First Impressions: UMass-Amherst

With my September visit to UMass-Amherst, I have now visited the flagship campus of every New England public university. UMass-Amherst offers most any academic, social or career development opportunity that you could hope to find at a flagship state school at a middle of the pack price in a very livable and relatively affordable (for New England) college town. I’d like to share my First Impressions as well as some photos on Pinterest.

Unique among flagship state universities, UMass-Amherst is the largest school within a Five College community, including Amherst College, Hampshire College, Mount Holyoke College and Smith College, that has more than 30,000 undergraduates. Students enrolled at any one college can take courses, join student organizations and attend most events at the others. There’s no need to have a car to travel between the campuses. A free bus picks students up and takes them around day or night. This is one of the nicer and more livable student-oriented communities in the United States. While UMass-Amherst is able to house the majority of its undergraduates, rare for a state school, there are also enough off-campus living options to suit various student budgets.

UMass-Amherst offers several signature programs, the most prominent being in Computer Science, Education, Food Science, Hospitality and Tourism, Nursing, Public Health and Sports Management. The opportunities for a liberal arts majors are quite extensive, especially when you can take advantage of the offerings at the other colleges in the area. UMass-Amherst also offers the option for co-op or credited internships for most majors. Most similar schools do not. One downside: there’s no opportunity to tackle a business minor, unless you are studying Engineering. Every other flagship state university in New England, offers a business minor or a certificate.

Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder when visiting a college campus. This was a downside for me with UMass-Amherst. While it has a simple campus layout as well as some very nice buildings—the Honors Residential Community, in particular, is impressive—the appearance and upkeep of the student union, older residence halls, the Worcester dining hall and the campus center (beneath the Hotel UMass) did not lead me into wanting to leave a deposit, unless I was from Massachusetts.

There are nice grounds and landscaping while the mountain views when you look away from campus are breathtaking. But in my eyes this was one of the less attractive state university campuses that I have visited. There’s a very nice off-campus life at UMass-Amherst. But most of the academics and student life take place on campus. If you are interested in UMass-Amherst, I encourage you to visit and assess the campus aesthetics and appearance for yourself. Your opinions might be different.

UMass-Amherst is also not as much of a “spirit and sports” school as other state universities such as the University of Connecticut (which is smaller) and Penn State-University Park (which is much larger). Nor are fraternities and sororities as prominent in campus life. If you are seeking this in a college experience, and do not come from Massachusetts, you might want to consider other schools.

When considering  academics, student success and services, career development and campus community, U-Mass Amherst has a lot to offer. Admissions are achievable for a very good-to-excellent student. Opportunities to become part of the Honors community are also more achievable than they are at other large state schools.

In the end, the major questions about the quality of a school are: do students return to make progress towards a degree, and do they usually graduate on time? At UMass-Amherst 90 percent of freshmen return for their sophomore year, while just over two-thirds graduate on time, two excellent measures for a large state school.

Report Card: University of Massachusetts-Amherst

  • Four-Year/Six-Year Graduation Rates: A
  • Freshman Retention: A
  • Costs: B
  • Curriculum: A
  • Community: A
  • Comforts: B+
  • Connections: A

Check out my First Impressions of UMass-Amherst!

Check out my UMass-Amherst Pinterest page!

Visiting colleges? Daytripper University’s travel guides highlight the best restaurants and hotels as well as the most interesting attractions near UMass-Amherst. Founded by Liora Yalof and Bonnie Klein and relying on a network of parents, locals and current students, this comprehensive website features guides to over 100 campuses and resources to help you navigate the college process.

Want more on my take on the schools that might be on your list? Contact me at or call me at 609-406-0062.

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