What Does Amherst College Look for in Applicants?

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

Portrait of teenage male student standing wall in corridor of a college.

What Does Amherst College Look for in Applicants?

Amherst College, located in the rural town of Amherst, Massachusetts and one of the most prestigious liberal arts colleges in the country looks for applicants with intellectual curiosity.

With an acceptance rate of just 11%, it’s no surprise that the college is highly selective and looks for exceptional candidates who will thrive in their rigorous academic and social environments. In this article, we’ll discuss the various factors that Amherst College considers when selecting their incoming classes, as well as tips to help you craft a stand-out application.

Academic Excellence: Key to Amherst College Admissions

Perhaps the most important factor in the Amherst College admissions process is academic achievement. The college seeks students who have demonstrated a commitment to intellectual growth and curiosity both inside and outside of the classroom.

They will be looking carefully at your high school transcript and evaluating the rigor of your course load, the grades you’ve earned, and any notable academic achievements.

Keep in mind that nearly all applicants to Amherst College will have competitive GPAs and test scores, so it’s important to differentiate yourself with other academic achievements.

This could include taking advanced courses beyond the standard curriculum, participating in research or academic competitions, or pursuing independent study under the guidance of a teacher or mentor.

a group of students listening to their instructor

In addition to academic achievement, Amherst College also values extracurricular involvement and leadership potential. The college seeks students who have made meaningful contributions to their communities and have demonstrated a commitment to service and social justice.

This could include volunteering, participating in clubs or organizations, or taking on leadership roles in school or community activities.

Furthermore, Amherst College values diversity and seeks to create a community of students from a variety of backgrounds and experiences. The college encourages applicants to share their unique perspectives and experiences in their application materials, including essays and interviews.

What Does Amherst College Look for? Extracurricular Activities that Impress Amherst College Admissions

While academic achievement is important, Amherst College is also looking for students who have a wide range of interests and passions beyond the classroom. The college values students who have pursued extracurricular activities with depth and commitment, as well as those who have demonstrated leadership skills and a willingness to take initiative.

When applying to Amherst College, it’s important to emphasize the depth of your involvement in extracurricular activities. Instead of listing a long list of clubs or organizations in which you have participated, focus on those that are most meaningful to you and have had the most impact on your life.

Highlight any leadership positions or projects you have undertaken, as well as any awards or recognition you have received.

It’s also important to note that Amherst College values students who have pursued extracurricular activities that align with the college’s values and mission. For example, if the college values community service, highlighting your involvement in a service organization or volunteer work can be particularly impressive.

Similarly, if the college values diversity and inclusion, highlighting your involvement in organizations that promote these values can be beneficial.

Personal Character Traits that Amherst College Values in Applicants

In addition to academic and extracurricular achievements, Amherst College values personal character traits in their applicants. The college seeks students who are intellectually curious, self-motivated, and demonstrate a commitment to social responsibility and civic engagement.

They are looking for students who are passionate about making a positive impact in their communities and the world at large.

When applying to Amherst College, it’s important to consider how you can showcase your personal character traits in your application.

This could include highlighting volunteer work or community service, discussing experiences that have shaped your worldview, or providing examples of times when you have taken a leadership role to help solve a problem or accomplish a goal.

a group of friends studying outside

Furthermore, Amherst College also values students who are open-minded and willing to engage in diverse perspectives and experiences. The college encourages students to explore different cultures, beliefs, and ideas, and to challenge their own assumptions and biases.

This emphasis on diversity and inclusivity is reflected in the college’s curriculum, which includes courses on race, gender, and social justice, as well as in the student body, which is made up of individuals from a wide range of backgrounds and identities.

Diversity and Inclusion: What Does Amherst College Look for in Applicants?

Amherst College is committed to creating a diverse and inclusive community of students. The college seeks students who come from a variety of backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives, and who will contribute to the diversity and richness of campus life.

They value students who are able to engage in thoughtful and respectful dialogue with others who may hold different views and experiences.

When applying to Amherst College, you can demonstrate your commitment to diversity and inclusion by highlighting experiences in which you have engaged with people from different backgrounds, sharing ways in which you have worked to create a more equal and just society, or discussing your own unique perspectives and experiences that you would bring to the campus community.

