Puzzled about Vassar (and their admissions office)

Fair points. Thanks for the feedback.

I’m a Vassar alum (as is my husband) and my junior son is likely applying next fall. We went on a tour in the fall and also were not allowed into the admissions building. The AO leading our info session wasn’t the best, but our tour guide was great. We only were taken into one dorm but we’d seen one earlier that day (with a friend who is a faculty member) and it had been newly renovated and was beautiful. I actually love the Vassar dorms and their antique-filled parlors with grand pianos and stained glass windows. I much prefer them to most of the shiny non-descript box-like dorms we’ve seen on a lot of other tours (agree about the Skidmore campus with whoever posted about it above). The dorms feel like they’ve seen a lot of history and like stepping back in time. The dining hall far surpasses that of any school we’ve seen with it’s wide open seating options and high ceilings - we all had lunch and it was fantastic. We went into several classroom buildings that also had new modern lecture halls while some felt untouched and beautifully historical. The science building is fantastic. The campus is a mix of styles as well which adds to the charm.
I loved the open curriculum and that fact that I never had to take a math class, even as a STEM major and was free to really explore all that VC had to offer (Art History, Sociology, Geography, Italian!) without having to fulfill strict distribution requirements (we toured Middlebury and those requirements blew me away). I’m sorry you had such a bummer of an experience there but I do think some of it may have been bad weather/tour guide/midterm week bad luck. We keep visiting other LACs on the East Coast to see if any beats Vassar for my son (Middlebury, Bates, Wesleyan, Conn College, Skidmore, etc), and so far, it’s still on top.


This begs the question, which is better, the carefully curated group tour where the college puts all its confidence in the tour guide or the ad hoc self-tour where you go around and rattle locked doors and get up close and personal with the windowsills that need painting? My experience is that kiddo won’t care about the windowsills that need paint. That just sounds like something out of a Progressive Insurance commercial (“How Not to Become Your Parents”.)


Another Vassar parent here, and agree entirely with elena13’s assessment above.


I have no experience with Vassar, specifically (other than growing up in a town nearby and visiting campus on several occasions during my childhood) but if I’m writing the Big Check, the rude experience at admissions (at any college) would definitely put me off - especially if the person was an adult/admissions rep - and I would secretly hope that with all the other schools on your visit list, Vassar would fall to the bottom.

Building condition would be less concerning, unless we’re talking about mold or fire concerns (but then again, I may be desensitized due to mostly touring public universities, most of which have condition issues).

Many prospective students make decisions based on weather/tour experience/sports rankings/food/mood of students they see on the tour/etc.,

Meh. We had a terrible experience at Princeton (crabby lady at the desk who didn’t look up from her knitting, tour guide who clearly didn’t want to be there but was a development/legacy admit and didn’t like the school nor did she know anything about the science programs) but that isn’t why DS didn’t apply.


Keep in mind that once decisions are completed your child will have nothing more to do with the admissions department.

However if the OP was not excited about Vassar there are plenty of other wonderful colleges to focus on.


My son is going to Vassar next fall (he got in ED). He is a straight, quirky, very compassionate kid, who was looking for an open-minded campus (he has a lot of LGBTQ+ friends). He is not into sports or partying (and affirmatively preferred a school with no Greek life). He loved the campus, including all the trees (he loves nature), the size and the vibe. Like for most of our college visits, we attended the info session, but then skipped the formal tour and just wandered around ourselves. It was the top of the list for him from the beginning. My son is the youngest of 8 kids, so I’ve done a LOT of college visits. I always loved Vassar, but none of the other kids decided to apply. I’m very comfortable that he will be very happy there. (FYI, we only live an hour away, which is by far the closest college of all our kids, so I will definitely appreciate the shorter drive!)


The trees were a huge selling point for my D as well. She wrote about them in her why vassar essay (along with the Cornaro window in the library which we’ve since learned is mentioned by almost everyone - so much for unique :rofl:). But she loves the trees and walks in the nearby reserve regularly. Congrats to your son - as I mentioned unthread my D is very happy there.


Current Vassar parent here again. There is something enchanting about Vassar. Never tire of exploring the campus when I visit. Some of the dorms sure could use updates, esp. Lathrop, but the grounds of the college, the architecture, and those trees really are a delight.


When I make donations to the school (they just had a fundraiser in Feb that was a competition between the classes, which I didn’t really care for) I usually say to put the $ towards faculty needs or student scholarships. Sometimes I select the “Vassar’s greatest needs” . I consider faculty and student needs more important than a coat of paint. JMO


Unfortunately, some housing needs more than just paint but my child was fine there.

My younger kid is in a very fancy dorm, but probably would have attended Vassar if admitted.


Since this doesn’t get mentioned much, visitors may want to know that one of Vassar’s most prominent trees, which appears out in front of the library, is a hybrid known as a London plane.


I’m sorry that you got barred from the admissions building @SnootBooper ! I wish those things didn’t affect us so much, because as someone mentioned above, unless your student becomes a tour guide, admissions will have no effect on their college life.

