Hampshire is seriously hindered by the current administration. It is lacking in funding, and what money we do have is often mismanaged. Housing is suffering, as are a lot of worthwhile programs. Hampshire has become increasingly tied up in politics and top-down bureaucracy - if someone were ambitious enough to combat that there would be endless potential. The surrounding area is nice. Northampton is a thriving old town where you can find just about anything you'd like. Amherst is good for a quick bite or a run to CVS. There is a plethora of worthwhile hiking and sightseeing in the valley and weekend trips to the coast or up to vermont are a welcome break from the Hampshire 'bubble'. With such a small student body, and most people living on campus, it really is a bubble. Especially within your set living area. Especially if you live in the dorms and have to go to saga for all your meals. Good luck avoiding someone. Probably one of Hampshire's best features is the five college program. Being able to get off campus and take classes elsewhere is the only thing that makes Hampshire plausible. Again, its also a relief to leave campus sometimes. Hampshire students are very into taking advantage of all the opportunities offered through this program.
When you tell people you go to Hampshire, you get one of three response: 1) "Hamster?" 2) "That's that hippie school with no grades or tests, right?" or 3) "Hampshire is that really innovated self structured school". With a new President, Hampshire has been moving away from its hippie roots and moving more mainstream making it more accessible for general America to accept Hampshire's unorthodox academics. And Hampshire's reputation continues to grow in a positive way. Being young, established in the 1970s by the 4 other colleges in the area (Amherst, UMass, Holyoke, and Smith), Hampshire had some great infant years, got past the terrible toddler years, and is growing up into a respectable college with an innovated academic structure. Even though it is a small school with a student body of around 1400 (and rising each year with its growing popularity), Hampshire is located in Amherst, a true and lively college town, with over 30,000 college students in the area due mostly to UMass's large student body. Plus, the city-like Northampton is just around the corner thanks to the free bus systems that connects all the schools and top hot spots. There is plenty to do, plenty to eat, and plenty of people to meet.
I think the best thing about Hampshire is the freedom that it allows undergraduates. There are close to no requirements, at all, nothing. After my Division One everything that I do is dictated by a contract that I make with a committee of faculty members that I choose. In my second year I will be spending most of the year in New Orleans researching and writing about Katrina's affect on the public school system. That's just awesome. Most people have not heard about Hampshire College. They don't get it when you say that you don't have a major, so just pretend that you do. It is really really rural. We have a farm on campus and all of our neighbors are either farms or woods. But what is nice about being in the middle of nowhere is that we have a bunch of woods that are ours but we don't do anything with, so you can just go and have bonfires and do whatever you want in the woods without worrying about being on someone's property. The biggest recent controversy was about race discrimination at Hampshire. Yes, it is a very aware campus, but racism comes in all shapes and sizes and close to nothing goes unspoken at Hampshire.
Hampshire is very white and upper class. Students of color will find a great group of people of color to support and encourage them here, and there are a lot of white allies, but racism is real and quite pervasive at Hampshire. The location is nice. We're close enough to Boston and NY that people hitch rides to those cities all the time or take the peterpan bus, which comes onto campus to pcik students up. the five college atmosphere is great, it's so wonderful to be able to take advantage of the benefits of five excellent schools, each with it's own personality. People at Hampshire don't come in one style. Sure, there are hippies, there are waaaay more hipsters, some preppy kids, city kids, gamers, students who don't really fit into a category. There are those hampshire students riding the bus without shoes, with big dredlocks, ripped pants and homebrewed Kombucha that every says "that kid goes to hampshire". There are a lot of us, however, that are constantly mistaken for being a UMAss student of a Smith girl, and Amherst kid, or a townie... we are really not at all a school full of one type of person.
