NESCAC Spoken Here: 2023 version

This is a continuation of a previously bumped thread, a place for discussing, comparing and extolling the virtues of the ten LACs and one university comprising the small college athletic conference:
NESCAC Spoken Here - Parents Forum / Parent Cafe - College Confidential Forums


I suppose we might as well get into it right away–in my view there are many non-NESCAC LACs that in some senses are more meaningfully related to at least some NESCAC schools than some NESCAC schools are related to each other, unless perhaps you are an athlete specifically looking to play on a NESCAC team. Meaning to me, playing in the same sports division is a pretty weak dimension of commonality for most students, and more meaningful dimensions of commonality would group NESCAC schools with non-NESCAC in various ways.

So, for example, I personally think one of the most interesting, and potentially important, things about Amherst is it is part of the Five Colleges Consortium with Smith, Mt. Holyoke, UMass-Amherst, and Hampshire. And in turn all of those schools might be well worth considering by individual applicants. And the fact none of the others is in NESCAC is not, to me, necessarily all that relevant, unless perhaps you are actually looking to play on a NESCAC team.

And for that matter, the Claremont Colleges and Quaker Consortium are similarly interesting consortiums, and in some ways Amherst might be more related to some schools in those consortiums than some other NESCAC schools. Obviously those are not in New England, but if you are not strictly limiting your search to New England, then schools like Pomona, Swarthmore, and so on might well be on a given individual’s list along with schools like Amherst.

And that is just Amherst, and just two of the ways one could potentially think about schools related to Amherst. For each NESCAC school there would be variations in which I would think there were things about that school potentially more important than the fact they were in NESCAC, and therefore non-NESCAC schools that were potentially related in more important ways.

Which is not to say I think this thread should be shut down. Rather, I would imagine people could use it as a launching point for discussions like, “Well, if you find those particular NESCAC schools interesting, have you thought about these other non-NESCAC schools?” But I am not the thread creator so of course that is just a suggestion.


Yes, and I believe you made that point on the other thread:

And just like the other thread, I believe this one will find its voice and follow all sorts of strings and sub-strings. If I’m the so-called, “thread creator” (I think of myself more as the thread rescuer), then I hereby decree that comparisons between NESCAC colleges and non-NESCAC colleges like, Vassar, Mt. Holyoke, Smith, Swarthmore, Haverford, Pomona, Pitzer, Claremont-McKenna, Oberlin, Scripps, Harvey-Mudd, Barnard, Wellesley, Davidson, URichmond, W&L, Kenyon, Sewanee, Macalester, Union, Colgate, Lehigh, Lafayette, Dickinson, Allegheny, Bryn Mawr, Carleton, Grinnell, Occidental, Reed, Skidmore, Denison, and Colorado College - are welcome.


Perfect. I understood why the old thread got shut down, but thanks for renewing the conversation. Particularly for those of us with rising seniors, I think a fresh discussion like this could prove very helpful.

These comments, which span six NESCAC schools, plus two additional LACs, were first posted on CC in 2020:


My sense is that the Claremont Consortium colleges and the Pioneer Valley Five-College consortium that includes Amherst are good hedges for families that aren’t quite sure they are ready for the “bubble experience” associated with stand-alone LACs. That is to say, the lack of privacy, the lack of conventional dating (who’s left when nearly everyone you know is like a brother or sister to you?) and the distance from big cities. It’s probably no accident that nearly half the students of any stand-alone LAC are recruited from private high schools even smaller than they are.

Nevertheless, here is my take on some of the colleges that have been mentioned so far:

Amherst - The poster-child of college consortiums, I still get the sense that it’s more a selling point than a real aspect of day-to-day life. Other than certain upper-level STEM courses only taught at UMass, Amherst, the LAC, still sees itself as a net importer of students from the other four colleges.

Pomona College - The poster child (and oldest) of the Claremonts, is almost the diametric opposite of Amherst. The Left Coast consortium makes no bones about the proximity of the five colleges, all of which are LACs, none of which are further than a few blocks away from the others. There’s one library; one graduate school for advanced STEM courses; one dining system. It’s like attending Tufts.

Swarthmore - The Quaker Consortium is probably closer to NESCAC in spirit than either of the other two: All three members (Swat, Bryn Mawr and Haverford) are old enough to have their own separate identities and traditions, but close enough in proximity to each other to foster a sense of friendly rivalry. Still, Swarthmore is widely regarded as the least athletic of the T20 LACs. In fact, its generally “meritocratic” admission policies probably caused it to reject Barack Obama as a student many decades ago (at least Obama seemed to feel that way many years later.)


Do you have any data/stats about how many kids from Amherst, Swat, Pomona, etc. actually enroll in classes at other consortium schools? Would be interesting to know.

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No real data, but we just took a tour of Amherst and when asking about this, the answer was basically many students take none, but some students take a lot, and another group may take one or two. Our tour guide was planning to take a Math class at Hampshire so it would only have a written evaluation and no grade. But he said that would likely be his only one.

