Amherst vs Vanderbilt: Which University is Right for You?

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

Amherst College

Amherst vs Vanderbilt: Which University is Right for You?

When it comes to choosing the right university, a lot of factors come into play. Location, academic programs, campus culture, financial aid, and career opportunities are just a few of the many considerations that prospective students must weigh. In this article, we’ll be comparing two popular universities in the United States: Amherst College vs Vanderbilt University. By examining multiple aspects of each institution, we hope to provide valuable insights that will help you make an informed decision about which one is right for you.

Amherst vs Vanderbilt: Location

One of the biggest differences between Amherst College and Vanderbilt University is the location of each campus. Amherst is situated in a small town in Massachusetts, while Vanderbilt is located in the bustling city of Nashville, Tennessee. Each setting has its pros and cons.

Amherst’s location in the idyllic Pioneer Valley offers a peaceful atmosphere that many students find conducive to studying and personal growth. The town is surrounded by mountains and forests, providing ample opportunities for outdoor recreation such as hiking and skiing. However, some students may feel that the lack of nightlife and cultural events is a downside.

On the other hand, Vanderbilt’s location in Nashville provides easy access to a vibrant music and arts scene, as well as a wide range of dining and entertainment options. The city’s growing economy also offers many opportunities for internships and job placements. However, students who prefer a quieter lifestyle may find the fast-paced city environment overwhelming.

Vanderbilt University building

Another factor to consider when comparing the locations of Amherst and Vanderbilt is the climate. Amherst experiences all four seasons, with cold winters and hot summers. Vanderbilt, on the other hand, has a more mild climate with hot summers and mild winters. This may be a deciding factor for students who have a preference for certain weather conditions.

Campus Life: Differences in Student Culture and Atmosphere

Another important factor to consider when comparing Amherst and Vanderbilt is the overall campus culture and atmosphere. Each university has its own unique traditions and student organizations that contribute to the college experience.

Amherst College is known for its strong sense of community and intellectual curiosity. The campus is small, with just over 1,800 undergraduate students, which fosters personal connections between students and professors. The college also offers a variety of cultural events and student-run clubs that promote diversity and inclusion.

At Vanderbilt, the student body is much larger, with over 12,000 undergraduate and graduate students. The university prides itself on its leadership development programs and extracurricular activities, which include over 500 student organizations ranging from academic clubs to sports teams. With such a large student body, Vanderbilt offers a more dynamic social scene and greater opportunities for networking.

Another aspect of campus life at Amherst College is the emphasis on interdisciplinary studies. The college encourages students to explore a variety of academic disciplines and offers a flexible curriculum that allows for cross-disciplinary learning. This approach to education fosters a well-rounded student body with a broad range of interests and skills.

On the other hand, Vanderbilt University is known for its strong pre-professional programs, particularly in business, engineering, and medicine. The university has partnerships with leading companies and organizations, providing students with valuable internship and job opportunities. This focus on practical skills and career readiness prepares Vanderbilt graduates for success in their chosen fields.

Amherst vs Vanderbilt: Academics

Of course, one of the most important factors in deciding which university is right for you is the academic programs offered. Amherst and Vanderbilt each have their own unique strengths and areas of focus.

Amherst is a liberal arts college, which means that it offers a broad curriculum with a focus on critical thinking and interdisciplinary learning. The college has a strong reputation for its humanities and social sciences departments, but also offers majors in fields such as natural sciences, mathematics, and computer science. With a low student-to-faculty ratio, Amherst students benefit from close relationships with professors and personalized academic advising.

Vanderbilt, on the other hand, is a larger research university that places an emphasis on undergraduate research opportunities and interdisciplinary collaboration. The university offers over 70 majors across a wide range of fields, from engineering and business to the humanities and social sciences. Vanderbilt’s faculty members are highly regarded in their respective fields, and the university is known for its strong pre-professional programs in fields such as medicine, law, and education.

