Northwestern vs Amherst: A Comprehensive Analysis

July 14, 2023
By AdmissionSight
Group of students studying together in the library.

Northwestern vs Amherst: A Comprehensive Analysis

Are you a high school senior considering Northwestern or Amherst? Or, maybe you’re just curious about how two of the United States’ most prestigious universities stack up against each other. Either way, we’ve got you covered. In this article, we’ll conduct a comprehensive analysis of Northwestern University vs Amherst College, comparing various aspects that are most important to prospective students.

Introduction: Northwestern vs Amherst

Choosing between universities like Northwestern and Amherst is no easy feat – both institutions are renowned for their academic programs, faculty, and extracurricular opportunities.

Nonetheless, comparing and contrasting the two universities can help you determine which institution is the best fit for you based on criteria that matter most to you personally. So, without further ado, let’s dive into the comparison!

Firstly, Northwestern University is located in Evanston, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago, while Amherst College is located in Amherst, Massachusetts, a small town in the western part of the state.

This difference in location can greatly impact your college experience, as Northwestern offers easy access to a major city with countless opportunities for internships, networking, and entertainment, while Amherst provides a more intimate, rural setting with a tight-knit community.

Secondly, Northwestern and Amherst have different student populations. Northwestern has a larger student body, with over 20,000 undergraduate and graduate students, while Amherst has a much smaller student body, with just over 1,800 students.

This difference in size can affect the sense of community and the opportunities for involvement in extracurricular activities. Northwestern offers a wider range of clubs and organizations, while Amherst provides a more personalized experience with smaller class sizes and more opportunities for one-on-one interactions with professors.

Location: Northwestern vs Amherst

Northwestern University is located in a suburb of Chicago, Illinois, while Amherst College is situated in the small town of Amherst, Massachusetts. Northwestern’s campus is spread out over 240 acres and is located along the shore of Lake Michigan, which offers beautiful views and ample recreational opportunities.

Group of students walking in the campus.

However, the location can also mean more traffic and higher living costs. On the other hand, Amherst College’s campus spans 1,000 acres of rolling hills, making it a peaceful and scenic environment that’s perfect for those who love the outdoors. The town of Amherst is also highly praised for its artsy and eclectic culture, but its remote location can be a downside for those looking for metropolitan activities.

Despite being located in a suburb of Chicago, Northwestern University is still easily accessible to the city’s downtown area via public transportation. This provides students with the opportunity to explore all that Chicago has to offer, including world-class museums, restaurants, and entertainment venues.

Amherst College, on the other hand, is located in a more rural area but is still within driving distance of larger cities such as Boston and New York City. This allows students to take weekend trips and experience the excitement of city life while still enjoying the peacefulness of their college town.

Academics: Northwestern vs Amherst

Both Northwestern and Amherst are widely regarded for their academic rigor and excellence, but the two institutions differ significantly in terms of the academic programs offered. Northwestern University is known for its strengths in journalism, theatre, and engineering, while Amherst College has focused its curriculum around the liberal arts, with 40 different majors spanning the Humanities, Social Sciences, and Natural Sciences.

Northwestern is a considerably larger university with a student population of over 22,000, compared to Amherst’s student population of roughly 1,800. As a result, Northwestern offers more degree programs and has a more diverse set of research institutions than Amherst.

Despite the differences in academic programs, both Northwestern and Amherst share a commitment to academic rigor and excellence. Northwestern’s engineering program is consistently ranked among the top in the country, while Amherst’s liberal arts curriculum has produced numerous Rhodes Scholars and Fulbright Scholars.

Additionally, both institutions offer ample opportunities for undergraduate research, with Northwestern’s Office of Undergraduate Research providing funding and support for students pursuing research projects across all disciplines, and Amherst’s Center for Community Engagement connecting students with local organizations for research and service projects.

Admissions: Northwestern vs Amherst

Northwestern and Amherst are both highly selective institutions, with Northwestern’s acceptance rate hovering around 9% and Amherst’s acceptance rate around 11%. However, Northwestern has the higher average SAT and ACT scores, with the middle 50% range of students scoring between 1440-1550 on the SAT and 33-35 on the ACT. Amherst’s middle 50% SAT range is between 1430-1560 and the middle 50% ACT range is between 32-35.

