Amherst College

Join an international community of high school students for our Pre-College program at Amherst College, one of the most prestigious liberal arts colleges in the country. Choose two exciting seminars to study throughout your time on campus. Take part in engaging discussions and hands-on projects that allow you to explore new interests or dig deeper into existing passions. Get a taste of college life as you become part of an inspiring and supportive community of Pre-College faculty and students from around the world.

The majority of our Pre-College programs are postponed until next summer. Be the first to know when we announce 2021 dates and new programs: Sign up for our newsletter!

Looking for a program this summer? View our Pre-College Vermont program!

Dates: June 28, 2020  –  July 17, 2020

Eligibility: Completing grades 9 – 12

Duration: 20 days

Tuition: $5,790


  • Experience college life on a beautiful and prestigious campus
  • Hone your business savvy in an entrepreneurship seminar
  • Polish your college essay or a short story in a writing workshop
  • Exhibit your photos and drawings at a gallery opening


Arrival • From the moment you arrive on Amherst College’s ivy-covered New England campus, you join a supportive community of like-minded peers and faculty ready to learn, make new friends, and have fun along the way. Fly into Hartford or Boston, take a train or bus to the Northampton, Massachusetts, station, or meet your fellow students on campus. Settle into your dorm and take a quick tour of campus before gathering for a full group orientation on your first night. To learn more about how we organize travel, click here.

Campus Life • Consistently ranking at the top of U.S. News and World Report’s leading colleges, Amherst College is the perfect setting for experiencing college life. Amherst’s historic, ivy-covered buildings and the adjacent town common form the center of the “Five College Consortium,” a vibrant academic network that includes Smith, Mount Holyoke, and Hampshire Colleges, as well as the University of Massachusetts. With full access to the college’s top-notch facilities, including, tennis courts, libraries, museums, and sports fields, Pre-College at Amherst is the ideal program for high school students to explore new subjects or dig deeper into known passions. Live in upperclassman dormitories and immerse yourself in local life. Instructors and resident advisors live alongside our Pre-College students, creating a community experience that goes beyond the classroom. Shops and cafés fill the town of Amherst, while rolling hills and rivers surround it, making it perfect for hiking, swimming, and biking.

Seminars • Choose two stimulating seminars—a major and a minor—and explore your chosen subjects in the classroom and in the field. Each Pre-College course is designed to encourage collaboration and hands-on learning, allowing you to get out of the classroom often for field trips, experiments, performances, and field assignments, and to meet with local experts. Without the pressure of grades or tests, you can enjoy delving into your courses within a collegiate environment.

Each seminar works toward a final project—a photo gallery, a business proposal, a scientific presentation, a performance piece, or a dramatic reading, for example—which you present to fellow participants on the final night of the program. Parents and families are welcome to attend this final presentation. Seminars are limited to ten students or fewer. See below for more information on seminars.

Afternoon & Evening Activities • In the afternoons and evenings, choose from a variety of activities to make the most of your summer and of campus life. Join a soccer or volleyball game on the quad, take a salsa dancing lesson, visit a nearby college or university, or head to Puffer’s Pond for a swim. Meet a friend on the quad or take part in an instructional sports clinic (choose among tennis, soccer, or fitness studio) with professional coaches. Pursue new interests such as yoga, African drumming, improv, or mountain biking. Learn the art of crepe- or sushi-making with one of our international students, jump into a Zumba workshop, or volunteer at a local farm. Explore the surrounding area with a visit to monks at the nearby Peace Pagoda, sample ice cream at a local dairy farm, immerse yourself in New England history at Emily Dickinson’s historic house, or go for a jog on a nearby trail.

College Visits • Take the opportunity to visit a number of New England colleges. In past summers we have visited Dartmouth, Smith, Columbia, Williams, and Trinity Colleges, as well as Harvard, Tufts, Brown, Wesleyan, NYU, Boston, and Yale Universities. Visits are generally led by our faculty, who are often alumni of these colleges and, when possible, we arrange a meeting with an admissions director.

First Excursion Weekend • Get off campus and experience the iconic beauty of New England. Choose from trips to the White Mountains and Cape Cod.

