I call all my professors by their first name, and they call me by mine. They are involved in my personal life, and some of them are good friends. Class participation is incredibly common and most classes are basically just discussions. The cognitive science program rocks, and the natural sciences represent, to quote a recent alum, "all that is good about Hampshire College." It is especially in the sciences where collaboration and mutual discovery take place, and fankly, I haven't been impressed by the social science department (or, for that matter, the humanities department). It seems fragmented and bitchy. The NS (natural science) is a school with absolutely no resources, just ingenuity and enthusiasm. Oh yeah, you can also take courses at Amherst College, UMass Amherst, Smith College, Mt. Holyoke. All are good schools, and the PVTA lets you ride at an amazing schedule between them (av.g ride is 15 mins). So you get a GPA (from other schools) on top of your written evals. (oh yeah, no grades at Hamp, just evals. A blessing and a curse.) Oh yeah, and if you want to do some weird shit (I do neurophysiology and creative writing), it is completely possible and even encouraged. Professors love that kind of thing, and will support you.
5 colleges are key, both for courses (you get a break from the academic style of Hamp), more resources (more libraries and departments) and some social escape from Hampshire. 5 college teachers tend to love students who cross-register. Some teachers can be too lax for my liking, but there are plenty of tough teachers too-- Michael Lesy's literary journalism class is incredible if you like his teaching style. Teachers learn your name but you need to take the initiative to establish a relationship with them-- signing up for office hours, etc. If you do, they're happy to oblige you. Division one can be a little bit too focused on requirements and courses instead of the personalized, independent learning that Hampshire promises. They're working on reforming it, though. I want to work in the writing department, which is very popular and too small for the size of the demand. Courses are hard to get into during signup. But, like all Hampshire classes, persistence will get you a long way. Definitely geared toward and education on the student's own terms, that is, for learnings sake rather than a job. They're very open to students who have been on or will end up on unusual life paths.
I really disliked Division I, I think that it keeps students from studying what they want to, even though they came to Hampshire to do exactly that. Hampshire has very interesting classes that approach subjects not necessarily from a textbook angle, but very theoretically and in ways that trigger your thinking, which I find wonderful. If you participate in class, professors will know you. If you don't, they probably will know you as well. Students are not very competitive in terms of academic performance, but they are very proud about their ideas and their opinions. This can result in some controversy in the class room, but always an interesting discussion. Hampshire students, from my experiences, also have intellectual conversations outside the classroom, which I believe that many colleges lack. Though Hampshire has no grades, it is extremely academically invigorating because it really makes you think and by the end of your second semester you think writing a 12 page paper is easy.
Professors almost always know there students names.... its sometimes student who don't know there professors names. Hampshire kids, at least at entry, seem not to be to involved with academics. Drugs and hanging out often draw more attention than classes. Procrastination is popular. Oh, also, Div I sucks. If you can make it to Div III I hear good things about it, but surviving three years is tough. Paying for those years is even tougher. However, if you are into school work, the NS professors are outstanding. Though the school (as do most) lacks funding. The teachers are ambitious and creative and really involved in awesome hands on projects. You will actually do science (or math) - from day one in a Hampshire classroom. A lot of Hampshire students are pretentious - which gets mistaken for intellectual by those who don't know better. Many enjoy a dinner time or class time debate on anything from racism, feminism, foreign policy, or art - often one subject after another.
Academics at Hampshire are up to the individual. I have seen everywhere on the spectrum: a stoner dude who doesn't do anything all four years, bullshits a Div III and passes, and never does anything with his life to a gifted scientist who works her ass off all four years, takes incredible advantage of not only Hampshire but the whole five college community and is now off to get her masters and Ph.D. at an Ivy. Anything can happen. I suppose the most important thing about Hampshire academics is that you can do anything you want. There are extremely motivated people, and there are not-so motivated people. Some students are super competitive, and others don't care at all. Learning at Hampshire is purely for learning. We are there to ask questions, find answers, and ask questions. And students and faculty totally hang out after class.
The academics at Hampshire, are for the most part, poor. The teachers expect little from students, and thus hard-working students are often treated the same way as lazy students. Without grades, it's hard for Hampshire to reward outstanding work. On the other hand, the professors are extremely nice, forgiving about missed assignments, and passionate about their subjects. It's not uncommon to have lunch with your professors, and they know everybody by name. In general, there is a great disparity between high-level courses and other courses when it comes to academics. Some higher level courses demand a lot of reading and writing and are challenging to keep up with. Many classes are project-based, and Hampshire students are particularly creative with their projects.
Hampshire does not give grades, learning is very self directed, and there are no pre-set majors. It's easy to slack off if you're not self motivated. Classes are small and largely discussion based. Many people have very close relationships with there professors. The most popular areas of study are creative writing, film/photography, and studio arts. The science department is great and has a lot of great professors, who are eager to help you study whatever it is that interests you. If you are interested primarily in the sciences you will probably have to take classes at one of the other five colleges, which is very easy. Science students in their last year of college design and carry out their own hands on project in an area that interests them.
Hampshire's philosophy is learning for your own sake. Our classes range from very small (10 students) but can be up to 50 students, I'd say on average class sizes are about 16-20 though. Environment is really friendly, teachers know students names, students call teachers by first name and have a very friendly and good relationship. Depending on the class, each student studies differently, I know I study a lot more for some courses than others. Class participation is a must at Hampshire. My "major" is Mathematics and Education. Our college has a fantastic education program, and a pretty decent mathematics department. Through Mt.Holyoke (love the consortium) I am going to be able to get my license to teach high school mathematics.
The student-to-teacher ratio at Hampshire is really wonderful. I know alot of professors, and they know me by name, even if I don't have classes with them. Class sizes are really small, so it's incredibly important to do the readings because everyone is expected to participate in class discussions. Alot of times class discussions turn into out-of-class discussions; I can't say how many times I've stayed after to continue talking to my professor or have walked with classmates to the Bridge to keep on talking. Hampshire is really unique because, since you create your own program and since there's no testing, the drive to learn and excel doesn't come from competition, but rather, it comes from the desire to learn and excel.
the only reason i'm here is because of the film program...it's good, i really have genuinely liked all of my professors in the area. learned a lot. they're raising money to expand it right now. people do good work in the field, we have some alums who've done some great things in the industry. since it's small, you can actually get into the classes (anybody who tells you otherwise is just whining and not trying hard enough...it's EASY to get into ANY class at hampshire, just be persistent, you might have to wait another semester, but just e-mail the goddamn professor and they'll keep you in mind for the future). If the film program wasn't enjoyable and inspiring, i'd be fucking out of here.