Amherst vs Tufts vs Wellesley + other Massachusetts colleges?

Hi there! I’m a rising senior (and QuestBridge Scholar, I’m planning on using these three for the National College Match, and then having some backups for RD if I don’t match with either of them) looking for colleges specifically in Massachusetts (I was born in Boston, and it’s always been my dream to move back there and get to know the city. I don’t mind going to college somewhere actually not in Boston, and I have a lot of family in Massachusetts anyways). I’ve been looking at Amherst, Tufts, and Wellesley, but I just can’t decide on an order of preference! I enjoyed Tufts’s virtual tour the most and I really like its location too, but I love the sound of Amherst’s open curriculum and like their school colors more too. I’m kinda iffy about the idea of an all-girls school, but I think it might be a good experience for me too. I’m really having a hard time since I’m not really picky about a lot of factors? I honestly just want a school where I can enjoy life a little more while learning about what I love (high school has been crazy stressful for me, doing IB and a few AP classes too) and small-ish class sizes. I don’t know about a major yet, but I’m very interested in foreign languages (specifically French and Japanese, but I really love foreign languages in general so I’d like some variety), English/literature, and psychology. Can someone please give me some more specific information (or person experiences/stories) to help me decide/better compare these three schools? And are there any others I should look into? (I have looked at Williams, but I believe that they have a PE requirement, and I really, really don’t want that. I’ve also considered trying my chances at Harvard, but the Ivy League prestige deal is really intimidating! It’s further down on my list)

One more thing! I’m also trying to find a college with some solid mental health services and/or willing and able to connect me to outside service providers. I really don’t know if all colleges do that, but if you have any of that sort of info to offer for comparison too, it would be appreciated!

So, as I understand it, you are a QB college prep scholar (congratulations, BTW), meaning that you will automatically be submitted to the College Match program. At this point, when finalists haven’t been selected, it is premature to talk about matches.

Williams is as challenging as Harvard, and the same goes for Amherst, Tufts, and Wellesley. However, as Liberal Arts Colleges, they may be better places for students who need more support. In general, when you describe what you are looking for, I think that a Liberal Arts college is likely the best place for you.

However, do not expect to find easier classes than you would at an Ivy, because the colleges on your list here are all as challenging.

Also, all of these colleges are reaches for anybody.

In any case, without knowing a bit more about your profile, it’s difficult to know whether these colleges are even possibilities for you. What are your GPA and class rigor, test scores, if you have, and relevant EC activities/awards/etc.

Based on the fact that you are looking at QuestBridge, I assume that your EFC is pretty low, and, if you aren’t matched to a college, you will either need a full need met college, or other sources of funds.

Based on your profile, it will be easier to talk about colleges for which you are competitive, and which have the best mental health resources.

PS. If foreign languages interest you, Middlebury is a good choice.

I was just going to say the same thin—Middlebury is great for languages. But it’s not in Massachusetts.

Williams does have a PE requirement (also a swim test), but there are so many options such as bowling, yoga, pilates, rowing, Zumba.

If you’re not absolutely sure you want a single-sex environment, do no include Wellesley.

@MWolf My GPA right now (according to my transcript) is a 3.97 unweighted and 5.03 weighted. Class rigor is the kind of classes I take, right? With the way my school names courses, I’m honestly a little confused, but I did “pre-IB” classes (and four AP courses) in freshman and sophomore year, and I took all IB classes in junior year (and I’ll be doing the same in senior year), aside from my elective/PE credit (and that elective is class focused on studying for one of my academic quiz game teams, and that counts as a weighted course, and I’m hoping to get AP Psych too). I got a 31 on the ACT and haven’t taken the SAT. EC= extracurricular? I’m the president of our school’s French Honor Society, in National Honor Society, did a model UN (last year, signed up for this year but it was canceled), Scholar’s Bowl and another academic quiz game team. I’ve also done a few writing contests (local ones, and a Silver Key for the Scholastic Arts & Writing).

All very different schools. I’d say Amherst would be the best academically but Wellesley has lots of intellectual scholarly types who want a single-sex environment. I think that Amherst would be on par with an Ivy as well as Wellesley: Tufts would be a slight step down ( except maybe in a couple of strong fields like IR and Engineering some will certainly feel it’s Ivy-like, I don’t).

The physical environment is: Amherst ( rural), Tufts (suburban/urban, close to Boston but need to take a train) and Wellesley ( pure suburban, but also with a train to Boston). All very different in terms of feel. For languages, I’d look at Middlebury w/Monterey ( School of languages), Mcgill ( if you think French is your thing) or schools with strong year abroad programs. Have you looked through all of the small LAC’s? There are many with very good programs.

There are lots of programs in which languages are integrated in various ways. Make sure the language program is strong in the language you plan to pursue.

@mwolf is correct 100 percent. I know quite a bit about these schools from a location, students attending and general reputation.

Harvard will not be more challenging. The students will be incredibly accomplished. Classes harder. Nah. I don’t want to get in a needless debate. Imho you may find the inverse to be true.

