University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Amherst,MA: I always envisioned state universities as dirty, low-budget schools. I wouldnever even have considered attending a publicly funded college, but that allchanged the moment I stepped onto the campus of the University of at Amherst. This is the largest of the four state universities and is two hourswest of Boston.

The school has a student body of over 19,000. Coming froma town with a population of under 7,000, I thought I was going to feeloverwhelmed, but I was mistaken. I was welcomed and made to feel right athome.

Visiting UMass was my mother’s idea. She is the queen of savingmoney and, as a state school, tuition is about $7,000 a year for residents($14,000 for non-residents). The school has a variety of programs, ranging frombusiness to law to – my favorite – journalism. I was taken aback by the number ofmajors and extra-curricular activities (everything from snow boarding to glassblowing). My tour guide told me if you get a bunch of people together to form aclub, it is eligible for office space. All it takes are a few friends and a greatidea.

Athletics were another area of interest; the university is DivisionI in most sports. They also have an intramural program for people who want toplay sports for fun.

The dorm rooms also pleasantly surprised me. There isan assortment of sizes, from apartments to suites and the normal two-person room.The campus is set up so that no dorm is more than a ten-minute walk to class.That’s awesome, because I am not a morning person!

Security issubstantial, with call boxes all over campus and in the dorms. The school hastheir own security force, so students are safe no matter where they are. To getinto the dorms, you must have that specific dorm’s card to operate the doors.Students or visitors who do not have a corresponding card do not have access.This was quite reassuring to me.

The University of Massachusetts libraryhas over two million volumes. This does not include books they share withsurrounding schools since UMass is part of a five-school consortium. Students canalso take classes at Amherst, Smith, Mount Holyoke and Hampshire College.Students from all these schools can attend classes wherever they choose. Thisalliance is outstanding because it opens many opportunities to students from allthese respected schools. It also makes for a better social life. Students fromall schools come together for concerts, sporting events and speakers.

Even if the town of Amherst seems to be in the middle of nowhere, young peopleare all over. There is so much to do in the area, with malls, movie theaters andrestaurants every ten feet. It is a really busy place.

My visit to theUniversity of Massachusetts was an educational experience: a state school can bean exceptional institute of learning. It is good to know the school is there forthose who want a great education but do not have huge amounts of money. Beforevisiting, I thought of UMass as just a cheap party school. Now I see thatthousands of people are there working to get a great education. College shouldnot be about money, because as my tour guide said, “You get out of collegewhat you put into it.”

Reviewed in 2002