Transforming Education

Students at Hampshire College


No to SATs/ACTs: Not Even Optional at Hampshire College

Academic records, history of civic engagement, recommendation letters, and students’ ability to represent themselves in essays trump anything the tests could tell us.


No to SATs/ACTs: Not Even Optional at Hampshire College

Our message is simple: To know is not enough.

We’re living through the Great Acceleration, turbulent with revolutions in technology, global politics, modes of human interaction, knowledge creation, the nature of culture, and, of course, the environment. By one estimate, 65 percent of today’s students will be in jobs that haven’t been invented yet.

No approach to education is better geared to meet the challenges ahead than the model Hampshire provides. Experience-based. Learner-centered. Inquiry-driven. Hampshire is extreme sports for the mind.

Where is there another institution that requires every undergraduate to turn their ideas into action by pulling together so many loose strands? That requires them to find those strands in the first place by imagining their own questions and then wrestling with the maddening way that the search for answers only deepens the question? That requires them to recruit a faculty committee to guide them, challenge them, and negotiate a rigorous path of discovery?

There is no other undergraduate institution that approaches learning this way.

It demands more of students, and it’s hard. It’s supposed to be. It sends young people into the world who are unrattled by uncertainty. This makes them exceedingly comfortable with change. They can be intense, but they’re elastic. They’re also fearless. And interesting. When they hit a blind alley, they’re remarkably good at finding a way forward.

The world needs young people like these, who are unafraid of the difficult, messy, unpredictable, sometimes contentious process of change, and who see change as a necessity and a moral obligation, especially in complicated times. And when have times not been complicated?

Everything we do is focused on supporting the young people who will challenge and change their world.

The entire Hampshire campus is a living laboratory. We expect all our actions and all our spaces to teach in some manner and to articulate our values.

For instance:

  • We’re done with the SAT. The test has no predictive value for who excels at Hampshire and it’s biased against low-income students.
  • We’ve discarded conventional ways of building. The new Kern Center will produce all its own energy, gather all its own water, and treat all its own waste.
  • We started an entrepreneurship center, with a social entrepreneurship professor to serve on Div III committees and help our young people build their dreams.
  • We created an ethical leadership program to enable our students to be more reflective about their community-based experiences and learn how to scale for impact.

These are just a few examples of how we develop in our students the intellectual audacity and ethical courage to make meaningful change in the world. This is how we help them develop their sense of humor, their sense of fairness, their sense of the ridiculous, and, above all, their sense of wonder.

At Hampshire we feel we have an obligation to make our learning model strong and accessible to those who will thrive here—and a responsibility to make it widely known because our impact will benefit all of higher education.

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Hampshire College
893 West Street
Amherst, MA 01002