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Vassar v.s. Macalester

OniLawlietOniLawliet Registered User Posts: 881 Member
edited November 2007 in College Search & Selection
This is probably a strange "v.s." thread to see, as Vassar is most commonly compared with places like Wesleyan, Barnard, Oberlin, etc.

I'm having a really really really tough time deciding on this. I'm considering applying EDII to either Vassar or Macalester, or perhaps doing EDI to Vassar and, depending on the admissions decision, EDII to Macalester. Why ED? Because these are my two top choice schools, and to be honest, I'm not a super competitive applicant. My GC and I have called some of these schools, asking advice on how I should apply in terms of ED v.s. RD, and most seem to suggest that applying ED would be best. Fortunately, my GC knows the dean of admission at Mac fairly well, and has some connections with Vassar.

But ED is a very intense decision to make. I have to be totally sure I'm into a school if I want to apply ED there (and I'm very much "in" to V and M.) Here's my issue, and please excuse any student body labeling I might do here; My observations are based on visits and literature I've read.

It feels to me that both of these schools have a diverse Liberal Arts program. Both have majors that I want (IR, Japanese, Psychology). However, location, feel, and student bodies feel different. Vassar, to me anyway, feels like a place where hipsters revel in their coolness, going to art shows more than sports games, and having perhaps a level of snobbery in their alternative lifestyle. I'm kind of like that. I like indie rock music. And I would totally rather go to an art show opening or a drama performance than a sports game. However, I'm not overly hipster, nor do I always enjoy snobbery.

Macalester is a place with an international focus, ideal location, with more quirky, nerdy, students. People are alternative and hippie like Vassar, but less so with the hipster and snob side. Mac students seem to enjoy one another's nerdy company.

I'm a pretty nerdy guy. I'm also pretty artistic. I love NYC. I like indie rock music. I know what I want to study, I know I want to study abroad...I essentially believe I KNOW WHAT I WANT from my college experience, but cannot decide which will serve me best. Vassar or Mac? I want to be able to be nerdy at Vassar and not be considered "un-cool."

I just want the most accepting, tolerant, laid back environment.

Which of these two can offer me that?

Thanks

Again, i reaally apologize for labeling. Please understand that I'm not at all a superficial person, I am merely trying to keep this in simple terms.
Post edited by OniLawliet on
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Replies to: Vassar v.s. Macalester

  • monydadmonydad Registered User Posts: 7,789 Senior Member
    It doesn't seem that strange to me, My D1 applied to Vassar and Macalester.
    (And Barnard. And Oberlin.)

    Suggest you check that they actually have enough upper-level Japanese courses to satisfy you. D1 was interested in pursuing a particular language there, and found that they didn't offer it beyond the intermediate level; would have had to take courses at U Minnesota or something.

    Surprising to us that this "international focus" did not necessarily translate to robust foreign language offerings.

    Your description wouldn't shock me, Midwest vs. NYC/Northeast could have some ramifications on personality types.

    There are other diferences, of course:

    -Macalester is more of a city school, I think they don't even guarantee on-campus housing beyond a couple years. Whereas Vassar is nearly 2 hours away from NYC, and is a more purely campus-focused situation.

    -It is really cold in Minnesota, generally.

    - Depending on where you live, one or the other of these schools may be a lot more convenient for you to get to. And to get all your belongings back & forth. From where I now live I would not want to drive to Macalester. When D applied it was actually much closer to us than Vassar was. There is also probably a regional aspect to name recognition and on-campus recruiting.
  • momfrommemomfromme Registered User Posts: 2,669 Senior Member
    Both are wonderful schools, but if you want an urban experience with bands easily accessible, I think Mac is superior. There is a strong music (and art and theatre and writing) scene and lots of folks come through the Twin Cities. Of course, Vassar is in the NY orbit. But it is not that close.

    On weather: I would not say it is really cold in Minnesota, generally. Tomorrow is November 1 and the predicted high is 58 degrees. The really cold period includes the time when Mac has a lengthy winter break. February is likely to be very cold, but it starts to warm up by March. Upstate NY is not exactly warm in the winter and Minnesota is sunnier.

    Also, you may want to take a look at this thread http://talk.collegeconfidential.com/showthread.php?t=409336
  • mythmommythmom Registered User Posts: 8,305 Senior Member
    I don't know about the weather at Macalester, but Vassar isn't really in "upstate" NY and does not have severe weather.

    Both these schools sound great. Macalester is a little less competitive for admissions; it helps being a boy a Vassar, so it's a wash there.

    If it makes you feel any better, there are plenty of nerdy kids at Vassar. I wouldn't worry about fitting it.

    If you are not a very competitive candidate please find some safeties you really like. This could be the most important part of the process.
  • world changerworld changer Registered User Posts: 2,503 Senior Member
    As a whole, Vassar is more highly regarded academically, and it seems like you would like it better there (it's more artsy than Mac and just as nerdy. Plus, it's relatively close to NYC, which you claim to love.).
  • monydadmonydad Registered User Posts: 7,789 Senior Member
    All I can tell you is about four years ago when D1 was looking at colleges I looked at historical weather charts (recent years) in Places Rated Almanac, and, IIRC, it was among the "coldness leaders" of all the metro areas in the mainland US; or at least in the areas she was thinking of maybe attending college. Not only the temperatures but the duration of the cold period.

