UC Irvine vs Amherst: Which College is Right for You?

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

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UC Irvine vs Amherst: Which College is Right for You?

If you’re a high school senior or someone looking to transfer colleges, you may be considering attending either the University of California, Irvine (UC Irvine) or Amherst College. Both colleges offer unique opportunities for students, but which one is the better fit for you? Let’s dive into a thorough comparison of UC Irvine vs Amherst College, covering all aspects of college life.

Location and Campus Comparison

Located in Southern California, UC Irvine offers a lush, suburban campus environment with numerous palm trees and modern architecture. In contrast, Amherst College is nestled in a small, rural town in Massachusetts with beautiful, old-world buildings and a classic New England charm.

UC Irvine’s campus spans over 1,500 acres with an extensive trail network for hiking and biking. Students can take advantage of the moderate weather, which averages around 72°F, all year round. In contrast, Amherst College’s campus is about 1,000 acres, and the weather is typically cooler and more variable.

Despite the differences in location and campus size, both UC Irvine and Amherst College offer a variety of extracurricular activities for students. UC Irvine has over 600 clubs and organizations, including a thriving Greek life community and a variety of sports teams. Amherst College also has a strong athletics program, with 27 varsity teams, as well as a range of student-run clubs and organizations.

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Another notable difference between the two campuses is their proximity to major cities. UC Irvine is located just 45 minutes from Los Angeles, offering students easy access to a range of cultural and entertainment options. In contrast, Amherst College is about two hours from Boston, which provides a similar range of opportunities but requires a bit more planning and travel time.

UC Irvine vs. Amherst: Cost of Attendance Comparison

College tuition can be a significant financial burden, so it’s important to consider which school is more affordable. According to U.S. News & World Report, the average cost of attendance, including tuition and fees, for UC Irvine is $35,623, while Amherst College’s average cost is $76,202.

However, Amherst College is committed to meeting the full demonstrated need of all admitted students, meaning if you’re accepted to the school, they will do everything in their power to ensure you can afford to attend. UC Irvine also offers financial aid, but admission is based on merit and financial need.

It’s important to note that the cost of attendance at both schools may vary depending on factors such as housing, meal plans, and other personal expenses. UC Irvine offers a variety of housing options, including on-campus dorms and off-campus apartments, while Amherst College requires all students to live on campus and offers a variety of meal plans.

Additionally, both schools offer work-study programs to help students offset the cost of attendance. At UC Irvine, students can work on campus or off campus in a variety of positions, while Amherst College offers a variety of on-campus jobs through their Student Employment Office.

Academics and Degree Programs: Which College Offers the Best Fit for You?

Both UC Irvine and Amherst College provide students with excellent academic opportunities, but their approaches differ in some ways. UC Irvine offers over 80 undergraduate majors and over 50 graduate programs, emphasizing research, innovation, and diversity. Amherst College, on the other hand, is a liberal arts college that offers majors in about 40 different fields.

Amherst College is known for its small class sizes, with the average class size being around 16 students. UC Irvine also has small class sizes in most of its undergraduate courses, although the size may vary depending on the program and course load. Both colleges pride themselves on their world-renowned faculty members, who engage students through innovative and experiential teaching methods.

UC Irvine has a strong focus on research, with many opportunities for students to get involved in cutting-edge research projects. The university has several research centers and institutes, including the Institute for Genomics and Bioinformatics, the Center for Complex Biological Systems, and the Center for the Neurobiology of Learning and Memory. Students can work alongside faculty members on research projects, gaining valuable experience and contributing to the advancement of knowledge in their field of study.

Amherst College has a unique open curriculum, which allows students to design their own course of study. Instead of following a set of required courses, students can choose from a wide range of classes across different disciplines. This approach encourages students to explore their interests and develop a broad base of knowledge. Amherst also offers several interdisciplinary programs, such as the Five College Coastal and Marine Sciences Program and the Five College Women’s Studies Research Center, which allow students to engage in collaborative research and learning with students from other colleges in the area.

