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Not sure how to approach the Amherst essays? CollegeAdvisor.com’s guide to the Amherst supplemental essays will show you how to write strong Amherst essays to maximize your chances of admission. If you need help crafting your Amherst supplemental essays, create your free CollegeAdvisor.com account or schedule a free advising consultation by calling (844) 343-6272.

Amherst College Essay Guide Quick Facts:

  • Amherst College is ranked #2 in National Liberal Arts Colleges.
  • The Amherst college acceptance rate is 12%, which makes it a most selective school according to U.S. News
  • We recommend answering the Amherst essays comprehensively and thoughtfully.

What is the acceptance rate for Amherst College?

According to U.S. News, the Amherst College acceptance rate is 12%. Based on the low Amherst College acceptance rate, U.S. News lists Amherst as a most selective school. 

The Amherst College acceptance rate also places Amherst at number 27 in the list of the Top 100 schools with the lowest acceptance rates. 

So, how exactly are acceptance rates calculated? Like all percentages, the Amherst College acceptance rate is based on a ratio: the total number of applicants to the total number of accepted students. 

While this ratio may seem simple, many factors influence the Amherst College acceptance rate. These factors include how many seats are available in the incoming class, tuition rates, location, and more. The Amherst College acceptance rate can also be impacted by any policy changes to the admissions process, such as the university’s decision to go test-optional due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Five College Consortium

Another factor that influences the Amherst College acceptance rate is the fact that Amherst students can also take classes at any of the schools in the Five College Consortium. Under this program, Amherst students can register for courses at Hampshire College, Mount Holyoke, Smith College, and University of Massachusetts at Amherst. This opportunity attracts many students and contributes to the low Amherst College acceptance rate. 

Across the country, college acceptance rates continue to decrease as qualified students apply to more schools each year. However, don’t let the low Amherst College acceptance rate stop you from applying. Instead, focus on crafting a strong, unique, and engaging Amherst supplement essay. The Amherst College acceptance rate is just one piece of the admissions puzzle. 

Want to learn more about the Amherst College acceptance rate and acceptance rates in general? Read our blog article here.

Does Amherst College have any supplemental essays?

Yes. All applicants have the option to choose one of three Amherst supplemental essays to submit. You’ll also respond to the main essay prompt in the Common App, Coalition App, or the QuestBridge application. 

One of the optional Amherst supplemental essays asks you to choose from a list of four Amherst essay prompts; the others ask you to submit a graded paper or write an essay for Amherst’s A2A program. The Amherst essays are your chance to show how you’ll shape your education and expand your knowledge. 

For a detailed list of application requirements aside from the Amherst supplemental essays, please visit Amherst’s website.

How many essays does Amherst require?

In addition to the main essay prompt found in the 2021-2022 Common App, Coalition App, or the QuestBridge application, there are three optional Amherst supplemental essays. Applicants must select only one of the Amherst supplemental essays to submit. 

We have provided the prompts for the Amherst supplemental essays below, along with a strategy on how to respond to each of the Amherst essay prompts. All applicants must complete one of the Amherst supplemental essays. However, you can choose which Amherst supplement essay to complete. 

Need some assistance choosing a Common App essay prompt? Get some helpful advice from our essay guide.

How do I write an Amherst College supplemental essay?

First, read the descriptions of all three Amherst supplemental essays to decide which option is best for you. Think about what you hope to convey in your Amherst supplement essay. We will list out each of the Amherst essay prompts in the next section of this guide. 

Amherst College prides itself on admitting dynamic, innovative thinkers with strong writing skills, and the Amherst supplemental essays reflect that ideal. The Amherst essay prompts are designed to identify students who will forge their own path and discover their passions at Amherst. Consider how you can showcase your intellect and values in the Amherst supplemental essays. 

Open curriculum

Additionally, Amherst College is known for its open curriculum, where students can plan and design their own program of study. As you prepare to write your Amherst supplement essay, reflect on the five tenets of how learning happens at Amherst: adapt to new situations, pull it apart, get your hands dirty, make a beautiful mess, and create your own answers. Use the Amherst essays as a chance to show the admissions team how you embody Amherst’s style of active learning. 

Reflect on each of the Amherst essay prompts before choosing one. Remember, the Amherst supplemental essays are your chance to paint a picture of who you are apart from your transcript and test scores. This makes it even more crucial to think carefully as you choose a prompt for your Amherst supplement essay. 

We have outlined each of the Amherst supplemental essays below, along with a breakdown of how to approach the Amherst essays. 

