The school is too small. You see everybody all the time. It is nice in a sense because you feel known and everywhere you go you see someone you know and can talk to. It also sucks because no matter where you go there is someone you would rather avoid. You are never alone unless you go deep into the woods which fortunetly is not that hard to do. Good luck studying in the library....it is more a social junction than an academic stronghold. The best thing about Hampshire is that gone about the right way, you can do almost literally whatever you want to do academically and socially. If I could, I would change the academic system to be more rigorous. I would insitute not grades, but reading quizzes and some sort of system to chart knowledge gained in students. No one does the readings and for discussion based classes there are always only two or three kids with anything to say and half of these kids didn't do the readings either and are just talking out of their butts about something their brothers ex-girlfriends brother told them once. My friends think my school is a joke. I spend most of my time on campus hanging out with my friends that haven't dropped out yet and sleeping. I find most of the happenings on campus to be too radical and change oriented for me. When I am not sleeping and doing non-school related readings and research I am getting drunk and watching tv on the internet. I hate the town of amherst. The last thing that I find appealing is being surrounded by 50,000 of my peers. I thought it would be a great opportunity to meet a ton of people and make great friends but no, umass kids are assholes, amherst college students are pretentious, smith is full of militant lesbians and mt. holyoke full of those girls who wished that they were cheerleaders in high school. Awesome. Sure those are stereotypes but honestly, I am not generalizing far from the truth. The pioneer valley is abosolutely breathtakingly gorgeous. Everyday I am surpriesed that I still remark everyday about how beautiful the mountains and the fields are. Hampshire's admistration will ignore you until you become so annoying that they must pay attention to you or until you find a professor to harrass them for you. If you have any sort of financial hold on your account I wish you the best of luck registering for class and functioning within the community. Hampshire has surprise kicked out my same friend twice. Every year she has a financial hold and every year she gets an email tellling her to pack her things and be off campus within two days. The biggest recent controversy is over nooses hung around campus. Students made a list of demands and asked Hampshire to follow the demands and to become actively anti-racist. The administration side stepped fufilling the list by providing distracting, ineffective students of color only housing. The students think that the administration doesn't care and won't listen and the administration thinks that the students are being extreme and irrational. I will always remember when my friend got caugt growing several marijuana plants in her room and got off. She wasn't placed on housing probation and her parents didn't even get a letter home. If I can say one thing about Hampshire, their greatest strength and weakness lies in how laid back they are.
Hampshire is not a place to attend if you want a great deal of people to know what school you go to. Very often you will hear "you go to school in New Hampshire?" However I think that the number of people who have not heard of Hampshire is dwindling due in part to the great success of its alumni. I have a very love-hate relationship with this institution. It has almost infinite potential, and yet so often it makes almost unforgivable mistakes. It has a struggling first year program that distracts many students from what they really want to do, delays any independent work and often causes a great deal of disenchantment with education at large. However this is also something that the administration says that they are working hard to change. Despite sometimes being weak the academic advantages often outweigh the disadvantages. One such instance is the opportunities that I have had to work with two or three other students and a professor for an extended period of time on research projects. As far as I can tell such an experience is almost unheard of for a second year undergraduate outside of Hampshire. The professors though range from absolutely excellent to poor at best, as some of them seem themselves to have lost faith in the program of teaching at Hampshire, and with the administration taking the school in directions that they believe (possibly very rightly so) are incorrect. The area is beautiful my favorite that I have seen so far, especially in the fall. Two great college towns are a short free bus ride away, as well as four other college campuses. Also it is in a great location for road trips as well, Vermont is very close, Montreal a little further, Boston only a couple of hours and New York City about 3 or four. It is a great area to go camping or hiking rock climbing and biking. All of this though can be very distracting from academics. The social life is great although often very clickey and somewhat incestuous. I once read a quote from a previous student that it was the worst place to go if you wanted to be able to avoid embarrassing ex's and that is incredibly true. There are however a lot of great people on campus, and their is always a very open air about it, I have never seen someone openly rejected. It is a great place to dress however you want, and not be harshly judged. Cologne make-up fancy jewelry and hair are comfortingly rare at Hampshire. The biggest complaints on campus are in order of frequency heard: 1) The cost of attending 2) The quality of everything versus the cost of attending 3) The buildings are in terrible shape I don't think that I know enough to have a knowledgeable comment on the first two but the buildings are often in terrible shape. For only having I think 11 buildings on campus there is around a 30 million dollar backlog in maintenance. I find that amazing. There is no student union on campus, and the area that is the closest, leaks water frequently. The dorm buildings are ok, but the "Mods" (student apartments on campus) are often disgusting, usually with mold, and insects, as well as other general issues. And for a large part these issues are not the fault of the occasionally uncleanly student that inhabits them.