White Mountains  Explore some of the best-preserved wilderness in the East in New Hampshire’s iconic White Mountains. Scout for moose and other wildlife as you hike in the magnificent Presidential Range or swim and canoe in some of the region’s many lakes.

Cape Cod  Stroll the lively, historic streets of Provincetown, swim or paddleboard on one of the Cape’s pristine beaches, and toast s’mores over a bonfire under the stars. Go whale watching, play beach volleyball, kayak, or play Frisbee with new friends. There is a supplemental fee of $390 for this excursion.

Second Excursion Weekend • During your second weekend, take a day trip to Boston and break into small groups to explore locations like Harvard Square, the Boston Science Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts, and the Freedom Trail. On Sunday, visit a locally famous flea market in Hadley, Massachusetts, check out the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (Mass MoCA), enjoy biking or hiking in the hills surrounding campus, or relax on the quad with friends. Students may also choose to visit New York City on the Sunday of this second weekend. While in New York, visit Times Square, stroll through Central Park, or check out the Statue of Liberty. College visits are also arranged in both Boston and New York for interested students.

Final Night • Invite family and friends to attend the culminating Final Night Presentation. Celebrate what you have learned in your seminars: perform a concert, present a final project, or host a gallery opening to display your work. Say goodbye to your instructors and new friends from across the country and around the world.

Departure • Staff escort students from the Amherst College campus to the local bus or train station, or airports in Hartford or Boston. Families can also arrange pick up directly from campus. To learn more about how we organize travel, click here.

This description represents our best projection of the group’s schedule. However, we may implement changes designed to improve the quality of the program. This program is licensed by the State of MA Department of Health.

She got out her comfort zone, branched beyond her newly formed circle of friends, and tried on new versions of herself. She gained a sense of confidence and a wider understanding of the seminar topics she enrolled in. She also gained wonderful memories and a network of friends in many cities. — Renu & Sandeep Kulkarni, Chicago, IL 

A Day in the Life: Pre-College Amherst College

Due to the dynamic nature of this Pre-College summer program, each day is different. Here is a snapshot of a day on the Amherst College campus.

8 AM • Grab breakfast in the college’s dining hall
9 AM • Head to your major seminar
12 PM • Break for lunch in the dining hall or out on the town with friends
1 PM • Convene for your minor seminar
3 PM • Choose an afternoon activity, such as volleyball or salsa dancing lessons
5:30 PM • Enjoy dinner in the dining hall with your Pre-College community
7 PM • Reflect on the day at Community Meeting
7:30 PM • Head to evening activities, such as improv night
10:30 PM • Check-in at dorms for the night
11 PM • Lights out


Choose two Pre-College seminars—a major and a minor seminar—and tap into the incredible resources of our campus and knowledgeable instructors at Amherst College. Seminars are rigorous, focused, and interactive. They get you thinking critically about important topics in today’s world and help you focus your interests as you look ahead toward college.

MAJOR SEMINARS (click on seminar to read the full description)

Business & Economics

What makes a business succeed in today’s market and what are the steps between identifying a need and opening your (real or virtual) doors? This hands-on course begins by examining the economic playing field where firms operate, with discussions of supply and demand, regulations and free trade, international trade, and currency flows. Through role-playing, discussions, field trips, and lectures, consider the practical aspects of business, including management, finance, marketing, advertising, public relations, organizational psychology, corporate leadership and culture, and business ethics. Working together as a team, put what you have learned into practice as you research, develop, and pitch your own small business.


Expert communicators are essential to every successful organization, from government agencies to tech startups, multinational corporations to nonprofits. Whether you’re considering a career in marketing, public relations, speechwriting, business, journalism, or beyond, this seminar is designed to develop and hone your skills in effective communication. Learn how to convey complex ideas coherently; how to create audience personas; how to present value propositions to potential customers or investors; how to engage an audience with appeals to emotion and logic; how to tell an effective story; how to summarize business objectives; how to structure a speech; and more. Use real-world case studies of marketing campaigns, speeches, and public relations communications to understand the difference between meeting or missing objectives. Discuss how this field continues to change with emerging communication platforms such as social media and video and messaging apps, and apply proven strategies to emergent trends.