Amherst is a picture perfect little campus and next to nice college town. Lots of student athletes and really really smart students. Opportunities for classes at the university, smith and Moho.

Wellesley is a classic looking campus as well. It’s a bit more spread out. Closer to Boston but requires a ride. Located in a very safe and manicured suburb. All women environment. Really focused group. Lots of future leaders.

Tufts. Much larger student body but still a smaller campus on top of a hill. It’s in a trendy spot outside of Boston that feels much more like the outskirts of large city. Connected to Boston more directly but not in town. It’s tops of the charts in so many disciplines. It has the advantage imho of having such prestigious graduate and health schools. A bit mixed between business and activist. If that makes any sense.

So all three are great. Great and great.

Williams is off in its own little world out in western ma. Even more western mass than Amherst. Idyllic little town. Beautiful grounds. Super academic.

Another school to look at closely is Mt Holyoke. It’s the most underrated school. Campus is incredible. Women are brilliant and bit more laid back imho. Rural feel but not far from Amherst Northampton and Springfield. Flights out of Hartford ct close by as well. The used to have horses. Not sure anymore. Very impressive place.

Smith has a lot going for it and incredible history. Gorgeous campus. Academic chops too.

Holy Cross. Although it’s a Catholic school don’t let that pigeon hole it for you. It is a great and open liberal arts college. Absolutely beautiful campus. Great and smart students. Academics are great. It was the ug for the now world famous Dr Fauci. Connected to a small central mass city that’s had a bit of resurgence.

Williams has robust mental health services available at no charge to all students. Due to COVID, I think many services will be remote, but still available. I would look at the mental health services at each college on your list and reach out to them if you have questions. We found that some schools had limited one-to-one sessions available that were hard to get, others charged, etc. Good luck!

So, based on that, you are definitely very competitive for any of the colleges on your list, but Amherst and Williams are still reaches, but you have a good chance for any of them. Mt Holyoak, which @privatebanker proposed would make an excellent low match/safety, while Smith is a good low reach to match.

You do, however, need a true safety, which you will be able to afford for sure.

BTW, what is your state of residency. I know that you want to go back to Boston, but are you living in MA now?

@MWolf Nope, I’m in AL rn. Why do you ask? (in-state vs out of state tuition?)

You’re definitely right about me needing a safety school… excuse my ignorance, but what might that look like for me? I’ve just been building a list of MA schools I think I might like, and only recently narrowed it down to MA to make the search easier (plus, my parents are rather overprotective but have told me that they’d be okay with me going to MA since we have so many family members there). I have Smith and UMass Amherst on my list as well (they’re actually right after Williams and those three, only because they’re not QB partners and I haven’t read up on them much)

I think that, academically, UMass Amherst would be a safety, or at most a low match, since your stats are in the top 25% or so, and acceptance rates are around 55%-60%. If your high school has Naviance, you can check what the situation is for applicants from your school (if there have been enough). However, financially it may be a problem, since it’s OOS, and I’m not sure about financial aid.

Being from Alabama will help you in some schools, if it is a state from which there are few applicants, and geography is considered. Geography is considered in Williams and in Amherst and Alabama is underrepresented in both, so that will give you a bit of a boost (but just a bit, likely). On the other hand, the state schools in AL do not seem to be good matches for you. On the up side, with your GPA and ACT scores, you would get a full tuition scholarship at U Alabama. If you up your ACT to 32+ or get an SAT score of >1450 or so, you can qualify for a full ride+ scholarship. It’s a safety, but you’d have ti want to attend

I would recommend that you expand your search radius to the rest of New England, and look at colleges like Middlebury or Smith, or any of the LACs which have an 100 need met policy. If things work out for you, and you end up matched to a college by QB, that won’t matter, but otherwise, you may find it difficult to pay for college, even if you are accepted.

You should also look at to see which colleges have good mental health resources on campus. In the Boston area, there are BU, Brandeis, Emerson, Tufts, UMass Amherst, Umass Boston, Wheaton, and Williams. Amherst college is not there. From the more expanded geographical list, Smith is there, Middlebury is there, Connecticut College, Colby, and another college which is a bit far, but may be worth a look, U Vermont. There may be more, though.

What you really need to do, though, is run your EFC and see what your parents can afford, if you’re not matched.

@MWolf Thank you so much!!! You’ve given me some really valuable information, and I’m sure that it’ll make this process at least a bit easier/less stressful for me. Really, huge thanks!!!

Also consider that Williams and Amherst are tiny towns. People love to cite Amhersts’ proximity to UMass, but it’s dead boring in both places in the Winter. You might want to consider that also. Wellesley and Tufts are closer to cities and more in towns with things to offer. Some love the small town atmosphere of a tiny town. Decades ago when I was making final devision on schools ( I had been accepted to Williams and a couple of others), I visited Williams in the Winter. It was very insular and not for me. They have an awesome alumni network ( because there is nothing to do but stay on campus or go skiing). If you decide on a school, visit first! It’s not just academics you’ll be experiencing.
And if you can, speak to someone who attended and will give you a true picture ( good and bad) of the school. Why aren’t Bowdoin and Bates in your list with Colgate as a safer bet?