Amherst vs Harvard: Which University is the Best Choice?

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

Amherst College

Amherst vs Harvard: Which University is the Best Choice?

Choosing the right university can be a daunting task, especially when you have top-notch institutions like Amherst and Harvard to consider. Both universities offer excellent academic programs, renowned faculty, and a highly competitive student body. However, if you’re wondering which one is the best fit for you, then this article is designed to help you with just that. In this comprehensive comparison of Amherst vs Harvard, we will cover everything you need to know to make an informed decision.

Amherst and Harvard: A Brief Overview of the Universities

Amherst and Harvard are both private liberal arts colleges located in Massachusetts, USA. Amherst College was founded in 1821 and has a student population of around 1,800. Harvard University, on the other hand, was founded in 1636 and has a massive student population of over 20,000. Both universities are highly prestigious and offer rigorous academic programs. Harvard, in particular, is often regarded as one of the best universities in the world.

Despite their similarities, there are some notable differences between Amherst and Harvard. For example, Amherst is a smaller and more intimate college, with a student-to-faculty ratio of 7:1. This means that students have more opportunities to interact with their professors and receive personalized attention. In contrast, Harvard has a larger student body and a student-to-faculty ratio of 9:1, which can make it more challenging for students to form close relationships with their professors.

Harvard University historic building in Cambridge at Massachusetts USA

Another difference between the two universities is their approach to undergraduate education. Amherst is a liberal arts college that emphasizes a broad-based education, with students required to take courses in a variety of disciplines. Harvard, on the other hand, offers a more specialized education, with students encouraged to focus on a particular field of study. This can be an advantage for students who already know what they want to study, but it can also limit their exposure to other areas of knowledge.

Academic Programs at Amherst and Harvard: A Comprehensive Comparison

The academic programs offered at Amherst and Harvard are quite different in terms of structure and focus. Amherst has a highly specialized curriculum that emphasizes interdisciplinary studies. It offers 40 majors and over 800 courses in the arts, sciences, and humanities. Harvard, on the other hand, has a broad-based liberal arts curriculum that offers 50 majors across various disciplines. It also has world-class professional schools, including the Harvard Medical School, Harvard Law School, and the Harvard Business School.

Despite their differences, both Amherst and Harvard offer a rigorous academic experience that challenges students to think critically and creatively. At Amherst, students are encouraged to explore multiple fields of study and to engage in independent research projects. Harvard, on the other hand, places a strong emphasis on experiential learning, with opportunities for students to participate in internships, research projects, and study abroad programs.

Another key difference between the two institutions is their approach to teaching. At Amherst, classes are typically small and taught by faculty members who are experts in their fields. This allows for a more personalized learning experience and fosters close relationships between students and professors. At Harvard, classes can be larger, but the university has a strong commitment to teaching excellence and provides extensive support for faculty members to develop their teaching skills.

Amherst vs Harvard: Campus Culture

Amherst and Harvard have distinct campus cultures that set them apart from each other. Amherst is known for its close-knit community and intimate campus. It has a strong sense of tradition and prides itself on its commitment to academic inquiry and social justice. Harvard, on the other hand, is known for its competitive and ambitious environment. It has a diverse student body and a dynamic campus life that includes a variety of student organizations and extracurricular activities.

Despite their differences, both Amherst and Harvard share a commitment to academic excellence. However, the approach to achieving this excellence differs between the two institutions. At Amherst, the focus is on small class sizes and close relationships between students and faculty. This allows for a more personalized and collaborative learning experience. At Harvard, the focus is on rigorous academic standards and a challenging curriculum. The large class sizes and competitive environment push students to excel and prepare them for success in their future careers.

Admission Requirements: What It Takes to Get into Amherst and Harvard

Both Amherst and Harvard have highly competitive admission processes that require applicants to have exceptional academic achievements, extracurricular activities, and personal qualities. Amherst, in particular, is highly selective, with an acceptance rate of only 11%. To get admitted, you must have excellent grades and standardized test scores, as well as compelling essays and recommendations. Similarly, Harvard is also highly selective, with an acceptance rate of only 5%. It looks for students who have excelled academically, shown leadership potential, and demonstrated a commitment to their communities.

However, there are some differences in the admission requirements between Amherst and Harvard. Amherst places a greater emphasis on a student’s intellectual curiosity and passion for learning, while Harvard values a student’s ability to think critically and creatively. Additionally, Amherst has a test-optional policy, which means that applicants can choose not to submit standardized test scores if they feel that they do not accurately reflect their academic abilities. On the other hand, Harvard requires all applicants to submit standardized test scores, but it does not have a minimum score requirement.

It is also important to note that both Amherst and Harvard consider a student’s background and experiences when evaluating their application. They value diversity and seek to admit students from a wide range of backgrounds and perspectives. Therefore, it is important for applicants to showcase their unique experiences and how they have contributed to their communities. Ultimately, getting admitted to either Amherst or Harvard requires a combination of academic excellence, personal qualities, and a strong application that highlights the applicant’s strengths and potential.