Student Life Comparison: What to Expect at UC Irvine vs. Amherst

College life outside of the classroom is an essential aspect of the college experience, so let’s explore what student life is like at UC Irvine and Amherst.

UC Irvine offers over 600 student organizations and clubs, including cultural clubs, sports teams, academic clubs, and more. Students enjoy attending sports games, on-campus events, and concerts. In contrast, Amherst College has just over 100 student organizations but fosters a tight-knit community with unique traditions, such as a yearly science festival, intramural sports leagues, and student-run organizations and initiatives.

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Another aspect of student life at UC Irvine is the abundance of outdoor activities available to students. The campus is located near several beaches, hiking trails, and parks, providing students with opportunities to explore the natural beauty of Southern California. Additionally, UC Irvine has a strong focus on sustainability, with many eco-friendly initiatives and programs available to students.

At Amherst College, students have access to a variety of academic resources, including research opportunities, internships, and study abroad programs. The college also has a strong commitment to diversity and inclusion, with a range of support services and programs available to students from underrepresented backgrounds. Additionally, Amherst College has a rich history and culture, with many museums, galleries, and historical sites located in the surrounding area.

Admissions Requirements and Acceptance Rates at UC Irvine and Amherst

Admissions statistics may influence your college choice, so let’s compare UC Irvine and Amherst’s admissions requirements and acceptance rates.

UC Irvine’s acceptance rate for the 2020-2021 academic year was 29%, with an average GPA of 4.04 and average SAT score of 1367. Amherst College had a 10.2% acceptance rate for the same academic year, with an average GPA of 4.13 and an average SAT score of 1491. Both colleges require high academic performance, extra-curricular involvement, and personal essays during the application process.

Aside from academic performance and extra-curricular involvement, both UC Irvine and Amherst College also consider other factors during the admissions process. UC Irvine values diversity and inclusivity, and encourages applicants from underrepresented communities to apply. Amherst College, on the other hand, places a strong emphasis on community service and civic engagement, and looks for applicants who have demonstrated a commitment to making a positive impact in their communities.

It’s important to note that while acceptance rates and admissions requirements are important factors to consider when choosing a college, they should not be the only factors. It’s also important to consider the location, campus culture, available resources, and overall fit with your personal and academic goals. Ultimately, the best college for you is the one that aligns with your values, interests, and aspirations.

Athletics and Sports Programs: A Comparative Analysis between UC Irvine and Amherst

Athletics can be an integral part of college life, so let’s compare UC Irvine and Amherst College’s sports and athletic programs.

UC Irvine is an NCAA Division I school that offers 18 sports programs, including men’s and women’s basketball, volleyball, water polo, and soccer. In contrast, Amherst College is an NCAA Division III school with 27 varsity sports programs, with emphasis on cross country, track and field, and squash. Both schools place a strong emphasis on student-athlete success and offer excellent resources and support systems for athletes.

Despite the differences in the number of sports programs offered, both UC Irvine and Amherst College have a strong commitment to promoting physical fitness and wellness among their students. UC Irvine has a state-of-the-art recreation center that offers a variety of fitness classes, intramural sports, and outdoor adventure programs. Amherst College also has a well-equipped fitness center and offers a range of recreational activities, including hiking, skiing, and ice skating.

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Another notable difference between the two schools is their approach to athletics scholarships. UC Irvine offers athletic scholarships to student-athletes who demonstrate exceptional talent and potential, while Amherst College does not offer any athletic scholarships. Instead, Amherst provides financial aid packages that are based solely on a student’s financial need, regardless of their athletic ability. This approach ensures that all students have equal access to a high-quality education, regardless of their athletic background.

Alumni Network Comparison: Which College Offers the Best Professional Connections?

Upon graduation, students are looking to build careers and professional networks. Let’s compare the alumni networks of UC Irvine and Amherst.

