Hamilton College Top Questions

What are the academics like at your school?

Maria

Classes are generally small once you get past the 40-person intro-level courses. There's a stover emphasis on critical writing and discussion than fact retention, which is evident in how classes are run and grades are determined. Most courses involve writing a few formal papers, generally between 4 and 10 pages long, as well as some blog entries or other informal writing assignments. Class presentations are not uncommon. The bulk of classes involve discussion of reading assignments, though depending on the professor, you might get more lecture based lessons. Tests are usually short-answer and essay heavy, though, again, it depends on the professor. There are a few blow-off classes, but ultimately you're going to have to work hard for most classes. This is a school where most students had straight As and tons of APs in high school, but Bs and Cs are not uncommon or even frowned upon - in most classes, if you get a B, you worked HARD and learned a lot. Professors are tough, but because they want to give you the best education possible. They will go out of their way to meet with you and give you advice if you reach out to them. Hamilton is the school that Ivy League professors go when they want to really teach students, not just send in a grad student TA while they do research. Bottom line: you will work hard here, but you will also learn a ton in terms of information AND ways of thinking and writing which will stick with you throughout your life.

Anna

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Sarah

We really value discussion-based, small classes. Professors will get to know you personally, and you certainly won't be just another number. Professors will often invite students over for dinner and they really care about Hamilton students. Academics can be challenging, but if you put in the work and go to office hours, you will be successful.

Anthony

Rigorous. The selectivity of Hamilton is a great indicator of its academics. There are no "Easy" courses at Hamilton. They all challenge you, and require attention and dedication. But they aren't boring--at least not the courses I've taken. But that's probably because here at Hamilton, we take the courses we want to take. The absence of a core curriculum--no distribution requirements--allows for genuine interest to be the driving motive for course enrollment.

Maggie

Academics at Hamilton are challenging, but definitely not impossible. If students put the time and effort into doing readings for classes, participating in the classroom, and studying for exams, everything is fine. Strong writing and communication skills are very important for students at Hamilton, so we expect to write a lot of papers and to prepare for a lot of oral presentations. We have many great resources on campus that should be taken advantage of: a Writing Center, an Oral Communications center, several tutoring services, and of course the availability and approachability of all professors. Obviously the workload and difficulty of material will depend on the class and professor, but for the most part students are always able to manage. Academics come first, but there will also always be time to relax or be involved with other things on campus.

Katrina

If you want to be anonymous in class, this is not the school for you. Professors will know your name. They will expect you to participate in class. They will encourage you to do your best, and they will set high standards. It's not uncommon to hear Hamilton students complaining about the amount of work we have. However, the workload creates a feeling of solidarity, as everyone is going through the same stress. Students at Hamilton do study a lot compared to students at other schools, and generally people can't come to Hamilton, slack off, and do well. Students here don't want to slack off, though. Kids at Hamilton love to party, but they know how to work, too.

Kendall

They're unbelievable--all professors want to truly develop a relationship with you while simultaneously teaching you.