How to Write Amherst College Supplemental Essays – Option A (Optional)

In addition to the essay you are writing as part of the Common Application, Amherst requires a supplementary essay from all applicants. There are three options for satisfying Amherst’s supplementary writing requirement: Option A, Option B or Option C. You may select only one of these options. Before deciding, carefully read the descriptions of all three options. 

Option A: Please 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. (300 words).

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

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, untranslated.” – Ilan 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. 

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, President of Amherst College, Letter to Amherst College Alumni and Families, December 28, 2015. 

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 Class of 1925, the first African-American to serve as a judge for the United States Court of Appeals.

Respond to a quote

Option A of the Amherst supplemental essays asks you to write a response to one of the four quotes listed above. As you read through the Amherst essay prompts, are there any topics that stand out to you? Can you highlight an aspect of your identity, experiences, or values with a specific Amherst essay prompt? Is there a particular activity, leadership role, or life experience that you can link to one of the Amherst essays? 

Each of the Amherst essay prompts will let you share something different about yourself that admissions officers may not see elsewhere in your application. Spend some time with the Amherst essay prompts to decide which one is right for you. 

Write what you know

For example, if you want to create policies that promote social change across society, you might consider writing a response to the third Amherst essay prompt. In this Amherst essay prompt, President of Amherst College, Carolyn Martin, talks about how creating an inclusive environment can foster connection across groups of people. Martin also states that having candid discussions about our differences might lead to better friendships. 

Perhaps you recently became friends with someone who views the world differently than you. Use this Amherst supplement essay to discuss how you could communicate with one another to bridge these differences in opinions, values, or beliefs. Write about this in your Amherst essay and share how you found common ground. For example, maybe you helped your friend realize the value of spirituality when you introduced them to your religion. Or, perhaps you learned to appreciate your friend’s culture after you vacationed with their family.

Try a different approach

You could also interpret this Amherst essay prompt in another way. Perhaps you were involved in a tense, discriminatory experience at your school and a friend or classmate stood up for you. How did that make you feel? Did your friendship become stronger after this event? In your Amherst essay, be sure to include how talking about the situation led to better outcomes for all involved. 

Whatever story you decide to share in this Amherst supplement essay, make sure to discuss your own response to the event. Use this Amherst essay to highlight your humility and compassion for others, regardless of their beliefs. 

Discuss a challenge

Maybe you are better prepared to discuss a challenge you’ve faced. If so, consider the fourth prompt for the Amherst supplemental essays. Use this Amherst essay to talk about any hardships that you have overcome. How did this issue affect your life? What did you learn about yourself after facing this problem? Did you achieve a greater perspective or better outlook on life because of this event?

For example, you could write about how you experienced food insecurity as a child. Use this Amherst supplement essay to describe what that was like and how your upbringing influenced your decision to create a sustainable food center in your neighborhood. 

Or perhaps you lost a parent or caregiver at a young age. Describe how this loss impacted your life. What new obstacles did you and your family encounter because of this event? How did you make it through? 

Additionally, consider selecting this prompt for your Amherst essay if the hardship you endured affected your academics, including your GPA or test scores. By selecting this Amherst essay prompt, you have the chance to address the factors that might undermine your academic profile. 

Try freewriting

Are you struggling to choose between the Amherst essay prompts? Consider starting with a writing exercise. Choose 2-3 of the Amherst essay prompts that interest you and set a timer for 10 minutes. In those 10 minutes, write as much as you can about that topic. Once the timer goes off, review your work. Couldn’t stop writing about one Amherst essay topic? Select that option as your final Amherst supplement essay prompt. 

Finally, do not research or reference the original texts from these Amherst essay prompts in your Amherst supplement essay. Instead, write a personal, thoughtful response to one of the Amherst essay prompts. 

Still unsure how to approach the Amherst essays? Read our article for more tips on how to write a great essay. 

Amherst Essay Draft Key Questions: 

  • Did you choose a topic for your Amherst supplement essay that connects to your own identity, values, or interests?
  • Does your response highlight an aspect of your identity that supplements your application as a whole? 

How to Write Amherst College Supplemental Essays – Option B (Optional)

Option B: Please 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. 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. 

For Option B of the Amherst supplemental essays, you must submit a graded paper that showcases your analytical writing skills. This Amherst essay prompt is unique and quite different from other prompts. Before you choose one of your graded papers from junior or senior year, there are a few things to keep in mind for this Amherst essay. 

