Impressions Of
Vassar College

Academic Experience

Female Political Science and Psychology Double Major C/O 2021

How would you describe the learning environment? Do you think it’s particularly competitive or collaborative?
I wouldn’t say that Vassar is competitive at all. In Psychology, it can be more individual work and it can seem hard to reach out to people if you don’t know them. Political Science is definitely more collaborative. It’s mostly discussion-based classes so you get to know the class pretty well.

Do you think people are open to multiple schools of thought in the classroom?
Yes, for the most part. Because Political Science classes are discussion-based, I think you can have your opinion, say it, and feel good about it. I think a lot of the teachers have the same way of teaching and thinking about political science unless you find the special professors. Usually, those professors are more on the political theory side of things. Most professors try to represent both sides of the argument but Vassar’s a pretty liberal school so I think it can be hard for students to really digest both sides of the argument.

Female American Studies Major C/O 2017

Did you especially like or dislike anything about your major’s department? Did they do anything especially well or poorly?
I loved being an American Studies major. I thought the flexibility was really good because it let you get really deep into what you were interested in. The American Studies professors were really good because they pulled from many different departments.

How would you describe the learning environment?
It was very discussion based. There was, especially in the core classes, a lot of freedom to focus in on something you were interested in. It was cool because you could focus your papers on what you wanted to focus it on, so people weren’t writing the same papers, they were writing on things they wanted to.

Female History Major C/O 2017

Can you describe the weekly coursework in your major?
It’s a ton of reading. We’ll have about 3 essays over the course of the semester that got larger as we went along. History’s known as a tougher major at Vassar. You’d have a reading, a response you have to post before class, and you have to be prepared to speak on the reading in class. History does more tests than other majors that are like it. There are final exams and some classes have 1 or 2 tests in a semester.

Did you especially like or dislike anything about your major’s department? Did they do anything especially well or poorly?
The class size was great, a lot of them were smaller than the average. The history professors are tough but it’s good because it pushes your writing skills. They’re a tougher grading department but I enjoyed it because it pushed us all to be better writers. It’s mostly discussion-based classes and a lot of professors try to engage students in class. There were rarely lecture style. [The average class size is 17 students and the student-faculty ratio is 8:1.]

How would you describe the learning environment? Do you think it’s particularly competitive or collaborative?
I think it depends on your social circle and your major. I think history’s pretty competitive. I think it was a more competitive department in the humanities and social sciences at Vassar. Overall, I felt the environment at Vassar is politically engaged and intellectually curious. I felt most of my conversations more about the course material than what your GPA is.

Social Opportunities

Female Political Science and Psychology Double Major C/O 2021

How happy are you with the weekend options at Vassar? Is there anything you would change if you could?
Sometimes when you want to party it can be disappointing because you don’t know where to go or you go to one place and it’s not the vibe that you want it to be. I wish there were more events happening all around, but it’s a small school.

How has being LGBT influenced your nightlife experience? Is there an LGBT nightlife scene on campus?
I mean Vassar is a pretty gay place, which is great. That was one of the reasons I was into it. When you’re out, you’ll see a lot of lesbian couples out and about and that’s really nice to see as a bisexual woman. It’s nice to not feel like you’re the only one. People will not assume that you’re straight here, which is super cool.

Male Environmental Studies Major C/O 2021

What kind of weekend activities or nightlife do you like to participate in?
I like to go out. I’d say we are lacking in nightlife. On weekends I end up going to a decent amount of off-campus parties. Off-campus parties are most common, but different groups of people have different types of parties. Most of the people who I talk to agree that the administration could do more to have a more consistent social life like other schools have with stuff like themed houses where there is an intentional community and is also a place where people could throw parties. Parties are held at the Townhouses, or “TH’s,” and the Terrace Apartments, or “TA’s,” if they’re on campus. There are off-campus houses that host parties a couple of blocks away.

How happy have you been with the nightlife at Vassar? Is there anything you would change if you could?
I think there should be better and more consistent parties. I’m happy with the nightlife in that it’s not dominated by frat culture and it doesn’t feel like a big deal to go out or get really dressed up for. But, I wish there were more parties that included more people of diverse interests in different groups around campus. There are certain groups that never mingle with certain other groups based on interests.

Female American Studies Major C/O 2017

What kind of weekend activities or nightlife do you like to participate in?
I would go out Friday and Saturday night, and occasionally Thursday night. We’d usually just go to whatever was happening that night. Most of the party scene is in dorms, senior housing, or at an off-campus house. Parties are either smaller parties where the door is locked and it is obvious if you were invited or weren’t, or it’s an open party and is a free for all. Most of the big parties are at senior housing. [About 98% of students live on campus.]

Campus Culture

Female Political Science and Psychology Double Major C/O 2021

How would you describe the overall social scene?
There’s definitely a divide between athletes and non-athletes at Vassar. The only athletes I know are through clubs that I do, otherwise, I don’t really see them. I think clubs somewhat determine your friends at Vassar, but they aren’t the be-all-end-all because club events aren’t very prominent and aren’t exclusive. We don’t have fraternities and sororities and I don’t think anything takes the place of that sort of social scene. It can be kind of cliquey, but after the first year you can easily break that. Early on people have their friend groups and those can be pretty regional, like the California people will stick together and the New York people will stick together, but later on that goes away.

How do you like the size of Vassar in terms of undergraduate enrollment? How has it impacted your experience? [Vassar has about 2,450 students.]
It’s very small, so if you want to avoid someone you can’t, which can be weird. It’s nice because you really get to know everyone in your classes and who you live with but it can be frustrating when you’re trying to go out and you see the same people everywhere and you end up going to kind of the same party every weekend.

