BackgroundInterview Date:April 2019
Gender Identity: Female
Sexual Orientation: Undefined
Graduation Year: 2022
High School Experience: Private school in North Hollywood, California with a graduating class of about 140 students. There was a culture of going to college.
First Generation College Student: No
Minor (Correlate Sequence): Art History and Women’s Studies
Extracurricular Activities: I’m part of the on-campus music club called ViCE. We organize and decide what artists come for the Welcome Back Concert in the Fall, and the spring concert. I’m also part of the fashion magazine on campus called Contrast.
Did any of your extracurricular activities have a particularly big impact on your experience?
I don’t think they’ve had big impacts because they are two of the more relaxed clubs on campus. If anything, they’ve exposed me to people who I’m now good friends with. It’s a nice way to meet new people coming in as a freshman.
Can you describe the weekly coursework for your major?
I have at least two hours of reading each night. In terms of essays, we usually won’t have more than three due per semester, so they’re pretty doable. It gets to a point where if you are in a lot of Humanities classes like I am, there will be a lot of overlap with essay due dates. Things can pile up and I’ll have two essays due within two weeks of each other, but it’s super manageable because I won’t have a lot of reading in addition to that.
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.
Why did you pick your major? Are you happy with your choice?
I’ve always loved English. I was raised in a household that was very based in the arts in terms of theatre and performance, but I didn’t go that path. I was always fascinated by the literature behind the art, and when I got here I had an incredible introduction to Literary Studies with the head of the department. It opened up my eyes to a new form of English that I hadn’t been exposed to.
On and Around Campus
Where have you lived on campus?
Freshman: Davison House with one roommate.
How was transitioning from L.A. to Poughkeepsie, NY?
It wasn’t nearly as difficult as I thought it would be. I was nervous about the transition to the East Coast because every person I met told me I was going to freeze. The direct town of Vassar called Arlington is really sweet, and also Poughkeepsie doesn’t feel nearly as small as I thought it would. There are times where I feel a little stir crazy. If that’s the case, I just take the train into the city. I don’t do that often though, as I love the campus and the people.
Can you describe the level of safety you’ve experienced on and around campus?
Safety is really important here. Security cars are roaming around campus at every hour and you’ll see them a lot. If you ever need a ride somewhere and you see a security car, they can give you a ride.
Pros and cons of being located in Poughkeepsie, NY:
1) It really makes you feel like you’re in an isolated learning community which is something I was looking for.
2) The people of Poughkeepsie are really kind, and I’ve never run into problems with them.
3) If you are from a big city like me, you are forced into a new comfort zone that’s exciting.
1) It is small, and in terms of restaurants there aren’t that many options, but we have a great dining center.
2) It’s not the typical college town.
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.
How happy are you with the weekend options at Vassar? Is there anything you would change if you could?
I’m really happy with them. I went into college not wanting to have a crazy party experience, but I think the social life here is what you make of it. There are some weekends where it feels weird because there won’t be a party going on, but then the next weekend will make up for it. It’s not the normal college going out scene, but that’s something I wasn’t looking for. For me, I think the social life is perfect if you like parties with 100 people max where you know most of the people. It really is what you make of it and odds are, you will be able to find the going out scene you feel most comfortable in. From my experience, the weekend is a time for me to have fun with my friends, whether or not we go out. I will say that a lot of people deny there being a social life/going out scene at Vassar which is not true.
How did you meet your closest friends?
I knew a couple of other kids from L.A. but most of my friends just happened naturally once at Vassar. Some of them I had classes with and realized we had similar interests. Other people, I met on a night out. Vassar offers a lot of resources to meet new people which is really nice. Plus, the upperclassmen are so nice and welcoming.
How would you describe the overall social scene?
I’d say it’s undoubtedly kind of odd just because it’s not what I expected going to college from the media and other friend’s experiences. But it’s odd in the best way. I genuinely feel included in the Vassar community and found my niche with relative ease. The social scene has been very welcoming and accepting thus far. There are a plethora of ways to meet new people and there will most likely always be an on-campus event independent from going out life. There definitely is a clique-feel to a lot of the social scene. Groups tend to stick together but it’s not necessarily exclusive. Something dominant to the social scene, at least in my opinion, is discourse. It is a liberal campus, and I feel that most people share those core liberal views, but everyone is always challenging each other and wanting to talk about modern issues.
How would you describe the LGBTQ+ community on campus, and how strong is it?
It’s really strong, inclusive, and celebrated. I will say that from what I can gather from personal experience and the experience of friends, however you identify will be accepted and respected on this campus.
To what extent do people of different races and sexual orientations mix socially?
I’m a White cisgender woman so there are definite aspects of it that I have not experienced due to privilege, however, I think compared to other colleges, people of different backgrounds mix more. However, I can’t speak to the experiences that people of different races and sexualities have had on campus. [About 56% of students at Vassar are White, 10% are Hispanic, and 4% are Black.]
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 definitely feels small, but I like the feeling of it. On a walk to class from your dorm, you will probably run into at least one person you know which adds a layer of familiarity and community to the campus. I also think it’s conducive to a great learning environment. Most of my classes are less than 15 people, which for a first-year is rare. My biggest class aside from my lecture class is 25 people, and it’s a discussion course. [The average class size is 17.]
Have you used financial aid? If so, how helpful was the office?
I am on financial aid, and my job is part of my work study. I work eight hours a week, so I get $80 a week. Financial Aid is really easy to work with, you can just walk in and if you have a question they can usually see you right then, or you can schedule a meeting. I’m lucky enough to have a mom that does most of my financial aid work, so it could be a different experience for students who do it independently. From my experience, the financial aid office is incredibly helpful and I don’t feel like my socioeconomic status has weight on campus.
Advice for Prospective Freshmen
What is something you wish you knew about Vassar before entering as a freshman?
Things fall into place here. You will find your niche much quicker than you think, so the anxiety beforehand was not all necessary.
What is something a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
Check out the Watering Hole. It’s a short drive off-campus, but if you’re here during the summer it’s really beautiful. When it’s hot, a lot of us will go swimming and hang out. Also check out the Loeb, which is the on-campus art museum. It’s one of the things that makes our art history department so incredible here.
Reasons to attend Vassar:
1) The open curriculum is liberating. You’re given mobility across all of the departments, and it’s a genuine liberal arts education.
2) The people here are very kind and it’s a welcoming environment.
3) The campus is absolutely beautiful, especially in the springtime. I think that adds to a lot of my happiness here.
4) The resources the school gives you in terms of being a student are immeasurable.
5) There’s a heightened level of community because of the location, and the learning environment sticks with you all four years.
Reasons to not attend Vassar:
1) If you do get stir crazy easily or are looking for either a heavy city feel/bigger college
3) If you want a very fluent Greek life or consistently big “college” parties, we don’t have the equivalent of that.
4) No pre-professional majors.