Low angle view of four university students on campus

As for application requirements, both universities require an application essay and standardized test scores, while Amherst also requires two additional essay questions and Northwestern requires a supplemental question related to the student’s intended major.

It is important to note that while test scores and acceptance rates are important factors in the admissions process, they are not the only factors considered by these universities. Both Northwestern and Amherst have holistic admissions processes, which means that they consider a variety of factors when evaluating applicants, including extracurricular activities, letters of recommendation, and personal qualities. Therefore, it is important for applicants to present a well-rounded application that showcases their strengths and unique qualities.

Student Life: Comparing campus culture, extracurricular activities, and student diversity

Northwestern’s campus culture is diverse and energetic, with a wide array of extracurricular activities, including over 400 student-run organizations, 19 varsity athletic teams, and numerous theatre and music groups.

Northwestern has a fraternities and sororities system, which may not be for everyone but is an integral part of campus life for many students. Amherst, on the other hand, has a smaller student body but offers many opportunities for students to get involved in extracurricular activities and athletics. Unlike Northwestern, Amherst does not have a Greek system, but its social scene is lively and inclusive.

Both universities boast high levels of diversity, with Northwestern’s student body consisting of roughly 50% of students from underrepresented minority groups, and Amherst’s student body comprising students from 49 different states and 61 different countries.

Aside from extracurricular activities, both Northwestern and Amherst offer unique opportunities for students to engage in research and internships. Northwestern has a strong focus on research, with numerous research centers and institutes, and a high percentage of students participating in research projects.

Amherst, on the other hand, has a strong network of alumni who offer internships and job opportunities to students, providing valuable real-world experience.

When it comes to campus amenities, Northwestern has a wide range of dining options, including multiple dining halls, cafes, and restaurants. The university also has state-of-the-art athletic facilities, including a brand-new fitness center and a recently renovated football stadium.

Amherst, while smaller, has a beautiful campus with plenty of green space and outdoor recreational areas. The college also has a strong commitment to sustainability, with LEED-certified buildings and a focus on reducing waste and energy consumption.

Athletics: Comparing athletic programs, facilities, and school spirit

Northwestern and Amherst both have outstanding athletic programs and facilities, but the nature of the two institutions differs considerably. Northwestern’s Division I athletic program includes 19 varsity teams that compete in the Big Ten Conference.

The Wildcats are well known for their football and basketball programs, and their athletes often achieve national recognition in such sports as swimming, diving, and wrestling. Amherst’s athletic program is different in that it emphasizes a Division III format and is focused more on student participation than success in sports.

View of sports equipments placed on a wall

Amherst is known for its intercollegiate women’s squash team, which has won 16 national championships. While Northwestern has a larger following for its athletic programs, Amherst students are passionate about school spirit and creating a sense of community around athletics.

Despite the differences in athletic programs, both Northwestern and Amherst offer state-of-the-art facilities for their athletes. Northwestern’s athletic facilities include the Ryan Fieldhouse, which houses a 40-yard indoor turf field, a 300-meter indoor track, and a weight room. Amherst’s athletic facilities include the Orr Rink, which is home to the men’s and women’s ice hockey teams, and the Pratt Field, which is used for football, lacrosse, and soccer.

While Northwestern and Amherst have different approaches to athletics, both institutions recognize the importance of physical activity and its impact on overall well-being. Both schools offer a variety of intramural and club sports, as well as fitness classes and recreational activities, to encourage students to stay active and healthy.

Faculty and Research Opportunities: Northwestern vs Amherst

The faculty and resources available to students at Northwestern and Amherst Colleges are exceptional. Northwestern boasts a faculty of Nobel Laureates, Pulitzer Prize winners, and a range of internationally recognized scholars who are dedicated to students’ learning.

The university also has abundant research resources accessible through its libraries, museums, and research facilities. Amherst also has a highly distinguished faculty with numerous awards and distinctions to their name, while the college’s emphasis on undergraduate research allows students to collaborate with faculty on meaningful projects and contribute to scientific discovery.