But they do affect us! When we walked into the Gettysburg admissions office on a wintry day, we were greeted with smiles and the offer of hot drinks. The woman at the desk said to S24, “You must be Son’sName. What a great name!” Such a small thing, yet I’m sure it’s part of why Gettysburg remains on his list despite the fact that he doesn’t love the rural location, and would prefer a school with a less dominant Greek system.

My D19 had a great tour at Vassar. We live 2 hours away, so we spent the weekend. We went to the college’s farm and nature preserve (beautiful), ate at some fun restaurants/cafes and did the walkway over the Hudson. She loved the classic campus. She reached out to a professor about a specific interest and heard right back. She ended up deciding she wanted a bigger school, but it was clear that she would have gotten an excellent education with lots of attention from professors, at Vassar. So, I think you could have gotten an initial, very negative impression from an admissions employee, which then colored your visit.

However, a student can only go to one school, and it looks like you’ve had a warm welcome at a lot of schools already!


Yes, my son’s room this year (in Lathrop) looks like it hasn’t been touched since the building was built. Much worse than anything I saw in college in the last millennium. But it doesn’t seem to bother my son–put a colorful rug on the scraped-up and heavily dinged wood floor and some nice lighting. He likes being close to the dining hall and having recently renovated bathrooms.


For anyone who would like to see absolutely gorgeous views of the Vassar campus (obviously enhanced for tv) check out the HBO show “Sex Lives of College Girls”.


Current sophomore son at Vassar - loves it.

Admissions/tours at Vassar are more hit and miss than most similar colleges, I think. Several factors: (1) the admissions building is too small, has some issues, and thus even pre-COVID they would try to move crowds to nearby auditoriums - no capacity; (2) all tour guides are work-study, it’s a job, not the first choice for some, and some students are clearly not as enthusiastic about touring as one might hope, others are excellent. Where I was an undergrad, all tour guides were volunteers who just loved leading tours… (3) For some reason (proximity to the city? beautiful campus?) Vassar seems to get a lot of casual tourers, and that can wear on the staff; (4) agree with post above, Vassar does not seem like a “hard-sell” school.


Thank you for everyone’s perspective. This is all very helpful.


Hey everyone, I wanted to reply as a current Vassar sophomore given that I’m using these buildings every day and am pretty involved on campus!

The admissions building is tiny (too small to fit many sessions), and right now all of the admissions staff are cramming to accept our next class. Vassar’s next big building project is a fancy new Admissions and Career Education Center – should be finished and open while your kid is in college. I’ve also not been particularly impressed by the friendliness of our admissions staff, but you don’t deal with them much after coming here, haha. I don’t think that any culture of our admissions office is reflective of a larger culture.

On friendliness of students – it totally matters, and I’m sorry you came on a dull day! I find Vassar students to be super, super friendly and genuinely kind. There are totally rhythms where stress levels are rising and falling though, and the colder, grayer days rub off. You also have to be in the right places at the right times – for example, hundreds of students go through Main for lunch and to meet up right after classes – 11:45, 1:15, 2:45, and are all talking, eating together, and whatnot. Peak dining hours at our dining hall are also bustling. There are totally ebbs and flows of energy throughout the day, and since almost all of the classes are starting and ending at specific times (like 12:00-1:15), if you walk around from 12-1, you’ll not catch everyone on the move, I suppose.

The last couple days, as we return from Spring Break, everything has been busy. The weather has been kinda nice and people are throwing frisbees, eating outside, biking and skating, reading in the grass, etc.

I live in Cushing. The rooms themselves aren’t grand, but I like my room, and the building itself is gorgeous. Every night, there are between 20-40 people in the Cushing common rooms from 8-1. Every night, there are people that play piano, people that play ping pong with friends, people that cook in our kitchen, and a couple dozen people that are studying in groups with friends, either reading or working together on chem or whatnot. There are people laughing almost all the time… the vibes are good. The house team puts on events every week and there are study breaks painting flower pots or making boba. Believe me, we’d all love fancier dorms and AC during the couple of hot weeks in August, but honestly I find the culture to be much more important, and my experience with the culture has been great.

In general, there are always far too many things going on for all of us to go to, and tons of robust student orgs. I think that there are still some ways that we’re recovering culturally from the pandemic (like my impression is that the campus culture has become more insular, for example), but my impression is that most colleges are dealing with this.

Some buildings, like the Bridge, are quite fancy, and others could indeed use updates. I’m not sure renovating the buildings to make them more fancy is a top priority right now - and I like most of their higher priorities.

And on the student newspaper… haha… they’re not going through their best era right now. Some of the people are very serious, and some are just trying to make people laugh.

Sorry to have rambled – in general, my exp at Vassar has been wonderful. Hopefully some of this contextualized what you were asking about. I’m sorry that you all had a bad visit… if there’s anything else you’re wondering about, I’d be happy to offer thoughts!


We had an official tour last month and it was wonderful. After the tour ended, we had a question for admissions and tried to go in the office, and we were met at the door and told we couldn’t come in. They had someone outside to answer our question. So it might just be they do not want a bunch of people in there. The building didn’t look very big.
The students who gave us our tour were wonderful and seemed like my daughter’s kind of people, so we are really hopeful that she gets in as it went from just on her list to #1 after that visit. She actually said she wished we had made the trip to see it last summer so she would have known to apply ED. We do not live close.