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Amherst vs Northwestern: Which College is Right for You?

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

Amherst College

Amherst vs Northwestern: Which College is Right for You?

If you’re trying to decide between two top universities, it can be overwhelming to weigh all the different factors. That’s why we’re comparing Amherst vs Northwestern to help you make an informed decision. We’ll cover everything from the schools’ histories and locations to their academic programs and social scenes. By the end of this article, you’ll have a comprehensive understanding of what sets these two schools apart.

Introduction: Why Compare Amherst and Northwestern?

Amherst and Northwestern are both highly-regarded universities, but they have different strengths and weaknesses. Amherst is a small liberal arts college located in Massachusetts, while Northwestern is a research-focused university in Illinois. Depending on your interests and career goals, one may be a better fit for you than the other. That’s why we’re comparing all the factors that matter when choosing a college.

One important factor to consider when comparing Amherst and Northwestern is the size of the student body. Amherst has a much smaller student body, with only around 1,800 undergraduate students, while Northwestern has over 8,000 undergraduate students. This can have a significant impact on the campus culture and the types of opportunities available to students. At Amherst, students may have more personalized attention from professors and a tighter-knit community, while at Northwestern, students may have access to a wider range of resources and a more diverse student body.

Campus of Northwestern University, with the library building

History and Founding of Amherst and Northwestern

Both Amherst and Northwestern have long and storied histories. Amherst was founded in 1821 as a men’s college, and it became coeducational in 1975. Northwestern was founded in 1851 by John Evans, who wanted to establish a university in the Midwest that would rival the Ivy League schools. It started as a small college and expanded over time into a large research institution. One key difference between the schools is their size: Amherst has a total enrollment of just over 1,800 students, while Northwestern’s enrollment is closer to 21,000.

Despite their differences in size, both Amherst and Northwestern have made significant contributions to academia and research. Amherst is known for its strong liberal arts curriculum and has produced many notable alumni, including five Nobel laureates. Northwestern, on the other hand, is renowned for its programs in journalism, law, and medicine, and has also produced numerous successful graduates. Both schools continue to attract top students and faculty from around the world, and remain important institutions in the world of higher education.

Location and Campus of Amherst and Northwestern

Location is another important factor to consider when choosing a college. Amherst is located in western Massachusetts, in a small town that’s about two hours from Boston. It’s a picturesque and green campus, with classic New England architecture. Northwestern is located in Evanston, Illinois, which is a suburb of Chicago. The campus is larger and more urban than Amherst’s, with high-rise buildings and a modern feel.

However, despite their differences in location and campus, both Amherst and Northwestern offer a variety of extracurricular activities and opportunities for students to get involved. Amherst has over 100 student-run organizations, including a cappella groups, sports teams, and community service clubs. Northwestern also has a wide range of student organizations, including a student government, cultural clubs, and a student-run newspaper. Both schools also offer study abroad programs, internships, and research opportunities for students to gain real-world experience and enhance their education.

Academics: Majors, Programs, and Curriculum at Amherst and Northwestern

When it comes to academics, both schools offer a wide range of programs and majors. Amherst is known for its strong liberal arts curriculum, and offers majors in everything from English to neuroscience. Northwestern is more research-focused, with top-ranked programs in areas like journalism, engineering, and business.

Additionally, both Amherst and Northwestern offer unique interdisciplinary programs that allow students to explore multiple fields of study. Amherst’s Five College Consortium allows students to take classes at nearby colleges like Smith and Mount Holyoke, expanding their academic opportunities. Northwestern’s Integrated Science Program combines biology, chemistry, and physics into a single program, giving students a comprehensive understanding of the natural sciences.

View of Northwestern University

Faculty and Student Body at Amherst and Northwestern

The faculty and student body at a school can greatly impact your college experience. Amherst has a student-teacher ratio of 7:1, meaning you’ll get plenty of one-on-one attention from professors. The professors at Amherst are highly-regarded scholars and educators who are committed to their students’ success. Northwestern also has a strong faculty, with several Nobel laureates and MacArthur “genius” grant winners on staff. However, with a larger student body, you may need to be more proactive in seeking out mentorship and guidance.

Another important factor to consider when comparing the faculty and student body at Amherst and Northwestern is the diversity of the student population. Amherst has a strong commitment to diversity and inclusivity, with over 45% of students identifying as students of color. This creates a rich and dynamic learning environment where students can learn from a variety of perspectives. Northwestern also has a diverse student body, with students from all 50 states and over 100 countries. However, it is important to note that the percentage of students of color at Northwestern is slightly lower than at Amherst, at around 30%.

Amherst vs Northwestern: Campus Life

College is about more than just academics; it’s also an opportunity to explore new interests and meet new people. Both Amherst and Northwestern have a variety of clubs and organizations to join, from political groups to sports teams. Amherst has a strong tradition of literary and artistic pursuits, with several student-run publications and a thriving arts scene. Northwestern is known for its strong sports programs, including football and basketball.

Additionally, both Amherst and Northwestern offer a vibrant social scene with plenty of opportunities to socialize and make new friends. From on-campus events like concerts and movie screenings to off-campus outings to nearby cities, there is always something to do. Students can also take advantage of the many volunteer and community service opportunities available, giving back to the local community while also gaining valuable experience and skills.

Amherst vs Northwestern: Housing Options

Where you live can greatly impact your college experience. Amherst has a variety of housing options, from traditional dorms to apartment-style living. There are also several fraternities and sororities on campus. Northwestern also has a variety of housing options, including residential colleges and off-campus apartments. Greek life is a significant presence on campus, with several fraternities and sororities.