Creative Writing

Whether you want to write your first novel or create a poem that captures a specific emotion or experience, this dynamic workshop-style course is a step toward finding your voice and pushing your boundaries as a creative writer. Through personalized, field-based exercises led by published authors, develop skills in the genre of your choosing while exploring important craft challenges such as dialogue, imagery, narrative structure, word choice, theme, and storytelling technique. Draw inspiration from your surroundings, the places you go, and the people you meet. Share your work and receive valuable feedback from your peers and instructor. Host a celebratory final reading and present your best pieces to the Pre-College community.

English as a Second Language

This course is open to foreign students wishing to acquire English fluency by living and learning in an immersive English-speaking environment. Gain confidence and increase your comprehension through a specially designed series of engaging and active written and conversational exercises and games. Students also practice formal skills of reading, writing, and grammar while increasing vocabulary. Practice your English with your American peers and gain confidence speaking as you participate fully in the life of the program. Immerse yourself in American culture as you explore the Pioneer Valley of Massachusetts with new friends.

Forensic Science

From CSI to Dexter, Sherlock Holmes to Bones, forensic science is portrayed in popular culture as a magical tool in modern-day investigations. But is a drop of blood or a single strand of hair really the same as a smoking gun? In this seminar, look critically at case studies from around the world and learn how forensic evidence can be used in securing criminal convictions. Discuss the CSI-effect and its impact on the courtroom. Work in teams to solve crimes using scientific knowledge and reasoning. Final projects may take the form of a Mock Trial, examining the use of forensics in vindicating those wrongly convicted, or analyzing and reporting on a simulated crime scene. This is not a laboratory-based course, but rather emphasizes critical thinking and complex reasoning. There is a supplemental fee of $100 for this course.

Leadership & Public Policy

From healthcare to climate change, international trade to education, public policy decisions have broad impact on people and communities in both the immediate and the long term. And as the dynamics of daily life become more and more global, the broad-reaching implications of these policy decisions demand smart, innovative, and ethical leadership. Whether you’re interested in pursuing a career in government, nonprofits, or the private sector, this seminar is designed to lay the groundwork through hands-on activities and real-world case studies. Consider the complex and changing trade relations between the U.S. and China as you learn to analyze not only the economics, but also the political context and potential implications. Investigate state-level policy initiatives such as healthcare reform, marijuana legalization, renewable energy programs, and more, and discuss the role of state and local leadership. Meet with local leaders to hear about their experiences and the challenges they face. Further, identify the traits of good leadership and begin to develop the skills of critical thinking, analysis, and effective communication and public speaking. As a final project, present your findings in the form of a policy proposal or think-tank-style analysis.

Political Science

Aristotle famously claims that humans are the “political animal,” and indeed it seems that wherever people gather, a system of governance and civic rights emerges. Examine the forms and functions of politics from the Roman Republic to the French Revolution and the American “Democratic Experiment.” Discuss case studies based on current events, such as the 2020 presidential race, the U.K.’s Brexit vote to leave the European Union, or the role of money in politics. Guest lectures, hands-on workshops, and field trips challenge your assumptions about government and give you perspective on your role in the larger system. Conduct interviews and polls to analyze political participation and perspectives. Compare the governments of the U.S., China, and the U.K. to decipher the stated and actual differences between democracy, communism, and monarchy. As part of your final project, create your own government system and simulated society to share with the larger Pre-College community.

Pre-Med: Lab Sciences

If you think a pre-med track might be your calling, this introductory course covers key concepts and principles in biology and examines broader ethical questions about practicing medicine. From the molecular level, learning how genes and proteins function in cells, to population-level discussions about mutations, diseases, and evolution, explore the interconnections of living systems and the role medical science plays in unraveling the mysteries of life. Meet with researchers and medical practitioners to gain a better sense of the challenges doctors face today and how the practice of medicine continues to evolve. There is a lab fee of $100 for this course.