Grade and comments

First, the admissions team prefers that students submit a paper that shows both a grade and comments from your teacher on it. There is no need to rewrite your paper or provide a “clean” copy for submission. All submitted papers must be written in English. Additionally, consider choosing a paper that is about 4-5 pages in length. This will provide enough material to showcase your writing skills to the admissions committee. Do not select an overly long paper just because you think it will give you a better chance of being admitted. The paper you choose to submit for this Amherst essay should not exceed 8-10 pages. 

Below are a few examples of appropriate papers to submit for this Amherst supplement essay: 

  • A research-based sociological essay, such as an evaluation of the origin of an indigenous community’s values and belief systems. 
  • A literary analysis essay, such as an examination of the rhetorical devices found within the novel To Kill a Mockingbird. 
  • A research-based historical essay, such as an analysis of the factors that contribute to climate change.

Show progress not perfection

If you are nervous about submitting a paper that earned a less than stellar grade or that has several comments on it, don’t be. It is okay to show your reader that you aren’t perfect. Use this Amherst supplement essay to show that you can develop an argument and evaluate specific, appropriate evidence to support your conclusion. 

Finally, select Option B of the Amherst supplemental essays ONLY if you did not already submit an analytical essay for the “essay topic of your choice” prompt in the Common App or Coalition App.

Curious about Option B of the Amherst essay prompts? Review the FAQ page about this Amherst supplement essay option here. 

Amherst Essay Draft Key Questions:

  • Does your paper show off another aspect of your critical thinking and analytical writing skills that isn’t emphasized in other parts of your application? 
  • Are you proud of the paper you submitted? Are you excited to show it to the admissions team?
  • Does your paper showcase your intellectual curiosity and engagement? 

How to Write Amherst College Supplemental Essays – Option C (Optional)

Option C: If you are/were an applicant to Amherst’s Access to Amherst (A2A) program, you may use your A2A application essay in satisfaction of our Writing Supplement requirement. If you would like to do so, please select Option C. However, if you would prefer not to use your A2A essay for this purpose and you want to submit a different writing supplement, select either Option A or Option B. [Please note that Option C is available only to applicants to Amherst’s A2A program. Non-A2A applicants must choose either Option A or Option B]. 

Every fall, Amherst hosts the Access to Amherst (A2A), formerly called Diversity Open House (DIVOH) weekend program for prospective students. This free program is designed to introduce prospective applicants to the Amherst campus, faculty/staff, classes, etc. Priority is given to students from historically excluded groups, such as first-generation, African-American, Hispanic/Latinx, Native American, and Asian-American backgrounds, as well as students who may have limited financial resources. To be considered for the A2A program, students must submit an online application that includes a written response to a short essay. 

Keep in mind

If you have already applied to A2A or have previously been admitted to the A2A program, you may resubmit your essay for the Amherst College application. However, if you will not or have not already participated in this program, you will want to respond to either Option A or Option B of the Amherst supplemental essays. 

Read more about the application and selection processes to Amherst’s Access to Amherst (A2A) program by visiting their website.

Amherst Essay Draft Key Questions:

  • Did you select Option C ONLY if you are/were an applicant to Amherst’s Access to Amherst (A2A) program?
  • Have you resubmited your A2A essay for this Amherst supplement essay option without any changes?

How important are Amherst College essays?

In short, the Amherst essays are a vital part of your application. For the Class of 2023, Amherst College received over 9,720 applications. Of those applications, only 1,240 students were admitted to the college and 492 students ultimately enrolled. This makes your Amherst essays a major piece of your profile. 

Most applicants have strong GPAs, high test scores, and impressive résumés. The admissions committee looks to the Amherst supplemental essays to help identify students who will exemplify their mission statement to “seek, value, and advance knowledge, engage the world around them, and lead principled lives of consequence.” In other words, your Amherst essay should highlight your intellectual curiosity, civic engagement, and individual values. Additionally, responses to Amherst essays should show how you are a good fit for the Amherst community. 

Want to learn more about the Amherst admissions process and how high quality Amherst supplemental essays can make a difference? Check out the video below from Bloomberg for an inside look!

Amherst College Supplemental Essays – Final Thoughts

Writing thoughtful responses to the Amherst supplemental essays can seem overwhelming. However, don’t let the Amherst supplemental essays stop you from applying! Instead, use the Amherst supplemental essays to show who you are beyond your transcript. Reference this guide often as you tackle the Amherst supplement essay. Good luck!


This 2021-2022 essay guide on Amherst was written by Claire Babbs, UT Austin, ’12. Want more help responding to the Amherst University essay prompt? Click here to create your free CollegeAdvisor.com account or schedule a free advising assessment with an Admissions Expert by calling (844) 343-6272.