At Amherst, the dorms are divided into several residential areas, each with its own unique character and community. Some dorms are designated as substance-free, while others are known for their lively social scene. The apartment-style living options at Amherst are popular among upperclassmen, as they offer more independence and privacy. Additionally, Amherst has several theme houses, which are living communities centered around a particular interest or identity.

Northwestern’s residential colleges are designed to create a tight-knit community within a larger university setting. Each college has its own dining hall, common spaces, and faculty-in-residence. Off-campus apartments are also a popular option for upperclassmen at Northwestern, as they offer more space and independence. Greek life at Northwestern is known for its philanthropic efforts, with many fraternities and sororities hosting events and fundraisers for various causes throughout the year.

Amherst College

Research Opportunities at Amherst vs Northwestern

If you’re interested in pursuing research opportunities, Northwestern may be the better choice. The university has several research institutes and centers, as well as numerous undergraduate research opportunities. However, Amherst also offers opportunities for independent research, and many students go on to pursue graduate programs or careers in research fields.

It’s important to note that the research opportunities at Amherst and Northwestern may differ depending on your field of study. For example, if you’re interested in the humanities, Amherst’s small class sizes and close relationships with faculty may provide more personalized research opportunities. On the other hand, if you’re interested in STEM fields, Northwestern’s extensive research facilities and partnerships with industry leaders may offer more hands-on experience. It’s important to research and consider the specific research opportunities available in your field of study when making a decision between these two universities.

Career Services & Networking Opportunities at Amherst & Northwestern

Both Amherst and Northwestern have strong career services programs that can help students prepare for life after graduation. Northwestern has several career centers that offer workshops, internships, and networking events. Amherst also has a dedicated career center that helps students with everything from career exploration to resume writing.

In addition to career services, both Amherst and Northwestern offer a variety of networking opportunities for students. Northwestern has a large alumni network that students can tap into for job opportunities and mentorship. Amherst also has a strong alumni network, and the college hosts networking events throughout the year to connect students with alumni in their fields of interest.

Furthermore, both schools have partnerships with local and national companies, providing students with access to internships and job opportunities. Northwestern has partnerships with companies such as Google, IBM, and Goldman Sachs, while Amherst has partnerships with organizations like Teach for America and the Peace Corps.

Tuition Fees & Financial Aid Comparison for Amherst vs Northwestern

College can be expensive, so it’s important to consider the cost of tuition and the availability of financial aid. Amherst’s tuition fee is over $60,000, while Northwestern’s is around $55,000. However, both schools offer generous financial aid packages to students who qualify. Amherst also has a “no-loan” policy, which means that students who receive financial aid won’t have to take out loans to pay for their education.

It’s worth noting that the availability and types of financial aid can vary between the two schools. Northwestern offers need-based aid, as well as merit-based scholarships and grants. Amherst, on the other hand, offers need-based aid and also has a program called “QuestBridge,” which provides full scholarships to high-achieving, low-income students. It’s important to research and compare the financial aid options at each school to determine which one may be a better fit for your financial situation.

Amherst College

Admission Process Comparison for Amherst vs Northwestern

Getting into a top university is a competitive process, so it’s important to understand the admissions requirements and process. Both Amherst and Northwestern are highly selective schools, with acceptance rates around 15%. They both require SAT or ACT scores, as well as essays and recommendation letters. Amherst also offers an optional alumni interview, while Northwestern requires an on-campus interview for some applicants.

One major difference between the admission processes of Amherst and Northwestern is their approach to standardized testing. While both schools require SAT or ACT scores, Amherst is test-optional for applicants who feel that their scores do not accurately reflect their academic abilities. Northwestern, on the other hand, does not offer a test-optional policy and places a strong emphasis on standardized test scores in their admissions decisions.

Another factor to consider is the availability of financial aid and scholarships. Amherst is committed to meeting 100% of demonstrated financial need for all admitted students, while Northwestern offers need-based financial aid as well as merit-based scholarships. It’s important for prospective students to research and compare the financial aid options at both schools to determine which one may be a better fit for their financial situation.

Alumni Network & Success Stories of Amherst vs Northwestern

The alumni network of a school can be a key factor in your future career success. Both Amherst and Northwestern have successful alumni in a variety of fields, from entertainment to politics to business. Amherst has produced several Nobel laureates, while Northwestern has graduated numerous Pulitzer Prize winners. Both schools have dedicated alumni networks that can provide valuable networking opportunities.

However, there are some differences between the alumni networks of Amherst and Northwestern. Amherst’s alumni network is known for its close-knit community and strong connections, with alumni often returning to campus to mentor current students. Northwestern’s alumni network, on the other hand, is more spread out and diverse, with alumni located all over the world.

When it comes to success stories, Amherst has produced notable alumni such as former US President Calvin Coolidge and billionaire investor Daniel Loeb. Northwestern, on the other hand, boasts alumni such as comedian Stephen Colbert and actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Both schools have a long list of successful graduates, but the industries and fields in which they excel may differ.

Amherst campus from afar

Conclusion: Which University is Best for You?

Ultimately, the decision of which university to attend depends on your individual priorities and goals. If you’re looking for a small, close-knit liberal arts college, Amherst may be the better choice. If you’re interested in research and a larger student body, Northwestern has more to offer. Both schools have strong academics, vibrant campus cultures, and successful alumni networks. It’s up to you to decide which factors matter most.

It’s important to also consider the location and surrounding community of each university. Amherst is located in a small town in western Massachusetts, while Northwestern is situated in the bustling city of Evanston, just outside of Chicago. The environment and opportunities available in each location can greatly impact your college experience. Additionally, financial considerations such as tuition, scholarships, and cost of living should also be taken into account when making your decision.

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