College consortiums are a unique way to take advantage of the resources of several colleges while still getting the experience of your home institution. The relationships between schools in consortiums vary, but no matter what there are perks and misconceptions. Hopefully this article will help to demystify the world of college consortiums!

The Basics

A consortium is essentially a network of colleges that are geographically close together. They have a partnership of sorts, which allows students to take advantage of the resources of the various institutions, which can include everything from classes to special events.

The Perks

Basically all of the perks of consortiums can be summed up by saying you get the resources of multiple institutions. If you are interested in uncommon classes/majors, this can be extremely beneficial. Furthermore, if you are designing your own major you will have a much easier time finding all of the necessary classes. Something I didn’t immediately appreciate (but now do) is having so many university libraries. At my consortium (the five college consortium) you can request books/material from any of the school libraries and have it delivered to your school library within a day. While this doesn’t sound like a big deal, it can be a life saver for research papers.

Other perks include the potential to join clubs and/or sports teams that you are interested in, even if they are not available at your school. Similarly, you will have the option/ability to attend substantially more events. While you probably won’t go to the other campuses for every performance each year, it can be great when there is a particular cool event happening (for example I went to a Laverne Cox lecture at another school).

Think of the perks as “if (insert home institution) doesn’t have it than I can go to (insert other consortium member) to get (insert whatever ‘it’ is).”

The Misconceptions

I remember when I first committed to attending a school that was a member of a consortium I assumed I would hang out at the other campuses all the time and take classes at them every semester. The reality is that I go to other campuses about once a semester and have taken zero classes anywhere other than my home institution.

The biggest thing that it is easy to forget about is transportation. Even if another consortium member is only 5 miles away, it could be a 40 minute bus ride each way. Having all of these resources is a fantastic opportunity but, it is important to acknowledge that it might not be so practical to be constantly jumping around campuses.

Next, here is a super brief introduction to three college consortiums!

The Five College Consortium

The five college consortium is located in Western Massachusetts (a little over two hours from Boston), it consist of the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Amherst College, Mount Holyoke College, Hampshire College, and Smith College. You can learn more about the consortium here.

The Claremont Consortium

The Claremont Consortium is unique in that the schools are so geographically close to each other. Located in California, the consortium consists of the liberal arts colleges Pitzer College, Claremont McKenna College, Pomona College, Harvey Mudd College, and Scripps College. You can learn more about the consortium here.

The Tri-College Consortium

Located just outside of Philadelphia, the Tri-College consortium consists of the liberal arts colleges Swarthmore College, Haverford College, and Bryn Mawr College.

It is important to note that just because schools aren’t in a consortium doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a lot (if not all of the same perks). It is not uncommon for geographically close institutions to have partnerships and relationships regardless of if they are an official consortium.

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the author

Samantha Linder is a sophomore at Smith College where she is double majoring in neuroscience and art history. Samantha's favorite words include hippocampus, logorrhea, and Benedict Cumberbatch.

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