A building in Harvard University

Faculty and Student Ratio Compared: Which University Offers More Personalized Learning Experience?

Both Amherst and Harvard have renowned faculty members who are experts in their fields. However, the student-to-faculty ratio at Amherst is much lower than at Harvard, which means that students get more individual attention from their professors. Amherst has a student-to-faculty ratio of 7:1, while Harvard’s is 7.6:1. This means that Amherst students have a more personalized learning experience and can build stronger relationships with their professors.

Additionally, Amherst College has a smaller student body compared to Harvard, which also contributes to a more personalized learning experience. Amherst has a total undergraduate enrollment of around 1,800 students, while Harvard has over 6,700 undergraduates. With a smaller student body, Amherst students have more opportunities to interact with their professors and classmates, participate in class discussions, and receive feedback on their work. This creates a more intimate and collaborative learning environment that fosters academic growth and success.

The Cost of Studying at Amherst vs Harvard: Is One More Affordable Than the Other?

The cost of studying at both Amherst and Harvard is significant. Amherst’s tuition and fees for the 2021-2022 academic year were $62,926, while Harvard’s were $51,925. However, both universities offer generous financial aid packages to eligible students. The average financial aid award at Amherst is $59,933, while at Harvard, it is $54,388. Therefore, while both universities are expensive, they are affordable for many students, regardless of their financial background.

It is important to note that the cost of studying at a university goes beyond just tuition and fees. Other expenses such as room and board, textbooks, and transportation can add up quickly. At Amherst, the estimated cost of attendance for the 2021-2022 academic year is $78,900, while at Harvard, it is $78,200. However, both universities offer various resources and opportunities for students to reduce these costs, such as work-study programs and scholarships. It is important for students and their families to carefully consider all of these factors when making a decision about where to attend college.

Amherst campus from afar

Amherst vs Harvard: Alumni Network

Both Amherst and Harvard have highly regarded alumni networks that offer excellent career opportunities to graduates. However, Harvard’s alumni network is much larger and more diverse than Amherst’s. This means that Harvard graduates have a wider range of career opportunities and connections to tap into. Harvard alumni are found in almost every industry, including politics, business, and the arts. Amherst alumni, on the other hand, are more concentrated in academia and the nonprofit sector.

Despite the difference in size and diversity, Amherst’s alumni network has its own unique advantages. Amherst alumni tend to have closer relationships with each other, which can lead to more personalized and supportive career connections. Additionally, Amherst’s smaller network allows for more targeted networking opportunities, as alumni are more likely to share common interests and career paths. This can be especially beneficial for graduates looking to break into niche industries or fields. Ultimately, the choice between Amherst and Harvard’s alumni networks depends on the individual’s career goals and preferences.

Campus Life at Amherst vs Harvard: Which One is More Vibrant?

Amherst and Harvard have vibrant campus lives that offer a range of extracurricular activities, clubs, and events. However, Harvard’s campus life is more dynamic and diverse than Amherst’s. Harvard has over 450 student organizations that cater to a wide range of interests, from politics to sports. It also has numerous cultural events, including theater performances, concerts, and art exhibitions. Amherst, on the other hand, has a more subdued campus life, with a limited number of student organizations and events.

Despite the differences in campus life, both Amherst and Harvard offer unique opportunities for students to engage in their communities. Amherst’s smaller size allows for a more intimate and tight-knit community, where students can form close relationships with their peers and professors. Harvard, on the other hand, offers a larger and more diverse community, where students can interact with people from different backgrounds and cultures.

Amherst College

Another factor that sets these two campuses apart is their location. Amherst is located in a small town in western Massachusetts, surrounded by scenic mountains and forests. This provides students with a peaceful and serene environment, perfect for studying and reflection. Harvard, on the other hand, is located in the heart of Cambridge, a bustling city with a vibrant cultural scene. This allows students to explore the city and take advantage of all the opportunities it has to offer.

Sports Programs Offered at Amherst and Harvard: A Comparison

Both Amherst and Harvard have excellent sports programs that offer students the opportunity to participate in a variety of sports, including basketball, football, and soccer. Amherst has a Division III athletic program that competes in the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC). Harvard, on the other hand, has a Division I athletic program that competes in the Ivy League. Harvard is particularly known for its rowing team, which has won numerous national championships.

Despite the differences in their athletic programs, both Amherst and Harvard prioritize the well-being of their student-athletes. Both schools have dedicated athletic trainers and medical staff to ensure that athletes receive proper care and treatment for injuries. Additionally, both schools have implemented policies to support the academic success of their athletes, such as study halls and tutoring services. Overall, while the athletic programs at Amherst and Harvard may differ in terms of division and conference, both schools provide a supportive and enriching environment for student-athletes.

Housing Options for Students at Amherst vs Harvard

Amherst and Harvard offer a range of housing options for students, including dormitories, apartments, and houses. Amherst has a residential campus that requires students to live on campus for all four years. It offers a variety of housing options, including traditional dormitories, themed houses, and apartment-style housing. Harvard, on the other hand, has a more decentralized housing system that allows students to live on or off-campus. It also has a variety of housing options, including traditional dormitories, co-ops, and apartments.

