Amherst College | Pre-College

Join us for three weeks of college-style learning on the historic, tree shaded campus of one of the most prestigious schools in the country, Amherst College. The college’s ivy-covered buildings and the adjacent town common form the heart of the “Five College Consortium,” a vibrant academic network that includes Smith, Mount Holyoke, and Hampshire Colleges, as well as the University of Massachusetts. The town of Amherst is filled with shops and cafés and is surrounded by rolling hills and rivers, ideal for hiking, canoeing, and biking. During the summer, artists, writers, and musicians make Amherst a lively and exciting place to be.

  • June 22, 2014 - July 11, 2014
  • July 14, 2014 - August 2, 2014
Students completing grades 9-12
Typical Group:
60-75 Students, 15-20 Staff
3 week(s)


Located in Massachusetts’s Pioneer Valley, Amherst College has been committed to the pursuit of academic excellence since its founding in 1821. As a Putney Pre-College student, you spend four hours a day pursuing two areas of interest in small, active seminars. Seminars encourage collaboration and hands-on learning, getting out of the classroom often for field trips and to meet with local experts, experiments, performances, college tours, and field assignments. Without the pressure of grades or tests, you can enjoy delving into your courses without the stress that comes along with a traditional classroom.  Seminar size is limited to ten students or fewer. Pre-College Amherst participants hail from all around the United States as well as international destinations. In 2014, Pre-College Amherst welcomed students from 20 different countries.

Afternoon and evening activities allow you to make the most of your summer and of campus life. Whether taking part in an instructional sports clinic, volunteering at a local daycare, learning the art of crepe- or sushi-making by one of our international students, jumping into a Zumba workshop, or going for a swim in one of the local swimming holes, there are plenty of chances to connect with other students and instructors and to pursue new interests. Introduce the community to your favorite activities, or try something new – maybe digital photography, African drumming, or mountain biking – in a social environment that supports and shares your enthusiasm. Several afternoons during the program, you can choose to visit a full spectrum of New England colleges. In past summers, we have visited Middlebury, Dartmouth, Smith, Williams, and Trinity Colleges, as well as Harvard, Tufts, Brown, Wesleyan, and Yale Universities, as well as others. Visits are generally led by our faculty who are alumni of these colleges. Relax and have fun with our nightly community meetings, talent shows, and movie nights. You might tear up the quad with a game of glow-in-the-dark ultimate frisbee, or see a live show in nearby Northampton.

For your first weekend away from campus, choose between three exciting destinations.  The White Mountains of New Hampshire offer an opportunity to explore some of the best-preserved wilderness in the East, historic Cape Cod boasts gorgeous beaches and opportunities for whale watching, and Montreal in French-speaking Canada is full of cultural vitality and hospitality. On the Saturday of our second weekend, make a day trip to Boston to explore locations like Harvard Square, the Boston Science Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts, and the Freedom Trail, or take a surf lesson in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. On Sunday, seek out bargains at a local flea market, spend the afternoon at the provocative Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (Mass MoCA) in North Adams, or enjoy a few hours of biking, rollerblading, or hiking in the hills surrounding campus. Students not from the northeastern United States may also opt for a day trip to New York City to see some of the sights and explore the Big Apple.

Teen Pre College Students at Summer Program

Meet new friends from around the country and all over the world.

The program culminates with a final day of presentations and performances, allowing you to showcase your many accomplishments and share what you have been working on with the rest of the community. Whether you recite an original poem, host a gallery opening of your photography, deliver a knock out stand-up routine perfected in Public Speaking class, or present the debut of a short film you made in the Filmmaking seminar, this evening is your time to shine. Parents are invited to attend this wonderful event – the perfect way to say goodbye to each other and this amazing campus.

“The program succeeded in providing an intelligent, caring, funny and all around wonderful staff. However, the fellow students were what really made Putney at Amherst so special. Without them, it wouldn’t have been the same. I made friends for life – no matter where they live – and I can never thank this program enough for that.”

- Ryan Blume, Summit High School, Summit, NJ


  • Get a feel for college life on one of New England’s most beautiful college campuses.
  • Polish your college essay or create a new short story in one of several writing workshops.
  • Sample delicious local meals while participating in a sustainable food workshop.
  • Discuss Aristotle, Camus, and Marx in the shade of the campus quad with your Philosophy class.
  • Improve your soccer or tennis game with instruction from the professional coaching staff.
  • Hike up Mount Washington, the highest peak in New England.
  • Follow in the footsteps of history on the Freedom Trail in downtown Boston.
  • Gear up for the big test with a Kaplan SAT prep class.
  • Practice your language skills with new friends from around the world.

