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Amherst vs Berkeley: Which College is Right for You?

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

Amherst campus from afar

Amherst vs Berkeley: Which College is Right for You?

Choosing the right school for your college education can be a challenging and overwhelming experience. With so many options available, it can be tough to differentiate between schools that all seem to offer similar academic and social opportunities. In this article, we’ll compare Amherst College vs UC Berkeley to help you decide which school is right for you.

Getting to Know Amherst and Berkeley

Before we dive into the details, let’s take a closer look at each college. Amherst College is a private liberal arts college located in Amherst, Massachusetts. It was founded in 1821 and has a total undergraduate enrollment of approximately 1,800 students. The college is known for its strong commitment to undergraduate education and its small class sizes.

On the other hand, the University of California, Berkeley is a public research university located in Berkeley, California. It was founded in 1868 and has a total undergraduate enrollment of approximately 31,000 students. The university is known for its focus on research and its sprawling campus.

Despite their differences, both Amherst and Berkeley offer a wide range of academic programs and extracurricular activities for students to explore. Amherst College has a strong emphasis on the humanities and social sciences, while Berkeley is known for its excellence in STEM fields. Additionally, both colleges have a diverse student body and a commitment to promoting inclusivity and social justice on campus.

an event inside Berkeley

Location and Campus Overview

When it comes to location, Amherst College is situated in a small, charming town in western Massachusetts. The campus is picturesque and boasts traditional brick buildings and green spaces. The small size of the college means that everything is easily accessible, and the town of Amherst provides a tight-knit community for students.

On the other hand, the University of California, Berkeley is located in the bustling city of Berkeley, which is part of the larger San Francisco Bay Area. The campus is spread out over a vast area and features a mix of modern and historic buildings. The location provides students with many opportunities for internships and job prospects in a bustling urban environment.

Additionally, both Amherst College and UC Berkeley offer unique opportunities for students to engage with their surrounding communities. Amherst College has a strong focus on community service and encourages students to get involved in local organizations and initiatives. UC Berkeley, on the other hand, is known for its activism and social justice movements, with students often participating in protests and advocacy work in the Bay Area and beyond.

Academic Program Comparison

Both Amherst College and the University of California, Berkeley offer a wide range of academic programs. However, they differ in their approach to education. Amherst College focuses exclusively on undergraduate education, which means that students receive a highly personalized experience. The college offers majors in various fields, including the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences.

On the other hand, the University of California, Berkeley is a large research university that offers both undergraduate and graduate programs. The university is known for its strong programs in engineering, computer science, and business. Additionally, Berkeley has a thriving research program and is home to many prestigious research centers and institutes.

Another difference between Amherst College and the University of California, Berkeley is the size of their student bodies. Amherst College has a much smaller student population, with around 1,800 students enrolled. This allows for a more intimate learning environment and closer relationships between students and faculty. In contrast, the University of California, Berkeley has over 42,000 students, making it one of the largest universities in the United States. While this can provide more opportunities for research and networking, it can also make it more difficult for students to form close connections with their professors.

Furthermore, Amherst College and the University of California, Berkeley have different requirements for graduation. At Amherst College, students are required to complete a senior thesis or project in their major field of study. This allows students to delve deeper into a topic of their choice and demonstrate their mastery of the subject. At the University of California, Berkeley, students are required to complete a certain number of units in various subject areas, known as breadth requirements. This ensures that students receive a well-rounded education and are exposed to a variety of disciplines.

elevated view of one of the areas of UC Berkeley

Admissions Process and Requirements

As with any college, the admissions process for Amherst College and the University of California, Berkeley can be competitive. Amherst College has an acceptance rate of roughly 11% and requires applicants to submit transcripts, test scores, essays, and letters of recommendation.

The University of California, Berkeley has a slightly higher acceptance rate at approximately 17%. The university requires applicants to submit transcripts, test scores, essays, and letters of recommendation as well. Additionally, the university has specific requirements for out-of-state and international applicants.

For out-of-state applicants, the University of California, Berkeley requires that they have completed specific coursework in high school, including four years of English, three years of math, two years of social science, two years of laboratory science, and two years of a foreign language. International applicants must also submit TOEFL or IELTS scores to demonstrate English proficiency.

Student Life: Amherst vs Berkeley

Amherst College and the University of California, Berkeley provide students with countless opportunities for involvement outside of the classroom. Both colleges offer a range of clubs, organizations, and extracurricular activities to suit students’ diverse interests.

When it comes to housing, both colleges offer a wide range of options. Amherst College provides all first-year students with on-campus housing. Following the first year, students have the option to live in on-campus housing or off-campus in the town of Amherst. The University of California, Berkeley has on-campus housing available for all students, but due to the large student body, many students choose to live off-campus in nearby apartments and houses.

