Smith College vs Vassar College

What are some differences between Smith College and Vassar College? I’m trying to decide which one to apply to. Which one is better for biochemistry or molecular biology and minor in psychology. Also I would like the school to have a sizeable Indian population but I can’t find any information about that.


The biggest difference is Smith is for women only and Vassar is co-ed.

I grew a few years in Poughkeepise about ten minutes from Vassar in the early 80s, so it’s anecdotal, and because of IBM, there were quite a few Indians, and Asians as well.

The biggest difference between Smith and Vassar are as follows:

  • Vassar is one school while Smith is part of a consortium
  • Vassar is co-ed while Smith you take classes with men who might join classes at Smith or you go to other campuses for classes that include men
  • Vassar is in a small city that offers fairly easy access to New York City via the MetroNorth commuter railway line. You can get into and out of NYC in a single day, allowing you access to everything the City offers--music, plays, museums, internship networking possibilities, the UN, etc. Poughkeepsie also offers numerous internship opportunities esp if you're interested in psych. In contrast, Smith is in a cute town that offers regional bus service to other small towns, in a network. The extent of museums, internship opportunities, etc. are there but clearly not as fully developed.
  • Politics: Vassar is liberal leaning, but tolerant of other POVs. This is a campus that while it's been known to have some student activism, the culture is less known for political activism than Smith. Smith students are much more politically active.
  • Vassar is known for its strong arts scene alongside it's strong science and academics.
  • Smith has a white clapboard New England style architecture (generally speaking) while Vassar has stately 19th C grand castle-like architecture amid an arboretum. It also has a farm and a small golf course.

As far as academics, both schools would offer you opportunity to do research in your chosen field and both would offer generally excellent academics. You should check the course listings of the departments that interest you. Smith’s consortium will offer more classes at the various other schools–check the Five Colleges (google for it) registration page to find all of the courses offered. Because of the consortium your choice of classes will be larger at Smith than at Vassar. You would need to ask yourself how you would manage the travel time between the campuses. Bus service is free, however. (or used to be, you might want to check this). You might also want to check out Mt. Holyoke as long as you’re looking at Smith. It’s campus is gorgeous and it tends to offer excellent FA/ merit money. Also it recently updated its sciences facilities. You might also want to look at Bryn Mawr – it is part of a consortium with Haverford, Swarthmore and UPenn. BMC offers merit money and the campus is stately and gorgeous. The sciences at BMC are also excellent. There are grad programs at BMC and so while it’s a women’s college, it also has men on campus–also because of its close association with Haverford.

With respect to your academic interests, these schools represent equivalent opportunities.

As suggested above, also consider Mount Holyoke, which offers top-level biology programs.