Amherst College recognizes that diversity and inclusion are essential components of a well-rounded education. They believe that a diverse student body enhances the learning experience for all students, as it exposes them to different perspectives and ways of thinking.

The college also understands that diversity and inclusion are not just buzzwords, but rather, they are values that must be actively practiced and promoted.

Amherst College offers a variety of resources and programs to support diversity and inclusion on campus. These include student organizations, cultural centers, and diversity training programs for faculty and staff.

The college also has a dedicated Office of Diversity and Inclusion, which works to promote a welcoming and inclusive environment for all students.

Tips for Crafting a Stand-Out Application to Amherst College

With such a competitive admissions process, it’s important to make your application stand out from the rest. Here are a few tips to help you craft a successful application:

  • Start early and give yourself plenty of time to polish your application.
  • Make sure your essay is well-written and reflects your unique voice and perspective. Consider having others read and edit your essay for clarity and conciseness.
  • Choose your recommenders carefully and make sure to provide them with plenty of notice and background information about yourself.
  • Highlight your strengths and accomplishments, but also don’t be afraid to discuss challenges you have faced and how you have overcome them.
  • Research the college and its values to ensure that you can demonstrate a genuine interest in attending.

Another important aspect to consider when crafting your application to Amherst College is to showcase your extracurricular activities and community involvement. Admissions officers want to see that you are a well-rounded individual who is passionate about something outside of academics.

Writing in a table beside a laptop.

Whether it’s volunteering at a local organization, participating in a sports team, or pursuing a hobby, make sure to highlight your involvement and the impact it has had on you. This will demonstrate your commitment, leadership skills, and ability to balance multiple responsibilities.

Essay Writing for Amherst College Admissions: A Comprehensive Guide

We’ve just answered the question, “What does Amherst College look for in its applicants?” and mentioned the importance of the essay in your application.

The essay provides you with an opportunity to showcase your personality, writing skills, and unique perspective to the admissions committee. Here are some tips to help you write an effective essay:

  • Start early and give yourself plenty of time to brainstorm ideas, write, and edit.
  • Choose a topic that is personal and meaningful to you, and make sure your essay provides insight into who you are as a person.
  • Avoid clichés and be as specific as possible in your writing.
  • Speak honestly and authentically, and don’t be afraid to show vulnerability or discuss challenges you have faced.
  • Edit rigorously, and have others read and provide feedback on your essay.

Another important aspect to keep in mind while writing your essay is to stay true to yourself. Don’t try to write what you think the admissions committee wants to hear. Instead, focus on expressing your own thoughts and ideas in a clear and concise manner.

Additionally, it’s important to pay attention to the structure and organization of your essay. Make sure your ideas flow logically and that your essay has a clear introduction, body, and conclusion. This will help the admissions committee follow your thought process and understand your message.

The Role of Test Scores in Amherst College Admissions Process

While Amherst College values academic achievement beyond test scores and GPAs, standardized test scores are still an important factor in the admissions process. The college requires either the SAT or ACT and does not have a preference for either test.

They will look at your scores in the context of your overall application and in comparison to other applicants from your high school or region.

It’s important to note that Amherst College practices test-optional admissions, meaning that applicants may choose not to submit SAT or ACT scores at their discretion. However, the college recommends that all applicants submit test scores if they are able to do so, as the scores can provide helpful context for otherwise strong applications.

Excited young woman opening a letter.

Additionally, Amherst College takes a holistic approach to admissions and considers a range of factors beyond test scores, such as extracurricular activities, essays, letters of recommendation, and demonstrated interest in the college.

The admissions committee also takes into account any challenges or obstacles that applicants may have faced in their academic or personal lives, and how they have overcome them.

What Does Amherst College Look for? Understanding the Importance of Letters of Recommendation

Letters of recommendation are an important component of your application to Amherst College. The college requires one letter from a teacher in an academic subject and one from a school counselor or other individual who knows you well and can speak to your character and accomplishments.