Additionally, both colleges offer various resources and support for students living on and off-campus. Amherst College has a housing office that assists students in finding off-campus housing options and provides resources for navigating the rental process. The University of California, Berkeley has a housing and dining services department that offers support for students living on-campus, as well as resources for finding off-campus housing and managing rental agreements.

Diversity and Inclusion: Amherst vs Berkeley

Diversity and inclusion are important factors to consider when choosing a college. Amherst College has a diverse student body and is committed to fostering a welcoming and inclusive community. The college offers programs and resources to help support underrepresented students.

Similarly, the University of California, Berkeley has a diverse student body and is dedicated to promoting inclusivity on campus. The university offers numerous resources to support and empower students from underrepresented backgrounds.

In addition to these resources, both Amherst College and UC Berkeley have active student organizations that focus on promoting diversity and inclusion on campus. These organizations provide a space for students to connect with others who share similar experiences and interests, and they often host events and workshops to educate the broader campus community on issues related to diversity and inclusion.

UC Berkeley arch

Athletics and Fitness Facilities: Amherst vs Berkeley

For students who enjoy sports and fitness, both colleges offer numerous opportunities to get involved. Amherst College is a Division III school with a range of varsity sports teams, intramural sports, and fitness facilities available to all students.

The University of California, Berkeley is part of the NCAA Division I and offers numerous varsity sports teams for students to join. Additionally, the university boasts state-of-the-art fitness facilities, including the Berkeley Recreational Sports Facility, to support student health and wellness.

At Amherst College, students can also take advantage of the outdoor recreation opportunities available in the surrounding area. The college is located near the Berkshire Mountains, providing students with access to hiking, skiing, and other outdoor activities. The college also has partnerships with local organizations to offer outdoor adventure programs, such as rock climbing and kayaking, to students.

Faculty and Class Size: Amherst vs Berkeley

Class size and faculty ratio are important to consider when evaluating a college’s academic program and support resources. Amherst College has a student-to-faculty ratio of 7:1, which means that students receive personalized attention from their professors. Additionally, the small class sizes enable students to develop close relationships with their peers and professors.

The University of California, Berkeley has a higher student-to-faculty ratio of 20:1. The larger class sizes mean that students may have less one-on-one time with professors, but Berkeley makes up for this with a plethora of academic resources, including tutoring, mentors, and study groups.

Another factor to consider when comparing faculty and class size is the diversity of the faculty. At Amherst College, the faculty is known for its diversity, with professors from a variety of backgrounds and experiences. This diversity can provide students with a unique perspective and a more well-rounded education.

On the other hand, the University of California, Berkeley has a reputation for its research-focused faculty. Many of the professors at Berkeley are leaders in their fields and are actively engaged in cutting-edge research. This can provide students with the opportunity to learn from experts in their fields and potentially participate in research projects themselves.

Amherst College

Career Services and Alumni Network: Amherst vs Berkeley

Another important aspect to consider when choosing a college is the resources available for post-college success. Amherst College has a robust career services program that helps students prepare for job interviews, career fairs, and internships. Additionally, the college offers networking opportunities to help students connect with alumni in their respective fields.

The University of California, Berkeley also has a strong career services program that offers students access to job opportunities, internships, and networking events. Berkeley boasts a vast alumni network and provides students with the opportunity to connect with successful alumni in their field of interest.

However, one key difference between the two institutions is the size of their alumni networks. While Amherst College has a smaller alumni community, it is known for its tight-knit and supportive community. This can be beneficial for students who are looking for more personalized connections and mentorship opportunities. On the other hand, UC Berkeley’s larger alumni network can provide students with a wider range of career opportunities and connections in various industries.

Tuition, Financial Aid, and Scholarship Options

College can be expensive, so it’s important to consider the cost of attendance when choosing a college. For the 2021-2022 academic year, Amherst College’s tuition is $62,430. However, the college is committed to making higher education accessible and provides need-based financial aid to students.

The University of California, Berkeley’s tuition for in-state students is $14,312, and for out-of-state students, it’s $44,066. However, like Amherst College, Berkeley provides numerous financial aid and scholarship opportunities to help offset costs. Additionally, the university has a work-study program that enables students to work on campus to earn extra money.

It’s important to note that financial aid and scholarships are not the only options available to students to help pay for college. Many colleges and universities offer payment plans that allow students to pay their tuition in installments throughout the year. Some schools also offer merit-based scholarships, which are awarded based on academic achievement or other accomplishments. It’s important to research all of your options and speak with a financial aid advisor to determine the best course of action for your individual situation.

Safety and Security: Amherst vs Berkeley

Safety is an important aspect to consider when choosing a college. Amherst College has its own campus police force and has a low crime rate. The college also offers numerous resources to support student safety, including a campus-wide emergency alert system and a comprehensive sexual assault prevention and response program.