It is important to note that the cost of housing at Amherst and Harvard can vary significantly. While both schools offer financial aid to help cover the cost of housing, the cost of living on campus at Amherst is generally lower than at Harvard. Additionally, students at Amherst are guaranteed housing for all four years, while at Harvard, housing is not guaranteed after the first year. This can make it more difficult for students to secure affordable housing in subsequent years.

Amherst College

Amherst vs Harvard: Campus Safety

Both Amherst and Harvard have excellent campus safety records and are committed to ensuring the safety and security of their students. Amherst has a dedicated campus police force, as well as a number of safety initiatives, including an emergency alert system and a peer escort service. Harvard also has a campus police force and a number of safety initiatives, including a campus shuttle service and a blue-light emergency phone system.

Despite their similarities, there are some differences in the way that Amherst and Harvard approach campus safety. For example, Amherst has a strict policy prohibiting the possession of firearms on campus, while Harvard allows licensed individuals to carry concealed weapons. Additionally, Amherst has implemented a bystander intervention program to prevent sexual assault, while Harvard has a comprehensive sexual assault response and prevention program.

Both schools also face unique safety challenges. Amherst, located in a small town, has a relatively low crime rate but must contend with issues such as alcohol and drug use among students. Harvard, located in a major city, faces a higher risk of crime and has implemented measures such as increased lighting and security cameras to address this.

The Prestige Factor of Attending Amherst vs Harvard

Attending either Amherst or Harvard is a great achievement, and both universities are highly prestigious. However, Harvard’s international reputation is unparalleled, and it is often regarded as one of the best universities in the world. Its reputation opens up many doors for its graduates and gives them a significant advantage in the job market. Amherst, on the other hand, is less well-known internationally but still highly respected in academic circles. Its graduates are highly sought after by top employers.

It is worth noting that while Harvard may have a more recognizable name, Amherst has a smaller student body and a lower student-to-faculty ratio. This means that students at Amherst have more opportunities for one-on-one interactions with professors and can receive more personalized attention. Additionally, Amherst has a strong emphasis on undergraduate education, with no graduate programs to distract from the focus on undergraduate students. This can lead to a more intimate and supportive academic environment for students.

Amherst vs Harvard: Student Satisfaction Rates

Student satisfaction rates at both Amherst and Harvard are high. However, Amherst has consistently been ranked as one of the happiest and most satisfied student bodies in the United States. This is due, in part, to its close-knit community, personalized learning experiences, and supportive faculty. Harvard, on the other hand, has a more competitive and high-stress environment, which can sometimes result in lower levels of satisfaction.

Another factor that contributes to the high satisfaction rates at Amherst is its focus on student well-being. The college offers a variety of resources and programs to support students’ mental and physical health, such as counseling services, wellness workshops, and fitness classes. Additionally, Amherst has a strong commitment to diversity and inclusion, which creates a welcoming and supportive environment for students from all backgrounds.

Despite the differences in satisfaction levels between the two schools, both Amherst and Harvard offer exceptional academic programs and opportunities for students to excel. Ultimately, the decision of which school to attend should be based on individual preferences and priorities, whether that be a tight-knit community or a more competitive environment.

Choosing Between Amherst and Harvard: Factors to Consider Before Making Your Decision

Choosing between Amherst and Harvard requires careful consideration and an understanding of what each university has to offer. The factors you should consider include your academic interests, campus culture, extracurricular activities, and financial situation. You should also consider the reputation and alumni network of each university and how it aligns with your career goals. Ultimately, the decision comes down to your personal preferences and what you hope to gain from your college experience.

One important factor to consider when choosing between Amherst and Harvard is the size of the student body. Amherst is a smaller school with a student population of around 1,800, while Harvard has a much larger student body of over 30,000. This can impact the sense of community and the opportunities for individual attention from professors. Additionally, the location of each school may also be a factor to consider. Amherst is located in a small town in western Massachusetts, while Harvard is located in the heart of Cambridge, just outside of Boston.

Another factor to consider is the availability of resources and support systems for students. Both Amherst and Harvard offer a range of academic and personal support services, but the specific resources available may differ between the two schools. For example, Amherst has a strong focus on undergraduate research and offers a variety of research opportunities for students, while Harvard has a larger graduate program and may have more resources available for graduate-level research.

Amherst College


Comparing Amherst and Harvard is no easy task. Both universities offer an excellent education and numerous opportunities for personal and academic growth. However, by looking at the factors covered in this article, you can make an informed decision about which one is the best fit for you. Whether you choose Amherst or Harvard, you can be sure that you will receive a first-rate education that will prepare you for success in whatever you do.

It is important to note that while both universities have their strengths, they also have their weaknesses. For example, Amherst may have a smaller student body and more personalized attention from professors, but it may not have the same level of resources and facilities as Harvard. On the other hand, Harvard may have more resources and opportunities for research, but it may also have larger class sizes and less individualized attention. Ultimately, it is up to the individual student to weigh these factors and decide which university aligns best with their goals and values.

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