Recent UMass alumna, ask me anything

UMass Class of 2020, ask me any questions you’d like to know and I will do my best to answer :).

About me: Economics major, Theater minor, 3.4 GPA, lived on campus all four years, from Boston, plan on attending graduate school in theology in the fall

Hi Mary! Thanks for making yourself available. My senior was recently accepted as a Biology major in the honors college, and he is applying for a spot in the BioTAP program as well.

I’m so glad you posted that you are planning on grad school as a theology major, because I haven’t been able to direct my particular question to anyone else with regard to having a faith life on campus. Our family is Roman Catholic and our son has been in private, Catholic school for 14 years. He is used to his faith being part of his daily life, going to mass with friends, saying a prayer before a team competition, and more. He is looking at several Catholic colleges where this would continue, but he also is interested in broadening his world. U Mass seems like the perfect place for that.

I’m not assuming that you’re a Catholic but wonder if you know anything about the Newman center and how active it is.

Thank you!

I’m not Catholic, but I have attended services at the Newman center, and I was friends with people who were observant. I think your son will like it! I know someone who turned down several private Catholic colleges for UMass due to cost but he said that UMass was worth it to him because there was such an active Catholic life. I don’t know about rn due to the pandemic, but before the pandemic, they had daily mass (at 12:15 pm!) and four Sunday masses (including two in the evening), and weekly scheduled confession. There’s two full time priests. They have weekly Bible study and the Catholic student group goes on retreats to Connecticut each semester. There’s lots of devout students (daily mass was pretty well attended, I’d say), people would sign up to be at the Lenten perpetual adoration at 1 am. Iirc there’s even a discernment group for the priesthood/religious life (one of the UMass priests converted to Catholicism while at UMass, actually!)
I will also note that there’s definitely a ‘trad’ student contingent. Guy I know who turned down Catholic colleges attends a TLM at home, there were girls who showed up to mass in chapel veils, and a significant number of people kneel for communion. And they’ve had Latin mass before (I mean…novus ordo Latin mass celebrated versus populum). Not saying this as a plus or a minus, just that you wouldn’t necessarily expect it at a state school.

That having been said, if he wants other observant Catholic friends, he’s almost certainly only going to meet them at the Newman center student groups and not like…casually in classes. But I think if we wants to broaden his world and meet different types of people, UMass would be great. It certainly does have a high percentage of white/middle class/nominally Catholic kids, but I met people of all faith backgrounds, and people from other countries and other states. And of course, lots of opportunities for a science major at a big research university (I’ve had lots of friends who had research lab experiences as undergrads).

Mary, I can’t thank you enough. This information is incredibly helpful to us! I really, really appreciate the time you took to give such a detailed answer. Best of luck to you.

You’re welcome. Good luck to your son with deciding.

My daughter has been accepted and we will be visiting campus in a couple weeks (we’ve never visited). I am in communication with the admissions department regarding what type of tour we can take with guided visits being unavailable due to COVID.

If we have to tour on our own, what would you recommend we see to get the best possible sense of what it would be like to attend UMass? Also, any recommendations on where to stay in Amherst would be greatly appreciated.

Hi , just to throw Out my Two Cents…Hotel UMass is right in the middle of campus, as One option. Neighboring town Northampton is super charming and has many hotels and restaurants including Hotel Northampton. My daughter is a junior and loves UMass, seems most of the kids there do. Good luck!

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Thank you for taking questions! D was just accepted to Isenberg for Hospitality and Tourism Management. Are you familiar with the program? Could you please share your impressions?

The most inexpensive but conveniently located hotels are going to be on Route 9 in Hadley.
Stuff to see:
the library! it’s 26 floors. you can’t miss it. Go up to floor 21 and both take in the stacks and the largeness of the UMass campus.
Other than that…does your daughter have a specific academic interest? I can’t think of any other buildings that would be of interest to people of every major except the dining hall (so if you can see those, you should).
I think one thing she should understand that I know it’ll be hard to get a sense of rn is that UMass has a LOT of people. I remember being on a self guided tour and feeling so overwhelmed during a passing period because there were so many people.

@mamafid, I regret that I don’t have a ton to say about HTM. I do know they’re one of the few UMass majors where work experience is required to graduate, in this case, 400 hours. There is a UMass hotel students can work at, but I assume most HTM students are fulfilling that requirement with summer jobs – so if you always have a month long family trip, or your kid usually works at a family business during the summer, or whatever, they should start figuring out what their plan is to get those hours.

I can talk about Res-Econ 212 vs Stats 240, which I see on the requirement list. Res-Econ 212 is group project based (although there are exams), and Stats 240 is traditional lecture style. I took Res-Econ 212 because Stats 240 was full, and while the group project stuff was aggravating (also, it means another hour of class, effectively, that you pick to work on your group project) it was a pretty easy class. I see Stats 111 is allowed to fulfill this requirement. I would strongly recommend against that. There are a surprising number of upper level classes in various departments that require either Res-Econ 212 or Stats 240, but do not allow Stats 111. Likewise, it may be a good idea to take at least one semester of calculus instead of math for business majors, but I realize calc is pretty hard. But if they have any interest in an economics minor, calc would be essential.