The University of California, Berkeley also has its own police force and offers numerous resources to support student safety, including a liveSafe app that enables students to report incidents and receive alerts. Additionally, the university has a dedicated Sexual Harassment and Assault Response and Prevention Program to support students who have experienced sexual violence.

Both Amherst College and the University of California, Berkeley prioritize the safety and security of their students. In addition to their own campus police forces, both colleges have implemented safety measures to ensure the well-being of their students. For example, Amherst College has installed security cameras throughout the campus, while UC Berkeley has implemented a blue light emergency phone system that allows students to quickly contact campus police in case of an emergency. These measures, along with the comprehensive safety programs offered by both colleges, provide students with a safe and secure environment to pursue their academic goals.

Amherst College

Student Testimonials: Amherst vs Berkeley

It can be helpful to hear from current students about why they chose Amherst College or the University of California, Berkeley. Here are just a few testimonials from current students at each college:

“I chose Amherst College because of the small class sizes and the personalized attention I receive from my professors. The college has challenged me academically and provided me with numerous opportunities to get involved on campus.” – John, Amherst College Student

“I chose the University of California, Berkeley because I knew that it would provide me with an opportunity to pursue my passion for computer science. The university’s strong academic programs, vibrant student life, and location in the Bay Area made it an easy choice for me.” – Sarah, University of California, Berkeley Student

Another reason why students choose Amherst College is because of its commitment to diversity and inclusion. The college has a strong focus on creating a welcoming and supportive environment for students from all backgrounds. This was important to me as I wanted to attend a college where I felt valued and included.

Similarly, many students choose the University of California, Berkeley because of its reputation as a leading research institution. The university has a long history of groundbreaking research in a variety of fields, and students have the opportunity to work alongside renowned faculty members on cutting-edge projects. This was a major draw for me as I wanted to attend a college where I could be at the forefront of innovation and discovery.

Prospective Student Checklist: What to Consider Before Making a Decision

Before making a final decision, it’s important to consider all of the factors we’ve discussed. Here’s a checklist of things to consider:

  • Location and campus size
  • Academic programs offered
  • Admissions requirements and process
  • Student life and housing options
  • Diversity and inclusion on campus
  • Athletics and fitness facilities
  • Faculty and class size
  • Career services and alumni network
  • Tuition and financial aid options
  • Safety and security on campus

Additionally, it’s important to research the surrounding community and its resources. Consider the availability of internships, job opportunities, and cultural events in the area. It’s also worth looking into transportation options, such as public transit or bike paths, to get around the city or town. Understanding the community can help you determine if it’s a good fit for your personal and professional goals.

Conclusion: Which College is the Right Fit for You?

Choosing between Amherst College and the University of California, Berkeley ultimately comes down to your personal preferences and priorities. Do you thrive in a small, tight-knit community, or do you prefer a bustling urban environment? Are you looking for a highly personalized academic experience or a world-class research institution?

Consider all of the factors we’ve discussed, and weigh them carefully. Both Amherst College and the University of California, Berkeley are exceptional institutions that offer students a wealth of opportunities. By carefully evaluating your own priorities and preferences, you can make an informed decision about which college is the right fit for you.

It’s important to note that while both colleges have their strengths, they also have their weaknesses. For example, Amherst College may not have as many resources or research opportunities as UC Berkeley, but it offers a more intimate and supportive community. On the other hand, UC Berkeley may have more resources and opportunities, but it can also be overwhelming and competitive.

Ultimately, the decision of which college to attend should be based on your individual needs and goals. Take the time to research both colleges thoroughly, visit their campuses if possible, and talk to current students and alumni. By doing so, you can gain a better understanding of what each college has to offer and make an informed decision that will set you on the path to success.

Amherst College

How AdmissionSight Can Help You With College Admissions

AdmissionSight is a college consulting firm that provides personalized assistance to students throughout the college admissions process. Here are some ways that AdmissionSight can help you:

Admissions strategy: AdmissionSight can help you develop a strategic plan for your college application process. Our professional consultants can assist with identifying schools that are a good fit for your academic, extracurricular, and personal goals and help you plan and prioritize your application strategy.

Application review: AdmissionSight can review your application and provide feedback on how to improve it. We can offer suggestions on making your application stand out and highlighting your strengths and unique qualities.

Essay coaching: AdmissionSight can help you craft compelling essays that showcase your personality, goals, and achievements. We can guide you through the essay writing process and provide feedback on your drafts to help you refine your writing.

Interview preparation: AdmissionSight can provide interview coaching to help you feel confident and prepared for college interviews. Our experts can offer tips on how to present yourself professionally and how to answer common interview questions.

Extracurricular planning: AdmissionSight can help you plan and develop your extracurricular activities to make them more impactful and meaningful. We can suggest activities that align with your interests and goals and provide guidance on demonstrating your leadership and initiative.

Overall, AdmissionSight can provide valuable guidance and support throughout the college admissions process to help you maximize your chances of getting accepted into the college of your choice.

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