Amherst has tied for first in the “academic reputation" category among schools whose highest degree awarded is a bachelor’s degree each year that U.S. News & World Report has produced a survey, sharing that honor with rival Williams College. According to current U.S. News and World Report rankings, Amherst and Williams tied for the number one spot among all liberal arts colleges. Amherst has been ranked the number one liberal arts college in the country ten times since the inception of the U.S. News rankings.
Amherst is ranked second overall according to the fifth annual report by the National Collegiate Scouting Association which ranks colleges based on student-athlete graduation rates, academic strength, and athletic prowess.
Amherst ranked ninth in a 2004 Wall Street Journal survey of the “feeder schools" to the top fifteen business, law, and medical schools in the country.
Amherst is ranked ninth in the 2007 Washington Monthly rankings,which focus on key research outputs, the quality level and total dollar amount of scientific (natural and social sciences) grants won, number of graduates going on to earn Ph.D. degrees and certain types of public service.
According to The Princeton Review, Amherst ranks in the Top 20 among all colleges and universities in the nation as the Best Overall Academic Experience for Undergraduates, The Toughest to Get Into, Professors Get High Marks, Students Happy with Financial Aid, School Runs Like Butter, and Happiest Students.
Amherst also participates in the University and College Accountability Network (U-CAN) developed by the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU).
Admission to Amherst College is among the most competitive in the country. In 2008, Amherst College received about 7,700 applications and admitted 1,096 for an acceptance rate of 14.2 percent, an all-time low.For the class of 2011, the middle 50 percent of admitted students received an SAT score of 1360-1570 (Critical Reading and Math only) and about 90 percent of admitted students were in the top decile (10 percent) of their high school classes.
Amherst offers 33 different areas of study and an unusually open curriculum. Students are not required to study a core curriculum or fulfill distribution requirements. Beyond courses for their majors and the First-Year Seminar, students are free to design their own curricula. First year students can take advanced courses and seniors can take introductory courses (such as beginning study of a foreign language).
During the first year, the only course requirement mandated by the registrar is one of the roughly twenty First-Year Seminars. Each class is limited to no more than 15 students.Although topics for the seminars vary, they share a common focus on critical analysis and development of argument in writing and speaking.
The other 31 courses (usually four per semester) that must be completed in order to graduate can be elected by the individual student. Faculty advisors guide students through the process. Each faculty advisor works with no more than five first-year students to ensure a course of study that has breadth and depth and is both integrated across disciplines and intellectually fulfilling. Faculty advising continues for the remainder of each student’s undergraduate career.
However, students must adhere to departmental course requirements to complete their major, including satisfactory performance on comprehensive examinations in their major field. Thirty-five percent of Amherst students in the class of 2007 were double majors.A small number triple major and many create, with faculty advice, an interdisciplinary major. Fifty percent write theses during their senior year. Those students who choose to write a senior thesis have additional faculty advisors whose areas of expertise mirror each thesis topic. Within five years of graduation, seventy-four percent of Amherst alumni attend graduate school.