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 28, 2015 - July 17, 2015
  • July 20, 2015 - August 8, 2015
Students completing grades 9-12
Typical Group:
60-75 students, 15-20 staff
3 week(s)


Located in Massachusetts’ 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, allowing you to get out of the classroom often for field trips, experiments, performances, college tours, field assignments, and to meet with local experts. Without the pressure of grades or tests, you can enjoy delving into your courses without the stress that comes along with a traditional classroom.  Seminars are 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 with one of our international students, jumping into a Zumba workshop, or diving into 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. 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.

Teen Pre College Students at Summer Program

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

For your first weekend away from campus, choose between three exciting destinations. The White Mountains of New Hampshire offer the 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.

“She learned a lot of new information and was inspired by the material. She had a rich experience filled with new learning, new friends, and new adventures!”

— Pam and Ken Lester, parents of Hannah Lester, John Burroughs School, St. Louis, MO

The program culminates with a final day of presentations and performances, allowing you to showcase your many accomplishments and share your work 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 your classmates, instructors, and this amazing campus.


  • 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 travel 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. Rules that provide a safe and structured environment, set curfews, and prohibit the use of alcohol, drugs, and tobacco are in place and enforced. We expect you to behave in a mature and productive way at all times.


Tuition: $5,190

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)
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.
In recent years the figure of the entrepreneur – bold pioneer of business, changing the world and turning a profit along the way – has captured our collective imagination. Larger than life characters such as Steve Jobs, Oprah Winfrey, and Elon Musk dominate headlines and provide endless fodder for discussions on leadership, charisma, and risk-taking. What was it about the personalities of Mark Zuckerberg and Richard Branson that catapulted them to stardom as modern innovators? In this seminar, learn about the conditions that are most fertile for entrepreneurialism, ranging from the Murano glassmakers of 13th century Venice to modern Silicon Valley and glean insights from the individuals that thrive in these environments. Debate whether entrepreneurs are born or made, and take the entrepreneurial model outside the confines of business, applying it to politics, social change, and cultural movements. Examine the personality profiles, strategies, successes, and failures of famous entrepreneurs on your way to developing and presenting your own “formula for entrepreneurial success.”
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.
From CSI to Dexter, Sherlock Holmes to Bones, forensic science is portrayed as an almost magical tool used by detectives in  modern-day investigations. But what role does forensics actually play in police work? Is a drop of blood or single strand of hair the same as a smoking gun?  In this seminar, look critically at case studies from around the world and discuss the role of forensic science in legal proceedings. Learn how forensic evidence can be used in securing criminal convictions and discuss the negative impact the CSI-effect can have in 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.
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?
Philosophy is a discipline concerned with big questions: ideas of good and evil, problems of knowledge, the existence of a God, and free will, to name a few. Not for the faint of heart, this class examines 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 and 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.
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 your classmates’ 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. 
Writing in College
Whether composing lab reports, business presentations, literary analyses, or e-mails to professors, writing will play an important role in your college education. 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. In it, students will become acquainted with writing and reading in a variety of contexts, become better readers and editors of their own work, and develop the critical communication skills necessary for college work. Students will be introduced to many of the genres required for higher education, including rhetorical and critical analysis, research, and reflective writing, and they will received personalized feedback on their work. Students will be engaged as writers and leave better prepared for success in a wide range of writing situations at the university level.

Afternoon 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.
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, develop skills in the creative writing genre of your choice, while exploring important craft issues such as dialogue, imagery, narrative structure, word choice, theme, and storytelling technique through focused writing exercises. Hold a program-wide reading and present your best pieces for the Pre-College community.
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.
Farm to Table
“Tell me what you eat and I’ll tell you who you are.” Food, as much as politics, literature, or music is an expression of our identity as a society. It shows what we value, and how we relate to each other. This course looks at the history and evolution of food culture in America and around the world and focuses on the farm to table movement happening in the Pioneer Valley. Topics discussed range from fast food to the Slow Food and localvore movements, from changes in farming techniques and the rise of the supermarket to debates about GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) and what it means to be “organic.” Throughout the course, students are challenged to actively think about one of the most automatic instincts in life: the impulse to feed ourselves. While this is not a cooking class, there will be several excursions to meet local farmers, chefs, and food producers, and students will have an opportunity to get “dirt under their fingernails” through work with a local food bank farm. A willingness to try new tastes and to investigate the underpinnings of our culinary heritage is a must.
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 online 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.
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. 
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 $599 supplemental fee for this course.
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 and college visits to unique course-generated projects.

Enjoy an afternoon of soccer on the quad.

Enjoy an afternoon of soccer on the quad.

A Typical Class Day  Morning seminars meet from 9-11am. Make sure you wake up with enough time 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 going 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.

“My daughter gained confidence in herself, enjoyed a greater level of independence, made great friends, and enjoyed her workshops very much. This is an amazing program run by amazing people.”

— Francine Ianetti, mother of Emily Dean, Randolph High School, Randolph, NJ

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 the 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.

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. International students and students not from the northeastern United States may visit New York City on the Sunday of this second weekend.

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.

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’ 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 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.

“The program was very carefully designed with a passion for details and I really enjoyed the range of trips and excursions we did. The classes I took gave me a new perspective on learning and on what a college environment is like.”

— Charlotta Sophie Jacobsen, Katharineum School, Lübeck, Germany


The Pre-College at Amherst College program is directed by Hannah Gilkenson. 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!

Hannah Gilkenson

Hannah Gilkenson: University of Michigan, B.S., Anthropology, Zoology. Before joining Putney as the ecology instructor on a Foundations program, Hannah had spent six years studying monkeys in Costa Rica. She has led programs in Costa Rica, Peru, Ecuador, Australia, New Zealand, and Fiji. She has also served as the Director of the Foundations Costa Rica and the Director of our Pre-College program at Amherst College. Hannah oversees programs in Australia, New Zealand, and Fiji and coordinates curriculum and hiring for our Pre-College Programs. A Vermont native, Hannah loves hiking with her husband, son, and dog, snow shoeing in the winter, camping in the Green Mountains and, of course, traveling.

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.