What to Expect

Students must be able to think critically and creatively while engaging in thoughtful discussion with classmates. Pre-College at Amherst College gives a taste of college life that provides flexibility and expects responsibility. Students are expected to be correspondingly mature and productive in their free time. Rules prohibiting alcohol and tobacco use, setting curfew times, and providing a safe and structured environment are in place and enforced. Our courses are not affiliated with Amherst College and are not for credit.

At Putney we take pride in our reputation for careful, thorough planning and attention to detail. The descriptions of our high school summer programs are based on our experiences in previous summers and our plans for this summer. It is inevitable that some things described here will not happen exactly as presented. To get the most out of the Putney experience, participants need to be flexible in responding to unforeseen situations, and creative in taking advantage of unexpected opportunities. We expect Putney participants to share responsibility for the success of their experience.


Tuition: $5,090

Pre-College at Amherst students choose a morning and an afternoon seminar.  During the week, each of these small, discussion-based seminars meets for two hours each day. Courses are not affiliated with Amherst College and students do not receive college credit for our program.

Morning Seminars (click on seminar to read full description)
Architectural Design
Architectural design is the expression of ideas in spatial, material, and cultural terms. It draws inspiration from sources as diverse as a functional need, the structure of a leaf, or a philosophical text. This seminar will explore how we interact with space through interactive field trips around Amherst, design exercises paired with critique sessions, and dynamic projects with other classes such as drawing and painting or photography.  We will dive into topics such as manual and digital drafting, plan reading, artistic analysis, historic styles, and sustainable design.  At the end of the session, students will leave with a small portfolio of their work, including a final design project in plan, model, or digital form.
Art of the Essay
Thinking about those college essays? Ready to break the cookie-cutter mold you learned in high school English? This dynamic workshop-style course led by a published essayist is just what you need to find your own unique writing voice. Write about what’s important to you, whether it’s a memory from childhood, a key moment in your life, or a profile of the person who has influenced you most, all while learning about such important topics as argumentation, imagery, word economy, and anecdote.  At the end of the program, present your best piece in front of your peers.
Digital Photography
This course is a practical introduction to key technical concepts, including shooting techniques and digital editing, as well as the use of digital cameras and photo editing software. Explore the implications of digital manipulation in an age dominated by the power of the image. This course incorporates a number of projects, including collaborations with other courses and culminates in a gallery showing of your newly created portfolio. You must bring your own digital camera with a pixel depth of at least 5 megapixels. There is a supplemental fee of $250 for this course. 
English as a Second Language (ESL)
This course is open to foreign students wishing to acquire English fluency by living and learning in an English-speaking environment. Through a specially designed series of fun and active conversational exercises and games, students learn to communicate effectively with their American counterparts and to participate fully in the life of the program.
Film Studies
The development of any art form is a restless search for new forms of expression. Today’s cinematic language has been influenced by a combination of artistic, scientific, and economic developments over the past 100 years. This seminar examines the visual language we take for granted when we watch movies. What are the “rules” that make a believable reality on screen? What are the artistic and technological innovations that have expanded the language of cinema? How will the art of moving pictures change with the expanding world of new digital technologies? Students watch some films that are “R” rated.
Gender Studies
Adolescence is often viewed as a period of heightened identity formation, requiring the navigation of complicated social realities. Perhaps the most challenging barrier adolescents face in the creation of “self”  is the social construct of gender. How does gender determine who you have the possibility of becoming? What roles and expectations does gender create? How much of your identity is linked to who you think you should be “as a girl” or “as a boy?” What are the sources of these preconceptions and biases?  In this seminar, explore and deconstruct gender, becoming conscious of its presence in your daily routines and rituals, and, more broadly, of its dramatic influence on our culture. Through guided readings and provocative discussions, explore how different societies across the ages and around the world treat the concept of gender and formation of personal and group identity.
Genre Writing: Sci-Fi, Fantasy, and Graphic Novels
From HBO’s Game of Thrones adaptation of George R. R. Martin’s epic fantasy series, to the box office success of Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy, movies and television audiences are discovering what devotees of sci-fi, fantasy, and graphic novels have known for years: namely, that the force of imagination unleashed by exploring alternative timelines, systems of futuristic technology or arcane magic, or the juxtaposition of text with drawings, has the power to reveal human nature just as effectively as the great literary works of the “canon”.  Discuss the narrative structures and processes underlying the world-creation inherent in genre fiction and develop your own character sketches, plot arcs, and alternate universes.  Focus on one genre, try your hand at each, or blend elements from all three!  Short readings, inspiring daily writing prompts and regular group workshop sessions help start you down the path to sharing your vision with a wider audience.