UC Irvine has a robust alumni network with over 200,000 living alumni worldwide, including notable alumni such as astronaut Tracy Caldwell Dyson and former California Lieutenant Governor John Garamendi. Amherst College’s alumni network is equally impressive, with notable alumni such as writer and political commentator Andrew Sullivan and U.S. Senator Henry Cabot Lodge.

However, when it comes to industry-specific connections, UC Irvine has a clear advantage in the tech industry. The university has strong ties with companies such as Google, Microsoft, and Amazon, which offer internships and job opportunities to UC Irvine graduates. On the other hand, Amherst College has a strong alumni network in the fields of law and politics, with many graduates holding prominent positions in government and law firms.

It’s important to note that the strength of an alumni network also depends on the individual’s effort to network and build connections. Both UC Irvine and Amherst College offer resources and events to help graduates connect with fellow alumni and industry professionals. Ultimately, the best alumni network for a student will depend on their career goals and interests.

Diversity and Inclusion at UC Irvine vs. Amherst: How Do They Differ?

Creating a diverse and inclusive community is crucial for student success and well-being. Let’s explore how UC Irvine and Amherst College differ in their diversity and inclusion efforts.

UC Irvine prides itself on its commitment to diversity and inclusion, as evident by its diversity awareness programs, student groups, and campus events. The student population is notably diverse: 31% are Hispanic, 36% are Asian, and 2% are Black. In contrast, Amherst College’s population is less diverse, with 41% being white, 16% being Asian, and 7% being Hispanic or Latino.

However, Amherst College has recently implemented new initiatives to increase diversity and inclusion on campus. The college has established a task force to address issues of diversity and inclusion, and has also increased funding for multicultural student organizations. Additionally, Amherst has implemented a new program to recruit and support first-generation college students, who often come from underrepresented backgrounds.

Student Support Services at UC Irvine vs. Amherst: Which College Has the Better Resources?

Student support services, such as academic tutoring, career development, and mental health services, can be crucial to a successful college experience. Let’s compare the support resources available at UC Irvine and Amherst College.

UC Irvine offers an extensive range of student support services, including career counseling, disability services, mental health services, and tutoring services. Similarly, Amherst College provides these services and emphasizes the importance of student well-being. However, due to its smaller size, Amherst College may have more limited resources available compared to UC Irvine.

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It’s important to note that while UC Irvine may have more resources available, Amherst College’s smaller size can also be an advantage. With a smaller student body, Amherst College may be able to provide more personalized and individualized support to its students. Additionally, Amherst College has a strong sense of community and a close-knit campus, which can also contribute to a supportive and nurturing environment for students.


Choosing the right college can be a daunting task, but by comparing UC Irvine and Amherst College in detail, you should have a better idea of which college is the better fit for you. UC Irvine’s strengths include its excellent academic programs, diverse student population, and robust support services, while Amherst College’s strengths include small class sizes, a tight-knit community, and a commitment to meeting student financial needs.

Ultimately, the best choice comes down to your priorities and goals, so carefully consider all aspects of both colleges before making your decision. Whatever you choose, know that both UC Irvine and Amherst College can provide you with an exceptional college experience.

It’s important to note that both UC Irvine and Amherst College have unique campus cultures that may appeal to different students. UC Irvine is located in Southern California, which offers a sunny and warm climate year-round. The campus is also known for its active student life, with over 600 clubs and organizations to choose from. On the other hand, Amherst College is located in Massachusetts, which experiences all four seasons. The campus is surrounded by natural beauty and offers a quieter, more intimate atmosphere.

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Additionally, both colleges offer a variety of opportunities for students to get involved in research and internships. UC Irvine is home to several research centers and institutes, including the Center for the Neurobiology of Learning and Memory and the Institute for Transportation Studies. Amherst College has partnerships with several organizations, including the Five College Consortium and the New England Center for Children, which provide students with opportunities to gain hands-on experience in their field of study.

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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