Steven

Every Professor knows your name. Class sizes are maxed out at 40, and those are the intros. The median class size is less than 20. My Russian class was six, and it was just a russian discussion mixed with grammar every day. Similarly, my 425 econ class had 8 people, and we just discussed theories and models in financial markets with our professor (who wrote the textbook). Professors know who you are, and they are teachers, not researchers. They are always available and eager to talk to you about whatever you want. That it includes tangential topics to their courses, extracurricular advice, and just about anything else. Usually, you need to take the initiative to engage your professor, but that is to be expected. Class discussion is normally tame, but students are always happy to discuss extremely controversial subjects. Furthermore, the fact that everyone is so smart as well as extremely relaxed means that you're in a learning environment 24/7. It's common to be downtown at the bars or a house, trashed, and you'll bump into a friend and end up discussing whether pareto efficiency is a good definition for efficient markets, and then probably not remember it the next day. I have never seen anyone criticized for being into their schoolwork. It's admired. People are only criticized for not being socially active. Students are not competitive with one another at all. The school is very small, so you will know just about everyone, and by your senior year you will have taken a lot of classes with other people in your major. They will help you and teach you as much as your professor, and you will help them. Students do care deeply about their grades, but it's not a competitive environment. As an economics major, I am incredibly impressed with the department. The courses are difficult, and I've become an economic encyclopedia. The professors are extremely friendly, brilliant, helpful, and approachable. My advisor is chair of the department, and a borderline savant. Yet I can drop into his office and chit chat about just about whatever, and he is happy to take time out of his work. The best part is that there are no lectures anywhere, including economics. Professors will teach a lesson, but every class is discussion-based, and much of the education comes from the discourse of questions being raised and answered in concert with the lesson. Finally, the educational environment of the school is excellent. As an economics major, I've only taken theory courses. We are a liberal arts school, and we are being taught to train for jobs and industries that don't exist yet to answer questions that won't even arise for 20 years. We're all smart enough that we don't need to learn information, we learn conceptual framework to digest whatever information we want. The only quasi-vocational class I've seen at school is accounting, which is not included in the economics department precisely because the department does not believe it should be encouraging vocational education. Of course, all the students joke that we will never take accounting, because then we might end up being an accountant.

Alexander

It's tough if you decide to make it so. If you were accepted to Hamilton then you should have developed the right study skills to survive the academic workload. Yet that doesn't necessarily mean that you'll always demonstrate great study skills, but it does mean that you capable of doing so.

Anna

professors always know their students names after the first couple weeks of classes. classes are generally pretty small and many are discussion-based. even my intro psych class was only 16 people. class participation is strongly encouraged and easy in classes. there are some really interesting classes here (American Sign Language, Cryptology, Cursing and Taboo Language) but they arent all offered often, so you need to jump on them when you get the chance there's no core core curriculum or distribution requirements. all you need are three writing-intesenives (which can be taken in virtually any discipline) and one quantitaive reasoning course (not necessarily math, psych 101 counts toward this as well as other things) most classes total about 2 1/2 hours of class each week (3x for 50 mins or 2x for 75 mins), but some classes, generally languages, require meeting with a TA for an extra hour each week

Benjamin

One of the best parts of Hamilton is the relationship you develop with professors. It's common to be on a mutually first name basis with at least one or two of your professors, and it's also common for them to take classes out to dinner during finals week or host a barbecue at their house. It's also not uncommon to see them cheering you on at a sports game or a theater production. Their academic enthusiasm really infects the student body as well, and even though Hamilton students generally enjoy taking time off as much as any college students, their "time off" might easily include discussions about classroom topics. The school isn't really competitive between the students, which enables such out-of-classroom intellectual discourse to flourish. Another great aspect is the open curriculum, which means you don't have any core classes you have to take. It really frees up your schedule to explore a number of fields that aren't even tangentially related and might not fit into a traditional distribution model. It also means that any given person in a course you're taking is there because they wanted to be there, not because they were satisfying some global requirement they have no interest in. It also means that a significant number of people end up as double majors or major double minors. The other big emphasis at Hamilton is on learning how to write effectively - no matter what your discipline is. The basic idea is that writing is a life skill you'll use no matter what your job ends up being, so it's worth honing.

Elizabeth

Academics are unique, personalized, and focused on individual learning and independent growth. I've taken away so much academically from this place. I have skills that will carry me through whatever life throws at me. No core requirements are great! I've spent the last four years loving almost every single one of my courses because I've gotten to pick what I am studying. You also cannot ask for better professors. They go out of their way every day to help their students. I see them at sports games and events. I have met my professor's families, been invited into their homes, been taken out to dinner or drinks several times each semester - even when I was a freshman. With all the research opportunities here there is always a way for you to study something that interests you in depth with a professor. Sometimes the college even pays you to do this. If you are looking for a place to find academic passions and to get amazing individualized attention from your professors - there is no better place but Hamilton.