Hampshire College is an "alternative" school. Unfortunately, most of the student body seems to think that this means the Hampshire College is politically or socially "alternative." With that said, the school is often the home of loud political/social "protests" (which are rarely well thought out, almost always rash and reactionary and often leave as soon as they come). Hampshire College was designed to be a school where things were taught differently. It has become a place where different things are taught. These "different subjects" occasionally turn out to be taught and executed exceptionally well. Often, though, they are unbacked, subjective nonsense that students take to be 100% true. Some basics: Hampshire College exists on a good amount of land, most of which is undeveloped. There are two dormitories, Dakin and Merrill, which houses most of the first years and a sizable number of the second years (although with a little luck, a second year can move up to the mods). These mods are on-campus apartments and are named Prescott, Enfield and Greenwich. The former of the three is often thought to be the place to go for parties, and while this was true at the beginning of the semester, it became less so as the year moved on. Enfield is generally more suburban-looking, with buildings designed to form very open communal areas. The social life of Enfield takes advantage of these areas, and is often the home to more environmentally-conscious and socially-active folk. There's even a Greenhouse mod. Greenwich, originally designed to be temporary housing, is made of relatively isolated "pods," and is the physical counterthesis to Enfield. The people in Greenwich are, from what I've experienced, less loud than the other two communities, both physically and figuratively. Currently, renovations are taking place for Greenwich. The architecture of Hampshire College is in the late '60s Brutalist style, which some view as prison-like, but I found to be rather nice. Not all of the buildings are well-designed, none are very inviting to students (classrooms are hard to find sometimes), but you live with what you can. The student body of Hampshire College is medium size, about 1400 kids. There is considerable separation, not by grade but by living area. People in the dorms tend to hang out exclusively with others in the dorms, and the same goes for the mods. Nonetheless, it is easy to have everyone caught up in everyone else's business. Hampshire is definitely more difficult to handle for those with a misanthropic or introverted bend. With that said, most people spend their time anywhere where other (preferably intoxicated) people are. And those locations are easy to trace.