History: The Rise and Fall of Empires
On August 24th, 410 A.D., a horde of Visigoths led by Alaric the First streamed into Rome. They ransacked the city’s most famous buildings, killed or captured many of its shocked citizens, and put a definitive end to Rome’s 800 year empire. Rome wasn’t history’s only empire, of course. The Spanish dominated Europe and settled much of the Americas. It was said that the sun never set on the British Empire . . . until it did. China supported many great dynasties, the Mongols overran much of Asia, and the Incas and the Aztecs maintained vast empires . . . until their sudden collapse. In this discussion course,look at the patterns that have characterized the rise of great empires, and the patterns that have characterized their fall. In the final week of the course, turn to the empire most familiar to us: America. What can Americans learn from the rise and fall of historic empires? Is the American Empire in decline, and if so, what will replace it?
Investment Strategies
Whether you’re mystified by the market or a full-blown stock-ticker-reading investment junkie, here’s your chance to put your (fake) money where your mouth is. In this exciting, hands-on business course, get to know the basics of stock market investing, beginning with such topics as economic indicators, interest rates, and price-earnings ratios. Learn to read the market indices and make informed decisions about bond and equity allocations. Then jump into the mix with your own fictional portfolio. Invest wisely, and you may get rich quick. Make mistakes, and you may find yourself in the poorhouse.
Philosophy is a discipline concerned with big questions: ideas of good and evil, problems of knowledge, the existence of a God, free will, to name a few. Not for the faint of heart, in this class you will examine three enigmas that have long puzzled philosophers: time, subjectivity, and death. Is the present ever present? Who says I? Can there be life without death? From Descartes to Heidegger to contemporary masters of continental philosophy such as Jacques Derrida and Alain Badiou, we will study how some of history’s greatest minds have grappled with these problems in order to better grapple with them ourselves.
Political Science
Aristotle famously claims that humans are the “political animal,” and, indeed, it seems that wherever groups of people gather, a system of governance and civic rights and responsibilities emerges.  Examine the forms and functions of politics from the Roman Republic to the French Revolution, to the American “Democratic Experiment.”  Discuss case studies centered on current events, such as the the recent government shutdown or the role of money in politics.  Guest lectures, hands-on workshops, and field trips challenge your assumptions about government and give perspective on your part in the larger system.  Conduct interviews and polls to analyze the current state of political participation in Massachusetts and interview a local politician about campaign strategies for the upcoming election.  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.
Psychology of Personality
How much of who you are is determined by your family? Your gender? Your friends? Your inner drives and desires? Your personality traits? Which human behaviors are considered adaptive, and which cause difficulties? In this course, 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. Readings, discussions, films, experiments, and group activities give you opportunities to explore psychological concepts and evaluate their relevance to your own life.
Public Speaking and Debate
Take the first steps toward becoming an effective public speaker as you overcome your fear of speaking 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 class, prepare and present several speeches on topics of your choosing using John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., President Obama, and others as examples. International students choosing this course must have a strong grasp of the English language.
Social Justice and Ethics
For as long as people have been living in community with each other, questions of “how to act” and “what to do” have provided the infrastructure for civil society. And yet, after studying the central questions of ethics for thousands of years, there are still very few “right” answers. Explore the ethical dimensions of modern controversies in the fields of business, medicine, the media, and the environment. What is “fair” about fair trade? Should CEOs make 400 times the salary as their lowest-paid employee? Debate these questions and others as you delve into the unwritten the rules that guide our government and shape our personal lives.
Studio Art
Develop and refine your artistic vision as you explore a variety of materials and media. Working with acrylics, watercolor, or charcoal, create pieces based on subjects ranging from the human figure to still life, from landscape to portraiture.  Through regular critiques, constructively evaluate your own and each other’s work. There are frequent visits to area museums, as well as consultations with accomplished artists. Prepare a personal portfolio and present your work at a program-wide gallery opening at the end of the session. All art supplies for this course are provided for a mandatory fee of $150. 
World Dance
Dance explores the expressive potential of the human body in movement and conveys cultural traditions from around the world. This class explores the range of dance, from Flamenco to African dance to Tango and Swing, just to name a few. The limited class size allows for individualized and small-group instruction that responds to participants’ experience and interests in developing performance, improvisation, and composition skills. Students also enjoy African drumming workshops, professional dance performances, and a trip to the famous Berkshire dance center, Jacob’s Pillow. The workshop culminates in a dance recital, choreographed and performed by the students and presented to the entire Excel community. Dance experience is helpful, but not required.