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Thank you for your reply. Yes, I knew about the requirement of 400 work hours before graduation. It’s not that unusual for HTM programs. Similar programs at other schools like BU, NYU, Cornell also have the requirement (Cornell is actually 800 hours!). This is extremely appealing to D, fortunately. I will definitely pass along your advice about course selection to her. Thank you for taking the time to look at that!

Hello. You mentioned your son was applying to biotap. My dd also applied and attended the information session and they had said decisions would be made in roughly 2 weeks. It’s been almost 3 weeks so I was curious if you heard back at all on the program? Thanks for the info.

Hi there - Actually my son was notified today, about two hours ago, that he has a spot in bioTAP if he wants it.

Congratulations! Do you know if he received it via email? My daughter hasn’t received a response yet so maybe she didn’t get an offer for a spot. Appreciate the information so I can have her check the correct place. Thanks so much!

Yes, he got it via email. So they are pressing him to make a decision by Thursday of next week, which I feel is really fast. He is still waiting on an admissions decision from another college, which releases on Tuesday evening. They said they could only hold his bioTAP spot until 4/8 and if he’s not ready to commit, they can no longer guarantee it for him. So maybe they have more awesome applicants for the program than they have space for.

Thanks for the information! They may have a “waiting” list so maybe that is why the quick deadline. My daughter has a decision pending for Tuesday as well. Good luck to your son and I hope all goes well.

Same to you!

Hi Mary! Thank you so much for providing this platform. I know that it will be very helpful for prospective students like myself.

I was recently admitted into the Journalism program. I am still deciding between this school, St. John’s University, and Quinnipiac University. I actually had the opportunity to visit all three of them a few days ago, but unfortunately, we had to do a self-guided tour at UMass, so there are a lot of things I found out about the other two schools that I couldn’t ask in Amherst. So since I stumbled upon your forum, I wanted to ask you some questions.

  1. I saw that you mentioned living on campus all four years. What is housing like at UMass?

  2. Is it difficult to stand out in such a big university? The first thing I noticed when I visited was how big the campus was in comparison to the other two, and it honestly felt a little bit intimidating. Wasn’t it a little hard to make friends?

  3. I read somewhere that you can do some of your credits at other colleges that are near UMass, such as Amherst College. Did you take advantage of that? Are there benefits to that program?

Thank you so much in advance, I really hope you can help me with some of my questions, and I wish you all the best with your graduate degree.

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Good questions. I’m particularly interested in #3 - that is one of the big draws to UMass, the ability to take courses at all of the five colleges (we drove around Mt. Holyoke and Smith when we visited UMass a couple of weeks ago). In connection with the five colleges, I was curious how safe/reliable the bus system is between the colleges? Everything I’ve heard about the buses has been good.

  1. There’s multiple on campus housing areas at UMass. I’ll break them down as follows:
    Northeast: Chill, mostly nerdy math/science majors because it’s near the engineering quad. Not a ton of partying.
    Central/Orchard Hill: Reasonably chill, more partying but people will pregame in their dorms and then go to parties elsewhere, more weed smoking. I lived in Lower Central all four years and it’s really the best location on campus. It’s called Lower Central because Upper Central is way up the hill and so is Orchard Hill and it’s really annoying, especially in the winter, although there are buses.
    Southwest: PARTY TIME. Convenient walk to Frat Row. I would recommend against living here. Being able to go to a party and then go back to your nice quiet dorm is extremely nice. I know a lot of people who moved out of Southwest second semester freshman year because it was too much.
    Honors: Gotta be in honors to live here. By Southwest and close to humanities buildings on the other side. I’ve heard you can hear marching band practice and it’s sometimes really early.
    (There’s also Sylvan and North Apartments but freshmen can’t live there).
    Every dorm at UMass is old, except Honors, and except Honors, none of them have air conditioning. It sucks, bring a fan.
    I didn’t live in a freshman RAP, but they do exist and you might be interested in one. They all live on one floor and take a class around a particular theme.
  2. I was really worried about how many people there were too, but no, it was fine! I joined a club and I met a lot of people through that, and also people just around campus --in my dorm, in classes, just outside, etc… UMass has tons and tons of clubs for pretty much every interest. (And a school newspaper and a school radio station a journalism major might want to join! It’s relatively easy to get your own radio show too).
  3. The thing about the other colleges is they’re all small liberal arts colleges. The main reason to go there is for their niche offerings. So for example, I had a friend take a class at Amherst that was being taught by New Yorker writer Masha Gessen. I didn’t take any classes at another school per se, but I did take Irish through the Five College Language Consortium, which I would highly recommend if you’re interested in rare languages (my class was on the UMass campus and taught by a UMass alumna, but one of my friends took Amharic located at Smith). Also, if you want to take some sort of for-credit exercise class other than dance, you’ll have to go to one of them. One of my friends took Japanese archery at Hampshire.

The buses are good, and free for students, with the exception of the bus to the Holyoke Mall. That having been said, getting to Smith and, especially, Mt Holyoke by bus is time consuming, and the bus to Mt Holyoke doesn’t run as frequently, so you’d have to be careful with scheduling. Amherst College is walkable from UMass (it’s about a mile/mile and a half).

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Thank you so much, this has been extremely helpful! I still have a lot to think about but UMass is starting to feel more like the best choice every day.