campus at Amherst and occasionally at one of the other schools in the Five College Consortium.

    Go visit. It is a must to attend Admitted Students days for both. They really do it right. You will have a feeling as to what your future possible classmates may be like. You will get a vibe of the current students and campus. You will make the right choice. Congratulations!


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  • anon145anon145 608 replies7 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 615 Member
    edited April 3
    @ReCorc3 Amherst basically invented the Neuroscience major for undergrads (1973); also not sure about Wesleyan but Amherst doesn't have general ed. requirements so a lot of students double major.

    https://collegenews.org/x6333/

    Also, one of my favorite tools is from the NY times, it's stunning how rich the households kids are at nearly all private schools in top 50. Amherst 21% (630,000$ +) . but Wesleyan 17%. Basically any elite private school has insanely rich households 15% (Harvard) -23%(vanderbilt) in this top 1%/$630K+ . all the Ivies and most NESCACs in between.

    https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/projects/college-mobility/wesleyan-university
    edited April 3
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  • ReCorc3ReCorc3 3 replies1 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 4 New Member
    @anon145 Thank you so much for that information! I had genuinely no idea. $630,000 is unfathomable to me. It's about 1/20th of what my parents made last year. However, knowing that the population of very rich students is similar across the majority of top schools does actually make this decision a bit easier, thank you!
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  • circuitridercircuitrider 3157 replies157 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 3,314 Senior Member
    At Amherst students can audition for any of the five college's theatre productions:

    Sure, but, that doesn't mean you can just show up, audition and grab a leading role. As the state flagship university in the consortium, UMass (with a 4:1 enrollment advantage) makes clear on their department's FAQ:
    Yes! You must audition if you want to be in one of our productions. And yes, you do have a chance at being cast as a freshman, a minor, or a non-major. That said, we don’t want to create an expectation that you’ll get the lead role your first time out. A strong work ethic, a willingness to learn, and a commitment to working supportively with the rest of the cast and creative team are really important to us. If you approach this discipline seriously, and we see that you’re ready to take on the challenge of a particular part, you will be cast.

    My takeaway: Be prepared to spend a lot of time on the UMass campus making a good impression.
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  • JenniferClintJenniferClint 454 replies34 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 488 Member
    @ReCorc3 "$630,000 is unfathomable to me. It's about 1/20th of what my parents made last year."

    Your parents made $12.6 million last year? Good on them! ;)
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  • ReCorc3ReCorc3 3 replies1 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 4 New Member
    @JenniferClint Oh my gosh, I meant they made about 1/20th of that, lol
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