Colgate vs Wesleyan vs Vassar

My daughter needs help deciding between these 3 schools. She feels like she will not fit in with the typical Colgate student (she does not want to join Greek life and is not athletic) and does not fit in with the typical Vassar/Wes student (she is not artsy or “crunchy granola”). However, she knows that she will be able to meet students at any college who are similar to her and find a friend group. She is a quiet girl who likes to spend weekends watching movies or playing board games with friends.

She is interested in being premed and wants to go to a college that is not cut-throat and where there is no grade deflation

College cost is the same since we are full pay.

Which college would be best for her? Thank you!

I have no idea about the other schools but my daughter is currently a sophomore at Colgate. She is not part of Greek life, nor any sororities or sports team. She is part of several clubs/groups though. She currently works on campus as a community leader (RA for some schools) and also tutors other students (paid position). She loves the small school community and the smaller student to professor ratio. She declared her major at the end of February this year which is wha the school does. Students wait until the end of sophomore year to declare majors. Her major is in CS. Colgate has an advisory committee that helps students navigate their chosen careers. From what Ive heard they have a very strong science department.

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You might find this recent thread helpful. My son was trying to get a better sense of Vassar and spoke to a number of current/recent students.

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My daughter is finishing her first year at Colgate. She is not interested in Greek life and isn’t an athlete, either. She has a fairly small friend group and has had a hard time meeting people because of Covid-related restrictions. She was accepted into one of the Sophomore Residential Seminars for next year and is hoping the fall brings opportunities to feel a connection to the community. If there is some more semblance of a normal college experience next year, your D should be able to find her people at Colgate.

FWIW, we visited and toured Vassar but she ended up not applying.

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For thoughts on Colgate and Vassar in the context of comments on other liberal arts colleges, see reply #7: Struggling with D21's List. ED & ED2: Amherst, Hamilton, Wellesley, Vassar. As you have described your daughter, Vassar might make the best fit for her, in my opinion.

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While there are a lot of artsy kids at Vassar, there are plenty of students there who aren’t. My D doesn’t like the party scene and prefers smaller groups, watching movies and baking with her friends. She has loved being a part of the Quidditch team even though she’s not sporty. The academic environment is collaborative. Good luck!

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This is a tough call. So much of one’s personal life comes down to chance. Fate. Who is assigned to you as a roommate(s). Who you’re in a few classes with. Chance meetings. It doesn’t necessarily have to do with what the overall student body is like.

I gave a gut feeling that Wesleyan could be a good fit for your daughter. Bur more important, what is her gut feeling?

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Genuine question: what does “crunchy granola” mean in real life? Is there a difference between “crunchy granola” and “social justice warrior”? Is there a difference between either of those and generically politically active kids?

Also, what does “artsy” mean? The Vassar Collegekid’s boyfriend loved the Steinways (there’s one in every dorm) and played it regularly even after he stopped taking lessons (mostly, but not only classical). Is that artsy? Because he also read a lot, loved running out to the Vassar farm and back, and played a lot of boardgames with the Collegekid. He is now doing a Math PhD at Cornell, and is not what I think of as ‘artsy’.

I just don’t see how what I think of as ‘artsy and crunchy granola’ aligns with kids who are intellectually engaged with their academics (the most common majors at Vassar are Experimental Psych, Econ and Biological Sciences), exploring new subject areas, working hard and going on to jobs / grad school. Fwiw, Vassar and Wes both have really high success rates for med/law/other.

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Unfortunately her gut is not telling her anything. Due to the COVID situation, we could only do college campus drive throughs and most of the campuses were empty when we went. She is getting most of her information from the internet and feels that she will be an outlier in any of these colleges. She is definitely not into heavy partying and drinking (Colgate). Vassar and Wesleyan seem very politically active, while she quietly supports causes. Also she is preppy and not "crunchy granola’ (never heard of that description before this website). I agree with you when you say life comes down to chance. I just want to help her make the right decision so that she can have a happy college experience.