Afternoon Seminars (click on seminar to read full description)
Business and Economics
This hands-on course begins by explaining the economic playing field where firms operate, discussing supply and demand, regulations and free trade, international trade, and currency flows. Through role-playing, discussions, and occasional lectures, consider the practical aspects of business, including accounting, finance, marketing, advertising, public relations, the organization of the firm, corporate leadership and culture, and business ethics. Finally, working together as a team, put what you have learned into practice by researching, developing, and operating your own small business.
Creative Writing: Fiction and Poetry
Whether you want to write your first novel before you turn twenty or simply to create a poem that captures a particular feeling, this dynamic workshop-style course is a step toward realizing your goals. Led by published authors, you develop skills in the creative writing genre of your choice, while writing exercises focus on important craft issues such as dialogue, imagery, narrative structure, word choice, theme, and storytelling technique. Hold a program-wide reading and present your best pieces for the Pre-College community.
Cultural Anthropology
The field of Anthropology, literally translated: “the study of humankind,” spans the disciplines of history, science, and the humanities and seeks to illuminate the many possible answers to the question “what is human culture?”  What common threads bind seemingly disparate peoples as part of the collective human experience?  Has globalization affected the world’s cultures for better or worse? Do linguistic and religious differences across the globe create barriers or opportunities for development? Through this discussion-based workshop emphasizing first-hand experience, interviews, and case studies, develop an understanding of the diversity of culture in our world, from so-called “lost” cultures in the jungles of Papua New Guinea or the Amazon, to the counter-cultural movement that swept the Western world in the late 1960’s, to the recent rise of pan-global digital culture. By understanding cultures and movements such as these, develop a better understanding of yourself. End the course with an anthropological analysis of your particular role in your own culture.
Darkroom Photography
Get into the darkroom and explore your storytelling potential as you prepare an independent photo series project. Seminar time is dedicated to critiques, instruction in the use of flash and tripod, and camera and darkroom techniques. Due to the nature of darkroom processing, you will need to commit extra time outside of class to finish projects. You must provide your own SLR 35mm camera and know how to use it. All photography supplies are provided. There is a supplemental fee of $150 for this seminar.
Elements of Graphic Design
Contemporary American culture is primarily a visual culture – it is estimated that the average person sees over 4000 visual messages each day.  This seminar gives you the tools to understand, decode, and work with the basic elements of graphic design: color, texture, shape, text, fonts, illustrations, and photography.  Discuss effective ways to communicate a harmonious message, or undercut a message visually.  Learn how the language of graphic design has evolved over the centuries and explore the possibilities afforded by modern digital design suites.  At the end of the session, students will leave with a small portfolio of their work, including a final design project in digital or print form.  There is a supplemental fee of $150 for this course.  Students are highly encouraged to bring their laptop computers.
Environmental Studies
Environmental issues like climate change and rising energy costs have taken dramatic center stage in global politics. What are our responsibilities to each other and future generations?  To what degree can we rely on technology and market forces to lessen our collective impact on the earth? Debate and discuss these trends and get outside the classroom to visit organic vegetable farms, meet environmental and community activists, and learn from local experts about state of the art developments in sustainable and renewable energy sources. Reflect on the history of humankind’s relationship to our natural surroundings, and work as a group to brainstorm solutions for the future.
Fashion Design
In this introductory course, learn the basic skills of clothing design. Begin by hitting the drawing board to communicate your design concepts with style and expression, and consider the social and cultural implications of fashion. Move on to make your designs a reality through a series of sequenced projects which you present to the whole Pre-College community in a culminating fashion show. Be prepared to commit extra time outside of class to finishing your projects. Supplies for this course are provided for a mandatory fee of $100.
Get a hands-on introduction to video in this production-oriented workshop. Practice storyboarding, camera operation, sound recording, lighting, direction, and non-linear editing as you collaborate on a series of video projects. Explore the hidden language of cinema by looking at a variety of films, from documentaries to experimental shorts. As a final project, produce a series of short videos to present at a campus-wide film screening. You should plan on putting in extra hours for editing, and will watch some films that are “R” rated. There is a supplemental fee of $250 for this course. 