Psychology of Personality

F. Scott Fitzgerald asserted “Action is character”—what you do is who you are. But how do you decide what to do? How much of who you are is determined by your family, your gender, your friends? How are outside forces, like advertising, politicians, or social pressures able to exploit the hardwiring of the brain to influence your choices? Examine different psychological theories that attempt to explain various aspects of personality and behavior. Look at psychodynamic, behavioral, trait, and multicultural theories, among others, and examine them in the context of your own experiences. Specific topics include how we develop and change our attitudes, conformity, obedience, prejudice, aggression, decision-making, interpersonal attraction, altruism, and group dynamics. Readings, discussions, films, experiments, and group activities give you opportunities to explore psychological concepts and evaluate their relevance to your own life.

MINOR SEMINARS (click on seminar to read the full description)

Biomedical Ethics

Examine the ethical and social issues associated with the practice of medicine in this fascinating seminar that explores today’s hottest debates in bioethics. Discuss the intersection of ethics and medicine, and how moral principles are applied to clinical medicine and scientific research. Explore public health issues, such as healthcare delivery, drug availability, and the role of government agencies in dealing with international health crises such as Zika, malaria, and Ebola. Choose a medical challenge to focus on, such as mental health, diabetes, obesity, or the rise in food allergies and debate the issue with your classmates. Meet with researchers and medical practitioners to gain a better sense of the challenges doctors face today and how the practice of medicine continues to evolve.


The entrepreneur—bold pioneer of business, changing the world and turning a profit along the way—has long captured our collective imagination. In recent years, larger than life characters like Steve Jobs, Oprah Winfrey, Mark Zuckerberg, and Elon Musk dominate headlines and raise questions about leadership, charisma, and risk-taking. Learn about the conditions that create fertile ground for entrepreneurialism to thrive, from 19th century industrialists to modern Silicon Valley, and glean insights from the individuals who thrive in these environments. Debate whether entrepreneurs are born or made, and apply the entrepreneurial business model to politics, social change, and cultural movements. Examine personality profiles, strategies, successes, and failures of famous entrepreneurs as you develop and present your own “formula for entrepreneurial success.”

International Relations

From the deliberative machinations of multinational institutions like the EU and WTO, to the relatively agile and sometimes impulsive actions of state and non-state actors, global affairs is a complex and exciting area of study. This seminar is designed to equip you with the foundational skills of the field and to develop your ability to think critically and communicate effectively about international cooperation, security and conflict, trade, international law, and human rights. Dive deep into current events such as U.S.-China trade relations, escalations in the Middle East, climate change impacts such as fires in the Amazon and the Congo Basin, and more. Discuss and debate issues and examine potential approaches and solutions, culminating in a final presentation on an issue that interests you.


Designed for photographers of all skill levels, this course teaches the basics of photography and composition before diving into more advanced shooting techniques and editing instruction. Whether your passion is portrait, landscape, adventure, or abstract photography, build your confidence and nurture your creativity through one-on-one workshops with your instructor and group critiques. Discuss and explore the implications of digital manipulation in an age dominated by the power of the image, collaborate on projects with other seminars, and curate a gallery showing of your newly created portfolio. You are responsible for bringing your own digital camera, which should have the option of being operated in manual mode. There is a supplemental fee of $100 for this course.

Marketing & Advertising

What makes a targeted ad on Facebook successful? Why are buyers loyal to a particular brand of shampoo or jeans? In this dynamic, hands-on course, begin by learning about “The Five P’s”—the principles and strategies behind marketing and advertising, which have now expanded to include platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and Google. Investigate the rapidly changing methods of marketing and how we, as consumers and global citizens, respond to and digest this information. Delve into the psychology behind the decisions businesses make to successfully market their products. Examine trends and brainstorm innovative and creative ideas for the future of the field. Working in teams, research a local company’s approach to marketing and create a plan to improve their business strategy. Collaborate with other seminars and pitch your ideas in the “board room” at the end of the program.

Music Performance

Expand your musical talents and abilities and discover new ways to express yourself through performance, solo improvisation, and group jam sessions. Small composition and arrangement exercises are gradually expanded and elaborated on. Use these exercises as a basis for group performance and a point of departure for improvisation. The course culminates in a recording session and a concert performed for the entire Pre-College community. You are encouraged to bring your instruments and can expect to learn new instruments as well. The ability to read music is helpful but not required. No composition experience is needed. Those who sing or play a musical instrument at any skill level are encouraged to enroll.

