How to Get Into Amherst College: Admissions Stats + Tips
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- How Hard Is It to Get Into Amherst College?
- Average Academic Profile of Accepted Amherst College Students
- What is Amherst College Looking for?
- How to Improve Your Chances of Getting into Amherst College
Tucked away in the hills of western Massachusetts is Amherst College, one of the best liberal arts colleges (LACs) in the nation. Separating Amherst from other LACs is its open curriculum—the college is one of only 11 schools that put students in control of their academic path. Students are responsible for their choices to prepare them for life after college.
How Hard Is It to Get Into Amherst College?
Amherst is a difficult college to get into—it accepted just 1,254 students out of a pool of 10,603 applicants to its Class of 2025, an overall acceptance rate of approximately 12%. Amherst had 598 applicants apply through its early decision process and accepted a mere 190, for an early decision acceptance rate of roughly 31%.
Amherst’s acceptance rate is extremely low, but your chances are determined by the strength of your profile. Our free admissions calculator uses factors like grades, test scores, and extracurriculars to help you better understand your odds of acceptance at Amherst and provide tips to improve your profile.
Average Academic Profile of Accepted Amherst College Students
Amherst did not track the average high school GPA of applicants to its Class of 2025, however, know that you’ll need outstanding academics for serious consideration as an applicant.
The middle 50% SAT and ACT scores of students admitted to Amherst’s Class of 2025 are 1410-1530 and 31-33. Amherst had a test-optional admissions policy for the 2020-2021 admissions cycle, which they’ve extended for both the 2021-2022 and 2022-2023 admissions cycles (37% of applicants in the 2020-2021 admissions cycle did not submit test scores with their applications).
Students accepted to Amherst’s Class of 2025 generally graduated at, or near, the top of their class in high school—85% graduated in the top tenth of their class, and 96% graduated in the top quarter.
What is Amherst College Looking for?
Amherst considers applicants thoroughly before making admissions decisions. Each application is looked over by at least two admissions officers before being presented for discussion to the Admissions Committee.
Amherst takes a holistic approach to application reviews, looking at candidates from a multi-dimensional perspective and using a variety of factors to make admissions decisions. One aspect of the application given considerable weight is the essays. Similar to other LACs, the essay at Amherst accounts for 35%-40% of admission decisions, compared to 20%-25% at most top 30 colleges.
Diversity, equity, and inclusion are among Amherst’s guiding principles, and the college places a particular focus on ethnic diversity—45% of Amherst’s student body self-identifies as domestic students of color.
How Amherst College Evaluates Applications
According to their 2020-2021 Common Data Set, Amherst College considers the following factors “very important”:
- Course rigor
- Recommendation letters
- Extracurricular activities
These factors are “important”:
- Class rank
- First generation
- Volunteer work
- Work experience
These are “considered”:
- Test scores
- Geographic residence
- Racial ethnic/status
And these are “not considered”:
- State residence
- Religious affiliation
- Applicant interest
How to Improve Your Chances of Getting into Amherst College
1. Achieve the best possible GPA while taking the most challenging classes available
GPA and course rigor are both very important to admissions decisions, and class rank is important to Amherst admissions. According to Amherst College, “We give the greatest weight to your academic transcript,” and view the pursuit of challenging coursework as an example of a student’s “academic ambition, accomplishment, and preparation.”
85% of Amherst’s Class of 2025 graduated in the top tenth of their high school class. To submit a competitive application, you’ll need an exceptional academic record in the most challenging classes available to you. It’s common for applicants at top schools like Amherst to have completed upward of a dozen AP classes.
Highly ranked schools like Amherst commonly use a tool known as the Academic Index to streamline admissions. If your Academic Index—a representation of your academic performance by a single number—doesn’t meet Amherst’s standards, you risk not being seen as a serious candidate.
If you’re a freshman or sophomore and your GPA is low, there is still time to raise it—check out our tips for increasing your GPA. If you’re a junior or senior, it’s more difficult to bring your GPA up, so the easiest way to improve your Academic Index is to earn high test scores.
