Campus Spotlight: Hampshire College

Are you a self-motivated learner looking for a different kind of school? Don't miss this profile of Hampshire College, where students design their own majors and professors take an in-depth, interdisciplinary approach to education.

Hampshire College

Self-Guided Education

One of the first questions incoming college students ask themselves is, 'What do I want to major in?' But students at Hampshire College take a different approach, instead asking, 'What do I want to study?'

There are no 'off-the-shelf' majors at Hampshire. Instead, students design their own courses of study, learning to be 'producers and creators of knowledge, rather than passive consumers of information.'

The organization of the school also encourages the broad-based study that is at the heart of liberal arts education. Instead of studying in the math, English or biology departments, students take courses in one of five interdisciplinary divisions:

  • Humanities, Arts and Cultural Studies
  • Interdisciplinary Arts
  • Cognitive Science
  • Social Science
  • Natural Science

However, students aren't bound by the divisions. Most take courses from several schools at once as they build individual programs of study.

Teacher and Student Evaluations

Alternative Evaluations

Another thing that makes Hampshire College stand out from other institutions is its approach to student assessment. Rather than letter grades, professors give students 'narrative evaluations.' These assessments involve extensive written reporting designed to give students useful, constructive feedback rather than an arbitrary score.

In addition to papers, projects and courses, the evaluations reflect student engagement and performance in fieldwork, internship and study abroad experiences.

The narrative evaluations are particularly useful for graduate schools and employers as they provide much more detailed assessments of students than a traditional transcript. Furthermore, they eliminate competition between students - there is no grading curve at Hampshire - thereby fostering collaborative learning.

Professional Alumni

Life After Hampshire

Many students have legitimate concerns about the reputation of alternative education among graduate programs and employers. However, Hampshire has a positive reputation as a solid liberal arts program. While the alternative transcript can be challenging for prospective law or medical students, most graduate programs and companies appreciate the in-depth feedback they get from the institution.

In fact, half of all Hampshire graduates go on to earn an advanced degree, and one in seven has either a Ph.D. or a terminal degree in their fields. The interdisciplinary skills students acquire at Hampshire also help graduates find employment in many different areas. The top employment fields among Hampshire graduates include business, industry and computers (19%), creative and performing arts (17%) and health professions (16%). Other fields include education (14%), communications (9%), law or government service (7%) and natural sciences (4%).

Notable graduates of Hampshire College include documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, hip hop star Mike Ladd and technologist and free culture advocate Benjamin Mako Hill.

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