Is Amherst Ivy League? Ranking, Acceptance Rate, and More

For over two centuries, the words Ivy League has been synonymous with the best in higher education. 

Even those who do not care about college life know that the Ivy League means excellent teaching and research. 

As a well-respected and historic school on the American east coast, Amherst College fits alongside the Ivy League institutions. 

The third oldest institute of higher education in Massachusetts, Amherst College was founded in 1821. The school was intended to be for men only, but it has been a co-ed institution since 1975. 

Over its 200-year existence, Amherst has worked with some of the most influential people in the world, either as faculty members, researchers, or students. 

The 30th President of the United States, Calvin Coolidge, graduated from Amherst, as did Infinite Jest author David Foster Wallace and Nobel Prize-winning scientist Harold E. Varmus.

Faculty members past and present include Pulitzer Prize-winning political scientist William Taubman, former National Security Advisor Anthony Lake, and Robert Frost, the celebrated Modernist poet and author of “The Road Not Taken.” 

Amherst belongs to the Five College consortium, along with Smith College, the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Mount Holyoke College, and Hampshire College. 

The members of Five Colleges allow their students to attend classes with one another, encouraging cross-institutional cooperation. The schools have developed curricula with one another and share resources together. 

With its remarkable history, network of scholars, and legendary students and faculty, Amherst certainly belongs on any list of the best schools in the nation. 

But are these attributes enough to make Amherst an Ivy League school? 

Is Amherst Ivy League?

Amherst College
Public domain photo by Daderot via Wikimedia Commons

Amherst College is not an Ivy League school. 

Amherst is a respected institution on America’s east coast, with over two hundred years of performing excellent research and encouraging academic excellence. 

That may not make a lot of sense, but only if you don’t realize what the Ivy League actually is. 

Regardless of its reputation in the popular imagination, the Ivy League isn’t about academic excellence or fine research, or even history. Instead, the Ivy League is a Division I NCAA athletic conference

There is certainly plenty to respect about the eight private research schools that make up the Ivy League – Brown University, Columbia University, Cornell University, Dartmouth College, Harvard University, the University of Pennsylvania, Princeton University, and Yale University. 

But it’s only their participation in the athletic conference that makes them officially Ivy League. 

Amherst does have an impressive athletic program, one of the nation’s oldest on a university level. Playing under the title “Mammoths,” Amherst fields teams in football, baseball, and more. 

They are part of the Eastern College Athletic Conference in the NCAA’s Division III. One of the “Little Three,” along with Williams College and Wesleyan University. 

Because it isn’t part of the Ivy League athletic conference, Amherst cannot officially be an Ivy League school. 

Despite its academic achievements, the exemplary alumni they have trained, and the amazing research they have done, Amherst is in a different conference than the Ivy League schools. 

But as this description indicates, Ivy League doesn’t mean what people think it means. 

Why Is Amherst Confused As an Ivy League School?

People confuse Amherst College for an Ivy League school for all of the reasons listed above. The large majority of people don’t associate the Ivy League with achievements in athletics. 

Most people think of Ivy League schools as institutions with selective admissions policies, an impressive history, and 

Those are all qualities that Amherst has, and much more. 

Let’s begin with admission standards. The Ivy League is known for admitting very few of its applicants. 

Harvard and Columbia are the most difficult to enter, with rates of only 4.0% and 3.9% respectively, but even a more open school like Cornell only accepts 8.7% of its applicants. 

Amherst isn’t quite as restrictive as these schools, but it isn’t open either. 

In 2021, only 12% of applicants to Amherst University were sent offers of admission. Out of every 10 students who applied to the school, only one would be admitted in most cases. 

Amherst also has a storied history. One of the first institutions of higher learning in the state of Massachusetts, Amherst enjoys a reputation for progressive policies and reforms. 

Within the past fifteen years, the school has adopted an open-source policy to make its scholarship available to a broader range of people. It has ended legacy admissions to allow for greater diversity among its student body. 

Finally, Amherst has what every successful institution needs to do their work, a healthy endowment. In 2021, the College enjoyed an endowment of $3.7 billion, making it one of the nation’s most affluent small liberal arts schools. 

With this money, Amherst can advance on innovative research projects and support its students in their academic endeavors. 

