Amherst, MA: Amherst College is beautifully located on a hill in the Pioneer Valley of central-western Massachusetts. The 900-acre campus includes charming red-brick buildings housing academic facilities and dormitories, as well as extensive sports facilities, including long rows of tennis courts, the Alumni Gymnasium, a skating rink, swimming pool, and several fields. A forest and a wildlife sanctuary cover the remaining land. To the south, one has a breathtaking view of the Holyoke mountain range, with the Connecticut River is not far away.

The college’s location in a scenic natural area does not mean isolation from the rest of the world. The campus and town common lie virtually side-by-side, so one reaches Amherst center after only a few minutes walk. College students provide much business for local merchants, as is evident from the used book and record stores dotting the town center.

Even though I visited on a Saturday morning the campus had a friendly and lively atmosphere. Valentine Hall, the campus dining center, was teeming with students talking and laughing over lunch. Although the snack bar in the recently completed Campus Center was closed (as was the campus store), the center was lightly populated with students relaxing, conversing, and banging out cheerful tunes on the center’s piano.

The dormitories are beautifully located along one end of campus. A railroad track runs behind, but train traffic did not seem frequent enough to be a bother. Housing ranges from singles, doubles, and triples to suites of four to six students. The suites include a separate bedroom for each student and a common living room and bathroom.

The Robert Frost Library contains 680,000 volumes, but if it doesn’t have what’s needed, Amherst students have access to facilities at four other schools through the Five College Exchange with Smith, Mount Holyoke, Hampshire, and UMass. Students may also partake in any special events at these schools, as well as register for courses at any of the five institutions. Through this venture, Amherst, with its roughly 1,500 students, offers the best of both worlds: the sense of community a small college offers and the resources of a large university.

Reviewed in 1990