The University of Massachusetts at Amherst is a public institution that has been educating students since 1863. As Massachusetts’s flagship public university, the school prides itself on its academic rigor and community-based outreach programs. It’s also considered to be one of the top research institutions in the United States and the biggest public research university in all of the New England states. With over 110 majors in 10 individual colleges spanning from liberal arts to the sciences, UMass Amherst attracts students with a wide range of career goals. Plus, with flexible on-campus and online options, the university is well-positioned to meet the learning needs of tomorrow’s college graduates.
As one of the top institutions of higher learning in the country, UMass Amherst frequently finds itself ranked among the best. For example, in 2021, the U.S. News and World Report named UMass Amherst the 26th top university among more than 700 other best public colleges and universities. Likewise, U.S. News has also declared that many of the school’s varied graduate programs to be some of the best, including artificial intelligence (#11), audiology (#26), and sociology (#29), among others.
UMass Amherst has an acceptance rate of about 65%. Applications are accepted from in-state, out-of-state, and international students. UMass Amherst also encourages undocumented students and those in the DACA program (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) to apply, too.
Acceptance to UMass Amherst is never based on a single factor, like an applicant’s high school GPA or SAT scores. Instead, admissions committees review a range of factors. That is, applications are reviewed on the basis of prior academic achievements plus personal accomplishments and a perceived motivation for educational excellence.
Since the beginning of the new millennium, the number of applications to UMass Amherst has significantly increased as the school’s reputation has grown. In fact, although almost 29,000 students applied to the school in 2008, that number rose to 41,600 just ten years later. And as the number of applications has increased, the average GPA of accepted students has risen, too. Therefore, if this trend continues, students will need increasingly competitive applications if UMass Amherst is their school of choice.
Requirements & Admission Tips
Students who apply to UMass Amherst are not required to submit scores from standardized tests like the SAT or ACT. However, they do help admission committees understand an applicant’s overall readiness for college. Moreover, if standardized scores are submitted, they should be competitive. After all, SAT scores for accepted students range from 1210-1370. Similarly, competitive ACT scores are 27-32 for incoming freshmen. Plus, most incoming students have a 3.7 GPA on a 4.0 scale. However, only academic courses are factored into GPA averages, and honors and college-level courses receive additional weight, too.
What’s more, students who apply to certain specialty departments like music, dance, architecture, or art should expect to submit a portfolio or schedule an audition in addition to the standard application materials.
And for applicants who are not native English speakers, UMass Amherst expects students to have a minimum TOEFL composite score of 80 or an IELTS score of at least 6.5 on the academic test. In addition, international students can also choose to participate in an unscripted interview to share their educational goals and how their unique background will contribute to the UMass student body.
Since UMass Amherst strives to educate the innovative leaders of the future, it’s no surprise that many of the school’s alumni have risen to the top of their fields. Take Catherine Coleman, for example. After receiving her Ph.D. in engineering and polymer science from UMass Amherst, she went on to join NASA and participated in two scientific space flights. Her experiments in space expanded on her research at UMass Amherst and examined biotechnology and combustion science.
Audie Cornish, journalist and host of NPR’s All Things Considered, is another UMass Amherst graduate. In addition to her accolades as a broadcaster, she is a member of the National Association of Black Journalists and was the 2005 recipient of the National Award for Education Writing for her student achievement gap study of “Reading, Writing, and Race.” She credits UMass Amherst for much of her success, noting that her journalism major gave her the freedom to explore her passions in writing and storytelling.
Hisao Kushi, another alum, is a co-founder and Chief Legal Officer of Peloton. After receiving a B.A. in English, he pursued a law degree, giving him a solid foundation to work in a variety of business settings. As a result, he served as general counsel to major corporations like Ticketmaster, Citysearch.com, and Evite. Eventually, he and several other co-founders started Peloton, which has grown to become the biggest interactive fitness platform available on the market today.
To serve the large student population, UMass Amherst has an equally large cohort of faculty, with over 1,400 full-time instructional faculty members. About 95% hold doctorates or the highest degree conferred in their field, so students can trust that they will be learning from the best.
