Impressions Of
Vassar College

Academic Experience

Female English Major C/O 2022

Is there anything you feel the English Department does especially well or poorly?
The English department is incredible. They don’t give grades until the end of the semester. They want to focus on students writing to receive criticism or feedback, and less so writing to achieve a grade. Some people don’t like it because they like knowing where they stand, but if that’s the case you can talk to your professor to see what grade range you’re in. Any paper I get back I only get comments on, not a grade, so it allows me to hone in on those comments to improve my writing skills. The English department is very accessible to all students, and the range of classes is really exciting and engaging. It’s certainly not perfect and can be overwhelming, but I’ve really enjoyed myself thus far.

How would you describe the learning environment? Do you think it’s particularly competitive or collaborative?
It’s more collaborative. Since it’s an open curriculum here you’re able to take whatever you want, and you’ll mainly be with students who want to be in that class. Everyone is excited to learn in my experience. I’d say it’s refreshing because my high school was extremely competitive, and this is the first time I fit into a non-competitive environment. It’s very individualistic and I’ve never had anyone ask about the grade I got on a test. During midterms and finals, you’ll see a bunch of study groups on campus and everyone is there to support you.

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

Can you describe the weekly coursework for your major?
I took 1 or 2 classes a semester for my major. It’s not super easy work, but it was a lot more essay writing than test taking. The American Studies major is cool because you have half your classes in the American Studies department and then the other half in other departments that you choose. There’s lots of flexibility. The work is mostly readings, class discussions, and writing essays. Because I got certified to teach, almost all the classes I took were requirements either for my major or certification, so I didn’t have a lot of academic freedom.

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.

Social Opportunities

Female Environmental Studies Major C/O 2022

What kind of weekend activities or nightlife do you like to participate in?
There are always things on campus to go see and do. Tonight, I’m going to a dance showcase, yesterday I went to a choir performance for my friend, and then the night before we went to a musical that was written, directed, and produced by students. They’re good about providing entertainment on campus because there is quite a lack of it in Poughkeepsie. Vassar’s not really a party school by any means, so I wouldn’t recommend it to people who want to go out all the time. Dorm room parties are a thing where like twenty people will hang out in a room.

What nights of the week do you regularly go out?
I’m not a homebody, but I don’t really care that much about the party scene. I go out maybe once or twice a week and hop from party to party. Acapella groups host a lot of parties and different artsy organizations also throw parties. The sports teams throw parties but I don’t go to them because they can be exclusive. There is also a place called The Mug [in the College Center] where they have parties hosted by organizations, like, the Caribbean Club just had a dance there on Friday.

Female English Major C/O 2022

What kind of weekend activities or nightlife do you like to participate in?
I usually go to house parties located off campus. There’s something called dollar beer night every Thursday at a bar off campus that some people frequent. I don’t go out that often, usually once or twice a week. For here that’s normal, but compared to other schools I know it can be more. I didn’t want that, especially because I didn’t want to feel pressured to go out each night. I love that I don’t feel like I need to be under the influence of anything to enjoy the nightlife here. I go to most of the comedy shows, which are great.

What’s an alternative to going to a party or a bar that you like for a night out?
I’ve never been on campus for a weekend when there isn’t something going on in terms of a concert or a comedy show. Vassar has a club called Big Night In that puts on some sort of communal activity. This weekend is Founder’s Day, which is a big day of partying here. Big Night In is going to Six Flags instead so if you don’t feel comfortable participating in that culture they will almost always have an alternative to going out.

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.

Campus Culture

Female Environmental Studies Major C/O 2022

How did you meet your closest friends?
We have student fellow groups of eight to twelve freshmen that are basically cared for by a sophomore, and those people are on your hallway. Half of my hallway is my fellow group and the other half is another fellow group. I met my best friend through my fellow group and then most of my other closest friends I’ve met through my classes.

How would you describe the overall social scene?
It’s not very structured. We don’t have any Greek life. It can be kind of cliquey when it comes to sports teams. The dining hall is very much split into one side where all the sports teams eat and then another side is where everyone else eats. People tend to hang out with clubs that they’re a part of, their sports teams, and their fellow groups. For some people, their fellow group is a main source of friends.

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.

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

Female Political Science and Psychology Double Major C/O 2021

What is something a prospective student of color may want to know that we haven’t touched on?
There are a lot of White people and you’re going to be thrown off by it at first. But, there are also a lot of people of color here and we do stick together. If you need a space where you need to be around people of color, Vassar has a lot of those. Ujima was the acapella group I was a part of and that was really nice. I also went to the Multiracial and Biracial Students Alliance, or MBSA, and that really helped me out.

What is something a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
I think they have to go to the cafeteria and try the food because that’s what you’re going to be eating for four years.

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 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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