Amherst College – Ranking, Acceptance Rate, and More

Amherst College Building
John Phelan, The Octagon at Amherst College, Amherst MA, CC BY 3.0

A storied school dedicated to constructing a diverse student body, Amherst College is a challenging institution to enter. Only 12% of the annual applicants to Amherst are given offers of admission. 

But with such an exclusive school comes some excellent benefits. 

Amherst is an A+ college according to the aggregate ranking site, which praises the school for its diversity, academics, and value. 

It also falls at #5 on the list of Most Diverse Colleges in America, #18 on the list of Best Small Colleges in America, and #18 on the list of Best Liberal Arts Colleges in America. 

According to the rankings on, Amherst College is the 16th best school in the United States. 

At that spot, Amherst outdoes respected schools such as the University of Michigan and the University of Chicago, as well as Ivy League school Brown University. 

One unique ranking outlet is Washington Monthly. Instead of the usual factors, Washington Monthly organizes schools according to the social mobility its students can experience, the value of its research, and the community service it encourages. 

By those metrics, Amherst College outdoes most others, taking the top position on Washington’s list of the best Liberal Arts Colleges

But the most famous and respected ranking outlet is U.S. News & World Report. Amherst comes out just as well here. Its First-Year Experiences program is tied for fourth in the nation, it’s tied for fourth in Best Undergraduate Education, and is ranked #2 on the list of Best Liberal Arts Colleges. 

How to Get Into Amherst College

We’re going to be honest with you. It isn’t easy to be accepted by Amherst College. 

As you’ve already read, the College is among the best in the nation, on par with any in the Ivy League. That’s a truth that you just can’t ignore. 

However, it’s also true to say that it isn’t impossible to get accepted by Amherst. 

In fact, at the end of the day, Amherst wants the same type of student that any other school looks for: smart, dedicated, and unique. Those are all qualities one can show in their admissions packet. 

The first part of any admissions application is the GPA. First-year students beginning work at Amherst tend to have an average GPA of 4.07. That score indicates that students tend to earn straight A’s and that they take advanced placement or honors courses. 

Amherst doesn’t require that applicants provide scores for standardized tests such as the ACT or the SAT, but those numbers can help an application. 

The average SAT score for first-year students falls between 1310 and 1520. The average ACT score is between 32 and 35. 

To be sure, those are tough numbers to meet. But they aren’t all that the admissions counselors at Amherst care about. 

As they explain on the admissions website, Amherst wants students who will improve the student body, who will bring something special to inspire and challenge their classmates. 

Applicants have plenty of chances to demonstrate those qualities, beyond mere test scores and grades. With a strong letter of recommendation, the school will see that you have real-world experience that impressed an expert or mentor. 

In an application essay, you can explain your unique characteristics and extracurricular experience. 

Recap: Amherst Is Not an Ivy League School. However, It Is a Top-Ranked Liberal Arts College

Amherst College Planetarium
Public domain photo by Daderot via Wikimedia Commons

As we’ve seen, Amherst is an excellent school, on par with any in the world. But despite all of these accolades, all of these achievements, we still have to acknowledge that Amherst is not an Ivy League institution. 

When its teams take the court, ice, or field, they do so as part of the Eastern Conference Athletic Conference, not the Ivy League athletic conference. 

But if you prioritize a school’s academic qualities over its sports offerings, then Amherst may be just the college for you. It is, without question, a first-class and elite school. 

This article has shown that Amherst offers everything a serious student requires in their educational experience. 

All of the great observing outlets give Amherst top ranks, including on lists from the well-respected Washington Monthly and U.S. News & World Report

With an incredibly low 11% acceptance rate, Amherst enjoys the distinction of being a highly exclusive school. 

Finally, Amherst has more funding than nearly any other school of its size, which means that students will be amply supported in their educational pursuits. 

The evidence of that support can be seen in the quality of their research, which has earned the school the 26th spot on U.S. News’s list of Top Public Universities and continues to win Amherst grants from institutions

In fact, only MIT and Harvard earn more financial support from the National Science Foundation. 

And you don’t even need to give up on athletics! The Amherst Mammoths compete in every major sport, from basketball to hockey to golf. 

As all of these qualities prove, Amherst College outranks most schools in the nation and stands alongside even the best universities in the Ivy League.