Read and analyze contemporary magazines and on-line news sources in this exciting, up-to-the-minute course.  Then hit the streets to research and prepare your own stories, using interviews, observation, and opinion to explore issues of contemporary life, culture, science, and/or politics. Led by a published writer/journalist, this workshop-style writing course allows everyone in your impromptu “newsroom” to learn from each other, as you refine your reporting and storytelling techniques. At the end of the course, create an on-line blog or news magazine.
Learn what it takes to be a top marketing exec in this dynamic, hands-on course. What makes a targeted ad on Facebook successful? Why are buyers loyal to a particular brand of shampoo or jeans? Begin by learning about the principles and strategies behind marketing and advertising. Delve into the psychology behind the complex decisions that businesses make to successfully market their product. Explore new media marketing, follow 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 come up with a new plan to improve their business strategy. Pitch your ideas in the ‘board room’ at the end of the program.
Music Performance
Expand your musical talents and abilities, as you perform, improvise, jam, and collaborate with others, discovering new ways to express yourself in this global language. Small composition exercises are gradually expanded and elaborated; these compositions later combine to provide a basis for group performance and a point of departure for improvisation. The course culminates in a recording session and a concert to be performed for the entire Pre-College community. No composition experience is needed. The ability to read music is helpful, but not required. Those who sing or play a musical instrument at any skill level are encouraged to enroll.
Psychology of Choice
F. Scott Fitzgerald famously said “Action is character,” meaning what you do is who you are. But how do we decide what to do? In a world where the range of choice (careers, classes to take, fashion styles, products to buy) seems to be expanding exponentially, our brains and willpower often struggle to keep up. How are outside forces, like advertising, politicians, and even our friends and family able to exploit the hardwiring of the brain to influence our choices? Answer these questions and discover, in turn, how we also influence the choices of others. Through brief readings, discussions, case studies, and personal experience, learn to understand the mechanisms and tradeoffs of decision-making as you develop your own criteria and approaches to the many choices in life.
Psychology of the Criminal Mind
What makes someone commit a crime? How effective are the psychological profiling techniques used by crime investigators? Is there such a thing as the Criminal Mind? In this course, examine the criminal mind 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.
SAT Preparation: Kaplan
This course is organized and taught by Kaplan, Inc. It concentrates on verbal and mathematical skills, as well as the test-taking techniques you need to perform at a high level on the PSAT and SAT-I exams.  The course consists of daily classes and two full-length SAT practice tests; extensive reference and practice materials are also provided.  Receive an individualized study plan based on your diagnostic testing and information about your study style and goals. As part of the class, you may continue to study with Kaplan beyond your summer program. There is a $550 supplemental fee for this course.
Structured Writing
This course is designed for students who have difficulty organizing their ideas and creating logically constructed, coherent, and effective writing. Using innovative, hands-on, active methods for constructing written work, learn specific strategies to help you organize your ideas, structure your presentations, edit your writing, and produce more effective work.  Constant interaction with the instructor and feedback on short writings completed during class are key to tracking your progress.   
Theatre and Drama
Become part of a working theatre ensemble as you create and perform in a show attended by the entire Pre-College community. Group work, improvisation, master classes, and outside professional productions help feed your creativity en route to developing material and a style all your own.  Workshops and rehearsals are held each afternoon, and during the second half of the program the rehearsal schedule extends into late afternoons and evenings. This course is ideal for all experience levels – come join us if you are excited about theatre and ready to challenge yourself in a supportive and energizing environment.
Sports Clinics
Led by college-level players and 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. There is a $260 supplemental fee for this 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 get a jump on your preparation for the fall season. There is a $190 supplemental fee for this clinic.