When choosing recommenders, make sure to select individuals who know you well and can speak specifically to your strengths and abilities. It’s also a good idea to provide your recommenders with a list of your academic achievements and extracurricular activities so that they can write a more informed letter.

Additionally, it’s important to give your recommenders enough time to write a thoughtful and detailed letter. You should ask them at least a month before the application deadline, and provide them with any necessary information or materials they may need to complete the letter.

Remember, letters of recommendation can provide valuable insight into your character, work ethic, and potential for success at Amherst College. Take the time to carefully choose your recommenders and provide them with the information they need to write a strong letter on your behalf.

The Impact of Demonstrated Interest on Your Chances of Getting into Amherst College

Amherst College values applicants who have demonstrated a genuine interest in attending the college. Demonstrated interest can include attending campus visits and information sessions, communicating with admissions representatives, and applying early decision or early action.

If Amherst College is one of your top choice schools, make sure to demonstrate your interest through actions. Attend a virtual or in-person information session, reach out to current students or alumni for more information, and consider submitting your application through the early decision or early action process if you are able to do so.

It is important to note that demonstrated interest is not the only factor that Amherst College considers in the admissions process. The college also looks at academic achievements, extracurricular activities, essays, and letters of recommendation.

However, demonstrating your interest in attending the college can help you stand out among other applicants and show that you are a good fit for the school.

The Significance of Early Decision and Early Action Applications at Amherst College

Now that we’ve already answered the question, “What does Amherst College look for?”, it’s time to know that Amherst College offers both early decision and early action application options for students who have identified the college as their top choice.

Early decision is a binding application process, meaning that if you are accepted, you must enroll in the college and withdraw all other applications.

Early action is non-binding, meaning you can still consider other offers of admission while waiting to hear from Amherst College.

a female student looking intently at her laptop screen


If you are considering applying to Amherst College, it’s important to carefully consider whether early decision or early action is the right choice for you. Early decision is a good option if Amherst College is a clear first choice and you are comfortable committing to attending the college if accepted.

Early action is a good option if you want to demonstrate your interest in the college but want to keep your options open and consider other offers of admission.

It’s worth noting that applying early decision or early action can increase your chances of being accepted to Amherst College. The college uses these application options to gauge a student’s level of interest and commitment to attending the school.

Additionally, the early application deadlines allow the admissions committee to review applications in a more focused and deliberate manner, which can work in your favor.

Financial Aid and Scholarships at Amherst College: What You Need to Know as an Applicant

Finally, it’s important to understand the financial aid and scholarship opportunities available at Amherst College. The college is committed to making a world-class education accessible to all qualified students, regardless of their financial circumstances.

Amherst College meets 100% of demonstrated financial need for all admitted students and offers a variety of grants, loans, and work-study opportunities to help students meet the cost of attendance.

When applying to Amherst College, make sure to complete the appropriate financial aid forms and submit them along with your application. The college also offers a variety of scholarships for students who demonstrate exceptional academic achievement, leadership, or community service.

It’s important to research these opportunities and apply for any scholarships for which you may be eligible.

Overall, Amherst College is looking for exceptional students who have demonstrated academic excellence, intellectual curiosity, personal character, diversity, and a commitment to making a positive impact in the world.

By emphasizing these qualities throughout your application, you can increase your chances of being admitted to one of the most selective and prestigious liberal arts colleges in the country.

It’s worth noting that Amherst College also offers need-blind admissions, meaning that a student’s ability to pay for college will not be a factor in the admissions decision. This allows the college to create a diverse student body and ensure that all qualified students have the opportunity to attend regardless of their financial situation.

Additionally, Amherst College has a dedicated financial aid office that can assist students and families with any questions or concerns about the financial aid process.

If you are interested in applying at Amherst College and would like to receive expert guidance and support throughout your college application journey, we highly recommend booking an initial consultation with AdmissionSight.

We have a team of experienced professionals who are well-versed in the college admissions process and can provide you with valuable insights and personalized advice.

By working with us, you’ll have an edge in crafting a compelling application that showcases your unique qualities and increases your chances of getting accepted to Amherst College or any other top institution.

Don’t miss out on this opportunity! Book your initial consultation with us today and take a step closer to your dream college.

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