The best thing about Hampshire? The Five College Consortium. I don't mean this out of disloyalty. Provided the opportunity to attend any other college in the nation - given a free ride to Harvard - I'd turn the opportunity down to remain at Hampshire. What I mean in answering that the Consortium is the best of Hampshire is that the discursive purpose of Hampshire was the Consortium - we constituted the corporation and we have the most agency to use the resources. We don't have to consider credits in selecting courses; because of this, we need only be accountable to ourselves in perusing 5,300+ options in the course catalog each year. You can genuinely study anything at several institutions. I used to rip off UMass dining halls every Tues/Thurs before my Commonwealth honors seminar - where I was welcomed as a Hampshire kid with a differing perspective. Most people in the U.S. can't win - at Hampshire it's hard to lose. You are your own bureaucracy. Even your committee [team of advisers] is entirely of your choosing; they aren't administrators, they're the professors who inspire you. Amherst and Northampton are a couple of the best college towns in the nation. Students flood these communities every fall and we're welcomed by an already booming economy - this area is "one of the best kept secrets in America" (as a random guy once told me on a plane). I quite one job two weeks ago and got another with an email and a phone call yesterday; while housing and groceries are expensive, this area is an obscene location of wealth. Besides that, this community has all the features forming what oughtn't be your reasons to attend college - a stupid number of parties, youth and debauchery, frats at UMass, bars and breweries, herbs...Jesus Christ herbs...herbs in spirit of Humboldt. The towns also have such a collection of restaurants competing to attract students that I can't begin to offer a description - from the best three buck slice of pizza you'll ever have to a Hibachi dinner that'll make you feel like an exec. I certainly have my complaints to. Hampshire can be polarizing politically, it can be emotionally overwhelming, it can turn you into an alcoholic - this all depends upon who you are, what your stress-levels are, etc. You might also be of that privileged class of kid who needs to attend college because mommy said so, and who might prefer to do this 'stoned' (not spiritually elated, but 'stoned'). If this is the case, don't bother; you'll ruin your parents pension for petty purposes. While this tends to be the sort of kid with money, but without ambition, they still tend to be accepted - whatever, they ultimately fund this school anyways.
The best thing about Hampshire - and everyone will tell you this - is the freedom (which exists more after first year) to do what you want in school. That being said, there are a lot of kids who want to go to college without working, and these kids most frequently end up leaving after a few months. Hampshire is an academically serious place, and it is not easy. The worst thing about Hampshire is the way the school is run from the administration down. Aside from classes, there is very little organization in the school, and hence simple tasks like signing up for classes, renting equipment, or securing a place to live are transformed into complex and frustrating ordeals. Hampshire is very small, and by your second or third year you will know almost everyone in your class, and recognize most people around campus. Love it or hate it. Most of my time on campus is spent outside with friends when the weather permits it, otherwise in the dorm buildings or in the library. It is a very social place, and most people leave their doors open whenever they are home. Amherst, Northampton, and everything in between is literally crawling with college students. It is actually jarring to leave the valley for vacation and to see more people over thirty than under. Hampshire's administration is poorly organized, more talk than action, but somehow effective as evidenced by the fact that the school has lasted this long (which isn't really very long). Administration is constantly under fire, and this past year was no exception, as students of color collectively demanded that Hampshire draft active anti-racist policies. There can be no doubt that Hampshire is a politically driven school. Hampshire students are not competitive enough to have school pride, just a contentment in knowing that they are in the right place. But, to be certain, it is not right for everyone.
To quote Ricky Bobby, if you ain't first, you're last. Hampshire is a binary place - either you're one of the motivated, passionate autodidacts who came here seeking a new world free from the persecution of a core curriculum...or you're here for an easy ride, and the chance to get a degree for sitting in your incense-laden dorm and smoking ganja. Hampshire's biggest weakness is our consummate lack of school spirit. Little to no investment in the school is manifest by the students, and many community institutions are brittle or simply non-existant. We have a fragile student government, no year book and only one athletic team to speak of (Red Scare, our Ultimate Frisbee team) although we actually have other athletic teams, and could easily form more. The trouble lies in the students, many of whom preach "community involvement" by touting hurricane relief programs or attempting to support local farming efforts, but won't do more than charge a Hampshire College Hoodie at the store to rep their own college. We have a ton of beurocratic red tape, but at times that can be a boon - if you can get your stuff together, and are relatively persistant, you can get what you want from the school, putting your 40,000 dollar education back in your hands. The little blurb at the top here says I should comment on the college town: Amherst rocks. It totally pwns. The food is awesome (Fresh Side, what!) and the town itself is cute. It's a fantastic nexus for the five colleges, and there's a comic book store. The only drawback is that everything closes pretty early - you're hard pressed to find anything open after ten - but I'm told this is somewhat typical of rural life.
