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Visit to the Five College Consortium - Massachusetts

Last week I visited five colleges in Massachusetts: Smith, U Mass Amherst, Hampshire College, Amherst College, and Mount Holyoke. Smith College was gracious enough to host me, and about 30 other college counselors from around the country, at a wonderful two-day program. Check out Smith by Smithies to learn more about Smith from the students’ point of view.

Smith's beautiful campus:

Smith College

On Friday we learned about what makes Smith different from other colleges and heard from a faculty and student panel, and got information about selective college admissions in general. We learned that students at women’s colleges are more likely to major in STEM, get a PhD, go on to medical school, and do internships and research.

Smith’s dean of admissions stressed that in the admissions process, jobs like babysitting and working at a fast food restaurant are just as valuable as other experiences. When you’re listing your activities and clubs, focus on quality rather than quantity. You don’t need to be a member of 20 different clubs; it’s better to be dedicated to one or two. And instead of participating in an expensive service program abroad, think about doing service work in your local community. The dean said, “It doesn’t matter what you do-- just that you do something.”

On Saturday the group took a bus tour of four other colleges; the round-trip driving route to cover all five colleges is a beautiful and green 30 miles. Through the consortium, students can take some courses each semester at one of the other schools, giving them the resources of a large coed research university. Students take advantage of this-- 46% of Smithies take a class at one of the other consortium schools. A shuttle bus system transports students from one school to another.

Here are highlights from the tour:

Amherst College

Amherst College

-Founded in 1821

-1,785 students

-Four museums: Emily Dickinson Museum, Beneski Museum of Natural History, Mead Art Museum, and the Folger Shakespeare Library (here in DC!)

-Fun fact: Amherst has a fully functioning organic vegetable farm, which provides food and employment for students and interns.


Hampshire College

-Founded in 1965, opened in 1970

-1,400 students

-Curriculum is organized into five interdisciplinary schools: Cognitive Science, Critical Social Inquiry, Humanities Arts and Cultural Studies, Interdisciplinary Arts, and Natural Science.

-The college has a working farm. Its CSA program allows 210 community members to purchase a share of the harvest and pick up fresh organic produce weekly.

-Prominent alumni include filmmaker Ken Burns, and author and mountain climber Jon Krakauer

-No grades; only written evaluations

-Completely test-blind-- even if you send SAT/ACT scores, the college won’t consider them.


University of Massachusetts - Amherst

-Founded in 1863 as the Massachusetts Agricultural College, now the largest public research university in New England

-22,250 undergraduates, 6,400 graduate students

-Nine schools/colleges within the university

-21 Division I athletic teams (10 men’s, 11 women’s)

-Fun fact: Hadley Farm Equine and Livestock research and education center is home to sheep, goats, horses, alpacas, and more

-Fun fact: the W.E.B. Du Bois Library, opened in 1973, is 28 stories tall, the tallest library in the world. The collection of Du Bois himself is housed in Special Collections.


Mount Holyoke College

Mount Holyoke

-Founded in 1837 as the Mount Holyoke Female Seminary, the first of the “Seven Sisters”

-Women’s college, 2,183 students

-One of the only liberal arts colleges in the northeast that hosts a western riding team as well as a dressage team


Smith College

Smith College

Smith College

-Women’s college in Northampton, Massachusetts. The college has about 2,500 students total, and the city has 29,000 residents.

-Students at women’s colleges are more likely to major in STEM, get a PhD, go on to medical school, and do internships and research. Very supportive alumnae network.

-Open curriculum with no distribution requirements. Professors report a higher level of engagement in courses because the students’ course choice is so intentional.

-Strong advising: Students get liberal arts advisors before they declare their major. Those advisors also help students find internships.

-40% of students major in STEM. It’s the first women’s college to have an engineering major, which was started in 2000.

-87% of students do research with faculty, and 30% of faculty publications were coauthored by a student

-Praxis: guaranteed paid internship funding for every student in the summer after junior year. 450 students take advantage of this each summer.

-15% of students are international students, 40% are students of color, and 22% are first generation students

-House system: Students live in one of 37 houses with 15 dining rooms. There’s a piano in every house and afternoon tea on Fridays. The house system is strong-- at graduation, names are called by house rather than alphabetically by name. There are different themes at each dining room.



I hope students will consider some of these colleges in their search. Please let me know if you have any questions about these schools or any others!

Posted by Emily Parliman on Wednesday June, 1, 2016
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