The stereotype of our college is that we're a bunch of hippie stoners, which to some extent is mostly true. I can't generalize the entire school, but there are a lot of liberals, people who don't wear shoes even in New England's unforgiving temperatures, and a bunch of belief-promoting on bumper stickers of cars. There are also some city people, who don't conform to fall under these categories at all, so we're an eclectic bunch.
The stereotype is that we're all potheads. Pretty accurate, but not entirely.
The most common stereotype that I heard while applying was that Hampshire students were all pot-smoking hippie slackers. While there are definitely stoners, slackers, and hippies around campus, we're not all like that. Most of us are incredibly passionate about what we do and we work hard in our classes and activities. Without tests or grades, we are judged on essays and class participation, so in order to succeed, all students are expected to speak in class and to learn to write effectively. Some students come in without these skills, but I have seen many of my classmates rise to the occasion and produce great work.
The stereotypical Hampshire student: a pot smoking, privileged, pompous hipster 'concentrating' in ergot chemistry, 'medicinal' botany, or gender-identity (i.e. her gender and identity). The stereotypical rendering of Hampshire: a 'camp' - rather than a 'school' - peopled by a single archetypal whiner; that opining politically correct someone to whom you wanna scream: "you've never struggled through anything, shut up!" The common critique of our community: a collection of liberal libertines constantly convincing themselves of their 'uniqueness,' when in fact they've contrived a single libertine that themselves and everyone else must be to be.
Are these stereotypes accurate? I'd like to think not. They are relevant. There's no debating that. Hampshire has always had an intellectual reputation and little funding. Because of this it is both very attractive to imbecile children from Manhattan who needn't ever work for a living, and to young people with little more than ambition. This isn't an absolute binary - these too are stereotypes. However, if you ask most people around campus they'll commonly provide this distinction: students are either of the 30% of real 'elites' who can afford this school (and who fund this school) or they're of lesser means with lots of dreams (and, ergo, receive a slice of the majority of our operating budget [$21 million per annum]).
I'm part of that second group. I gotta say - as a recipient of this aid and this education - that opportunities I've been provided, and people I've encountered, shatter these stereotypes in my imagination. People come to Hampshire for a vast multiplicity of reasons with a wild variety of goals. Those who set out to pursue their dreams - hell, to have a dream - do very well at this college still slumbering in the seventies. I've personally had high-level courses and seminars at every school in the Five College Consortium. I've studied abroad at the University of Edinburgh (free of charge), researched life-sentence appeals toward my Div II portfolio, and taken a graduate-level course at UMass. I've had a seminar in a prison, toured a penitentiary, argued with supermax litigators in California, interned with a law office, volunteered with a youth court - all because of Hampshire.
To those who work within and outside the bounds of this college - those who treat this 'camp' as a community, but also a resource - the possibilities are endless. This cannot be said of any other undergraduate college anywhere. [Period].
With these opportunities and this diverse a collection of formative provocateurs (from around the world), being a student at Hampshire College is an inspiring and aspirational experience. One can 'major' in virtually anything - with the resources of the Five Colleges, the sky's the limit. I have to admit that I took an additional year simply because I didn't want to leave; there's so much to learn, so precious little time.
Live it, love it, learn it Hampsters of the future; pace yourselves on the herb and the vino, they're only blessings if you respect them.
Visit anytime – we're a half mile past Potwine Lane on the farm just before the co-op.
People tend to think of Hampshire as a "hippie" school (and there are a few), but there are mostly hipsters and punks. We have a reputation for smoking tons of weed, and let's just say it has been earned.
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