Thank you for your response. I actually had never heard of “crunchy granola” before this website and had to look up the definition. I would describe my daughter as more preppy though. She wants to choose the college where she feels she will most fit in and we are running out of time…

Based on your first sentence that she feels she won’t fit in at Colgate, I’d take it off the table. The clock is ticking. Students can agonize forever on the pros and cons and at some point they just need to be ruthless and eliminate. Forget Colgate.

I don’t think either Wes or Vassar are crunchy granola, but there are possibly a few more of those types at Vassar.

Read this current thread on Wes and Vassar.

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40+ years ago I worked at the Friendly’s that was within walking distance of the Vassar campus. There wasn’t granola on the menu, but it seemed like every Vassar student that came ordered the Mocha Chip!

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It occurs to me that both Princeton Review and the Fiske Guide to Colleges survey students and include student comments in their essays on each college. If you haven’t read them, they’re worth checking out to see how the students who responded to the survey described their campus and their school mates. If you have read them, it still might be worth going back to them at this point.

The beauty of Princeton Review is that a lot of the stuff in their book is on line. If you Google Princeton Review + the name of the college you’re interested in, a page for the school will come up. Click on “See what students say” to get the full report of those comments. If you click on “Contact and Visit: Read More”, you’ll get lists under “college experience” of “places students visit” both on and off campus. It may give you some idea of how students spend their time. It also gives you information on the availability of public transit.

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We looked at Vassar and Wesleyan with our D21. Wes was eliminated due to the feeling that the kids there just needed to protest for the sake of it, among other things. The kids at Vassar seemed to be more just who they were, not trying to force beliefs on others. Some had eclectic interests, but our D felt they were accepting of all types. Of the 3, only Vassar had no frats.

We visited Colgate with our older S, and I do think academically it’s on par with the other 2. But, it does have a huge Greek culture, which is why our D wouldn’t consider it. It sounds like your D would have to actively find other things to do, which she probably could, but why go in that direction when she could choose a school without that?

I’m still mourning the loss of Vassar a bit (our D picked another Seven Sisters college).

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My son was also concerned about whether he would fit in at Vassar as someone who is not artsy and not an activist. He spoke to several current/recent students, none of whom were artsy or activists and all were happy at Vassar and all emphasized how accepting people were of differences.

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Princeton Review publishes dozens of quirky “top 20” lists in their book, based on what students told them in the student surveys. You can check them out on line, but here are the lists that each of these schools showed up on:

Vassar

Most Liberal Students

Wesleyan

Least Religious Students
LGBTQ Friendly
Best College Theater
Most Liberal Students
Birkenstock-Wearing, Tree-Hugging, Clove-Smoking Vegetarians
Lots of Hard Liquor
Reefer Madness

Take it for what it’s worth.

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I grew up a few years in Poughkeepsie about ten minutes from Vassar and recall that Friendly’s. Crunchy granola may be more applicable out here in CA than upstate NY! The one thing about Vassar is that the campus doesn’t really integrate with the city, if that’s a factor, it’s pretty walled off. However if you don’t want to join Greek life or get into athletics, it’s probably the best choice of the three. I didn’t attend there so it’s not like I have a bias in the colleges, but it does sound like the right one. Good luck!

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If we’re looking at Princeton Review, it lists Colgate at #9 for Party School (# 10 for most Hard Liquor).

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I can’t really say what crunchy granola means. I don’t really use the term, but if I hear it my uninformed mind thinks of people in Colorado or Oregon who wear Birkenstocks. :smile: However, when I used the term “artsy” to describe the students at Vassar, I guess I meant kids who are very engaged in their academics and also have a passion or interest in pursuing artistic endeavors (music, drama, stage production, writing, singing, dance), often not related to their majors. There are plenty of kids at Vassar not engaged in those things, but it seems that many are. I’m glad my D was able (pre covid) to be involved in several aspects of performing arts even though she is an English major. Her boyfriend plays the drums and is in a couple of bands for fun.

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I will also add that for the students who aren’t into artistic pursuits or don’t like performing, I still think it’s fun to see their peers doing it. There are always performances going on or bands playing (or check out Barefoot Monkeys on Youtube), and it’s nice that there are many options for attending and watching their friends.

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