Psychology of Crime

What makes someone commit a crime? How effective are psychological profiling techniques used by crime investigators? Is there such a thing as a “criminal mind?” In this course, examine the psychology of crime through case studies and historical data. Look at evidence that both supports and rejects modern theories and discuss criminal profiling as it is portrayed on today’s cinematic crime dramas. Examine traits that connect serial killers throughout history and discover what makes modern-day white-collar criminals tick. Present a final collaborative project on criminal minds to the entire Pre-College community.

Public Speaking & Debate

Take the first steps toward becoming an effective public speaker as you overcome any reluctance to speak in front of groups and learn techniques for engaging your audience. Discuss and practice formal and informal debating techniques, and learn about the uses and misuses of rhetoric. Over the course of the seminar, prepare and present several speeches on topics of your choosing, using John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., former President Obama, and other famous orators as examples. International students choosing this course must have a strong grasp of the English language.

Structured Writing

Whether composing lab reports, business presentations, literary analyses, or e-mails to professors, writing will play an important role in your college education and beyond. Even those who write successfully at the high school level may be surprised by the varied, rigorous literacy demands of the college or university they attend. This course is designed to help prepare you for these challenges. Become acquainted with writing and reading in a variety of contexts, developing into a better reader and editor of your work as you gain critical communication skills necessary for college work. Examine many of the genres required for higher education, including rhetorical and critical analysis, research, and reflective writing. Receive personalized feedback on your work and leave better prepared for success in a wide range of writing situations at the university level.

FITNESS CLINICS (click on seminar to read the full description)

Fitness Studio

Stay in shape while having fun in our fitness studio. This afternoon activity meets twice a week and rotates through popular fitness courses such as Pilates, yoga, and Zumba. Get individual instruction to improve your technique and have fun with fellow participants with the common goal of physical fitness. Fitness Studio meets two days each week. There is a $100 supplemental fee for this clinic.

Soccer Clinic

Taught by college-level coaches and players, the soccer clinic focuses on ball control, passing skills, and offensive and defensive team strategies. Drills complemented by extensive scrimmaging allow you to stay in shape and get a jump on your preparation for the fall season. This clinic meets three times a week. There is a $300 supplemental fee for this clinic.

Tennis Clinic

Led by Nike coaches, this clinic helps you learn the game or maintain your skills during the summer. Participants are assessed by the coaching staff and grouped by ability in order to assure the best training strategy for your needs. This clinic meets three times a week. There is a $390 supplemental fee for this clinic.

What to Expect

Seminars • Pre-College seminars are interactive and collaborative, and take advantage of Amherst  College’s facilities and the region’s cultural offerings. You can expect to meet with local and regional experts, artists, entrepreneurs, and guest speakers during the program. Each seminar works toward a final project—a short film, a business proposal, a performance piece, a gallery opening, or a dramatic reading, to give a few examples—which you present to fellow participants on the final night of the program. Parents and families are welcome to attend this final presentation!

Afternoons & Evenings • Outside of seminars, each day on your Pre-College program brings new adventures and a variety of activities from which to choose. Instructors lead activities and often bring in guest instructors or local experts. Students are encouraged to suggest activities and excursions they would be excited to join.

Physical Activity • This is a physically active summer program. You can expect to participate in activities such as hiking, swimming, soccer, biking, and frisbee. Tennis and soccer clinics taught by professional coaches, as well as a fitness clinic that includes elements of pilates, yoga, and aerobics, are available for students who would like structured instruction during the program. You do not need to be at peak fitness to participate, but it is important that you are excited about trying new activities.

Transportation • You and your family are welcome to meet us on campus at Amherst College, or our staff can arrange pick ups from the local bus or train station, or at nearby Bradley International Airport in Hartford, Connecticut, or Boston’s Logan International Airport.

I love that she was able to get a sense of college, dorm living, and that she traveled to look at other schools. I think she has a sense of what she’s looking for in a college, which is wonderful.

— Courtney Carrera-Ghatan & Saadi Ghatan, New York, NY