Located in Amherst, Massachusetts, Hampshire was opened in 1970 as an experiment in alternative education, in association with four other colleges in the Pioneer Valley: Amherst College, Smith College, Mount Holyoke College and the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Together they are now known as the Five Colleges, or the Five College Area.
Hampshire is widely known for its alternative curriculum, focus on portfolios rather than distribution requirements, and reliance on narrative evaluations instead of grades and GPAs. In some fields, it is among the top undergraduate institutions in percentage of graduates who enroll in graduate school. Fifty-six percent of its alumni have at least one graduate degree and it is ranked 30th among all US colleges in the percentage of its graduates who go on to attain a doctorate degree (notably first among history doctorates).