The best thing about Hampshire is that almost all of the professors work very hard to help the students do well at whatever they are interested in. I wish there were more science students and fewer pretentious art students. Most people have not heard of Hampshire, but those who have typically know about and respect the projects that we students do. It feels like it is in the woods, but is 15 minutes by free bus ride from one small city and two large towns. The administration is evil, and should be bypassed whenever possible, which is most of the time. A recent controversy about whether Hampshire is "anti-racist enough" swept the campus, polarizing it in a very negative way. As much as anyone here complains about Hampshire's problems, 90% of students here are fierce proponents of Hampshire, singing its praise to all who will listen - outside of the college grounds.. At no other school can students even think of changing things; here, students can make things change.
While I dont regret my choice to come to Hampshire, I have found several negetives to balance the core positive trait: large degrees of acedemic freedom. 1) Red Tape. There is an unbelievably convoluted system to everything at hampshire. Even professors who have been here for 20+ years dont know all the seemingly illogical twists and turns. 2)Division I. Hampshires answer to traditional college structure. Take 5 courses, at least 3 of which you won't need, want, or put any effort in to. I, a Genetics major, had to take Creative Writing and a Welding course. A waste of my and many students time and money. 3)Odd requirements. Others schools require calculus. Hampshire requires "Multicultural Perspectives" and 30 hours volunteer work. Only students majoring in these feilds find these worthwhile (and will riot, complain, and shut down buildings to maintain these). Most students pay only the thinest of lip service.
The best thing about Hampshire? The students, the atmosphere of enthusiastic scholastic enquiry, the professors. Everyone here is allowed to study what they want to study and so they tend to be interested in what they're doing and thus interesting themselves. If I could, I would give Hampshire a huge wad of money. We need better facilities and more teachers. Most student complaints, about the scarcity of scholarships, the decrepitude of the dorms, and the small size of some departments, are linked to the problem of funding. One of the things I love about Hampshire is the lack of overt school pride. There are no rallies here for the Ultimate Frisbee team and God willing there never will be. That said, there is a very strong sense of Hampshire community and a powerful campus ethos, probably because the school is so small and everyone there makes a deliberate choice to seek a different kind of education.
First off, sometimes you do feel as though you go to the school that all the slackers go to. But once again, this all depends on just who you run into. I met amazing people at Hampshire, and am really happy about my choice of school. However, as a student of color, sometimes it does get a bit over whelming with the school being currently 87% white, and there are many stereotypes that people will hold about you, but this can be said about any college. About the class sizes, they are just right, for me though. They generally are about 15-20 people, some classes are even smaller. However, this means that it is very discussion based, and you NEED to speak up and have the professor notice you if you wish to have a good evaluation. If you choose this school, just get ready to meet RICH people, and people who say that they poor, but just don't really know what that term truly means.
The best thing about Hampshire is the freedom that you get. Unfortunately, some people are not self motivated and need more guidance and are therefore kind of disadvantaged by the structure. If I could change things at Hampshire, it would be many things, but Hampshire does not have a large endowment. Though everyone gets their own room at Hampshire, there is still housing shortages. I spend most of my time on campus in my room or friends' rooms. Usually people complain about things like food and housing and the number of professors per department, but it all really comes down to Hampshire not having a lot of money- which is unfortunate. The Hampshire administration seems to be non-existent. I don't know where to begin if I have a problem with something, and even then, no one is very helpful anyways. Hampshire is very fend-for-yourself.
Hampshire is a pretty small school (around 1400) surrounded by a lot of farms and beautiful woods. If you're a city dweller, this is not the place for you. The majority of the students live in apartment style housing which is arranged into three little 'villages' on campus, which makes for a nice sense of community. Hampshire has a full farm (complete with goats, sheep, cows, pigs and even a llama!) which is staffed by students. You can sign up to receive fresh produce from the farm to share with your house mates or take a walk to go visit the baby sheep (soo cute!). Some kids make an effort to get off campus a lot and visit the neighboring small-ish college towns of Amherst and Northampton, although many kids just hang out at hampshire. There are many hikes and mountain bike trails right on campus which are beautiful!