Amherst College

Name of College visited: Amherst College (the “h” is silent)

Date visited: February, 1990

Length of stay: about seven hours

Located in the small, but adequate town of Amherst, Mass. Amherst College has a lovely campus with acres of conservation land and the Holyoke Mountain Range nearby. It seemed to be kept startingly, impeccably clean. Amherst is a small, competitive liberal arts college, generally considered on par with Williams and Swarthmore.

The town is a far cry from a metropolitan area like Boston, but it has restaurants, convenience stores, a movie house, and many small shops. Also, Amherst has the benefit of the Five College Exchange, enabling students to visit and take classes at Smith, Mt. Holyoke, Hampshire College, and the right-next-door U Mass-Amherst. There is free and frequent transportation to all locations in the Five College Exchange.

The housing improves the longer you stay, with senior housing located in renovated beautiful ex-frat houses (fraternities were abolished in 1984). Freshman housing varied widely; there were singles and doubles, but mostly two-room triples. The food in the student union was certainly edible (better than at my high school!) and there is always all-you-can-eat ice cream in each cafeteria, due to a grant for that purpose. The student union was clean and comfortable. I didn’t see too much of the athletic facilities. There is no physical education requirement, but most students are involved in at least intramural sports. Amherst is proud of the fact that they have the most per capita tennis courts of any college in the U.S. Computer and scientific facilities were plentiful and up-to-date.

The students were friendly and helpful and many called to our passing tour group to say we should attend. The most memorable part of my visit was the class I attended, an elective for juniors and seniors called “Literature of Madness.” It was a small class with nine women and six men, all enthusiastic and led by an even more enthusiastic teacher in a discussion about Dostoyevsky’s Notes from the Underground. I’m not sure if all the teachers at Amherst are as dynamic as he was, but I would assume they are all of an equally high caliber. Students seemed very serious about academics, but there was certainly evidence of a very active social life.

The tour guides were sincere, funny, and seemed to really want all of us to go there. They were knowledgeable about the campus, happy to talk about it, and proud to be there.

Reviewed in 1990