Smith College vs. Amherst College

My DD has been accepted by and is considering Smith and Amherst. Please advise!

Her interests are debate team - both schools have good debate teams, Amherst may be better funded, public policy, international relations, psychology, and poetry. She would like to double major so she is attracted by both school’s open curriculum.

The pros she sees at Amherst are the debate team, the Jurisprudence and Social Thought major, what she sees as a high level of academic rigor and very intelligent student body. She’s also attracted to the fact that it is considered more selective.

The attraction to Smith is the houses, the vibe of openness and friendliness, and the STRIDE program for which she has been offered a scholarship that would cover about 1/3 of our costs. She would pay full price at Amherst. She would also have the opportunity to work for professors doing research for two years through STRIDE.

She’s stumped and needs advice!

We are a pacific northwest family and from what I can tell the vibe at smith might be more comfortable culturally.

I’d love to hear opinions and advice, especially from anyone with experience with either of the schools.

Thank you in advance!!!

If she likes Smith, she can choose Smith and take classes in Amherst too and enjoy her scholarship ?

The Five Colleges
Did you know that thanks to a unique interchange between five esteemed educational institutions, Smith students get five colleges for the price of one? It’s true. Approximately 5,000 undergraduates every year cross-register for courses at one or more of the five campuses.

Incorporated in 1965, Five Colleges, Inc. is one of the oldest and most highly regarded consortiums in American higher education. Its members are four private colleges (Amherst, Hampshire, Mount Holyoke and Smith) and the University of Massachusetts Amherst (UMass). Cooperative arrangements give faculty and students access to resources, facilities and courses for credit on all five campuses. Fare-free buses provide transportation day and night.

More info goggle
Smith College consortium

Good Luck

What do you mean that she may be more ‘culturally comfortable’ at Smith? What type of culture is she looking for?
Amherst is known as a ‘literary college’ with strength in writing and poetry and sponsoring programs like lit fest and the writer in residence . Your D should check those out. With regard to poetry the school has a connection to Robert Frost who taught there and for whom the library is named, as well as Emily Dickinson whose family has a long connection to the school. The Emily Dickinson museum is part of Amherst home to the largest holdings related to Dickinson then anywhere in the world.

She is very interested in literature and poetry but not considering them as her first major. She is very politically and socially engaged (and liberal) and this plays out in her Policy Debate team engagement. Regarding culture, I get a little more of a conservative NE prep school vibe from Amherst - but I could be totally misreading that, that’s why I’m asking here. She’s super liberal but doesn’t want to be in an intellectually constricted environment where only politically correct ideas can be uttered aloud. I like the possible boost to confidence and strong alumna network that I’ve heard comes from attending a women’s college.

What a delightful predicament to be in! The Smith campus with its acres of old-growth trees and Victorian houses is certainly one of the lovliest in the country.

The Amherst NE prep school vibe is not so much the problem, IMO. It’s the fact that with increasing racial diversity that vibe now has to compete with unfamiliar voices demanding they be heard and the results have not always been pretty. I suspect this is an area that Smith has trod a long time ago.

I wouldn’t put a lot of faith in the consortium to bridge the distance between any of the colleges. Plan on spending 99% of your time on whichever campus you eventually land.

OP: It would be helpful if you explained “STRIDE program”.

Unless set on attending an all female school, Amherst College is tough to pass up. (But, again, I do not know about the “STRIDE program”.)

I thought Amherst would be very prep school feeling too, but that’s not the case. Diverse and very friendly. Lots of interaction between faculty and students.
Has your D visited both campuses? I did not love the Smith campus. Felt a little shopworn and a bit claustrophobic in that it was so contained and inward facing with no outward looking vistas. Amherst by comparison has a brand new, phenomenal science center that lots of non science students use too, as well as beautiful mountain range vistas and a great freshman quad surrounded by the dorms where all first years live.

Thank you for asking - STRIDE offers her the opportunity to work with several professors as a researcher on different projects throughout her freshman and Sophmore years. She will earn a stipend of about 2500 and a scholarship of $25,000 towards tuition each of the four years. There is also a community/social aspect to it as there is a small cohort of young women in the program.

My 2 cents. Amherst would be my first choice but as a full pay family, you may find some breathing room with $25k/year at a similar college without compromising too much. If money isn’t the decision maker, go with Amherst.

These are tough questions for any of us to answer. They are much better answered by current or recent students. My understanding is that most Admissions Offices are willing to put accepted applicants in touch with some current students for conversation and Q&A. I suggest going that route as the most productive path.

Amherst is better situated than Smith for taking full advantage of the 5 college consortium. The resources of a 30,000 student state research university are literally just down the street, a short bus ride away, making it very accessible to Amherst students but less so to Smith students. Students can pick and choose the very best courses and professors that UMass has to offer. Northampton is 2 towns away from Amherst and the connecting road, Rte 9, can be heavily trafficked at times, making the trip take even longer. Challenging. There’s a paved bike trail connecting the 2 towns (8 miles).

Northampton is a great town! Great restaurants, fabulous music venues, fascinating shops and boutiques. Smith students have this as their backyard. But Amherst students can also take advantage of this at their leisure on weekends when they have more time and Rte 9 is less crowded. The Berkshire Mall for routine shopping is in Amherst.

When I did the tour at Amherst College a couple of years ago, I was very impressed with how they encourage intellectual curiosity, at least as described in the info session. The Freshman Seminar is to die for. My wife and I both wanted to die for. They told us that Amherst has worked very hard to build diversity and that 45% of their students are non-Caucasian. (IDK if that’s true, so check the numbers for yourself.) Amherst eliminated Greek life on campus decades ago, but the old frat houses are still there, and they’re luxurious. We were told that each senior gets a single, and that it serves them well as the senior capstone project is intense with lots of burning the midnight oil. My understanding is that these single rooms for seniors are in the old frat houses. (Check to confirm.) the new STEM building was under construction then, so it’s virtually brand new. Spacious campus with a nature preserve (?). Emily Dickinson’s home/Museum is at the other end of the village green.

I don’t know as much about Smith. I liked the campus when I visited the museum there, but I didn’t tour it or attend an info session. Great students. I love the location in Northampton.

Good luck with your decision.

In any given semester, then, it seems about 1 in 12 consortium students would enroll in at least one class beyond their home campuses.

But 5000 students from Umass could take a class at another school.

My understanding is that the majority of students who take advantage of the exchange are from the 4 privates taking UMass classes.

OP—I don’t think you can go wrong. I went to a single sex HS and loved it. I have sons, but if I had a daughter, I would have been thrilled if one of them wanted to attend Smith. It’s a lovely campus, Northampton is a cool, interesting college town, and it’s an excellent school. I know Amherst is ever so slightly more prestigious, but Smith very highly regarded. The alumni network of smart, accomplished women she will have as an alum is a benefit that shouldn’t be overlooked. The scholarship and research opportunity is a nice accomplishment as well. I don’t know as much about Amherst, so I can’t really comment.

Where did she end up?

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