Vassar vs Middlebury vs Wesleyan [international politics, philosophy, Spanish, French, Arabic]

I was lucky enough to be accepted to all 3 of these great liberal arts colleges. My only issue is choosing which is most similar to me.

  • I want to study international politics and philosophy
  • I love languages (and travelling) and want to learn Spanish, French, and Arabic (and hopefully more out of college)
  • I’m intellectual and artsy, but I also love to adventure and live on the wild side. Like my ideal hangout is talking philosophy while skateboarding in a busy city
  • I’m radical in my politics, not passive
  • I I enjoy both cities and nature a ton

Any help would be greatly appreciated.


I recommend you dig in into the course catalogs of each and make sure your academic and language needs are possible, both in terms of courses amd profs. I am not sure all of them offer Arabic beyond Midd (you need to check) and I know from our research that Wesleyan is strong in philosophy and regional studies and Vassar in international studies. To me, your reference to wild, philosophy while skateboarding and equal part city and outdoors, tend to tilt toward Wesleyan based on our research and visit. But, have you visited?

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I have visited Vassar. My mom and I are flying out to visit Middlebury and Wesleyan this weekend.

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I think you will likely get totally different vibes between Wesleyan and Midd, and a slightly sportier/edgier feel at Wes than Vassar, but better that you assess yourself. All awesome choices,


Vassar offers Arabic. They are one of the few LAC that still have a language requirement (esp for a school that has almost no requirements).

Wow. If only you could combine all three into one! In terms of languages, French and Spanish are LAC staples but you may have trouble finding many universities that teach Arabic much less small colleges. And, while all three of your finalists offer beginner, intermediate and advanced classes in Modern Standard Arabic, only Middlebury has a dedicated department devoted to the study of Arabic.

Aside from that, you sound like you would easily find your peep at Wesleyan, widely regarded as the most “artsy” of the NESCAC athletic conference members, as well as harboring the largest number of radicals. However, that in itself doesn’t prevent them from seeing themselves as part of a beleaguered minority of “weird” students (weird students who happen to throw some of the most popular parties on campus - go figure.)

Vassar is like Wesleyan but more Gothic. I mean that in both architectural terms and spiritually as in people who dress in black and bemoan the emptiness of traditional bourgeois values. A lot of that is based on popular culture but also borne of the tremendous overlap between the two schools.

I haven’t seen a lot of skateboarding in Middletown. I think you’ll find more of that in Hartford and New Haven which are not that far away. And, come to think of it, probably in downtown Poughkeepsie (now, there’s an adventure for you), too. Middletown does have its diverse elements; you’ll find everything from a soup kitchen on one end of Main Street to a riverfront marina a few steps in the other direction. There’s also a rock quarry, an apple orchard that doubles as a golf course, and a pond where skinny-dipping has been known to occur all within a five minute drive (or forty-five minute hike, depending on your pleasure.)

But, neither Vassar nor Wesleyan are any match for Middlebury when it comes to the nature department.

So, there you have it. I think two of the boxes on your checklist are served extremely well by Middlebury. But TBH, I think you’d be frustrated by the lack of buzz and even smaller number of like-minded radicals in the immediate vicinity. I think it’s going to come down to the PIB (People in Black) of Vassar and the future show-runners of Wesleyan.


Middlebury would be excellent for some of your academic interests, especially with respect to your interests in languages and international studies:

However, based on what you have posted so far, I’d say that Wesleyan or Vassar would suit you well by general atmosphere and, to a more than sufficient extent, academically as well.

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Three amazing choices. I think the answer will become clear after you’ve visited all three.



Middlebury. NESCAC in Grandma Moses country. Views of Adirondacks from Bicentennial Hall. Academically notable for languages, international studies, economics, environmental studies. Vandalism during early stage of pandemic not inconsistent with an entitled segment among the student body. Recent 15% acceptance rate reflects strong national reputation and popularity.

Vassar. English major and performing arts veneer laid over a generally intellectual liberal arts college. Beautiful chapel and library. Connects, by atmosphere, to the Hudson River School, as well as, by train, to all of what New York City has to offer. Gender imbalance, although real, does not differ greatly from the collegiate national average. New science building supports continuing academic ambitions.

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First, congratulations! In a tough year for admissions, having three such choices says that you are a top notch candiate.

While I tend to recommend Middlebury, this is not what you’d really find there.

Politics tends also to be more towards rural crunchy, rathe rather than urban radical, and snowboarding rather than skateboarding.

Academically, there are benefits for each, but I feel that socially and by way of atmosphere, Wesleyan seems to be the best choice for you, though I am certain that you will find your place at any one of them.


There is a YouTuber that was at Wes and skated all the time in his videos. Went to a skateboard park in Middletown too I think.

Middlebury also just experienced a bias attack where urine was dumped outside the Muslim students prayer space.

I have been monitoring information about many of the NESCACs for the past year since getting into the college app zone, and my impression of Middlebury is that it definitely on the higher end of the entitled brat spectrum.

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There are 2,800 students at Middlebury. Are there some entitled brats? Yes, as there are at most elite schools. But to cast the entire student body in a negative light because of the actions of a few bad apples isn’t fair to the rest of the students, who are appalled that this happened.


Congrats! Honestly, these three top ranked liberal arts institutions are very similar. Just seeing what you’ve written about yourself, I would go with Vassar. It honestly sounds kinda perfect for you (artsy, very political, of course extremely intellectual, and the perfect mix of being surrounded by nature being situated in the scenic Hudson Valley while also having access to the city). Congrats again!

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