Amherst College Visit

On a recent visit to Amherst College, we had the privilege of taking in the beautiful, fall views while we learned more about the school and the roll it plays in The Five College Consortium.  Amherst, along with Hampshire, Mount Holyoke, Smith Colleges, and the University of Massachusetts are all nestled within 10 miles of each other.  Students are encouraged to take courses at the neighboring schools, in an effort to broaden their college experience.  Advisors work closely with students as they build their course load, allowing them access to 6,000 courses.  A bus system is provided to shuttle students from campus-to-campus, and many students choose to travel for up to half of their classes.

While there are 30,000 students spread out across the 5 campuses, Amherst has retained a small, traditional campus feel since 1821.  With just 1,849 students and a student-to-faculty ratio of 7:1, many classes have under 20 students.  Amherst boasts a 93% graduation rate, with 80% feeling well-prepared as they go on to graduate school.

In addition to the relationships students are able to build with faculty due to the low ratio, Amherst offers support for students who learn differently.  A campus guide shared that something that has been a tremendous support for her is Accessibility Services providing a peer to attend classes with her and take notes, so that she can focus on the lecture.  While Amherst is an academically challenging college, with 83% of students having graduated from high school in the top 10%, they ensure that all students have access to the curriculum.

Amherst is also proud of the diversity that can be seen across campus.  The student body is comprised of students from 54 different countries.  Of the nearly 2,000 students who attend, 57% receive financial aid.  On average, students who qualify for aid receive $55,000, allowing many access.

To learn more about Amherst or any of the other colleges you are considering, reach out at


Find Your Best Fit College

What is Best Fit?

As you’re starting to research institutes of higher education you’ll start to hear the words “best fit” thrown around.  What does that actually mean?  How do you go about finding a school that fits you well?  Where do I start in this college search process?

First, a best fit school is a school a college, university, or program of learning that will meet your academic, physical, financial, social, and emotional needs. This isn’t a quick evaluation, it includes research, visiting the school, and evaluating your own wants and needs.  Many questions you want to ask yourself are grouped below.  Some of these questions will be very important to you and others will be small considerations compared to the rest.  Perfect fit is unlikely, most things in life aren’t perfect, but if you evaluate and research these options you will find a great fit.

Academic Fit

Matching your academic needs to a school is perhaps the most straightforward of the group.  Here are some questions to ask as you evaluate each university.  Does a school have a program for the area I want to study?  Is the program highly regarded?  What hands on experience does this program offer to undergraduates?   What are the average class sizes in my major? Am I able to take some electives or have a minor that interests me?  Will the work be challenging enough or too challenging at this institution?  What is the career track for students in my field after graduation?  Along with researching information it’s also great if you can ask students on campus how they feel about their classes and many colleges will allow you to sit in on a class (this will need to be pre-arranged).

Campus Location and Layout

The next part to think about is they physical campus.  Some of this can be need based, especially if you need specific accessibility on campus, but often this is more about what makes you excited about or comfortable on a campus.  What do you feel you need to have near or on campus?  What do you want to have nearby?   Do you prefer to be in the middle of a city or in a more suburban area?  How small or large of a campus are you hoping for?  Do you want to live on campus all 4 years, are you hoping to live off campus at some point or right away?  Do you like seasons or specific weather?  Do you like a particular region of the country (or world if you’re thinking internationally)?

Campus Life

Social needs and desires are an important part of the college experience.  Many students are on their own  and making decisions without additional input for the first time.  Ask yourself some of these questions as you search for your best fit school from the social side of things. Are you looking for a small campus where it’s easy to get to know a lot of people and you’ll run into friends every where you go by the end of Freshman year?  Are you looking for a college with a lot of school spirit, a big sports scene?  Are you interested in Greek life?  Do you want a school where you can participate in activities like theater and art without majoring in it?  Are you looking to participate in club or intramural sports?  Are you from a small town or big city?  How much of a change do you desire?  Will you be comfortable making a big leap from your current comfort zone?  This segues nicely into emotional needs.

Emotional Needs

Emotional needs can be vitally important and are often ignored while making a decision.  Start by evaluating where you live and where you have lived.  Most people have a comfort zone for space, busyness, diversity, weather, distance from family, etc.  How much can you stretch this comfort zone without it snapping?  How far should you move from your current family and friends?  How different can the environment be while allowing you to feel at home there?

