New students number about 6,760 at Five Colleges from nearly all states, 30 countries

Last modified: Friday, October 10, 2014
AMHERST — With gear piled high atop car roofs and minivans filled to capacity, thousands of new and returning students arrived on campus this weekend at Hampshire County’s four private colleges and the University of Massachusetts.

The combined class of 2018 at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Smith, Amherst, Hampshire, and Mount Holyoke colleges checks in at around 6,760 first-year students. They come from about 30 countries and close to all 50 states.

Many of these students — 16 percent at Amherst College and nearly 13 percent at Smith College — are part of the first generation in their family to attend college. At Amherst, around 60 percent of the new students and 59 percent at Smith are receiving need-based financial aid.

The class of 2018 is a varied bunch indeed. At UMass there are aspiring nurses, teachers, and neuroscientists. At Mount Holyoke, there is a nationally ranked equestrian. Amherst College admitted a published novelist and a licensed pilot. At Smith, nearly 20 percent of the new class plays a musical instrument.

Who knows how many of those students will stick with it long enough to earn their college degrees in the Valley? But for now, for this early September back-to-school time, the air in the Pioneer Valley is full of the promise of a new academic year.

Hampshire’s move-in

The latest batch of incoming students arrived at Hampshire under sunny skies Thursday. Returning students wearing matching purple shirts eagerly helped new students unload their belongings into the dorms, while college staff and volunteers stood ready to provide directions at every corner.

Ben Stumpf, an incoming first-year-student who applied early decision, said he was drawn to the school’s academic vision. At Hampshire College, students design their own program of study instead of choosing a major.

“It’s very progressive,” said Stumpf, 18, of Los Angeles, after taking a picture with his family outside. “I couldn’t find another school like it.”

At Hampshire, the average grade-point average of its 395 incoming students is 3.52, according to a college spokesperson. This year’s acceptance rate was 66 percent of the 2,695 applicants.

Of the new students, 345 are first-years, and 50 have transferred. Thirteen come from other countries.

Transfer student Andréa Johnson, 20, of Chicago, said after being on campus for a couple of hours she already felt a sense of community, or as she put it, “like I’m not alone in this journey.” She spoke with a reporter while in the Robert Crown Center, where new students were checking in.

She transferred from Long Island University, where she was a global studies major, and will be a second-year student at Hampshire.

“I wanted to be able to create my own experience in school,” she said.

UMass scores up

A statement from the University of Massachusetts Amherst describes the incoming class of approximately 4,650 freshmen as the “most academically accomplished entering class in its 151-year history,” with an average SAT score of 1218 — up 10 points from last year — and the average grade-point average increasing from 3.73 to 3.78.

Enrollment at the Commonwealth Honors College has increased from 623 in 2013 to 710 in 2014. There, the new class’s average SAT score is 1359 and the average grade-point average is 4.24.

Since 2005, UMass has seen an 84 percent increase in the number of applications. In that time, the acceptance rate has gone down from 80 percent to 61 percent.

UMass spokesman Edward Blaguszewski said the school does not keep track of the number of incoming students who are the first in their family to attend college. And the number of students on financial aid was not available.

Amherst, Smith, Mount Holyoke

New students settling in at Amherst College include those who have served in the military, tutored youth, started popular clubs at their high schools, and gone on mission trips.

Between orientation activities last week, freshman Miriam Ferede, 18, of Champaign, Illinois, said she chose Amherst College because the school seems invested in its students, and “willing to help you grow not only as an intellectual, but as a person,” she said.

During high school, she had a job at the Kumon Math & Reading Center, where she worked with students in grades kindergarten through middle school.

Standing in the same group as Ferede was freshman Timothy Lee, 18, of Toledo, Ohio, who had started a psychology club at his high school. The club brought in guest speakers and hosted discussions on different topics, such as the concept of fear around Halloween, he recalled.

Of the town of Amherst, Ferede said, “It seems to have a good vibe to it.”

“A good place to go to college at,” Lee added.

Amherst College’s acceptance rate was 14 percent for first-year students, having accepted 1,174 students of the 8,479 who applied. Of those admitted, 470 enrolled, according to the college.

A total of 403 transfer students applied to Amherst, and 33 were accepted, bringing the acceptance rate for transfers to 8 percent, according to the website. Of the transfer students who were admitted, 15 enrolled.

Amherst’s new students come from 31 countries, 39 states and Washington, D.C. About 44 percent identify themselves as American students of color, 10 percent are non-U.S. citizens, and 7 percent are dual citizens of the United States and another country, according to the college.

At Mount Holyoke College, entering students include a pilot-in-training, a published poet, and the founder of the T-shirt company EduGirl, aimed to inspire women in Pakistan, Mount Holyoke news director Julia Ferrante said in an email.

The new students consist of 547 traditional-age, first-year students; 38 Frances Perkins Scholars, or students of nontraditional age; and 39 transfer students, Ferrante said. They come from 36 states and around 30 countries, with 28 percent from outside the United States, and 27 percent from New England. Another 11 percent come from the West Coast. About 30 percent identify as students of color from within the United States.

The college received 3,201 applicants for first year admission, with an acceptance rate of 54.7 percent.

Smith College is welcoming just over 620 new students this year, 100 of whom are international. Some 80 of these students are among the first generation in their family to go to college, according to Stacey Schmeidel, director of media relations at Smith. This year’s acceptance rate was 42 percent.

Gena Mangiaratti can be reached at gmangiaratti@gazettenet.com.