Vassar College, NY

This Is (Not) A Man’s World


Education is something that tends to evolve (or, at least, it should). Numerous educational institutions across the United States have a long history dating back to the very founding of the nation. However, because of the fact that they were founded so long ago, it can be said that the majority of those institutions were predominantly reserved for young men. In other words, the equality of the sexes was not the dominant criteria when it came to deciding the most desirable student populations back in the day. That being said, there were some schools that were founded as women’s colleges, regardless of the fact that they became co-educational at some point during their existence. Vassar College is one of those few.

Located in the town of Poughkeepsie, New York, Vassar College was founded by Matthew Vassar, a famous merchant and brewer, in 1861 as a women’s college. As aforementioned, the school became coeducational in 1969. Today, it is a private, coeducational liberal arts college that features a flexible curriculum designed to promote a breadth of studies and offers B.A. degrees in more than 50 majors.

Conformity Stops At The Gates


More than 1,000 acres (400 ha) belong to the Vassar College campus, and more than 100 buildings can be found on it, not to mention a National Historic Place as well as two National Historic Landmarks. The buildings range in style from International to Collegiate Gothic, and were designed by a number of prominent architects over the course of the college’s history, such as Cesar Pelli, Marcel Breuer, Eero Saarinen, and James Renwick, Jr. Additionally, Francis R. Allen designed Vassar College’s Thompson Memorial Library, which is a Federal Depository Library. The Vassar College campus also boasts a designated arboretum, which contains a 400-acre (160 ha) ecological preserve, a native plant preserve and more than 200 species of trees.

Vassar College is widely characterized as one of the more prestigious liberal arts schools on the East Coast. The rigorous academic environment is geared to learning for its own sake; however, the students of this school are anything but conformist. In terms of post-graduation, the close-knit alumni network is definitely an advantage.

Far From Just Fun And Games


Obsessing over their school is a typical characteristic of Vassar College undergrads. Quite understandably – participating in discussions in small classes led by renowned professors and walking through beautiful Gothic architecture to get there tends to have that effect. A brief peek at the atmosphere at this highly selective college situated in upstate New York might give out the impression that it is very relaxed. However, there is more to it than meets the eye. In fact, most students take their academic pursuits very seriously and hail from upper-middle class families, contrary to the “liberal hippie” stereotype. Vassar College has even introduced grants instead of loans for students whose families make less than $60,000 a year in an attempt to increase economic diversity.


The most popular majors are English and Economics, although the English department is notoriously picky when it comes to selecting students to be admitted to senior-level classes. There is no such thing as a dry weekend at Vassar College, and that has much to do with the fact that everyone knows each other on the relatively small campus. Because the student population is comprised from significantly more women than men, the dating culture at the school is casual for the most part. When it comes to sports, men’s baseball and women’s rugby are very popular at Vassar College, even though sports teams don’t really dominate the college scene. Spending time on a typical Sunday for the majority of students at the school (before writing a typical 20-page paper or cramming in the library) mainly revolves around having brunch in one of the quaint Poughkeepsie eateries.

Vassar College – Liberal In More Ways Than One


To describe Vassar College as the typical pricey, cookie-cutter liberal arts school would be a mistake. It’s the students who are responsible for Vassar’s recognition, despite the fact that the school has an impressive alumni network, small classes and breathtaking Gothic architecture. At Vassar, one will easily encounter academically smart students who are, at the same time, involved in a plethora of extracurricular activities. There are students who study Chinese, but are amazing jugglers, who study psychology and also direct plays and even who study physics and DJ at the same time. One look at the list of Vassar College’s student clubs is enough to prove that – everyone is involved in at least a few organizations, ranging from a Quidditch team to an insanely popular juggling circus troupe.

There is no fooling around when it comes to Vassar academics, however – they are a top priority at the school. Students always juggle a busy workload with their extracurriculars, regardless of the fact that there is no core curriculum and overt competition is unheard of. The male to female ratio is uneven at 2:3, and that’s not surprising – after all, Vassar College was, as aforementioned, founded as an all-women’s college. The great majority of students are politically aware or active, with a very strong LGBTQ presence on campus. All in all, someone who is conservative by nature would likely feel uncomfortable at Vassar because both the faculty and students are very liberal.

Definitely Contrasts Stereotypes

It is said that the top qualities that made Vassar College’s reputation are exceptional professors, unusual course options and its acclaimed English and science programs. Students tend to meet professors for dinner to discuss class work, and this is nothing uncommon. In fact, these relationships are fostered by small class sizes. Ample flexibility is something students have plenty of when it comes to academic requirements. They need to complete a semester of intermediate language or a year in an intro class, a quantitative course (not necessarily math), and a freshman writing course. Requirements for the individual majors tend to be pretty heavy precisely because there are few distribution requirements. Vassar College’s Field Work Office provides undergrads with a range of work experience options both at Poughkeepsie and on campus, since NYC internships are only a two-hour ride away on the Metro North Railroad.

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