Amherst vs Williams vs Bowdoin

I think that is the case for all NESCACs, so it likely would not be any different at Amherst of Bowdoin. I know that this is also my kid’s experience at Midd.


I agree that many of the NESCACs seem to have the athlete/nonathlete divide (with the probable exceptions of Tufts and Conn College). My D will be attending Williams and was initially concerned about this, but after talking with several Williams students (including a friend who walked onto crew never having rowed in her life) she felt that while there was some divide, it wasn’t as big a deal as people made it out to be. It does seem like the divide is bigger with the big team sports (football, lax, ice hockey, field hockey, baseball) as opposed to cross country, track & field, nordic and alpine skiing, etc. YMMV

FWIW, I have two friends with daughters at Amherst, one of whom is a recruited athlete. They were both on campus in the fall and had completely different experiences. Outside of class, the athlete hung out almost exclusively with teammates and opted to move off campus with her team. They moved to a beach town where other teams were renting houses for spring semester. According to her mom, she doesn’t really feel connected to the non-athletes at school. The non-athlete made a good group of friends, returned to campus in the spring, and is involved in a number of clubs.


Just out of curiosity, where is there a beach town near Amherst? Lake beach? Or attending class remotely, so they’re hundreds of miles away?

They are all remote, living hundreds of miles from campus.

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That is the most concise description of the athlete/non-athlete divide I have ever heard.

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Hello, we were high on Bowdoin until we visited it. We found the campus to be ugly and boring. Watching my DS’s face as we entered was upsetting as my wife and I immediately knew it dropped from his top spot.

Amherst was in the running, but my wife and I (both working or having worked in College Administration) don’t care for its Open Curriculum for DS. Williams was way out there, which was not appealing to DS.

Wesleyan and Colgate were in the running. But Bates won. Loved the campus and the student vibe.

But really, you cannot go wrong with ANY of these choices. That’s a nice place to be!! Good Luck!!


@profwilliams So interesting and no accounting for taste as we found Bowdoin to be very pretty. Though we thought it was flat! We liked a lot of the hilly schools with their nice vistas. We found a lot to like about Bates, but thought that one was not so pretty and a little unkempt looking. D is at Amherst - an open curriculum wasn’t initially a draw for her, but it’s working out great.


And there’s no accounting for teenagers… My D was insistent that she wanted a beautiful, unified campus that wasn’t bisected by a road–Amherst to a T! Imagine my surprise when she applied to Williams (split by Rte 2) and not Amherst. I’m #TeamFlat so I liked Bowdoin’s campus a lot, my D was lukewarm about the campus, but liked the school overall.

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#TeamFlat!!! I love this. I should have been more clear, WE liked the campus, though flat, we liked the short walk to a town. And the shops and cafes were a plus.

At some point, I had to remember-- I already went to college. This is DS’s decision, not mine. (Colgate was my favorite, but no one in the family cared :rofl:


Amherst’s social environment appears more restrictive than most with respect to interaction across groups in general:


The issue with Princeton Review’s survey is that one doesn’t know how many students participated in their survey, nor does PR standardize for the size of the student body. Their survey results are even less informative than rankings, because one can’t even be sure that the results are directional.

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By the standards of PR survey results, #3 is greater (in that quality, characteristic, or attribute) than, say, #16, etc.

OP: Were you rejected or waitlisted by any schools ?

What do you find attractive about LACs ?

Is your high school public or private ?

We did college tour in the Spring of 2019, we started from Mid-Atlantic then up along the east coast. Going by the order: UVA, Georgetown, UPenn, Swarthmore, Columbia, Williams, Amherst and MIT. S21 liked pretty much all of them, he appreciated the schools right in the city like Columbia and Georgetown for its metro vibe etc.

But after we finished touring with Williams, he fell in love with it, his little sister was only 10, even she listened so attentively during the information session and she loved it too! Everyone we met in the school seems happy and full of life, the surrounding mtn view was so serene and beautiful. We all know our search for college is done!

S21 ed Williams and got in, can’t be happier with this outcome!


S21 is nominated as Morehead-Cain scholar, supported athlete recruit by MIT, JHU, among all this, Williams is where his heart is:-) so are the rest of the family.

You can’t be wrong with any of your choices, try to talk to people who went there and you will get the sense!

Classic NESCAC showdown! Congrats on all 3 acceptances - well done!

If you are outdoorsy - you will LOVE Williams! You can start hikes from campus. Watch the sunset in the purple valley. Ski at Jiminy Peak 15 minutes away + other Berkshire/Green Mountain resorts 30-45 mins away. Many students start at Williams concerned that it is too rural and then they forget why days later. Winter term is intellectually simulating and a blast socially. History and philosophy departments at Williams are world class. Best of luck in your decision!


No dog in this race, here. Fascinated by the colloquy regarding campus layout. I have some fairly strong opinions here and would be glad to get into the weeds, if you insist. But, in capsule, I would defend any LAC located in New England, probably the least friendly terrain for campus expansion faced by any university in the post-Sputnik era. I forgive Williams for its road down the middle of campus; when I was there, I experienced it merely as a campus with a great public face, well set back on two sides of a road.

Amherst has a great public face, but almost no one enters the campus from the west; they enter it from the north where the town shopping is located. The iconic Amherst campus is best experienced as an inward-facing quadrangle.

Bowdoin has a central quadrangle that rivals Amherst’s - but, no public face; visitors enter from a parking lot facing the quad’s backside.

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So many opinions, so I will offer mine on Amherst where D18 attends.

One argument I have heard for one dining hall is that it is a place to see everyone. I have eaten there and I thought the food was great, but kids have their own ideas :upside_down_face:

D18 had several athletes as first year floor mates and it made for friendships going forward. She has often attended their parties, formals and it has worked out for her even though she is a narp :wink: I do know that due to Covid some teams opted to rent beach houses in another state and it created a more pronounced divide geographically speaking. However many teams are still on campus.

I think you can do any of these schools because they are all likely more similar than not. Did you sit in on any classes? Connected with any profs or students? If not, contact admissions and ask for help doing so. I know both my girls were fortunate to sit in on classes they loved at several schools, but for one Amherst was right and for the other it is Williams. I wish you the best! :purple_heart: :purple_heart:


I don’t know if you have decided yet, but you have amazing choices! Just a quick endorsement for Haverford…it’s closely connected to Bryn Mawr College, and you can also take classes at U PENN and Swarthmore. It’s also within an hour or so drive to the NJ shore beaches. And milder temps than your other choices.

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