Vassar vs Davidson

I am stuck between these two great colleges to put into the last slot of my college list. Please consider all form of factors that add up to the lifestyle. It would be really great if I could get some really amazing opinions regarding the two institutions and decide upon which would be where I’ll be applying to. Also, I’m an international student and definitely need good financial aid.

Are you able to use any EA applications? If yes, I really wouldn’t try to fix a list this early. EA can be a great way to make mid course corrections depending upon the results.

Vassar College is a very liberal school socially & politically. Davidson is moderate to conservative.

Campus culture difference: More academic intensity / pressure at Davidson even though both are outstanding schools academically.

Better weather at Davidson if you like a moderate climate.

No Greek life at Vassar. Davidson has fraternities & sororities.

Davidson is about 50/50 male/female, while Vassar is about 40%male/60%female.

Davidson College has Division I sports–at least basketball is Division I.

Vassar would be a very comfortable environment for LGBTQ individuals.


Let’s be honest and this shouldn’t matter - but Vassar much more well known.

I am not a Davidson expert. I know a lot about Vassar, with multiple family members and friends, through several generations including current students, attending it.

Some special things about Vassar:

  1. Beautiful, contained campus (lake, trees, Shakespeare garden, incredibly gorgeous buildings, beautiful dorms too).
  2. Great “community” feel to it. You will live in the same dorm for the first three years and that builds a sense of family. There will be a professor and their family associated with the dorm as well.
  3. Amazing theatre and famous alumnae/i.
  4. So easy to get involved in clubs and activities, with tons of options.
  5. Wonderful academics. Small classes, great professors, smart fellow students. A life-of-the-mind type of place.
  6. Very few curricular requirements. Take the courses that interest you instead of being stuck in ones that don’t!
  7. Since you are international, you may want to see some U.S. attractions while you are here. Vassar is not exactly near New York City, but it is close enough for easy weekend trips sometimes. Getting to tour NYC may be an attraction for an international student.
  8. You mentioned financial aid. Vassar is VERY generous with need-based aid. Only need-based aid is available.

Here Vassar and Davidson are both on a list of most generous colleges for international students: 14 US colleges offering generous financial aid for international students - AgentBee

(Note: as an international student who seems attracted to prestigious small liberal arts colleges, you should consider Amherst, which is one of only five U.S. colleges to be need-blind for international students AND meet 100% need for those students. Top Colleges That Are Generous To International Students)

I too have heard of Amherst and its need-blind policy. Would you please elaborate on the academic rigour at Amherst and the international student lifestyle. I would love to know more about the college to understand if it is a right fit for me.

@apsc - I did not attend Amherst and was not an international student. My son attends Williams, Amherst’s top rival. Amherst is one of the most academically rigorous and best regarded colleges in the United States. It is almost always ranked #2 in small liberal arts colleges in USNews and World Report. It is much more selective to be admitted to than the other colleges you have named, though it is similar to them in feel and offerings and experience. Amherst offers one of the best educational experiences available in the United States, especially if you prefer a small college to a larger university. Amherst also is part of a five college consortium which increases opportunities. It has a completely open curriculum, meaning there are no required courses (very few other colleges can say that- Brown, Smith, Grinnell, and Hamilton).
It has great professors and a wealth of resources and opportunities.

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Can’t comment of Vassar but my husband is an Alum of Davidson and we live in the town of Davidson. I have had many pre med volunteers from Davidson work for me over the years. In my opinion Davidson leans more liberal than conservative but of course you can find your people anywhere. The students are incredibly competitive and serious about academics and it is definitely a rigorous environment, but students also seem to maintain a social life. Basketball is, of course, a big deal at Davidson, but so are other sports. The town is lovely. Small but about 30 minutes from Charlotte. There are many restaurants and shops especially for a small town. The campus is very pretty and located about 1.5 hours from the mountains and 3.5 hours from the beach.
Good luck on your

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Both are excellent liberal arts colleges. Sports create a strong sense of school spirit at Davidson. Vassar is more artsy and has a stronger draw for students interested in music, theater, etc. Vassar is not in a college town, but does have good train access to NYC via the commuter rail system MetroNorth and Amtrak (both stop at Poughkeepsie). The Vassar campus is more “Gothic” looking - it is very pretty. Davidson is in a more quaint, small town setting, and also a beautiful campus. Academically, both are great. Davidson might be more competitive, but I am not sure about that. The Davidson alumni network is very strong, but the Vassar name has stronger name recognition in the Northeast.

Relatively speaking, Davidson is definitely more conservative than Vassar College.

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I grew up in the Poughkeepsie area and now live in Charlotte. I try to get up to Davidson a couple of times a year at least (mainly to eat at Kindred, but also to walk around Davidson.)

I would agree that the area surrounding Davidson is quite a bit nicer than the area surrounding Vassar (although I can see where the allure of a quick train ride into NYC may appeal to some - did it many times myself, growing up).

Vassar has a few more students than Davidson - probably not enough to notice, but of course Davidson has the D1 sports (including football). Davidson also kisses the shores of Lake Norman, which is a large recreation area. I also agree with the name recognition (Vassar more so in the NE, Davidson in the South). Both great options.

I don’t agree. Davidson is very highly regarded and is sometimes referred to as the Amherst of the south.

If you live in the southeast, Davidson will be familiar.

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I do live in the South. I’m not saying Davidson is not a wonderful school - similar to W&L - which my daughter was admitted to and also is not known.

The reality is - Vassar is a better known name. Nationally. Globally. It does not mean the student shouldn’t attend Davidson. I’ve never been to Vassar. I’ve been to Davidson - it’s a small campus, half our North of Charlotte. Looked office park-ish when I was there.

I’m not denigrating Davidson at all - and for those who know it - it’s likely due to Steph Curry. Students should choose a school that fits them, not one that is more well known.

Who’s Steph Curry ?

Do you mean Washington and Lee University?? Would you mind telling me more about Washington and Lee. I’ve heard a lot about its generous financial aid and supporting environment towards international students. I got to know about the Johnson Scholarship. How competitive is it and does it value having a good research done in the high school?

@apsc! Come on – a free ride, with a stipend, at one of the top liberal arts colleges in the United States?? Of course it is very competitive!! (said in a friendly, though chiding, tone).

An unstated goal of the Johnson is to increase diversity. I was under the impression that leadership was an important component, but I am no expert on the Johnson Scholarship.