Additionally, UMass Amherst has been the home to many notable faculty who have received significant accolades from their peers and are at the top of their fields. For example, Vernon Lomax Smith, who received the 2002 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences, started his academic career at UMass Amherst. Likewise, Joseph Taylor Jr., another Nobel Prize winner in physics and winner of the Albert Einstein Medal, is an astrophysicist who taught at UMass Amherst for many years after leaving a research position at Harvard. Eventually, he became the Associate Director of the Five Colleges Radio Astronomy Observatory, where he collaborated on ground-breaking astronomical research with colleagues from other colleges in the region.
However, UMass Amherst’s notable faculty members include those in the arts and humanities, too. Dr. Christian Gerard Appy, for example, is one of the country’s leading experts on the Vietnam War and has written several books on the subject. He studies the impacts that the war has made on American politics but also on cultural norms and foreign policy. In a similar vein, Professor Martin Espada teaches poetry and has received many prestigious honors for his writings, including an Academy of American Poets Fellowship, an International Latino Book Award, an American Book Award. He brings his passion for activism through the written word to the UMass Amherst students.
Similar Schools & Ranking
UMass Amherst is one of three major universities in Massachusetts, including Boston University and Harvard University. However, UMass differs from these other institutions in several ways.
First, both Harvard and Boston University are private schools, while UMass Amherst is public. And because they are private schools, they can be more selective in their admissions. Harvard, for example, only accepts 5% of applicants. Plus, incoming freshmen have very high standardized test scores, with SAT averages of 1460-1570 and ACT averages of 33-35. In contrast, Boston University accepts a larger percentage of students than Harvard, but only takes 19% of its applicants versus UMass Amherst’s rate of 64%. And the incoming freshmen at Boston University also have slightly higher SAT (1340-1510) and ACT (30-34) scores than UMass Amherst’s students, too.
Comparable schools would be the flagship public universities in other northeast states, such as the University of Connecticut, the University of New Hampshire, and the University of Vermont.
The university’s Financial Aid Services office works to pair worthy students with opportunities for scholarships and other awards and gives out millions of dollars in assistance each year.
Aid is given on the basis of academic achievement as well as need-based financial assistance. For example, freshmen with strong academic and personal achievements are eligible to apply for renewable scholarships through the Undergraduate Admissions office. Likewise, the Community Scholarship and Award and the Flagship Award recognize in-state applicants from low-income families or students who are the first in their families to attend college. Additional scholarships are available to honors students and applicants who are transferring from community colleges with honors. Other educational benefits may be available to veterans as well.
When considering students for these awards, the UMass Amherst staff re-calculate grade point averages from prior coursework, incorporating weighted factors for honors courses, advanced placement classes taken during high school, and the difficulty from any previous college courses. In this way, all students are measured against a consistent and fair scale.
Is UMass Amherst Right For You?
UMass Amherst is for students who want to be academically challenged through innovative coursework and research expectations. Plus, about 80% of classes have 40 or fewer students and a student/faculty ratio of just 17:1, meaning that students have a chance to have close interactions with faculty and fellow classmates.
Additionally, the school is working to diversify its pool of applicants. As a result, about 33% of the incoming class of 2024 is represented by African-American, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, and Hawaiian/Pacific Islander students. However, about 78% of its student body are Massachusetts residents, which is typical for a state-supported school.
Plus, Amherst offers a college-town feel. And although the rural setting provides a quiet background for academic life, the state’s capital and larger metropolitan areas are a short drive away, giving students the best of both worlds. What’s more, through the Five Colleges Interchange program, students can even elect to take some classes at smaller liberal arts colleges, like Amherst College, Mount Holyoke College, and others.
Attending college is about more than academics and coursework; a university’s culture is important, too. So it’s interesting to note that The Princeton Review has recently named UMass Amherst as having the best food of any college campus in the country. In fact, the school’s dining program is the largest such collegiate dining program in the United States. Moreover, UMass understands the importance of healthy food choices on overall health, especially on college campuses. Therefore, the campus chefs use locally sourced foods and special dining events to meet their students’ dietary needs while creating a sense of community on campus.
The dining program is working to become more sustainable, too. To meet this goal, the school has partnered with a Korean-based company to train staff to provide wholesome and culturally authentic foods with a focus on the environment.