How to Get Into Amherst College: Admissions Data & Strategies
Amherst College is one of the most selective and esteemed liberal arts colleges in the country, in the same league with the likes of Williams, Swarthmore, and Pomona. While lesser-known to the general public than the Ivy League universities, these schools (including Amherst) sport single-digit acceptance rates and present an admissions challenge even for students at the very top of their high school class who possess near-perfect SAT/ACT scores. Yet, unlike many schools whose hyper-selective admissions practices are a relatively recent phenomenon, gaining acceptance into Amherst has been a fierce proposition for decades as the following historical acceptance rates reveal:
- 1980: 19%
- 1995: 20%
- 2010: 15%
- 2021: 8%
To give prospective Amherst applicants a better sense of their admissions chances, this blog will touch on the following topics:
- Amherst College’s Class of 2025 acceptance rate
- Amherst College’s 2025 Early Decision acceptance rate
- SAT, ACT, and class rank of accepted Amherst College applicants
- Amherst Admissions trends for the Class of 2025
- Amherst College’s system for rating applicants
- A look at the demographics of current Amherst College undergraduates
- The percent of accepted students that attend the Amherst College (yield rate)
- Tips for applying to Amherst College
- A look at the Amherst essay prompts
- How to assess whether applying to the Amherst College is even worth the $65 application fee (for you)
Let’s begin with an examination of the most recent admissions data.
Amherst College Acceptance Rate – Class of 2025
Amherst received 13,948 applications for a place in the Class of 2025 and accepted just 1,182 individuals. This acceptance rate of 8% was an all-time low for the school. This represents a more selective admissions campaign than the previous year; the Class of 2024 saw 1,254 of 10,603 applicants selected for an acceptance rate of 12%.
Amherst College Early Decision Acceptance Rate
Amherst received 857 ED applicants for the Class of 2025, a 43% increase over the previous cycle. The ED acceptance rate for this cohort was a far more encouraging 25%. For the Class of 2024, the ED acceptance rate was 32%.
Amherst College Admissions – SAT, ACT, and Class Rank
For Class of 2024 members, the mid-50% SAT range for enrolled freshmen was 1410-1530. The median score was a 1490. The average Math score (747) was higher than the average reading score (728). The ACT range was 31-34 with a median score of 33. Eighty-five percent of enrolled freshmen finished in the top 10% of their high school class and 96% were in the top quartile.
Admissions Trends & Notes – Class of 2025
- Amherst’s Class of 2027 will still have the option of whether or not to include test scores with their application; this will be the third year of the school’s test-optional pilot program.
- 21% of students accepted into the Amherst Class of 2025 were Pell Grant eligible; 61% were receiving some level of financial aid.
- 16% of 2021-22 freshmen were first-generation students.
- 92% of those admitted to the Class of 2025 graduated in the top 10% of their high school class.
- The 2021-22 freshman class size of 532 is much higher than a typical incoming cohort at Amherst; 43 members of this group are students admitted the prior year who deferred admission in 2020.
How Amherst College Rates Applicants
Utilizing a genuinely holistic admissions process, Amherst College views seven factors as “very important” to the admissions process: rigor of high school course load, GPA, application essays, recommendations, extracurricular activities, talent/ability, and character/personal qualities. The four factors labeled as “important” are class rank, first generation status, volunteer work, and work experiences. At least for this test-optional stretch (Class of 2025 through Class of 2027), standardized tests are relegated to mere “considered” status.
Straight from the Amherst admissions office:
- “Amherst uses a holistic approach to the review of application materials to develop a multi-dimensional perspective of the applicant. We give the greatest weight to your academic transcript.”
- “The rigor of the courses you’ve taken, the quality of your grades and the consistency with which you’ve worked over four years give us the clearest indication of how well you will do at Amherst.”
- “While there is no specific set of secondary school classes required for admission, most successful applicants have pursued the strongest program of study available at their secondary school—typically including four years of study in English, math, science, social studies and foreign language—and have achieved the highest levels of academic performance.”
- “Recommendations, the quality of your writing, and extra- and co-curricular accomplishments also help us draw fine distinctions among very talented applicants.”
Amherst College Demographics
Let’s look at the demographics of Amherst College undergraduate student body. The following are the U.S. states from which the greatest number of undergrads hail:
- New York
- New Jersey
The greatest percentage of international students come from the following countries:
- China: 16%
- India: 9%
- Singapore: 5%
- Canada: 5%
- Turkey: 5%
- Kenya: 4%
In terms of ethnic identity, the breakdown is as follows:
- White: 30%
- Asian: 18%
- Hispanic: 19%
- African American: 11%
- Two or More Races: 7%
- International: 11%
- Unknown: 4%
A look at the gender split reveals that university enrolls a greater number of women than men on campus:
- Men: 46%
- Women: 54%
In one recent year, the following percentage of enrolled students attended each types of high school:
- Public: 54%
- Independent: 32%
- Parochial: 13%
- Home School: 1%
Amherst College’s “Yield Rate”
Amherst College’s yield rate—the percentage of accepted students who elect to enroll, divided by the total number of students who are admitted is 35%. This places them behind other top liberal arts schools which have the following yields: Williams College (46%), Pomona College (45%), and Swarthmore College (35%).