Blake

While the classwork is generally difficult and time-consuming, professors for the most part furnish a rewarding student experience. They make themselves available in formal office hours outside of class, and often in much more informal settings. Senior student/faculty pub night is a popular activity, and most students have been over to a professor's house on more than one occasion.

Leighton

Hmmm, academics. Classes are small and usually engaging. Professors are fantastic. They make themselves available for office hours ALL THE TIME. Compared to other schools, the amount of attention you can get at Hamilton is unreal. I struggled through a calculus class my freshman year and I spent literally every afternoon in my professor's office getting extra help. That's with my professor, not some TA. Hamilton's strongest majors are economics, history, and English. Biology is also quite popular. All of these areas have many great professors, many classes, and they attract many students.

Alex

One thing I love about Hamilton is the lack of required classes. It's extremely easy (no matter what major you happen to be) to fulfill the Writing Intensive requirements. Beyond that and Phys. Ed. (I took yoga & ice skating and had a blast), the only other General Requirement is something we call a "Sophomore Seminar". I have to admit, I didn't choose mine well. A lot of students complain about their Sophomore Seminars. Otherwise, classes are fantastic. It's rare to have more than 25 students in a class. I've had some as small as 9 students. Class participation is a must. Hamilton students are high achievers by nature, but Class Rank wars absolutely never happen. Professors, as I've said before, are extremely helpful and attentive. They know everyone student personally and go out of their way for them.

Francesca

Professors are incredible, friendly and more than accessible. Homework will be loaded on, and students spend much of the week in the library, but it pays off in the end. Take an anthropology class with Chaise LaDousa and you will never regret it. Psychology and Spanish are great departments as well.

Jesse

Great academics, good classes. Not a lot of flexiblity to study something outside of our normal curriculum. They make it very hard to be creative with your classes, even though there are no requirements

Kaitlin

Professors not only know your name, they know where you are from, what you do on the weekends, who your favorite baseball team is ect. Hamilton students definitely work hard and play hard, science majors at Hamilton are especially demanding because all seniors are required to write a senior thesis. Hamilton students definitely have intellectual conversations outside of class, but as at any school, the scope of the conversations is very wide. Hamilton does not have any required core requirements which is AMAZING! The only requirements are 3 "writing intensive" classes, which really do not need to be difficult if you choose them carefully. Many people fulfill the requirement just within their normal course load. The education is definitely geared towards learning, but students are always encouraged to think about what they like learning and where they may want to take it into the future.

Alex

professors are great- i have gone for an extra study session for clarification or pointers with every single professor i've had thus far. class participation is very common, and students take their intellectual pursuits away from the classroom into their own lives.... political, philosophical, and economic debates are commonly heard in dorms, etc.

Zachary

Academics are quite rigorous at Hamilton, but no more so than any other NESCAC college. Our professors are well-informed, accomplished and most importantly are always available to further discuss class material. The availability of our professors is the most impressive aspect of Hamilton's academic community.

Ashlyn

Classes are often on the small-ish side, which makes skipping or lurking in the background difficult. But the professors take the time to learn each student's name and create a relationship with him or her. Class participation cannot be avoided! In terms of requirements, Hamilton does not have many. A "point" for a quantitative class is required (any math class will fulfill this or some sciences). We are also required to take 3 writing-intensive classes in our before we graduate. These are usually interesting classes that you wouldn't expect to write in, like a dance class, and you're allowed to re-write every paper in order to improve your skills. This is a big part of Hamilton's identity because we pride ourselves on our writing abilities. We even have a famous story about a student who went to graduate school at an Ivy. The professor called this student out in class and asked her/him (I can't remember this person's gender at present) where s/he had gone to school. When s/he replied Hamilton, the professor was extremely impressed and told the rest of the class that they should have attended Hamilton.

