Why no love for Hampshire?

My son and I toured Hampshire yesterday and were blown away by it. Great campus, wonderful programs, friendly people, and the opportunities are limitless. Taking classes at Amherst and Smith, designing your own major, blacksmithing and metalwork and art and film, plus a writing center staffed by great professors – I’m really surprised that it’s not higher ranked and that more people don’t talk about it.
I thought it would be a hippie vibe with a lot of slackers, but everyone was hard at work, engaged, interested and friendly. The campus was full of great little perks from a games collection in the library to free 3-D printing to the ability to have your own art studio or check out filmmaking equipment.
Would love to hear from people who have toured or who go there or have been students. The financial aid package was good but not great, and now my son is trying to choose between Bates and Hampshire.

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How close was the Hampshire financial aid package to the NPC?

My DD loved it. I found it to be too loose and sarcastically referred to it as the Montessori college as in the, do whatever you want college.

DD did not apply, it was the one school on her list we just did not support.

Interesting— that’s exactly why my son loves it. You can do whatever you want, so the opportunities are endless. Classes at Amherst, travel, combining history with art or science — he has so many ideas. We have always homeschooled and so he’s always had a say in his curriculum. Literature and history are his thing, so combining them into something meaningful is really appealing.
The financial aid package was pretty close to the NPC. They gave him a $10k merit scholarship. It’s pricier than some of the other schools on his list, but he says he think it will be worth it.

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I don’t know anything about Hampshire, but kids are happiest and do their best when they find the right fit. Sound like he found that at Hampshire. Go with your gut. Sounds like he will have a great experience at Hampshire

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The 5 college exchange is great, but matriculated students get priority over visiting students, so it may be harder to get into certain classes on the other campuses.

That’s a good point to know.

Hampshire College became “test-blind” in 2015, and no longer considers ACT or SAT scores in admission. According to their website, their applicant quality and yield have increased, while admitting a more diverse class since going test-blind. Their latest CDS does not even list GPA data.

I have a question about student fit at Hampshire. Clearly, their unique curriculum will appeal to some students and not to others. When looking for fit, it is helpful to compare test scores and GPA to see how a prospective student compares with recent admits. With a test-blind policy and no reported GPA stats, how can you gauge how a student compares with others at the school?

I don’t know. We’re homeschoolers, so we’ve never done tests or grades. My son was looking for engaged students, interesting professors, students who showed passion about their work and their learning, and a curriculum that made sense and allowed him to learn about himself while preparing him for real life. I’m not sure he cares about comparing himself to other students. He just wanted to make sure that he would fit in there, and everyone there was animated, friendly and helpful. The idea of creating his own path was appealing. And since Hampshire doesn’t give out grades, that’s not how they gauge progress or achievement, but rather by actual metrics of improvement and growth, which makes more sense to me. If they want grades, they can go to Amherst and take a class and get a grade or two to throw on a transcript. That’s what we did with the community college here to get grades for a transcript.

Hampshire is a “march to your own drummer” college, and there is nothing wrong with that.

According to the schools’ Common Data Sets, the 4 and 6 year graduation rates for Hampshire and Bates are…

Hampshire 52%, 65%
Bates 84%, 88%

I think Hampshire can be a great place for the right kid, but the student has to be very self motivated and organized to get the most out of the school.

Most of my friends take their classes at other colleges: there are reserved seats for Hampshire students so it isn’t hard at all to take those courses. I’m a current Hampshire student but I am transferring. Message me if you want to know more about Hampshire from a student who doesn’t get paid by admissions to convince you to go.

People on this site have mentioned literally getting lost at Hampshire.

Probably that leaves a bad taste in one’s mouth. So – maybe invest in more and better signage? Hand out maps at the entrance(s)? If people can’t find what they’re looking for or can’t leave when they want to, that’s not a good thing.

Also – I think it has yurts. Not that everything has to be mainstream, but yurts maybe aren’t for everyone. Good for a chuckle, though. Or a confused reality check:

“WTH is that thing?! Is that the Chemistry building?”

“No, honey, Chemistry was back… over… there. I think. Behind the – ohmigod what is that thing?”

“I think it’s a yogurt.”

“You mean ‘yurt’, dear.”

And those grad rates are troubling – those are the grad rates of mediocre state schools, not top-50 LACs (assuming that’s what Hampshire aspires to be.)

Maybe the school should rename itself Hempshire.

I jest. And I don’t want to be totally negative. I have heard that the academics are pretty solid. Maybe you just have to be really motivated and have an internal compass.

There is one yurt, and they pointed it out on the tour. I think it’s used for radio? I don’t know, I’m from the PNW, where yurts are everywhere it’s not odd at all, so it didn’t even register on my radar as different.

That is kind of a demeaning post, @prezbucky. Hampshire is a bit of a counterculture place — like Reed, but probably a tier lower in selectivity. But there is definitely a population of students that want that type of environment. I agree that self motivation is very useful there.

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For what it is worth, I have met a number of amazing Hampshire grads over the years. All smart and engaged and gainfully employed (many with grad degrees). It is not really like Reed though. Reed has a very structured and relatively conservative curriculum with very strict distribution requirements, as opposed to Hampshire. Reed students also receive grades in all their classes (although they are not distributed to students unless they ask), and a formal graded transcript, as opposed to Hampshire students. So in these critical areas, the schools are very different. I am not sure how much overlap there is in the applicant pool.


I was kind of feeling the pending pressure of Monday and went a bit far with the sarcasm. The only actual thing is the “getting lost” part – that does concern me. The rest was whimsy.

@SnowflakeDogMom I’ve had limited exposure to Hampshire but I’d say the one thing it ISN’T is a “Montessori college”. Far from being able to do what you please, Hampshire requires exceptional discipline. The “freedom” it provides demands discipline and is what accounts for its attrition rate; not many 18 and 19 year olds have the discipline to structure their own program of learning. And Hampshire’s Division requirements are taxing.

Hampshire is for a particular type of student. But for those who are highly motivated, articulate and creative, it can be a fantastic place. Which is probably why Amherst faculty and administrators speak so highly of it (Amherst being one of its founders).

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I’ve been on a lot of college campuses, and I would not consider the Hampshire campus to be hard to navigate or find buildings. It has fewer students and buildings than most campuses, the residences are concentrated in 4 distinct locations, and the relatively few buildings that have classrooms are in the middle of those 4 locations (https://map.hampshire.edu/).

The graduation rate is indeed lower than typical for comparable small liberal arts colleges, as it is actually harder to persist and complete a degree at Hampshire. Some of my kids’ friends dropped out or transferred out of Hampshire for financial reasons (it IS expensive and financial aid resources are limited) or academic reasons (not completing coursework).

This may be old news to most of you, but, realizing I didn’t know much about Hampshire, I did a little bit of reading.

It turns out that the school was the academic love-child of the other four members of the Five Colleges – Amherst, UMass, Mt Holyoke and Smith – and is only about 50 years old. I think it’s pretty cool: Hampshire is Baby Bear.