Tips for Applying to Amherst College
If you plan on joining the 13,000+ Amherst College hopefuls for the next admissions cycle, you should know the following:
- If Amherst College is your top choice, you’ll want to strongly consider applying ED by November 1. The Regular Decision deadline falls in the first week of January, but the acceptance rates are significantly lower in this round.
- This school ended the practice of evaluative interviews roughly a dozen years ago.
- With no interviews, your counselor and teacher recommendations will be key. Visit our blog for tips on requesting high school letters of recommendation.
- Amherst College does not consider “demonstrated interest” so you will not be judged on whether or not you made a campus visit, contacted an admissions officer, etc.
- You’ll need to submit a Mid-Year Report in late February so remember to keep those grades up throughout your senior year of high school.
- Make sure to dedicate sufficient time and effort to the supplemental essay prompts offered by Amherst College. In the 2021-22 cycle, there were three choices for the main essay/writing sample as well as two short answer responses.
Amherst Supplemental Essays & Short Answers
There are three options for satisfying Amherst’s supplementary writing requirement for the first-year application: Option A, Option B or Option C. Applicants may elect only one of those options. Before deciding, you should carefully read the descriptions of all three options (including specific conditions associated with Option B and Option C) to determine which is most appropriate for you. Please note that these descriptions are provided for convenience of preview only; your actual writing supplement should be submitted through the Common Application online system or the Coalition Application online system (unless you are submitting the QuestBridge application only, in which case you will be instructed on how to email, mail or fax your supplement to our office).
Respond to one of the following quotations in an essay of not more than 300 words. It is not necessary to research, read, or refer to the texts from which these quotations are taken; we are looking for original, personal responses to these short excerpts. Remember that your essay should be personal in nature and not simply an argumentative essay.
Quote #1 “Rigorous reasoning is crucial in mathematics, and insight plays an important secondary role these days. In the natural sciences, I would say that the order of these two virtues is reversed. Rigor is, of course, very important. But the most important value is insight—insight into the workings of the world. It may be because there is another guarantor of correctness in the sciences, namely, the empirical evidence from observation and experiments.” Kannan Jagannathan, Professor of Physics, Amherst College
Quote #2 “Translation is the art of bridging cultures. It’s about interpreting the essence of a text, transporting its rhythms and becoming intimate with its meaning… Translation, however, doesn’t only occur across languages: mentally putting any idea into words is an act of translation; so is composing a symphony, doing business in the global market, understanding the roots of terrorism. No citizen, especially today, can exist in isolation– that is, I untranslated.” Ilán Stavans, Professor of Latin American and Latino Culture, Amherst College, Robert Croll ’16 and Cedric Duquene ’15, from “Interpreting Terras Irradient,” Amherst Magazine, Spring 2015.
Quote #3 “Creating an environment that allows students to build lasting friendships, including those that cut across seemingly entrenched societal and political boundaries…requires candor about the inevitable tensions, as well as about the wonderful opportunities, that diversity and inclusiveness create.” Carolyn “Biddy” Martin, 19th President of Amherst College, from Letter to Amherst College Alumni and Families, December 28, 2015.
Quote #4 “Difficulty need not foreshadow despair or defeat. Rather, achievement can be all the more satisfying because of obstacles surmounted.” Attributed to William Hastie, Amherst College Class of 1925, the first African-American to serve as a judge for the United States Court of Appeals
Submit a graded paper from your junior or senior year that best represents your writing skills and analytical abilities. We are particularly interested in your ability to construct a tightly reasoned, persuasive argument that calls upon literary, sociological or historical evidence. You should not submit a laboratory report, journal entry, creative writing sample or in-class essay. Also, if you have submitted an analytical essay in response to the “essay topic of your choice” prompt in the Common Application writing section, you should not select Option B. Instead, you should respond to one of the four quotation prompts in Option A. (FAQ here)
If you were an applicant to Amherst’s Access to Amherst (A2A) program, you may use your A2A application essay in satisfaction of our Writing Supplement requirement. If you would like to do so, please select Option C on either the Common Applications or the Coalition Application. However, if you would prefer not to use your A2A essay for this purpose and you wish to submit a different writing supplement, select either Option A or Option B. (Please note that Option C is available only to students who were applicants to Amherst’s A2A program.)
ADDITIONAL PERSONAL INFORMATION
At Amherst we know that identity is more than checkboxes. If you would like to share more about your identity, background, family, culture or community, please tell us more here. (Maximum: 175 words)
EXTRACURRICULAR ACTIVITIES ESSAY
Please briefly elaborate on an extracurricular activity or work experience of particular significance to you. (Maximum: 175 words)
Should I Apply to Amherst?
Over 80% of those accepted into Amherst possess an SAT score of 700 or better on the math and reading sections of the SAT; 90% earned an ACT score of 30 or higher. Just about everyone finished at or near the top of their high school class. If you check these boxes then you’ll certainly be a competitive applicant at Amherst, but those with additional attributes and talents will fare best.
Any student applying to a school of Amherst College’s caliber also needs to also have a proper mix or “target” and “safety” schools on their college list. More on creating a balanced college list can be found here.
Dave has over a decade of professional experience that includes work as a teacher, high school administrator, college professor, and independent educational consultant. He is a co-author of the books The Enlightened College Applicant (Rowman & Littlefield, 2016) and Colleges Worth Your Money (Rowman & Littlefield, 2020).