Amherst vs Middlebury

Hi! I’m a prospective student at Amherst and Middlebury and I’m trying to pick one for ED (I’m getting both applications ready just in case). I’m looking in primarily stem fields (computer science, biology maybe for pre-med), but I also love languages.

I know there are other forums about Amherst vs Midd, but I was hoping for some recent opinions and opinions on these specific topics. Thanks!

These are my thoughts on both schools—are there any points folks think I’m getting wrong? Anything else I should think about?

AMHERST: I like the diversity, the open curriculum, the consortium, the location/distance from home, the prestige (doesn’t really matter, but an added plus). I don’t like that it’s a bit small and that because of that 35-40% of students are athletes (Midd is 27%).

MIDDLEBURY: I LOVE the winter term (Amherst has interterm but it doesn’t seem to compare… thoughts?), I like the size, they apparently have great language programs, it seems to have better facilities in terms of the library, student center, etc. but they both have good science centers. My biggest concern is it not being ethnically diverse.

Thanks for the help & sorry for the long post! I really love both schools and would probably be happy at either one, but it’s nice to know a little more before I make my decision.

Well, how important is skiing to you? Seriously, cause Middlebury has its own little area. Also, is there a particular language that you want to study? Amherst has access to a lot or languages, because of the consortium, but the fact is that the bus ride to anywhere but UMass can be inconvenient (although UMass has a lot of good language classes, too). But Middlebury is probably one of the best places in the country to study foreign languages. Both Amherst and Middlebury have Comp Sci, but If you’re at Amherst, UMass has great comp sci. However, the department is very crowded, so I don’t know how easy it would be to take any comp sci there.

As for diversity - if you are a racial minority, I would probably choose Amherst. Not only is Amherst itself more diverse, you have a lot of diversity at nearby UMass, too. And Amherst is a liberal, tolerant area. Middlebury is far less diverse, and Vermont, although largely liberal and tolerant, is very white.

Thanks for the help! I do love skiing so that’s definitely a plus for Midd. I’m not a racial minority so I don’t really have a worry about fitting in, I’d just like to have different perspectives in class discussions/get to know different people (I guess for me then diversity matters more among the student body than in the surrounding area). As for languages, I’ve done a lot in Spanish but I’ve also begun learning Hindi (it seems as if both schools have a few classes in Hindi but not too many. I’m not sure though).

Well, I vote Amherst College but I am biased :slight_smile: I did find this interesting diversity info linked on Middlebury website where you could compare both
https://www.collegefactual.com/tools/college-combat/#middlebury-college~amherst-college

You could check catalogs and schedules to see what each college offers in the areas where you have academic interests.

Thanks all for the help! Another thing I’m wondering about—is there any difference in political leanings on campus? I know they both lean left, but is either one moreso?

For brief comments on your choices’ general characteristics, see reply #6: https://talk.collegeconfidential.com/discussion/comment/22934142#Comment_22934142.

Another school I’m considering is Williams, but I’m concerned it was ranked top ten schools with the biggest workload on Princeton review. Does that have any validity? I know I’ll do lots of work in college but I’d like to have some free time, despite working for the majority of the time.

My daughter and her spouse went to Amherst and Williams for UG. The schools are basically identical, you can switch the student body and have the same thing. Both are work hard, play hard. You can’t go wrong at either.

But Amherst is clearly superior. ?

Whatever your concerns about the intensity of its academic engagement, the total experience of Williams, including post-graduation prospects (see link), may be worth an intellectual commitment that might be only somewhat greater than that which you would encounter at other top-notch colleges.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/nataliesportelli/2017/04/26/10-expensive-colleges-worth-every-penny-2017/?sh=624e0a775f6a

We just went through exactly the same exercise and my D21 has decided to apply ED to Middlebury. They are both amazing schools and you can’t go wrong with either. Here are some differences:

DISTRIBUTION REQUIREMENTS
Middlebury: Several (12 academic/2 P.E.)
Amherst: None

CAMPUS
Middlebury: Spread out
Amherst: Compact

LOCATION
Middlebury: Rural/No consortium
Amherst: College town/consortium

DIVERSITY (Class of 2024)
Middlebury: 38% students of color; 15% 1st gen
Amherst: 60% students of color; 19% 1st gen

DINING
Middlebury: 3 dining halls
Amherst: 1 dining hall
**We concluded Amherst has better dorms and Middlebury has better food.