Blake

Professors are very, very open and friendly, but it definitely depends on your major. There isn't too much competition between students because everyone is very supportive of one another. The environment is about learning, and so you are supposed to love every class. And usually, you do. You want to do the work because you want to learn the material. These aren't 400-person lecture halls, they are 12- person discussions. Even as a freshman you'll have small, stimulating classes. The largest class I have ever taken was around 35 people-- Economics. Creative Writing has a really really weak department, but Classics, my other concentration is amazing.

Mallory

There are no course requirements, and it's generally moderately easy to get the classes you want. Some classes are larger, with 50 or more students, but most are about 20. Class participation is expected and the students usually have brilliant things to contribute. Your professors really care about you and if you take advantage of office hours, they become your ally. The classes are challenging, with a LOT of reading. A lot of students have career-forward majors like Econ or Gov but there are just as many art, writing, music, and science.

Cindy

The professors definitely get to know every student's name, working one on one with each individual. As a music major, my favorite classes are the theory classes and the music rehearsals. Although there aren't many music majors, there are professional musicians and faculty that make the music department strong. Students are extremely competitive here, and the education at Hamilton is definitely geared toward getting a job.

Sarah

Professors almost always know your name and are available for extra help. They love to talk, even about extracurricular subjects. My favorite class is an environmental class called Nature and Technology. My professor is stimulating, encouraging, and inspiring. Our class discussions are so philosophical. People study hard, work hard, and participate. I plan to double major in Government and Foreign Languages. Because Hamilton has no core curriculum, I feel like I have certain freedoms that no other college would grant me. Hamilton can help you get a job, and help you learn just for the pleasure of learning.

Sasha

Hamilton is extremely academcially rigorous. The intimacy of the small student population enables students to personally get to know their professors and vise versa. I love that my professors know my name and I am totally comfortable just stopping by to chat or get coffee with my favorite professors. Students here are competitive with themselves, not one another; they take pride in their work, and understand the value of the top-rate education that they are receiving. Professors teach all classes at Hamilton, which gives students a unique and wonderfully valuable chance to learn as much as possible from people in the field with the highest degrees (all of my psychology professors have a PhD).

Katherine

Academics at Hamilton depend very much on the student. Some kids are here because it has a reputation as a good school and they want to be challenged and be stimulated. Other kids are here because of daddy's legacy and so spend a lot of time partying. If Hamilton has a reputation for anything, it's the lack of core requirements. That was what got me to look at the school to begin with, and I have to say that I really do like it. People will generally take a wide variety of classes even without specific guidelines. I've taken comp sci, music theory, French, Russian, Swedish, women's studies, math, art history, and environmental studies classes, in addition to my core requirements for Creative Writing and Philosophy. Looking back, I do wish I had taken a science course or two, but even then that part of my intellectual development hasn't been neglected. I spend my summers talking about caves and speleothems and geology, so I've been reading up on that off-and-on for the past four years, plus I love reading about science (cognitive science especially). I have pretty heady conversations with my friends, as well. I think most of the kids who are here (not all, on account of the "daddy's legacy" kids) are smart and intellectual, on some level. Sometimes they participate in stupid stereotypes that discourages "bookishness" but it's still there, and I think you could have an intelligent, academic conversation with nearly anyone you run across. Some classes are "gimmes," to be sure, but many of them are interesting and challenging to a good point--not to where you're terrified of failing, but where you're excited about learning.

Ryan

Classes are small and personable. The professors are very friendly and open to discussion.

Alex

Even if you don't participate, the profs still know your name, which is cool. I feel like on the outside, it seems like students are not competitive, but based on the stereotype that students here study too much, there may be some truth to that. But no one here is shoving their grades in your face or anything. They keep they're accomplishments to themselves for the most part. But in secret, they probably are competitive. I love the no core curriculum cause I thought I was going to major in Government for sure, but I found out that I hated Government classes, so now I'm undecided. I can take whatever I want and explore. Sure they have like writing requirements, but that can be filled with almost any type of class. The most unique class I've heard and really want to take is Food for Thought. It's not exactly a unique class, but a class that talks about the effects of food and diet on society and why America why be so fat, with food samplings and movies, sounds like a great class to me. I'd love to take it. I think students have WAY too many intelligent conversations in this school. It does make me feel good cause I like challenges, casual debates and intellectual conversations. In terms of careers, I can't think that my Hamilton education is geared towards career yet. I just want to find something I like.

