College review by Lisa Bleich
Last week I had the opportunity to visit the 5 colleges in the Amherst area, known as Pioneer Valley, with other counselors and independent educational consultants. The five colleges include Amherst, UMass Amherst, Smith, Mt. Holyoke and Hampshire. They form the Five College consortium and genuinely share resources, classes, and extracurricular activities. For example students can take up to two classes per semester at any of the other colleges, students can attend any activity or event at another college and all students receive a Five College student discount. There are buses that take students between the colleges every 30 minutes. Some of the other programs offered as part of the Five College consortium are dance, film, and astronomy.
The Pioneer Valley is beautiful with plenty of opportunity for outdoor adventure such as hiking, kayaking, mountain/ice climbing, and skiing near by. The largest town in the area, Northampton, is right outside the Smith campus. It boasts numerous galleries, restaurants, shops, and music venues. There are also several street performers scattered along the main drag of this artsy, funky, town. Amherst has a smaller town next door and Mt. Holyoke has some shops nearby.
We started our tour at UMass Amherst. I was anticipating an unattractive campus due to its nickname, “the concrete jungle.” I was pleasantly surprised. While there were certainly some tall concrete buildings scattered throughout campus, the majority of the campus was quite pretty with red brick and pathways, typical of a large state school. It is rather spread out, but there are free buses that run every half an hour to shuttle students around campus, into town, and to the other colleges.
We had our meeting with the Dean of Admissions on the 10th floor of the Marriott Center on campus and the view was stupendous. We could see the full view of the campus and the trees were still turning color. UMass has made a significant investment in the campus. They recently spent $700 M renovating the School of Nursing, the Marching Band building, and the Police Station. In the next five years they are projected to spend another $700 M to renovate the science building and build another honors residential dorm and teaching complex. They are investing more to accommodate a growing honors population.
The Dean told us the “three things we need to know” that makes UMass special.
1. Faculty-Students have access to teachers with industry contacts and who are responsive to students’ needs. For example, one professor is developing a better weather radar program.
2. Student experience. UMass is large, but represents a series of smaller communities. The first year class has approximately 4,500-4,600 students. They have a first year “Intelligence Program” designed to help students acclimate. All students participate in a freshman writing seminar and have four points of contact with faculty to help with retention.
3. Community committed to student experience. Students participate in undergraduate research, coops, internships, and study abroad. They look for students who have done more than just study, but have been involved in their community and have good test scores.
UMass offers a wide range of majors. Some of the top programs are Sports Management, Business, Nursing, Hospitality Management, Integrated Sciences, and English/Creative Writing. The nursing program is the most competitive as there are limited spots and students rarely transfer out. UMass admits by program. They also recalculate the GPA to a 4.0 schedule and add back their own weighting of .5 for an honors class and 1 point for an AP class. The average GPA is a 3.6 out of 4 with a combined M/CR SAT of 1189 and an ACT with writing of 25.
Below are some statistics for admissions by program.
Commonwealth Honors College: Students in the top 10% of their class with a combined SAT equivalent in Critical Reading and Math of 1300.
Isenberg School of Management/Sports Management: Requires a 3.5 GPA, 600 M SAT, 4 years of math including Pre-Calculus. For sports management, students should have experience managing a team in high school or working with a minor league team.
Requires a 3.5 GPA, 600 M SAT, 4 years of math including Pre-Calculus, Chemistry and Physics.
3.9 GPA, 1240 SAT. They only have 80 slots. 300 students accepted out of 1600 applications.
The student body is diverse given the size and variety of programs. Approximately 30% of the students come from out of state. Our student panel consisted of a girl who was a biochemistry major and dancer. She was part of the honors college and had an internship at Genzyme through career services. Another student, originally from France had designed his own major in Environmental Neuroplasticity. He was studying how brain interacts with the environment. We also had a nursing student training for the medical reserve and volunteering for Big Brothers and Sisters and finally an Economics major who was very involved with his fraternity.
As we toured campus, we saw a wide mix of students from skate boarders to athletes. UMass is a great school for students who want a liberal, socially active, diverse student body and want access to the Five College consortium.