I love the size of Hampshire. The last school I went to in Texas was huge and had over thirty thousand students. At Hampshire, you really get a chance to know people. Of course, small communities do have a lot of gossip, but that hasn't been a problem for me. Hampshire has a great campus, its beautiful. You look around and see trees, mountains and fields. I love it. Its farmland. One of the best aspects about Hampshire is that its part of the five colleges in Amherst/Northampton. The bus system is great and you can always get off campus for a change. You can take classes at any of the other schools too. Some people think its great when I tell them that I go to Hampshire, but other people think that I am just a crunchy hippie. This is not a bad thin to me, but I can see how some Hampshire students could be offended by this. Also, just because you are a so called hippie, doesn't mean that you aren't a good student and a hard worker. To be a Hampshire student can be difficult. Because you have to gather a committee and get to know faculty well, you have to be very motivated and independent. For some people its hard to take the initiative to do so. Also, because there are a limited number of full time faculty, it can be tough to get a committee together. One of my favorite things about Hampshire is that when you finish your Division III, you get to ring the bell in front of the library whenver you walk by it. I cannot wait to ring that bell!
I came to Hampshire mostly because of its unique academic program. Hampshire is definitely not for everyone, but it is perfect for some students. Hampshire's a pretty small school, but that's fine with me. The campus has a peaceful, rural feel - lots of trees, views of the mountains, etc. But it's also a short bus ride from both Amherst and Northampton, which are small but cute towns with some interesting shops and lots of good restaurants. Most of the dorm rooms are single rooms, so you're likely to get a room to yourself even as a first-year (unless you request a double). Most students move to the "mods" (apartments) after their first or second year. Hampshire only has one dining hall. Students refer to the dining hall as "SAGA," after the company that used to provide the food. (The food is now provided by Sodexho.) SAGA food is not the best food in the world, but there is a good variety of options, including a salad bar, a sandwich bar, a stirfry bar, a waffle maker, and meat, vegetarian, and vegan entrees at every meal. There is also ice cream available at every meal, including a soft serve machine. Many students who live in mods cook for themselves, but students living in the dorms are required to be on the meal plan. If you eat in SAGA every day, you will probably get sick of SAGA food. As I said, it's not the best food in the world. But it could be a lot worse.
The first thing you need to know about Hampshire is that the reality of the school doesn't add up to what is advertised. Look at any of the material and you'll find oratories on student driven work, endless opportunity, and a legacy of independent thinking. The reality, is that its incredibly hard to do independent work because of the unfourtunate lack of professors and the insane amount of beauracracy and opportunities are available, but funds simply do not allow for the endless amount advertised. Hampshire was founded to be at the cutting edge of alternative education, but unfourtunately these days its closer to slightly left of the normal liberal arts education. That being said, Hampshire does have one fantastic quality that I feel makes up for all the false advertising, I truly feel that I have been challenged by the academics to a level I never thought possible and I feel that the level of critical thinking that I have been forced to attain has allowed me to view the world from a truly unique perspective. I feel that my cognitive abilities have truly improved by leaps and bounds since coming to Hampshire. If you're serious about Hampshire, come here for the professors and readings, not for the falsely advertised package.
Best thing about Hampshire is that you can do most of what you want. The last year at Hampshire is spent working on one large project. There are no majors, just concentrations. Between these two facts you have a lot of leeway in terms of elective courses, and changeing your concentration relatively late in the game. This is combination with the resources available through the five college system make for a flexible high quality education experience. The other five colleges are UMass, Holyoke, Smith, and Amherst. The school is the correct size. If it was much bigger it would probably not be possible to have so much freedom. If it was much smaller it mite not exist. The town in the surrounding area is pretty decent. If you come from a major city you might find it a bit rural. If you are outgoing and look around there are plenty of things to do between the five colleges. The Hampshire is pretty bureaucratic. But like many things at Hampshire the bureaucracy is half flexible. Sometimes you can do as you please and miss a deadline long as you talk to the rite people, other times you could fail because you forgot to turn in a form.