Lily

Professors know my name and pass me a few times every day. I once received advice on a paper from my psychology professor while I was working out at the gym! The teachers definitely go above and beyond their normal teaching hours to help a student excel. For example, one of the best classes I am taking now (Philosophy at the Intro level), I have been able to meet personally with my professor numerous times about papers and he has been really helpful. People work hard here to do well, studying often well into the night during the weekdays, but always are able to balance it out with their social lives. The great thing about Hamilton is that there is an open-curriculum--no core requirements--so people take classes because they WANT to.

Zach

Professors definitely know each student by name, and they all know what they're teaching very well. Some have a few strange teaching styles, but they offer their help whenever they can. They really want to see every student succeed in their courses.

Alexandra

Yes, my professors definitely know my name. My favorite class was organic chemistry. I know that most people in college hate this class because it is really really hard, but my professor was so amazing and brilliant that it made the class awesome. My least favorite class was my intro. bio course. There were too many people and I felt like there was not enough personal attention. Most classes though I feel give you that attention you should get at a small school. Students study very regularly here. Class participation is always present. Yes, we have very intellectual conversations outside of class. I think that Hamilton asks a lot out of its kids but we are all very smart and almost all get the grades and get their work done.

Cassie

I have never had a class at Hamilton where a professor did not know my name, what I did on campus, how I was doing in class, and where I was from. Students studied a lot during the week, and party hard on the weekends. I spend a large amount of time with professors outside of class because they are so easily accessible. The department for my major is a very small one, but all of the professors are loving, accommodating, and selfless. Hamilton's lack of core requirements was what initially drew me to the school. It allows for such academic freedom and creates such engaging learning environments in your classes where students are there because they want to be, not because they are fulfilling some requirement. Most learning at Hamilton requires you to be independent and self-motivating, which helps prepare you for the real world. Class participation is almost always required, with the exception of a few lecture classes. It's also really common to hear students continuing class discussions after class.

Tiffany

They are amazing! I really feel like I am getting an excellent education

Ali

Students are intelligent and the acadamics are challenging. However, if you are able to get into hamilton it is likely you will succeed

Meg

professors are very approachable and very personal and friendly. they all have office hours and they are very willing to help you. kids walk thier professors dogs sometimes, you eat dinner at their houses. we all have advisors that help us with life and academic choices. i always hear people having academic conversations outside of class, poeple here are very intellectual and interesed in what they study. I am a classical languages major, lately there has been a big boom in the calssics department and no one really knows why...but we have great professors in this department. kids are competitive in a productive nature....hamilton is about getting a job and learning for your own sake, its both. hamilton has no requirements, its awesome.

Katya

I tended to really enjoy my courses. They were the appropriate challenge for me, and the small sizes led to a lot of discussion. I loved the ability to take Russian- even though I am a Spanish major and and Education minor. Students do participate, perhaps don't study as hard as I did, but seem active in most classes. The most unique class I took was probably a Russian studies course about Vampires and Blood-Sucking myths...a very interesting class with a professor I really enjoyed for his passion and interest in Russian. In regards to my major's department- Spanish- I was not quite satisfied. They were inconsistent in their support, and often the person I needed to consult with was on leave or in Spain for the semester I needed them! Some of my courses were encouraging, but others were downright boring and I stared at the clock. I don't feel that Hamilton is geared toward getting a job necessarily, more for graduate school. I don't like the assumption that everyone will just 'go on' to graduate school- I have to start making a living to pay back loans!

