The quintessential college town, Amherst, Mass., has long been known for its intellectual population. Notable citizens such as Emily Dickinson and Robert Frost certainly spurred this reputation, but the Five Colleges have maintained it over the years, making Amherst apartments for rent a great option for students, scholars and families.
Students from University of Massachusetts Amherst, Hampshire College, Amherst College, Mount Holyoke College and Smith College call this quaint town home, even though two of them are located on its periphery. In addition to their intellect, Amherst's residents are also notorious for their progressively liberal politics.
Like much of Massachusetts, Amherst's past prominently features Native Americans. The town became an agricultural community in the 1700s when English settlers in nearby Hadley used Amherst for pastureland. The area is still largely composed of farmland and open space, with pockets of activity spurred by the college students.
Those seeking apartments in Amherst should prepare to be a part of a college town. UMass Amherst alone has an enrollment of 28,084, while Amherst College has close to 1,800 and Hampshire has about 1,500. Nearby Smith and Mount Holyoke Colleges contribute nearly 5,000 individuals between them. Locals like to speculate that the characters of the popular series "Scooby Doo" - Velma, Daphne, Fred, Shaggy and Scooby Doo - are based on the five colleges distinct personalities.
The colleges also create an inclusive, diverse population of 37,819 people, offering a number of cultural opportunities and cultivating a respect and passion for the town's history. These qualities have earned Amherst the reputation of being one of the best college towns in America, as well as one of the best places to retire.
Not surprisingly, UMass Amherst is the area's largest employer, with the other colleges and Amherst School District coming in closely behind it. In fact, the education sector makes up 51 percent of the workforce.
Of course, the educational opportunities in Amherst are virtually unrivaled for those seeking an excellent liberal arts education. UMass Amherst has 108 bachelor's degree programs, six associate's, 76 master's and 50 doctoral programs across its eight schools and colleges, which span nearly 1,500 acres. Those looking for a smaller institution might consider Amherst College, one of the premier liberal arts colleges in the nation, which boasts 36 fields of study with a faculty-student ratio of one to eight. Another option, Hampshire College, is known for its alternative, flexible, individualized approach to higher education that allows students to design their own academic programs and do a large portion of their work independently. The Five Colleges have formed a consortium, allowing students to take classes at any of the institutions at no extra charge.
Students and families alike will have to battle with the college and university population when seeking apartments in Amherst. The median gross rent in Amherst was $1,108 in 2010, but with the wide range of college housing, renters can expect to pay less for large spaces, as long as they don't mind sharing neighborhoods with students.
There is always something going on in Amherst. There is a variety of performances at the UMass Fine Arts Center and the other colleges, plus the town's Mead Art Museum and Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art. Amherst has arts and culture to suit everyone.
The Emily Dickinson Museum is another main attraction, celebrating the American poet who was born and raised in this quaint Massachusetts town. Today, the Dickinson Homestead is maintained in her memory. History buffs might also want to visit the Amherst Historical Society and Museum, which hosts a garden tour each year.
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