As part of the late afternoon activity program, we offer optional instructional clinics in tennis and soccer where you can polish your techniques and maintain your level of skill over the summer.  Clinics meet three times a week throughout the program, allowing time for you to get involved in other campus activities. Space is limited to ensure individualized attention, and clinics fill up quickly.  Participation is determined on a first-come, first-served basis. There is a supplemental fee for sports clinics.


Learn about last year’s program by reading the 2014 Pre-College at Amherst College Blog.

This program begins and ends at Amherst College.

Arrival • Join your group as we begin the campus experience at Amherst College, one of New England’s most picturesque and preeminent liberal arts schools. You and your family are welcome to arrive directly at Amherst College, or our staff is happy to arrange pick ups from the Amherst bus or train station, or nearby Bradley International Airport in Hartford, CT.

Campus Life • As a Pre-College student at Amherst College, your day is much like that of any college undergraduate, but with a structure that is appropriate and will keep you busy and engaged throughout your summer. Participate actively in stimulating, seminar-style courses and spend time with like-minded individuals who quickly become good friends. Get involved in a host of fun and fascinating activities, from pick-up sports games to college visits to unique course-generated projects.

A Typical Class Day  Morning seminars meet from 9-11am. Make sure you wake up with enough time to spare to grab breakfast at the cafeteria and get ready for the day!  11am-1pm is the lunch hour, and you might take this time to finish up a group project with classmates before heading to eat.  Afternoon seminars meet from 1-3pm.  After that, it’s time for afternoon activities.  Pick between many different options; we might have a badminton tournament on the quad, a salsa dancing lesson in the dorm lounge, a college visit to a nearby university, or a trip to Puffer’s Pond for a swim.  Every day offers something different and participants are encouraged to suggest activities of interest to them. Community meetings in the late afternoon give you a heads up for activities coming later in the week and allow you to check in with friends and instructors. After dinner, spend the evening hours playing capture the flag, attending a concert, viewing and discussing an independent film showing at Amherst Cinema, cheering on your friends at a coffee house talent show, or engaging in a board game night.  Don’t forget to check in with your instructor on-duty before lights out.

College Visits • Several afternoons during the program you can choose a school to visit from a full spectrum of New England colleges. In past summers, students have visited Middlebury, Dartmouth, Smith, Williams, and Trinity Colleges, as well as Harvard, Tufts, Brown, Wesleyan, and Yale Universities. Visits are generally led by our faculty who are alumni of these colleges.

“I think the business class exemplifies my summer… it felt like a real college class! The experience of being on my own for the first time and being able to do that gave me a great sense of accomplishment.”

- Spencer Reno, Rye High School, Rye, NY

Excursion Weekend • Our first excursion weekend showcases some of the best of what the Northeast has to offer. Choose from the following trips to the White Mountains, Cape Cod, and Montréal.

The White Mountains: Explore some of the best-preserved wilderness in the East with two days in the beautiful White Mountains of New Hampshire. As a group, we hike in the magnificent Presidential Range, take in spectacular views from the top of Mount Washington, and canoe, kayak, or swim in some of the region’s many lakes. If you choose this excursion, get excited about hiking, canoeing, and staying in a cozy hiker’s lodge! The cost of this excursion is included in the Pre-College at Amherst College tuition.

Cape Cod: Historic Cape Cod is one of the most popular vacation destinations in the Northeast. On this excursion we stroll the lively streets of Provincetown, swim on one of the Cape’s pristine beaches, and toast s’mores over a bonfire under the stars. Whale watching trips, beach volleyball, kayaking, and Frisbee round out a wide array of activities. There is a supplemental fee of $390 for this program.

Montréal: The cultural vitality and hospitality of French Canada are enticing reasons to visit Montréal. From our base at McGill University, we explore the cobblestone streets of the Old City and soak in the Parisian atmosphere of Rue St. Denis. Activities might include biking along the St. Lawrence River, shopping for a picnic lunch at the sprawling Marché Atwater, and catching an outdoor concert at the International Jazz Festival. There is a supplemental fee of $390 for this excursion.

Summer Pre College Amherst Arts Seminar

Putney Student Travel: Where you can set your mind free

Boston Weekend • Our second weekend begins with a group day trip to Boston to explore locations like Harvard Square, the Boston Science Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts, and the Freedom Trail, or take a surf lesson in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. On Sunday you can visit a locally famous flea market in Hadley, MA, visit the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (Mass MoCA) in the afternoon, or enjoy biking, rollerblading, or hiking in the hills surrounding campus.

Final Night • Invite family and friends to attend the culminating Final Night Show. You and your fellow students make presentations on what you’ve learned in class, give concerts, explain projects, display artwork, and say goodbye to your instructors and new friends from across the country and around the world. International students and students not from the northeastern United States may visit New York City on the Sunday of this second weekend.

