What is the Five College Consortium?

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College consortiums are a unique resource with lots to offer for the students who attend participating colleges. In these models, a group of colleges usually located very close to one another collaborate to provide shared resources, cross-registration, and other advantages. These can be especially desirable to students who want to attend a smaller school but have access to big-school resources, or to those who want to attend a large school but still take small, discussion-based classes. 

 

If you think that a consortium might be a great addition to your college career, keep reading to learn more about the Five College Consortium. 

 

What is the Five College Consortium?

 

Founded in the 1950s, the Five College Consortium is a collaboration between four colleges and a university, all located in the Connecticut River Valley area in Western Massachusetts. 

 

The collaboration includes shared resources such as library subscriptions, joint faculty appointments, public radio, and studies of the history of science and astronomy. This collaboration is beneficial to students, faculty, and staff by allowing the shared use of educational and cultural resources and facilities, joint departments and programs, and inter-campus transportation. 

 

Which Schools are a Part of the Five College Consortium?

 

Amherst College

Amherst has an undergraduate population of around 1,800 students and boasts a low acceptance rate of just 11%. Located in Amherst, MA, its diverse and dedicated student body has its pick of 36 fields of study and an open curriculum. Amherst consistently ranks among the top two liberal arts colleges in the country. 

 

Hampshire College

Also located in Amherst, MA, Hampshire College is home to 1,400 undergraduates and is considered one of the most innovative schools in the country. Here, students pursue their passions through self-designed and professor guided programs of study. There are no grades, with students instead receiving narrative evaluations. Hampshire has an acceptance rate of 63%.

 

Mount Holyoke

Mount Holyoke College is a women’s college located in nearby South Hadley, MA, with an undergraduate enrollment of 2,200. It was recently ranked number one by U.S. News and World Report for classroom experience, probably due in large part to its commitment to experiential learning and its renowned faculty who regularly include students in research. In 2018, the acceptance rate at Mount Holyoke was 52.2%. 

 

Smith College

Smith College is another all-women’s institution, this one with a population of 2,600 and an acceptance rate of 37%. Its resources include the renowned Smith College Museum of Art and the internationally recognized Sophia Smith Collection of women’s history manuscripts and archives. It is also well known for the beauty of its campus which includes a botanic garden. 

 

UMass Amherst

UMass Amherst may seem like an anomaly in this group, with its nearly 22,000 undergraduates and its status as a public school, but it lends valuable resources not otherwise available, such as access to world class research facilities, New England’s premier honors college, and eight schools and colleges offering a full range of undergraduate degree programs. Massachusetts residents can take advantage of in-state tuition here, and many do. In 2018, the acceptance rate was 59%. 

 

What Are the Benefits of the Five College Consortium?

 

 

Cross-Registration

 

Students are allowed to take classes at any of the other schools in the Five College Consortium, and they can do so even without having access to a car. The local bus system, PVTA, is free with a student ID, but it can be inefficient and from some schools it could take up to an hour to get those furthest away. That said, most schools are just 20-30 minutes apart. There are some limits on how many classes you can take off your home campus, and these vary from school to school, though all allow at least two per semester. 

 

Take Classes Not Offered at Your School and Earn a Certificate

 

Cross-registration has another benefit, too—students can take classes not offered on their home campus and apply these towards a certificate, which acts sort of like a minor. Certificates can be earned in fields like Coastal and Marine Sciences, International Relations, Middle Eastern Studies, and Reproductive Health Rights and Justice. 

 

Increased Club and Activity Options

 

Students can join clubs, intramural sports, and other extracurriculars on any campus they choose. The only exception to this is varsity sports, when students must play for their home school. 

 

Shared Cultural Resources

 

The Five College Consortium collaborates to offer theater and dance productions, lectures and concerts, and extensive diversity offices and resources. A full calendar of events offered on all campuses is available on the Five College Consortium site.

 

Consortiums provide unique and extensive resources for the students who attend participating colleges, while still allowing students to fully enjoy their home colleges for the reasons they chose to attend them. To learn more about other consortiums or for help further narrowing down your college search, sign up for our mailing list below. We’ll send out helpful blog updates and free webinars, whether you’re a student or parent!

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Kate Sundquist
Senior Blogger at CollegeVine
Short bio
Kate Koch-Sundquist is a graduate of Pomona College where she studied sociology, psychology, and writing before going on to receive an M.Ed. from Lesley University. After a few forays into living abroad and afloat (sometimes at the same time), she now makes her home north of Boston where she works as a content writer and, with her husband, raises two young sons who both inspire her and challenge her on a daily basis.