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Amherst College Supplement Essay

Amherst College is a liberal arts college located in Amherst, Massachusetts. It is an exclusively undergraduate institution comprised of roughly 1900 students. Amherst College is known for its open curriculum, which allows students the opportunity to take a wide variety of courses on a plethora of different subjects. It is also part of the Five College Consortium, which allows Amherst students to take classes at all participating colleges and universities: Hampshire College, Mount Holyoke College, Smith College, and the University of Massachusetts Amherst.


Amherst is a highly selective college, accepting just 14% of applicants in 2016. However, its small size makes the admissions process more intimate and personalized. Its application supplement is unique in that one of the options is to turn in a previously-written high school paper. There is also the option of writing a more traditional essay response if you feel more comfortable doing so. Lastly, there is an optional space to include a brief description of any significant research you have done.


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Amherst College Essay Prompts

The Amherst writing supplement asks applicants to choose between writing an essay response to a given quotation (Option A) or submitting a graded paper from the applicant’s junior or senior year of high school (Option B). This requirement is in addition to the essays required by the Common Application. Applicants must choose one, but not both, of the aforementioned options.


Which option is right for you? This depends on several factors. If you are really proud of an essay you wrote for your AP English Literature class, then perhaps Option B is the right choice. On the other hand, if one of the quotations really speaks to you, and you think you can write an amazing response to it, then it might be better to pick Option A.


If you’re unsure about what path to take, then it might be a good idea to write the essay response for Option A first. If you decide later on that it is not your best work, you can always resort to using one of your high school papers. Just make sure it’s one of your best ones!


Note: 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.

Interested in studying at a liberal arts college? Check out what Amherst has to offer and their 2017-2018 supplemental essay prompts.

Liberal art colleges puts an emphasis on a well-rounded education, so students can gain broad knowledge on a range of academic subjects and develop intellectual and analytical skills. Liberal arts colleges are typically small in size, with undergraduate enrollment ranging from 300 to 4,000 students.

On the top of the list of liberal arts colleges is Amherst College, locate in Amherst, MA. Amherst is a member of the Five Colleges consortium, which comprises of four liberal art colleges and one university. In addition to Amherst, the rest are Smith College, Mount Holyoke College, Hampshire College and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Given the proximity, students are encouraged to cross-register and take classes at the other colleges at no extra cost.

Amherst offers degrees in more than 35 different majors students can choose from. On top of being able to take advantage of the courses available to the Five Colleges consortium, students can also apply for the 3-2 dual degree engineering program with Dartmouth. Finally, in addition to Amherst’s rigorous academics, they also known for their a capella groups, like the Zumbyes, and Route 9!

Amherst’s application gives you two options. Make sure you read the descriptions for both before making your choice. So, if you’re interested in applying to Amherst, here are the 2017-2018 supplemental essay prompts:

Option A:

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.

Essay Prompt 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

Essay Prompt 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.

Essay Prompt 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.

Essay Prompt 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

Option B:

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 (Prompt #7) 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.

Optional Research Questions

If you have engaged in significant research in the natural sciences, mathematics, computer science, social sciences or humanities that was undertaken independently of your high school curriculum, please provide a brief description of the research project: (50-75 words)


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About The Author

Frances Wong

Frances was born in Hong Kong and received her bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University. She loves super sad drama television, cooking, and reading. Her favorite person on Earth isn’t actually a member of the AdmitSee team - it’s her dog Cooper.

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