Both Amherst and Vanderbilt offer a variety of study abroad programs for students who are interested in gaining international experience. Amherst has partnerships with universities in over 20 countries, and students can choose from semester-long or year-long programs. Vanderbilt also offers study abroad opportunities in over 50 countries, with programs ranging from short-term summer courses to full-year immersion programs. Studying abroad can be a great way to broaden your horizons, learn about different cultures, and gain valuable skills that will benefit you in your future career.

Admissions: Requirements, Acceptance Rates, and Financial Aid Options

Another important consideration when comparing Amherst and Vanderbilt is the admissions process and the financial aid options available to students. Here are some key points to keep in mind:

Amherst College has a highly selective admissions process, with an acceptance rate of just 12.1% in 2020. The college seeks to admit students who demonstrate intellectual curiosity, personal integrity, and a commitment to social justice. Amherst offers need-blind admissions, which means that a student’s financial need will not be a factor in the admissions decision. The college also offers generous financial aid packages, with 100% of demonstrated need met for admitted students.

Vanderbilt is also a selective university, with an acceptance rate of 9.1% in 2020. The university values academic achievement, leadership potential, and personal character in its admissions decisions. Vanderbilt offers both need-based and merit-based financial aid, and the university is committed to meeting 100% of demonstrated need for all admitted students.

View of Vanderbilt sign

It is important to note that both Amherst and Vanderbilt have holistic admissions processes, which means that they consider a range of factors beyond just grades and test scores. This includes extracurricular activities, essays, letters of recommendation, and more. Students should take the time to carefully craft their application materials and highlight their unique strengths and experiences.

Additionally, both colleges offer resources and support for students throughout the financial aid process. This includes assistance with filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), as well as guidance on scholarship and grant opportunities. Students should take advantage of these resources to ensure that they are able to make informed decisions about their college education.

Amherst vs Vanderbilt: Athletics

For many students, athletics are an important part of the college experience. Amherst and Vanderbilt each have their own unique sports programs.

At Amherst, athletics are a Division III program, which means that the emphasis is on athletic and academic balance. The college has a strong tradition of excellence in sports such as basketball, soccer, and lacrosse, and the student body is highly supportive of athletic events.

Vanderbilt is a Division I university with a strong athletic program, particularly in sports such as football, basketball, and baseball. The university has won multiple conference championships and has produced many successful professional athletes. Vanderbilt students are highly engaged in athletics and often attend games in large numbers.

Despite the differences in division level and sports programs, both Amherst and Vanderbilt prioritize the well-being and safety of their student-athletes. Both universities have implemented strict protocols and guidelines to ensure that their athletes are able to compete in a safe and healthy environment. Additionally, both universities offer a wide range of athletic opportunities for students, including intramural and club sports, allowing students of all skill levels to participate in athletics and stay active.

Amherst vs Vanderbilt: Alumni Network

Another important factor to consider when choosing a university is the strength of the alumni network – the community of graduates who can provide networking opportunities and support after graduation.

Amherst College has a loyal alumni base that includes many successful professionals across a wide range of industries. The college offers resources to help students connect with alumni, including a mentorship program and a database of job and internship opportunities.

Vanderbilt has a large and active alumni network, with graduates living and working across the United States and around the world. The university offers a range of resources to help students meet and connect with alumni, including career fairs, networking events, and an alumni directory.

Additionally, alumni networks can provide valuable resources for students who are interested in pursuing further education or research opportunities. Many alumni are involved in academic and research institutions, and can provide guidance and support for students who are interested in pursuing graduate studies or research projects.

Furthermore, alumni networks can also provide opportunities for students to give back to their communities and make a positive impact. Many alumni are involved in philanthropic organizations and community service initiatives, and can provide guidance and support for students who are interested in getting involved in these types of activities.

Amherst vs Vanderbilt: Campus Resources

Another important consideration for prospective students is the availability of campus resources such as libraries, research facilities, and career services.