Ashley

I have a very good relationship with my professors--they all know my name, and I go to office hours frequently, even when I do not have homework questions. My favorite classes are any classes with Professor Muirhead or Professor O'Neill. They are my favorite professors and make the classes highly enjoyable. Class participation is expected, although it is expected in more classes than others (eg. english vs. math). Hamilton students do have intellectual converstions outside of class ranging from Nietchze to what's going on in Tibet. Students are very competitive--at least in my classes. Since Hamilton is a liberal school, there are no set requirements. This course freedom allows students to take essentially whatever they want.

Robin

All my current and past professors say hi to me and know my name whenever I see them, its excellent. Easy to get help, lots of homework, etc etc

Jennifer

the classes are generally small. nearly all professors will know your name and talk to you on a one on one basis at least once per class. student participation varies depending on the class and who's in it. there are groups on campus that discuss intellectual matters outside of class. most students aren't competitive. all professors have office hours and encourage students to talk to them. sociology is one of the smaller departments where you can get to know all the professors in the dept. govt is bigger which means they offer a greater variety of govt classes. the academic requirements are great. they're very lenient. almost no class requirements outside of your major. you will have to write a senior thesis or do a senior project.

Mary

Academics at Hamilton are great. The professors really care about what they teach, and their main goal is to inspire the students in that subject. Professors are for the most part readily available to talk about classes, or anything outside classes. The chemistry department at Hamilton is great. The professors are all very close with the students, and really want them to learn as much as possible. There are always oppurtunities to spend time with professors outside of class, sometimes school sponsered, sometimes by the students organization. I think that the academic requirements at Hamilton are perfect, they allow the students to take whatever interests them, and a broad range of classes, not necessarily in the major. Education is definitely geared toward learning for its own sake at Hamilton, as students are able to take a wide range of classes, it is really the oppurtunity to learn as much as possible before narrowing the path to a career choice.

Marie

Professors always know our names. I would say the campus is split in half of kids who study a ton and kids who do not study at all. Students are very competitive about GPA's. Academic requirements are amazing at Hamilton!!! There are barely any-we do not have any core curriculum!

Mandy

The professors definately know my name. I still say hello to all of my old professors and they care about how I'm doing and what my future holds.

Sarah

It really depends on the courses you take how hard they are. I would say the science and history departments are the hardest, but I also think they are the courses that best prepare you for post-college life.

Catie

Professors make an effort to get to know students, which is helpful. I haven't been in a class with more than 40 students, and I don't think there are many here. The workload is at times a struggle for people without strong time management skills. There is a clear difference in the workload of science/math classes (more) and humanities classes (less), and because of the lack of distribution requirements, some students have comparatively little work outside of class.

Brett

Prof's know your name, some come to events, very supportive the ones that are. Hamilton is HARD, but good and the resources are totally available to you. All the time. Lots of intellectual discussion outside class, open curriculum the best thing ever!

Hunter

Do professors know your name? Yes, including many who never taught me. Is class participation common? Yes, it is expected and is integral to the teaching process. Do Hamilton students have intellectual conversations outside of class? Yes, I often feel we do this too often. There may be too many intelligent people for the world to handle. What's the most unique class you've taken? Geology and Development of Modern Africa Do you spend time with professors outside of class? Yes, in many cases i know their families. I have also gone to the pub with some after hours (I'm 22 years old for the record). How do you feel about Hamilton 's academic requirements? I LOVE the open curriculum.

Chantal

The absence of core requirements is awesome. The professors almost always know the names of the students in the class, and many remember the names and faces even when you're no longer in the class. In general, the time I spend with professors outside of class is during their office hours. It would be nice to have more interaction with them beyond the academic circle.

Michael

The academics at Hamilton are superb. Small class sizes, intimate class settings, the highest level of technology in the classes. The best and most commonly over-looked component of Hamilton is the amazing faculty. Well established within their respective fields, easily accessible, always willing to provide additional (outside of class time) help to students; the faculty is unbelievable.

Tate

My classes are great, overall. Professors here care much more than I've heard of those at other schools, and they're a lot smarter, too. Of course, this varies from department to depatment, and if you're in a good one, you will work your ass off. THE NO CORE REQUIREMENTS IS THE BEST THING E V E R.

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