What Does It Take to Get into the University of Massachusetts–Amherst?

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Located in picturesque Western Massachusetts and ranked as one of the top public universities in the country, the University of Massachusetts—Amherst is known for attracting bright students who pursue rigorous research and academics. Notable alumni include Jack Welch, Catherine “Cady” Coleman, Bill Pullman, Natalie Cole, and many others.


One unique facet of the university is that it participates in the Five College Interchange, which allows you to take courses at nearby colleges including Amherst, Smith, Hampshire, and Mount Holyoke.


What does it take to get into Massachusetts’ flagship public university? Read on to find out.


Applying to UMass Amherst: A Quick Review


You will apply to UMass Amherst via the Common Application unless you fall into one of the following categories:


  • MassTransfer students
  • Second bachelor’s degree students
  • Online & continuing education degree program students
  • Re-entering Students
  • Graduate students


Students in the above categories can find the appropriate application links here.


As part of your application, you will need to submit your:


  • Essay
  • Transcript
  • Test scores (ACT or SAT; essays are recommended but not required*)
  • Letter of recommendation


* In this case, you should submit scores for the essay portions as per the university’s recommendation.


UMass Amherst discourages submitting other supplementary materials. There are some special procedures for individual programs such as art and architecture.


UMass Amherst requires the following high school academic work (number indicates units):


  • English: 4
  • Mathematics (Algebra II minimum): 4 including math in the senior year of high school
  • Natural Science (3 labs): 3
  • Social Science (one course in US history): 2
  • Foreign Language: 2 of same language
  • Electives (from areas above, arts and humanities, or computer science): 2


College of Engineering, School of Management, and computer science major applicants must have completed an advanced math course, such as precalculus, trigonometry, or calculus. College of Engineering applicants must have taken chemistry and physics as well.


UMass Amherst Acceptance Rate: How Difficult Is It to Get In?


Last year, UMass Amherst had a 59% admissions rate, with 41,612 applicants and 5,010 matriculating freshmen.


The average combined SAT score for the class of 2021 was 1268, and the average GPA was 3.89.


Keep in mind that despite the seemingly high acceptance rate, you are still facing stiff competition and will need to set yourself apart, especially if you intend to pursue a particularly rigorous program; for individual colleges and programs, such as Commonwealth Honors College, the acceptance rate is much lower.

So, How Does One Get Into UMass Amherst?


Emphasize innovation. UMass Amherst boasts a student body of “bright, bold, unconventional thinkers.” With rigorous yet rewarding opportunities, the school promotes intellect and creative thinking. Demonstrate your leadership experience and commitment to learning through work beyond the classroom. As with most prestigious colleges, you should show extracurricular activities in your area of interest, such as independent research for science majors.


Know your strengths. UMass Amherst has 11 colleges and schools for undergraduates including:


  • College of Education
  • College of Engineering
  • College of Humanities and Fine Arts
  • College of Information and Computer Sciences
  • College of Natural Sciences
  • College of Nursing
  • College of Social and Behavioral Sciences
  • Commonwealth Honors College
  • Eisenberg School of Management
  • School of Public Health and Health Sciences
  • Stockbridge School of Agriculture


You should apply to the school that is best suited to your talents and interests, not the one that has the highest admissions rate. Your application should demonstrate leadership, extracurriculars, and strengths in areas associated with the college. For example, if you apply to the college of engineering, you should have a strong math and science background and extracurriculars in those subjects as well.


You will need to put down a first- and second-choice major on your application. This is not set in stone, but you will be accepted to a specific school, so it should be the one most aligned with your strengths.


Also, remember to meet the minimum coursework requirements for your intended major.


Have a hook. UMass Amherst emphasizes diversity. This is exemplified in Campus Pride rating the university as one of the best campuses for LGBTQ students and its status as a top school for veterans, currently serving over 400.


You don’t have to be part of a minority group to be accepted to UMass Amherst, but you should have something that sets you apart. Are you a nontraditional student with a unique story to tell? Explore that in your essay. Do you have a special talent, such as playing an interesting instrument? Make sure to include any extracurriculars in which you’ve participated or honors you’ve been awarded to that end.


What If You Get Rejected?


Being denied admission to any college, particularly one of your top choices, is disappointing. Still, it’s important to take a step back and regroup. If you get rejected from UMass Amherst, here’s what you can do:


Take a gap year or transfer in. If you had your heart set on UMass Amherst or received bad news from the other colleges on your list, one option is to take a gap year and reapply next admissions cycle. If you do decide to go this route, make sure you have a productive plan for the year. You might undertake a research project, volunteer, study to improve your SAT scores, or take classes at a local college. Do know, however, that this path is risky, as taking a gap year won’t ensure your acceptance the second time around.

You could also begin your studies at another institution with the hopes of transferring. UMass Amherst accepted more than 1,300 transfer students in 2016, meaning acceptance isn’t out of the question.


Keep it in perspective. Even if UMass Amherst was your top choice, chances are, you’ll find a way to make a college that did accept you work. College really is what you make of it, and if you put effort into adjusting to another school by joining clubs, working hard in your classes, and cultivating a social life, you’ll likely find that you can make a fulfilling college experience for yourself, even if you end up at a college that wasn’t your top choice.


Curious about your chances of acceptance to your dream school? Our free chancing engine takes into account your GPA, test scores, extracurriculars, and other data to predict your odds of acceptance at over 500 colleges across the U.S. We’ll also let you know how you stack up against other applicants and how you can improve your profile. Sign up for your free CollegeVine account today to get started!

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Laura Berlinsky-Schine
Senior Blogger at CollegeVine
Short bio
Laura Berlinsky-Schine is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University, where she majored in Creative Writing and minored in History. She lives in Brooklyn, New York and works as a freelance writer specializing in education. She dreams of having a dog.