COVID RESPONSE
Financial Aid:
Middlebury: Campus jobs/summer earnings still required
Amherst: Campus jobs/summer earnings waived; approx $4,700 automatically added to financial aid package
On Campus:
Middlebury: All students invited to campus both semesters
Amherst: Freshmen/Sophomores priority for Fall; Juniors/Seniors priority for Spring
Distancing
Middlebury: Students allowed to venture into town
Amherst: Students required to remain on campus
Testing
Middlebury: Tested upon arrival/tested after quarantine
Amherst: Tested twice weekly throughout year
*COVID-positive rates about the same for both schools (less than 4)
Dorms
Middlebury: Roommates and singles
Amherst: Singles only
*
Both put students in social pods
Dining
Middlebury: grab-and-go from assigned cafeteria; distanced seating allowed in assigned cafeteria
Amherst: grab-and-go only
Academic
Middlebury: 4 courses as usual; grading appears to be as usual
Amherst: Course load reduced from 4 to 3; additional pass/fail options granted

My D21 was drawn to the number of social justice focused courses at both colleges. However, Middlebury won due to offerings in disability studies and linguistics, as well as a better COVID response (D21 would spend 7 months on campus instead of 3.5 at Amherst). Rightly or wrongly, we got a warmer, fuzzier vibe from Middlebury. I think Williams and Middlebury are more similar than Amherst and Middlebury, and Williams also has that warm, fuzzy vibe if that matters to you.

Best of luck with your decision!

Princeton Review should be taken with a grain of salt. However, Williams has a slightly more pre-professional reputation* than Amherst - and, both are reputed to be more pre-professional than Middlebury. Complaining about “workload” (emphasis on complaining) is consistent with the stereotype.

*Headed for careers in business and finance.

Just based on the information shared in this thread, it seems clear that Amherst College & Williams College are easily distinguishable based on diversity of student body & location. Surely, you must have a preference.

I have visited both schools multiple times and felt very different campus vibes.

Both are outstanding LACs, yet both offer substantial & meaningful differences.

Much discussed on CC is the divide between athletes & non-athletes at Middlebury College. May be worth investigating this aspect at both schools.

To be able to spend a significant part of one’s life in the state of Vermont & within a reasonable drive time to Burlington may be something to consider.

Housing at Amherst–at least during one’s first year–is all singles which may or may not appeal to you.

Just checked the Fiske Guide To Colleges 2020 for a list of “Strong Programs” at each school. The programs present an interesting view of each school which may help you.

Strong Programs at Middlebury College:

World Languages
International & Global Studies
Environmental Studies

English
Geography
Economics
Computer Science
Political Science

Strong Programs at Amherst College:

Economics
Mathematics
Psychology
English
History
Law, Jurisprudence, and Social Thought

Strong Programs at Williams College:

Economics
Mathematics
English
Psychology
Biology
History
Art History
Studio Art

With respect to strong majors, Williams & Amherst seem more similar to one another than does Amherst & Middlebury.

If you’re really a STEM person, apply to MIT. If you can’t get in, just go the cheapest route and don’t incur student debt. The day you leave Mass, nobody will know who Amherst or Middlebury are.

That is so NOT true. Those who matter do, including employers and adcoms at professional and graduate programs.

This Politico article may be worth reading for its range of perspective on Middlebury: https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/05/28/how-donald-trump-caused-the-middlebury-melee-215195. “[D]runk . . . athletes” do receive an unfavorable mention (though they do not represent the focus of the piece). To avoid a reliance on stereotype, I recommend you read critically, however.

Note that Amherst has produced Apker Award (the top recognition nationally for undergraduate research in physics) finalists in the last two years, while MIT has not been represented in this competition in at least three years.

https://www.aps.org/publications/apsnews/updates/apker2020.cfm

https://www.aps.org/publications/apsnews/201908/apker.cfm

https://www.aps.org/publications/apsnews/201808/apker.cfm

Thank you all for the advice! I was looking into athletics statistics and found that while only 35-38% of Amherst students are varsity athletes, around 80% are on varsity, club, or intramural teams. I could see myself joining club or intramural teams, but that number is still daunting. Does anyone know what the number is for Middlebury, or even any other colleges I could compare it to? (I know around 27-28% are varsity athletes at Midd; I’m wondering about the overall statistic of students in varsity/jv, clubs, or intramurals).

I appreciate all the help :slight_smile:

This (older) article in which Middlebury appears may offer you perspective for comparing colleges: https://www.newsweek.com/25-schools-stocked-jocks-71873.