    That did not include data on tomorrow though.

    We were living in a pretty darned cold part of the midwest, and she preferred not to go anyplace even colder than where we were then.

    Interested parties can do their own investigation, we're done for now. Maybe global warming has kicked in for good there now.
  • momfrommemomfromme Registered User Posts: 2,669 Senior Member
    I'm just saying: January and February are the really cold months in MN, but there's no school in January. March in MN is already warming up (unlike Maine which still manages to attract students to its LACs, etc.) MN also has beautiful bright skies in the winter. As I recall, Poughkeepsie (upstate from the metro NY vantage point) has lots of clouds and is certainly colder than NYC.

    For some, weather might matter a whole lot. For some, weather is not going to be a deal breaker, especially if the colder place has more of some thing else the student really wants (like life in a metro area). He can always wear another layer, starting with long underwear.

    They are both good schools - Best of luck!
  • jesperejespere Registered User Posts: 272 Junior Member
    I've lived in MN for almost all my life. I personally don't think its as cold as it once was.
    In the summer it is humid, hot (80's-90's) and infested with mosquitoes.
    Sept and most of October is a transition time, alternating between 50/60 to 70/80. Late October is colder, dipping down to the 40's. I've had many snowy halloweens. It will frost over occasionally.
    November continues this trend and late November/December is the pretty snow. Its stuff you don't mind.
    Then it gets slushy, grey and windy. Its the craptactular wind chill that gets you. (I talked to a student at Mac, he promised me there is heating) Jan and Feb continues with the snow that doesn't stay. There are days when it is 30-40 and people won't wear coats because its warm out (serious...).
    March is 15 weeks of hell. I hate march personally with its cold grey weather. It is not warm, be prepared to have snow storms as late as April 1st.
    April and May are okay with 50-70 degree weather and increasing warm wind.

    I love Mac and with its picturesque trees and campus. I got such an embracing "let's get along" vibe there. its very international midwest.
  • OniLawlietOniLawliet Registered User Posts: 881 Member
    Thanks for all your answers so far! A few more questions...

    I was reading in a college guide written by students that, at Vassar, it is easy to find the tall, lanky kids decked out with their urban outfitters clothing and "New York coolness." I know someone who went to Vassar who described alot of the guys (not so much the girls) being "skinny pale kids."

    You have NO IDEA how much I HATE using stereotypes above. But do you think this level of almost model-like features exists in most Vassar kids? Superficial, perhaps? I'm not a tall lanky type dressing in tight jeans...An issue?

    Though I would doubt it, is there any skiing of any kind to be had at Mac? Can you tell me of some of Mac's eccentricities? Like, weird mac traditions?
  • mythmommythmom Registered User Posts: 8,305 Senior Member
    No, that's a ridiculous characterization of Vassar or a joke. There are all sorts of kids at Vassar. The young men I know there are not like that at all, although I am sure there are those that are.

    Don't over think or worry so much. Find the place you like the best. I bet there will be others like you who like it too.
  • world changerworld changer Registered User Posts: 2,503 Senior Member
    Agreed.

    I have a few friends who go to Vassar, and they absolutely love it. They characterize it as an eclectic, offbeat, intellectual place where the people are nice and everyone gets along really well. The opposite of superficial, really. They gush about the theatre and music and they just love the school community.
  • OniLawlietOniLawliet Registered User Posts: 881 Member
    Hmmm...

    So Vassar is a laid back intellectual place? If so...Then I guess I'll do ED. Plus Vassar is near skiing.

    Oh, one more question about Vassar. Given Vassar's history as previously a women's LAC, is there a persistent feeling of a feminism? Just out of curiosity, how many professors are female?
  • world changerworld changer Registered User Posts: 2,503 Senior Member
    From what I gather, there is a liberal feeling towards women's rights, but I don't think you have to worry about radical, "in your face" feminism. It's an accepting place, and gender relations on campus are good.

    All I could find on faculty is this:
    More than 260 faculty members, virtually all holding the doctorate or its equivalent. All classes are taught by faculty members. The student-faculty ratio is 9:1, average class size, 17. More than 70% of the faculty live on campus or nearby; one or two faculty families live in each residence hall as House Fellows.
    But women's colleges often have a number of male professors, so I'd imagine that the staff is fairly balanced, especially now that Vassar is coeducational.
  • OniLawlietOniLawliet Registered User Posts: 881 Member
    Thanks world changer!

    Further thoughts?
  • mamenyumamenyu Registered User Posts: 1,520 Senior Member
    Why do you want to apply ED to a school you have not seen? You have expressed an interest in a number of excellent schools -- if you have strong academic credentials, you should think twice about locking yourself into any one of them. Applying ED is an advantage, but many of the schools you have mentioned accept 20-30% of applicants.
  • jazzymomjazzymom Registered User Posts: 3,676 Senior Member
    It's pretty even, but according to the data in the 2006-07 CDS, Vassar has more males than females in the faculty. For professors: 47 men, 40 women. Associates: 49 men, 40 women. Assistant: 41 men, 34 women. Instructors: 3 men, 8 women. Lecturers: 14 men, 5 women. I was a bit surprised, thought it would be the other way around.
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