2. Write engaging essays
Essays are a very important aspect of the Amherst admission process and account for between 35% and 40% of admission decisions. In addition to the common app essay (whichever type you may choose), Amherst requires a supplemental essay. You can choose to submit either a 300-word essay responding to one of four prompts or to submit a graded paper from your junior or senior year.
CollegeVine strongly recommends writing an essay. Essays allow you to show off your writing skills and personality, but also to make a compelling case for why you’re a good fit at Amherst and how the college will benefit from having you on campus. Check out our article, “How to Write the Amherst College Essays 2021-2022” for specific advice on how to ace Amherst’s essay.
3. Secure strong recommendations
Letters of recommendation are very important to Amherst admissions. You are required to submit three letters of recommendation with your application: one from a counselor and two from teachers in core academic subjects.
Most applicants to Amherst have impressive profiles and a winning letter of recommendation can help set you apart. A compelling letter is written by someone who really knows you, can speak to your strengths and weaknesses, and testify how you work with others. An attention-grabbing letter for Amherst can even highlight your character, which Amherst also views as very important.
Teachers are busy and not compensated for writing letters of recommendation. To ensure you receive a persuasive letter, it’s essential you give them the tools and time to compose one. The nine rules for requesting letters of recommendation from teachers are tried-and-true guidelines for getting an eye-catching letter of recommendation.
4. Cultivate one or two Tier 1-2 extracurriculars (find your “spike”)
Extracurricular activities, along with the talent they highlight, are very important to admissions decisions at Amherst. Having a highly developed interest, known as a “spike,” and one or two impressive extracurriculars that support that interest will help you stand out from other applicants. How impressive are your extracurriculars? The four tiers of extracurriculars provide a good way to understand how colleges value your activities outside of the classroom.
- Tier 1 activities are the most impressive and least common. These extracurriculars show great achievement or leadership and include winning a prestigious national award, earning national distinction in athletics, or attending a renowned merit-based summer program.
- Tier 2 activities demonstrate accomplishment and leadership but are less impressive and more common than those of Tier 1. Tier 2 activities include winning a regional award, earning state recognition in athletics, or holding a leadership position in a well-known club.
- Tier 3 doesn’t have the same weight with admissions as the higher tiers. Tier 3 activities are commonly seen by admissions officers and are better at highlighting interests rather than distinguishing yourself from other applicants. Examples of Tier 3 activities include holding a minor leadership position in a well-known club or captaining a varsity sport.
- Tier 4 extracurriculars are the most commonly seen by admissions officers and have the least impact on your admission odds. These include participating in a club, playing a sport, and general volunteer work.
5. Apply Early Decision
Amherst College has two admission tracks: early decision (ED) and regular decision (RD). Generally, about 10% of applicants apply through the ED process. Early decision applicants are accepted at a higher rate than regular decision candidates; the Class of 2025’s early decision acceptance rate of roughly 31% is significantly higher than the approximate 12% overall acceptance rate.
Early decision boasts a higher acceptance rate, but it’s not for everyone. Early decision is binding, and when you apply ED you commit to attending Amherst if admitted. This makes ED a good option for students for whom Amherst is their clear first choice and who are positive that they can afford it.
How to Apply to Amherst College
Amherst College accepts the Common Application, Coalition Application, and the QuestBridge Application. In addition to completing one of the three applications, you’re required to submit:
- Amherst College writing supplement
- School report
- Counselor recommendation
- Two teacher recommendations
- Mid-year report
- Mid-year transcript
Optional requirements include:
- SAT/ACT scores
- Art supplement
Learn more about Amherst College
Interested in learning more about Amherst? Check out these other informative articles:
- How I Got Into Amherst College
- What Does It Cost to Attend Amherst College?
- Amherst vs. Williams: Which College is Right for You?
- The 15 Best Liberal Arts Colleges in the U.S.
Want to know your chances at Amherst? Calculate your chances for free right now.