Male Environmental Studies Major C/O 2021

How would you describe the overall social scene?
The athletes absolutely have their own social scene here. If you’re not part of that you don’t see them. I see them around but I’ve never been to one of their parties. I don’t think Vassar is dominated by any one scene socially, and it doesn’t feel like there are strict groupings, but people tend to stick with what they know. It’s also a really small school so a lot of people know a lot of other people, so maybe they don’t hang out with certain groups but they’ll say hi walking around campus or talk at a function.

How do you like the size of Vassar in terms of undergraduate enrollment? [There are about 2,450 students at Vassar.] 
I like it a lot. It’s the same size as my high school, which is kind of funny for me. I like having a small school where you feel like you can grasp everything that’s going on here and the opportunities are easy to find. I wanted a small school and I really like the size. I’d maybe add a few hundred people if I were to change anything, but the size feels great.

Female American Studies Major C/O 2017

How did you meet your closest friends?
We all lived in the same dorm freshman year. That’s one of the biggest ways to make friends because you live in the dorms together for multiple years.

How would you describe the overall social scene?
There’s a huge majority of people that are very liberal and people that don’t fit into that have a hard time at Vassar. Vassar is pretty intolerant of conservative views. Generally, people at Vassar are very nice and accepting, but there tends to be, like any place, the hipper people and the less hip people. Everyone is still kind to each other. A social divide is the athletes and non-athletes. Athletes at Vassar are friends with people on their team and that’s their core group of friends.

Poughkeepsie, NY

Pros of

  • “You can get to New York City pretty easily by train.” [It is about 2-hours away.]
  • “There is a ton of nature that is close by and we have an Outing Club that is pretty devoted to going to places like the Catskills and other stuff. You can get out into nature easily if you want.”
  • “Having to think about the relationship of an elite liberal community and a town that has come disparity socioeconomically is a positive thing for students to think about. It impacts some students to the point they choose to have a positive impact on the community by volunteering.” [Poughkeepsie has a poverty rate of about 23%.]

Cons of

  • “It’s not a very accessible city, you need a car to access pretty much everything.”
  • “Within the city of Poughkeepsie there’s not that much to do that’s close to Vassar, especially on the weekends. There’s nothing you can walk to like bars or anything like that.”
  • “It’s not your idea of a picturesque college town.”

Advice for Prospective Freshmen

Male Environmental Studies Major C/O 2021

What is something you wish you knew about Vassar before entering as a transfer?
Vassar has this reputation for being a really liberal, inclusive campus. I wish I knew that sometimes people’s interest in social issues was driven by a desire for social capital on campus and sometimes it doesn’t come from the most authentic place. People don’t necessarily get involved in a cause, but they will voice their opinions about them very loudly. They are opinions that I share and I probably agree with them on what they’re voicing, but there are people who will not actually do the work to help their view, they will just voice them to fit the mold of what a Vassar student is supposed to be.

What is something a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
Go into Ely hall because it’s a beautiful building that I think you will miss.

Female History Major C/O 2017

What is something you wish you knew about Vassar before you entered as a freshman?
I feel like most of the things I found out were good. I guess the political liberalism is something people should know. The dance program is really good and that was a surprise for me. It’s big and well established. There are a lot of good dancers on campus. The level of academic engagement is unique. It was nice to be surrounded by people that were into talking about classes. It’s a school where people care about what they’re taking and care about politics and what’s going on with the world. I think a lot of really cool people go to Vassar.

Female Religion Major C/O 2017

What is something you wish you knew about Vassar before you entered as a freshman?
You do need a car. It didn’t bother me much while I was there, but they tell you there are all of these things to do around the school but you need to find your own way there.

What is something a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
Explore the campus as thoroughly as you can. There are running trails that I didn’t know about until later on and all these little nooks and crannies in the dorms and library. There’s also so much stuff going on all the time, like concerts and performances, so maybe seeking out what’s going on on-campus is good advice.

Reasons to attend and not to attend Vassar College

To Attend

  • “Vassar teaches you how to think and how to write. If you want it, there is a structure in place for you to think critically about the world and have a direction coming out of college that isn’t just getting a job or the to the next step, it’s much more intentional.”
  • “The arts community is really strong.”
  • “Classes are really small, so if you like to talk you really get to talk. You get to talk to all of the students and build a good relationship with your professor.” [The average class size is 17.]
  • “I think it can deepen your understanding of social justice issues in a really important way.”
  • “It’s a really pretty campus, which can be so nice. It’s very calming to sit outside and do your homework.”

To Not Attend

  • “Location. For some people I could see it being a problem It’s not a huge city. You don’t have access to a ton of things, and the fact that public transportation isn’t good makes it so you need a car to get places off campus.”
  • “If you don’t like small schools, it’s definitely not going to be your thing. You’re going to know everyone super well. If you like to keep to yourself more or really like to be a social butterfly, you don’t get to meet a bunch of people or stay anonymous, you just get to know the same kind of people very well.”
  • “If you want huge consistent parties, you won’t find that.”
  • “It is a very political activist and social justice-minded student body. The school attracts that kind of person. If you’re not comfortable with that, don’t come. It’s important to know if you want that kind of vibe. Freshman year I knew a girl that was really nice but from a conservative background and she wasn’t comfortable with the sexual identity and gender fluidity.” [In 2018, a student who identifies as a centrist liberal created The Vassar Political Review due to a lack of diversity in campus politics.]”
Notice: Vassar College is a trademark. Induck uses it for descriptive purposes, not to imply affiliation with, endorsement from, or sponsorship by Vassar College.

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