Amherst College has a well-regarded library system that includes multiple campus libraries as well as access to a large network of online resources. The college also has several research facilities, including the Five College astronomy department and the Frost Library Digital Humanities Center. Career services at Amherst offer support with job searches, internships, and graduate school applications.

Vanderbilt has extensive library resources, including the Jean and Alexander Heard Library, which houses over 8 million volumes. The university also has numerous research facilities and centers, such as the Vanderbilt Institute for Infection, Immunology, and Inflammation. Career services at Vanderbilt offer individual career coaching, workshops and events for skill-building, and a platform to connect with alumni mentors.

Additionally, Amherst College offers a variety of resources for students interested in entrepreneurship and innovation. The Berenson Entrepreneurship Center provides mentorship, workshops, and funding opportunities for students looking to start their own businesses. The college also hosts an annual Innovation Challenge, where students can pitch their ideas and compete for funding.

At Vanderbilt, students have access to a wide range of cultural and artistic resources. The university’s Blair School of Music offers performances and classes in a variety of musical genres, while the Vanderbilt Fine Arts Gallery showcases works from both established and emerging artists. The university also hosts a number of cultural events throughout the year, including film screenings, lectures, and performances.

View of Vanderbilt university building

Amherst vs Vanderbilt: Diversity and Inclusion

Ensuring a welcoming environment for students of all backgrounds is a priority for both Amherst and Vanderbilt. Here are some examples of how each university promotes diversity and inclusion:

Amherst College has a diversity, equity, and inclusion office that offers resources and support to students from marginalized and underrepresented groups. The college also has a first-generation program that provides mentorship and academic support to students who are the first in their families to attend college. The college has a non-discrimination policy and has pledged to continue improving in areas of diversity and inclusion.

Vanderbilt University has a diverse student body and is committed to promoting inclusivity across campus. The university has a number of student groups and organizations that promote diversity, such as cultural clubs and social justice groups. Vanderbilt also has a non-discrimination policy and offers resources for students who have experienced bias or discrimination on campus.

Both universities also prioritize diversity and inclusion in their hiring practices. Amherst College has a diversity hiring initiative that aims to increase the representation of historically underrepresented groups among faculty and staff. Vanderbilt University has a diversity and inclusion strategic plan that includes goals for increasing diversity among faculty, staff, and leadership positions. Both universities recognize the importance of having a diverse and inclusive community, not just among students, but also among faculty and staff.

Student Feedback: Hearing from Current Students about their Experience at Amherst vs Vanderbilt

To get a firsthand account of what it’s really like to attend Amherst or Vanderbilt, we reached out to current students at both universities.

One Amherst student said, “What I love most about Amherst is the sense of community and intellectual curiosity. I’ve formed close relationships with my professors and peers, and I feel like I’m constantly being challenged to grow as a thinker and as a person.”

A Vanderbilt student shared, “I chose Vanderbilt because I wanted to study at a top-ranked research university with a strong sense of school spirit. The social scene is really dynamic, and there’s always something going on. Plus, the university offers so many resources for career development and leadership skills.”

Another Amherst student added, “One of the things that sets Amherst apart is the open curriculum. I have the freedom to explore different subjects and take classes that truly interest me, without being tied down to a specific major or set of requirements. It’s allowed me to discover new passions and broaden my perspective.”

Cost of Living: Comparing the Expenses of Attending Each University

Of course, the cost of attending a university is a major consideration for most students and families. Here’s a breakdown of the expenses associated with attending Amherst and Vanderbilt:

Amherst College has a total cost of attendance (including tuition, room and board, fees, and personal expenses) of around $78,000 per year. However, the college is committed to meeting 100% of demonstrated financial need for all admitted students, so many students receive significant financial aid packages.

Vanderbilt University has a total cost of attendance of around $76,000 per year. The university is also committed to meeting 100% of demonstrated financial need for all admitted students, and offers a range of scholarships and grants to help offset costs.

