Why no love for Hampshire?

The five-college consortium is a huge draw. The opportunities to take classes at Amherst or Smith, plus the freedom of Hampshire, seems like the best of all worlds. There is a little worry over whether he’d be able to stay the course, given how hard it is to finish a degree there compared to “traditional” schools, but he loved everything about the visit.

Hi @Meaganmm I’m so sorry I’m late to this post. I’m guessing your child has chosen wherever they are going. I have one son who graduated from Hampshire and another who attended Bates. My Hampshire son had an amazing experience there. He took full advantage of what the Five Colleges had to offer (he took classes at all but Smith). He had no trouble getting into the classes he wanted to get into. He had incredibly supportive faculty throughout and he absolutely loved living in Amherst. I think Amherst and that area has got to be one of the best college towns in the country. If you want to PM me, please do!

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Don’t forget to take classes at University of Massachusetts/Amherst. Especially at Isenberg school of business or CS courses.

You do have to know how to market your designs, yurts or new app technology!

Actually, there’s a LOT of Reed/Hampshire overlap surprisingly. I myself nearly transferred to Reed after two years at Hampshire (because I was living in Portland while I was on academic leave from Hampshire during my Div-II), and the schools attract VERY similar students. Reed is more selective, classical curriculum, distribution requirements BUT, the two schools (while different) do have some similarities. Liberal student bodies, lots of creative students, narrative evaluations. Reed wasn’t as generous to me as a transfer student financial aid wise, and Hampshire gave me quite a nice financial aid award boost to come back and finish my degree, so that’s what I did… @prexbucky, if you got lost at Hampshire, and the Yurt isn’t for you, then don’t come back.

@Meganmm, yes, that’s right. The Yurt houses Hampshire’s radio station, fittingly called YurtRadio. I miss Camp Hamp.

I don’t consider the “Montessori” moniker any kind of disrespect. Montessori students are known for their independence, self directed study, and pursuit of learning for its intrinsic value - all qualities that seem applicable to successful Hampshire students.

@alooknac, that was how I chose to interpret her Montessori remark. Albeit, she meant it in the snarky “Hampshire is too radical an approach to a college education for me to understand it” kind of way, but whatever, there’s plenty of ignorant people out there who do NOT understand alternative higher education, and who think Hampshire is a flaky, not real or academically serious college. They’re DEAD wrong. I knew plenty of Hampshire students who were Montessori schooled, or home-schooled, or like me, alternative public high schooled. and you are absolutely right: the ONLY students who are successful at Hampshire are ones who are independent, good critical thinkers, intellectual, self-directed, creative and dedicated to learning. I myself am the child of academics (2 English professors and authors), who were respectively Columbia and University of Chicago PhDs. They loved Hampshire and the Five College consortium and the Amherst/Northampton area as much as I did, and they thought Hampshire was a pretty damn good college for a number of reasons. They did plenty of research on Hampshire, as I did. After all, they were helping pay for it, so I wanted them to feel like they were paying for something worthwhile. I also got a LOT of financial aid as well.

Hampshire thins out the herd pretty quickly. Students who aren’t finding it a good fit usually last 1-2 years max. On an upward side of the “attrition problem” that most seem to think Hampshire has: when I attended, I met MANY transfer students who were transferring in from more “traditional, non-do-what-you-want” types of schools who wanted more control over shaping their own education so they chose Hampshire. I also met many transfer students who transferred in from other similar colleges like Antioch, Bennington, Goddard, Simon’s Rock College of Bard and Marlboro, because those schools were too small and had isolated rural campuses, and they wanted the resources the Five College consortium offered, a similar academic approach, and less geographical isolation. Hampshire is NOT out in the middle of nowhere, the campus is less than 5 miles away from the center of Downtown Amherst, yet because of where the campus is located, it feels rural and bucolic and serene, yet it’s not isolated. You can literally be sitting down to a world-class dinner and going to see an arthouse film at the Academy of Music in Northampton in less than a 15-minute drive from Hampshire’s campus. Plus, all the other social and cultural activities the collective campuses have to offer.

Not to mention biking and hiking trails everywhere in the valley, horseback riding (Hampshire even has an equestrian team), a 3-minute drive from campus. Whitewater Kayaking and Rafting on the Deerfield River 30 minutes from campus, amazing downhill and XC skiing ANY which way you turn, Berkshire resorts are 45-60 minutes from campus, Southern Vermont & NH resorts 60-90 minutes from campus, and the Catskill resorts about 120 minutes from campus. 30 minutes to Springfield, 60 minutes to Hartford, 2 hours to Boston and Providence and 3.5 to NYC. You can’t beat that. Even as an NYC boy, I NEVER felt like I was lacking for things to do, nor did I feel it was too rural or isolated. Unlike a lot of other small, geographically isolated liberal arts college campuses, Hampshire’s campus is alive at night. People are up studying, the library doesn’t usually close until 12 am, Sunday-Thursday, and 10 pm, Friday and Saturday. Campus social life usually consists of mod parties, dorm hall parties (the dorms actually have a dedicated calendar of specific social events that occur every day of the week in both Merrill and Dakin), as well as big Hampshire-wide cultural events like Hampshire Halloween & Drag Ball in the Fall (SO MUCH FUN! Those two were my favorite events), and Spring Jam in the Spring. Plus, you can always go out in Amherst & Northampton for the night also. Northampton used to have one of my favorite places to go in the Valley, an LGBTQ club called The Grotto, which has since closed down, but used to be right next to East Heaven Hot Tubs on West St., back in the day.