Departure • Staff escorts students from the Amherst College campus to the Amherst bus or train station, or Bradley International Airport. Families can also arrange pick up directly from campus.

This itinerary represents our best projection of the group’s schedule. However, we may implement changes designed to improve the quality of the program.


Background Located in Massachusetts’s Pioneer Valley, Amherst College has been committed to the pursuit of academic excellence since its founding in 1821. The town of Amherst bustles with interesting shops and cafés and is surrounded by rolling hills and rivers, ideal for hiking, canoeing, and biking. The Mead Art Museum, Emily Dickinson Homestead, and the Robert Frost Library stand out among the rich cultural resources of the area. During the summer, artists, writers, and musicians make the Amherst area a lively and exciting place to be.

Amherst College Campus Summer Program for Teens

Our dorms overlook a tree-lined quad, incredible athletic facilities, and the beautiful Seven Sisters mountain range.

Housing and dining  At Amherst College, live in single-sex residence halls located at the heart of campus, with easy access to playing fields, tennis courts, and other college facilities, and to the town of Amherst. Rooms are doubles and the majority of students choose to room with participants they do not know prior to the beginning of the program. Dorms are equipped with social common areas, as well as laundry facilities and a computer lab. Eat the majority of your meals at Amherst’s high-quality dining facilities, which provide a wide range of choices of hot and cold entrees, salads, healthy desserts, and vegetarian selections. Cook-outs, picnics, and restaurant meals provide the occasional change of pace.

Population Amherst College is situated within the town of Amherst, a community of about 35,000 people. The College quad is a short walk from Amherst’s single main street. This cozy size allows for a safe, small-town feel while providing great shops, restaurants, and a burgeoning art scene for students to explore.

New England Summer Program for Teens

Day and weekend trips let us explore beautiful New England.

Climate • Summers in the Pioneer Valley are pleasant, with moderately warm afternoons and the occasional rainy day or short heat wave. Temperatures can be quite cool in the morning, with overnight lows in the 50s but generally warm into the 80s during the day.

Currency • The town of Amherst has numerous ATMs available for students if they would like additional spending money during their stay. Coin-operated laundry facilities equipped with change machines are available in the dorms.

“My expectations were beyond met. The amount of independence we were given really was good exposure to what college will be like. The staff were absolutely amazing and it was a privilege getting to know them.” - 

- Sarah Jackel, Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School, Sarasota, FL


The Pre-College at Amherst College program is directed by Maggie Strassman. If you have questions, are interested in receiving more detailed information, or would like to talk further about the program or any of our high school summer programs abroad, please get in touch!

Maggie Strassman

Maggie Strassman: University of Wisconsin, B.S., Geography, International Studies. Maggie studied abroad in Austria during college and has had the travel bug ever since. After graduation, she moved to the Czech Republic before working at National Geographic as an intern in the Education department. She has led Community Service programs in Dominica and Fiji, and a Pre-College program at Amherst College. Maggie coordinates Putney programs in India, Thailand, the West Indies, and Massachusetts. She enjoys trivia, riding her bike, playing frisbee, and exclaiming over delicious food.

How To Apply


If you are new to Putney Student Travel, visit our Online Application.  
If you are a Putney Student Travel alumni family, 
use your existing account information to Log In.


You can hold a space in a program by completing the Online Application Form, submitting a signed Agreement Form, and providing the $700 Application Deposit by Mastercard, Visa, or Discover Card through our secure online system or by sending a check to our office. Our admissions staff is also available to take credit card information over the phone.  We will hold a space in a program for a reasonable time, pending completion of the full application process. See Step 3.

After March 15, we will hold a space temporarily as above, but we must receive full payment by check or wire transfer within three days to continue to hold a space in the program.


Before we can make a final admissions decision, an application must be complete.  In addition to the Application Form and Application Deposit described above, a complete application includes:

  • Applicant Statement - Attach a statement explaining why you would like to join a Putney program and what you feel you can contribute to it. Your application cannot be processed without this statement. Approximately 150–300 words is sufficient. Global Action applicants’ statements must be 300-500 words addressing these questions, and detailing their interest and/or experience in the country and issues on which they wish to focus.
  • Two Teacher Reference Forms

These documents are available as part of our Online Application.  We review a completed application within a few days, and notify families of our admissions decision by e-mail.