Furthermore, both Northwestern and Amherst offer a variety of research opportunities for students to engage in. Northwestern has a strong focus on interdisciplinary research, with centers and institutes dedicated to fields such as nanotechnology, global health, and social policy.

Amherst, on the other hand, has a unique research program called the “Center for Community Engagement,” which allows students to work with local organizations and community members to address social issues. These research opportunities not only provide valuable hands-on experience for students but also contribute to the advancement of knowledge in various fields.

Alumni Network and Career Outcomes: Northwestern vs Amherst

One of the main benefits of attending a reputable university is the ability to join its extensive alumni network. Northwestern and Amherst have robust alumni networks that offer graduates a variety of resources, including mentorship, job prospects, and professional connections.

Northwestern alumni typically pursue careers in finance, consulting, and technology, with many notable alumni succeeding in such fields as journalism and entertainment. Amherst alumni enjoy a broad range of career paths, with many graduates pursuing careers in academia, nonprofits, and government.

Three students using a laptop in a table.

However, the strength of an alumni network is not the only factor that determines career outcomes after graduation. Other factors such as individual skills, work experience, and personal connections also play a significant role.

For instance, a graduate with exceptional skills and experience may secure a job in a highly competitive field, even without the support of a strong alumni network.

Moreover, career outcomes after graduation are not solely determined by the university attended. The job market, economic conditions, and industry trends also influence career opportunities.

For example, a graduate from a top university may struggle to find a job in a recession or in a declining industry, while a graduate from a lesser-known university may thrive in a growing industry.

Tuition and Financial Aid: Analyzing the cost of attendance and comparing financial aid options

Attending either Northwestern or Amherst comes at a considerable cost, but both universities offer a range of financial aid opportunities. The total cost of attendance is roughly equal at both institutions, hovering around $70,000 per year.

Northwestern provides both need-based and merit-based scholarships, while Amherst is need-blind in its admissions process and meets 100% of demonstrated financial need for all admitted students. Both universities also encourage students to take on work-study programs to help offset the cost of tuition.

It is important to note that the cost of attendance at both Northwestern and Amherst includes not only tuition, but also room and board, textbooks, and other fees. However, students can save money by living off-campus or purchasing used textbooks. Additionally, both universities offer payment plans that allow students to pay their tuition in installments throughout the year.

When comparing financial aid options, it is important to consider the types of scholarships and grants offered by each university.

Northwestern offers a variety of merit-based scholarships, including the Presidential Scholarship, which covers full tuition for four years. Amherst, on the other hand, offers need-based grants that do not need to be repaid, as well as work-study programs and low-interest loans. Students should carefully review the financial aid packages offered by each university to determine which option is best for their individual needs.


Summarizing key similarities and differences between Northwestern and Amherst for prospective students to consider. After conducting a comprehensive analysis of Northwestern University and Amherst College, it’s clear that both institutions offer unique strengths that any prospective student would be proud to be a part of.

Two students talking in a room full of glass.

Northwestern is a larger institution with superior resources, diverse academic programs, and competitive athletic programs, while Amherst offers a more intimate, liberal arts experience with a focus on undergraduate research and active student life. Ultimately, it’s up to the individual student to decide which college is the best fit for them, but we hope that this comparison has been informative and helpful in making that decision.

It’s important to note that both Northwestern and Amherst have strong alumni networks that can provide valuable connections and opportunities for students after graduation. Northwestern’s alumni network is particularly strong in the fields of business, journalism, and entertainment, while Amherst’s alumni network is known for its success in academia and public service.

Both institutions also offer robust career services and internship programs to help students prepare for their post-college careers. Overall, while Northwestern and Amherst have their own unique strengths, they both provide excellent opportunities for students to succeed both during and after their college experience.

If you’re set on getting into a world-class college but aren’t sure how to make it happen, we can help! AdmissionSight is a leading college entrance expert with over a decade of experience helping students just like you get into the schools of their dreams.

At AdmissionSight, we focus on offering a wide range of services, all aimed at helping students perfect their applications to catch the attention of admissions officers. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation and learn more about what we offer.

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