Amherst College

It’s important to note that the cost of living can vary greatly depending on the location of the university. For example, the cost of housing and food in Nashville, where Vanderbilt is located, may be higher or lower than in Amherst, where Amherst College is located. It’s important to research the cost of living in the area surrounding each university to get a more accurate picture of the total cost of attendance.

Additionally, it’s worth considering the potential return on investment of attending each university. While both Amherst and Vanderbilt are highly respected institutions, they may have different strengths and weaknesses in terms of the programs and opportunities they offer. It’s important to research the job placement rates and average salaries of graduates from each university to determine which may be the better investment in the long run.

Amherst vs Vanderbilt: Career Prospects

Ultimately, the goal of attending a university is to prepare for a successful career. Here are some statistics on job prospects for graduates of Amherst and Vanderbilt:

According to a recent survey, the employment rate for Amherst College graduates six months after graduation is around 96%. The most popular industries for Amherst alumni include finance, education, and healthcare.

Vanderbilt University graduates also experience strong job placement rates, with around 92% of graduates employed or in graduate school six months after graduation. Vanderbilt alumni work in a variety of industries, with popular fields including healthcare, finance, and technology.

It’s worth noting that both Amherst and Vanderbilt have strong career centers that offer resources and support to students and alumni. At Amherst, the Career Center provides career counseling, job and internship listings, and networking opportunities. Vanderbilt’s Career Center offers similar services, as well as career fairs and employer information sessions. Both universities also have robust alumni networks that can be valuable resources for job seekers.

Faculty Quality: Evaluating the Professors and Teaching Staff at Both Institutions

Finally, it’s worth examining the quality of the teaching staff at each university. Here are some examples of the caliber of faculty at Amherst and Vanderbilt:

Amherst College has a highly regarded faculty, with 98% of professors holding a terminal degree in their fields. The college also offers prestigious visiting faculty positions, which have been held by Nobel laureates and other notable scholars.

Vanderbilt University has a faculty that includes members of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Pulitzer Prize committee. The university also has a strong commitment to interdisciplinary research and collaboration, which allows students to benefit from a wide range of academic perspectives.

Additionally, both universities have faculty members who are actively engaged in research and scholarship. At Amherst, professors have published books and articles in prestigious academic journals, and have received grants and fellowships from organizations such as the National Science Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Similarly, Vanderbilt faculty members have made significant contributions to their respective fields, with many receiving awards and recognition for their research.

Furthermore, both universities prioritize teaching excellence and provide opportunities for faculty members to enhance their teaching skills. Amherst offers a Teaching and Learning Center, which provides resources and support for faculty members to improve their teaching methods and incorporate innovative pedagogical approaches. Vanderbilt has a Center for Teaching, which offers workshops, consultations, and other resources to help faculty members enhance their teaching effectiveness and promote student learning.

Amherst College


After examining the numerous factors that differentiate Amherst College from Vanderbilt University, it’s clear that each institution has its own strengths and weaknesses. Ultimately, the decision of which university is right for you will depend on your own individual needs and priorities.

If you value a small, close-knit community and a broad-based liberal arts education, Amherst may be the right choice for you. If you prefer a larger campus with a dynamic social scene and a focus on pre-professional programs, Vanderbilt may be the better fit.

Regardless of which university you choose, it’s important to approach your college experience with an open mind and a willingness to explore new ideas and perspectives. By taking advantage of the resources and opportunities available at either Amherst or Vanderbilt, you’ll be well-equipped to achieve your academic and career goals.

It’s worth noting that both Amherst and Vanderbilt offer a range of extracurricular activities and clubs that can enhance your college experience. From sports teams to cultural organizations to volunteer groups, there are plenty of ways to get involved and meet new people. Additionally, both universities have strong alumni networks that can provide valuable connections and support as you navigate your post-college career.

How AdmissionSight Can Help You With College Admissions

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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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