Speaking of resources for LGBTQ Hampshire and five college students: the UMass/Amherst campus has The Stonewall Center, which is essentially an LGBTQ Community & Resource Center; and each of the other four campuses also has their own groups as well. At Hampshire, we have the Queer Community Alliance Center (QCAC) which has been active on campus since Hampshire opened in 1970. I was very active with both the QCAC and The Stonewall Center well as with the other three college’s LGBTQ groups. I also ran a club at Hampshire for three years called the Queer Theater Collective which brought theater’film’dance/creative writing students from all five campuses together collaborating on and staging performances around all five campuses of either original or already written works with LGBTQ themes. The main supporters of the club were the QCAC and the Stonewall Center (many originally written Div II and Div III productions (including my own) were staged by the club in conjunction with the Hampshire Theater & Film programs, as well as Hampshire Independent Productions). The most amazing thing about Hampshire is that if something doesn’t exist, a student can start it, and it can become a vital part of their education. There’s a lot of activism in the Valley also, and it’s a fairly diverse place. Hampshire is a VERY leftist school, so more conservative students may not feel comfortable there. Hey, there’s always Amherst and UMass, which are more “traditional” than Hampshire, but also are fairly diverse (especially UMass) themselves. Hampshire has gotten more diverse over the years, but by and large, it is still a largely “white” school. This is true of most small LAC’s (especially in New England) but it has gotten better since I’ve graduated. Even Hampshire still has more to do on this issue, just like all other LAC’s do.

To sum up more about academic resources: there are 8 million volumes in the collective campus libraries (not to mention great community libraries) in Amherst, Northampton and in the other surrounding communities (Sterling Memorial Library at Yale holds 3.5 million volumes, and the Widener Library at Harvard also holds 3.5 million) and although the Ivy League university collective libraries are MUCH larger) it’s impressive that outside of the Ivy Leagues, the 5 colleges have that level of library resources. 6,000+ courses students can cross-register for, over 1,000+ clubs and organizations students can be a part of, over 40+ shared joint academic programs, 10 museums (including Hampshire’s Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art and the Johnson Library Gallery), accelerated Master’s programs (mainly offered through UMass/Amherst with smaller Master’s programs at Smith & Mt. Holyoke, not to mention the FREE PVTA bus system that links all the campuses (I rode it constantly, especially more than once on winter days I didn’t want to dig my car out just to go to class!), as well as the surrounding communities. There are SO MANY reasons to give the five-colleges and Hampshire some real consideration. I even lived in Northampton post-graduation for a little while myself, traveling, working and living while I applied to graduate schools (I ended up back in NYC for my MFA, although UMass/Amherst was my backup grad school choice and they lobbied hard for me to study there) since I didn’t go immediately to grad school. It’s an awesome town to live in actually, very vibrant and socially and culturally progressive. I LOVED my experience at Hampshire and in the five college area, and it definitely was an experience worth having, because it has shaped me for the remainder of my years. Hampshire is definitely a “real” and “academically rigorous” college, as real as any other.

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This is a great thread. Hampshire is a wonderful alternative for students who are looking for that type of college experience. We have a family friend who is in her junior year of high school and starting to look at colleges. Both my husband and I thought Hampshire would be a good match for her, and after hearing some of the detailed descriptions on this thread, I feel even more confident recommending she take a look at it!

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@TheGeyKing, if you have ANY Hampshire questions, please ask away. ALF and I are the two biggest Hampshire boosters on here. He’s the parent of two alums, and I’m an alum, so ASK away…

Maybe the short lifetime of the college is relevant to it’s public awareness. Went to college in Boston over 30 years ago, never even heard the name of the college, knew nothing about it until I read this thread. Not a judgment, literally never heard if it. Many small college have less awareness, fewer alumni to spread the word. That should not impact selecting if it’s the school that clicked for your student. One of my kids is in a large well known, highly ranked university, the other in a mid size school that people mostly do not know, often confuse with another college. Kid at the smaller school is no doubt getting a better education at his less known lower ranked college. This is a great example of the benfit of being open minded and less brand conscious. Sounds like a great and unique option.