The way I see it, it provides a backstop against ending up loving something specific that has a limited course selection at your college, but that may prove unnecessary in many cases.

By the way, it seemed the social side was if anything a bigger deal. They kept saying that area was the biggest concert booking venue in New England after Boston, and describing friends from other colleges met in various ways.


I imagine the logistics of cross-registering would be easier at the Claremonts than at the Five Colleges or Quaker Consortium.

Though within the latter two, there are likely schools that are easier and harder to cross-register at:

  • In the Quaker schools, it is easiest for Bryn Mawr and Haverford students. Swat is farther, Penn is farther still… and in the case of UPenn, I have heard that it is the hardest “get” (in terms of being able to register…) for the students of the three LACs.

I am not as familiar with the logistical (or registration) challenges of cross-registering among the Five Colleges.

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This is as good a summary of the differences between the top LACs and “ordinary” R1 universities as I’ve ever seen:
LACs vs R1 for international students undergraduates - Applying to College / Admission Stories - College Confidential Forums


Late reply . . . .

From what I understand, the course request process at these consortiums is pretty straightforward. However, it seems the policy in terms of how many cross-registrations will be available is very course-specific, possibly up to the discretion of the professor.

And then of course you have to manage transportation. Bryn Mawr and Haverford are extremely close physically–like basically across the road. And they are also known as the Bi-Co. Then with Swarthmore they become the Tri-Co, and I gather that is like a 30-35 minute van ride (regularly scheduled) from either of the Bi-Co to Swarthmore. Penn is a whole other deal, and apparently a lot more Tri-Co students end up going to Penn for classes than vice-versa.

I will say that personally, UMass being so close is a relatively good thing for Amherst in particular, but also the rest of the Five Colleges, because it seems the university member is most likely to have something really unique.

Penn is maybe not so valuable to the Quaker Consortium in practical terms, although again anecdotally, some of the LAC students do end up finding reasons to use it, presumably pretty specific to it being a university.

Conversely, the tight relationship between Bryn Mawr and Haverford is maybe a little more unique than anything in the Five Colleges system. So they both have pros and cons.

The Claremont Colleges are indeed a whole other standard for this sort of thing, but a moot point for us since my S24 is not interested in California schools.


S22 is at UMass and my sense is the greatest cross registration is between Amherst/UMass. They are only about a mile apart so logistics are easy. UMass has a student office that manages the cross registrations and, from what I understand, it is pretty easy.


I heard someone joke about Amherst being the UMass honors college, but I actually thought that sounded pretty great!

A post was merged into an existing topic: “Race” in College Applications FAQ & Discussion 14

A friend who was a Bryn Mawr grad said that the two schools had regular transportation between the two, and very few people - like hardly anyone - walked. But Bryn Mawr and Haverford are so intertwined that they have majors that are only offered at one campus, and activities that are only offered at one campus (like the orchestra, or dance, or the Envl Studies majors, etc.). Anyway - very integrated, and the catalog of classes is a joint one, from what I understand. My friend took an uncommon language at UPenn for three years, and though it was a further ride to get there, on the light rail, it was great to have the language available.

The Claremont Colleges have adjoining campuses; from a satellite view you can’t tell where one ends and the other begins unless you know them. It really is like going to a 7,000 student school, but broken into different academic/residential communities, and again, for clubs and social activities there is a lot of shared organizations (I believe Pomona “hosts” the orchestra, for example).

The Amherst student paper had a nice article last semester by a student who described her ritual of riding the bus to Smith for drama productions. My daughter, when visiting the Amherst orchestra, spoke with two students who take music lessons at UMass - one walks, the other rides the free bus.


Entirely consistent with all we’ve heard. I think along with the Claremont consortium that the Haverford, BM, Swat consortium is the most functional and realistic. I’ve heard Swat is less involved, but it is there if you want it.


But many of them do the “Duck Pond Run” between the two campuses once per year.


Just tossing in this article I googled up, since it had some interesting statistics and facts:

According to this article, as of 2017 at least, around 50-60% of Amherst students end up taking at least one course at another of the Five Colleges.

They also had an interesting line on Bryn Mawr:

During the Fall 2016 semester, 1,047 students from Bryn Mawr took a course at at neighboring Haverford, 51 took classes at Swarthmore, and 91 registered at Penn.

That is quite high! Bryn Mawr only has like 1400 undergrads, around 350 per class. So if that many took a Quaker Consortium course in a given semester, it implies a very high percentage of Bryn Mawr students will take not just one but many before they graduate. Obviously the breakdown is consistent with most of that happening within the Bi-Co relationship with Haverford, but still with meaningful numbers using Penn followed by Swarthmore.


No actual statistics, but I have a kid at a 5C. She just finished first year and had already taken two courses at other colleges in the consortium. It is incredibly common.


I haven’t come across similar data for all the Claremont Colleges yet, but I turned this up for CMC (which shows that 99% cross-register), and having visited Pomona for admitted student events a few months ago, I got the impression it was very high for Pomona also.