Financial Fit

The final piece of the best fit puzzle is finding a good financial fit.  It is important to know not only the type of program and school you’re looking for, but also evaluate ahead of time how much you can afford to spend on college.  How much is your family’s EFC (Expected Family Contribution)?  Do you see your family contributing that amount to college each year?  Do you have ways of earning money between now and then?  Is this school out of reach financially or reasonable?  Do not get your heart set on a school that you can’t afford.  It is OK to apply and see if they give you the aid you hope for, but don’t count on it and be open to other opportunities.  Also think carefully about your debt load.  How much will you have to pay once you’re out of school?  Will your future career support that amount of debt?  What if you don’t get the higher paying job you’re hoping for directly out of college and have to work your way up, can you afford to live and pay off the loans?   It’s not that all loans are bad, but be very wary about the amount of student debt you acquire.

Many Options

Keep in mind your future goals.  Most jobs hire from a variety of collegiate backgrounds. Is the college you’re considering a place where you think you can make life long friendships?  Will it set you up for future success?  If so, then you are on the right track.

Syracuse, SUNY ESF, LeMoyne College

I had the pleasure of visiting Syracuse, NY this summer and made it to 3 campuses (I cheated a little, Syracuse University and ESF are separated by a sign).  I want to share a little about each school.  The city of Syracuse is a smaller city (around 150,000 population) in Central New York.  There are theaters, art museums, and festivals that bring a host of cultural experiences to the city.  The sports scene definitely centers around Syracuse University though the Syracuse Mets are a minor league baseball team in town (that feeds the NY Mets).  There are also some beautiful parks and hidden trails within the city that allow you to enjoy some space away from the hustle and bustle.  If you like snow in the winter, this the place for you!
*If you are a veteran please read the additional information at the bottom of the page.

Syracuse University:

Syracuse University BuildingSyracuse University is a beautiful campus set in the middle of the city of Syracuse.  It has a campus feel but merges into the community on the edges of campus.  Syracuse is known for Newhouse and the Maxwell School.  Newhouse School is home to Syracuse University’s renowned journalism program.  96% of Newhouse graduates are in a position related to their career goals.  The Maxwell School is home to the social sciences, public policy, public administration, and international relations programs. Syracuse also has a very strong architecture program.    In addition there is a strong Visual and Performing Arts School (and I recommend eating at Phoebe’s before catching a performance at Syracuse Stage).


SUNY (State University of New York) ESF (College of Environmental Science and Forestry) is uniquely situated abutting Syracuse University. ESF is a small SUNY college with about 1,800 undergraduate students and has it’s own contained campus but is allowed to use most Syracuse University facilities and take part in the extracurricular activities on both campuses.  ESF specializes in the understanding, conservation, and management in natural resources.  The school has several facilities that they operate in NY (including in Adirondack Park and the Thousand Islands) and Costa Rica.

LeMoyne College:

LeMoyne PlazaLeMoyne is a small Jesuit college with a strong liberal arts program that is on the on the edge of Syracuse, NY and DeWitt, NY.  It is a little bit more suburban in feel though right down the street is Erie Boulevard that has all the stores and restaurants you would need. There are about 2,800 undergraduate students.  LeMoyne is a fairly self-contained campus with residential neighborhoods surrounding it.  LeMoyne is known for their full liberal arts curriculum that is a part of any major you choose, their science, social science, nursing, business and education programs are highly regarded.  The LeMoyne Madden School of Business also has both undergraduate programs and an MBA program.


Syracuse and LeMoyne are both Yellow Ribbon schools meaning that the institute of higher learning and the VA work together to help bridge the gap between the amount the GI Bill covers and the cost of the school.  This is especially helpful at private colleges and universities as their tuition tends to be higher.

LeMoyne was named 7th on the US News and World Report Best Colleges for Veterans.  You can find more information on their Veterans programs on their website.

Syracuse was named 4th Best School for Veterans by the Military Times. They have instituted programs to help transition veterans and all military spouses across the country to get the support they need to further their education and reach their career goals.  IVMF is a great place to start for veterans and their families looking to further their education.