What Makes Vassar Exciting?

Hello All,

I apologize for being so needy, but I would really appreciate some reassurance. Honestly, Vassar’s Zooms and accepted student days have not been impressive.

My daughter is set on going to Vassar this fall. She was accepted into other schools as well, several of which I preferred, but Vassar is her choice and she seems set on it (and of course she needs to commit in two days!).

Can anyone share with me (I will share with my wife) a thing or two that makes a Vassar college experience particularly rewarding or beneficial?

(D is artsy, social justice-minded, outgoing, focused on social sciences but good in STEM, straight but with many LGBTQ+ friends. Yes, she sounds like a Vassar type, but I hope to hear something more specific about what she could or should do there to make her time as rich as possible and to assuage me in my mourning for her not attending those other schools.)

Thank you.

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World class theater performed on campus? One of the most beautiful campuses in the nation? Being in the Hudson Valley, one of the most gorgeous places in the country? But also being a 2 hour train ride from one of the most vibrant and cosmopolitan cities in the world?

And I don’t even really know the school! :slight_smile: (which is why I didn’t get into the academic side of things).

Your daughter does sound like the Vassar type, I’m sure she’ll have a great experience.

(And if it’s any comfort one of my kids turned down Williams for a lower ranked LAC. He’s thriving at that school).

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My daughter is a sophomore at Vassar majoring in computer science and minoring in math. She has very busy socially mostly with dance groups and playing Quidditch. They are so many clubs to join at Vassar. I have really seen my daughter grown in self confidence. She also has a very diverse friend group. Your daughter sounds a perfect match at Vassar.

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My daughter will also be attending vassar next year - she just fell in love with the school. Sometimes you just know. This I s probably a no-no but I’ve done a little stalking of the admitted students Instagram page where they have been introducing themselves (real conversations happen elsewhere, some social media platform I don’t understand) - the kids sound like an interesting, smart, eclectic and supportive group. The school is well known and respected. The faculty regularly gets raves. I don’t know what her other choices were but it’s hard to do much better if she feels the school is a good fit.

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Hurray! She has made a choice.

They have been impressive to your daughter. She sounds exactly like the kind of kid who will thrive there. If you’ve given her permission to choose a college, I suggest you let her pay the deposit and celebrate. It’s a fantastic school. Real life is better than Zoom, dad.

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OP I agree: Vassar makes less effort to sell itself than pretty much any college that I can think of. I think it’s partly old-fashioned New England rectitude and partly that they do what they do, and it’s up to you to decide if that’s what you want. They want you to choose them, not their marketing. We are all so used to being heavily marketed that the ‘we’re here if you are interested’ tone can be unsettling.

One of the collegekids is a Vassar alum. From a parent point of view, the best thing about it was the way she blossomed and grew into herself. She had a really happy 4 years, grew up emotionally, and developed a whole other level of responsibility, self-discipline, and leadership. She met her college boyfriend the first week of college when she dropped her pencil in class and they both bent over to pick it up (she rarely tells this story b/c she thinks it’s too ‘meet cute’, but it’s true!). She got into every PhD program she applied to, and chose Cornell. He is also doing his PhD (different field) at Cornell & they have just announced that they will be getting married after they graduate next spring. Is that exciting enough for you?!

Seriously though, you might think a little more about why you are mourning those other schools- do you want to impress people with a ‘better’ name? is it your alma mater that she is turning down?

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OMG, you folks are the best friends to me in the world, right now.

Thank you, all of you.

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This has become a pretty awesome post!

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@Lindagaf: well, the awesomeness is not in the OP, but in the thread.

You all have been a true boon to me on a difficult night. I know that my D’s other colleges are great (and at least one is prestigious; okay, the one I mention below), but she doesn’t want to go to those colleges. She wants to go to Vassar and there is real power and integrity in that. What D failed to do (though we love her) is communicate to us why that is the case. Perhaps that’s not her job. So you are all helping the whole family by doing it for us.

To be totally candid, collegemom3717, YES, I have thought about this a lot and I promise I am not living my dreams through my daughter. Still, you nailed me in the fact that she is turning down UChicago, where I got my PhD. I know it may not be the right fit for her, but, gosh, that is hard for me. So, all the more, thank you for turning up that card I cannot play! I also love your insight that Vassar is not playing the selling game. My D’s cousin went to Reed and met her now husband there, so your D’s story is close to my heart. Not that I am ready for my D to get married!

To everyone, thank you again. And please, if you have tips for us or our D, please share!

:pray:

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Book a trip to visit her this fall for parents weekend, assuming they have that. There are many wonderful things to see in close proximity to Poughkeepsie, starting with the Roosevelt and Vanderbilt historic sites, the neat town of Beacon and its cool museum DIA, Walkway over the Hudson, short drive to New Paltz with its breweries and Huguenot Street historic site, tons of apple picking, and lots more. Who cares about NYC, haha.

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Vassar and UChicago are polar opposites in many ways. Academically, Vassar has very few requirements while UChicago is all about the core. My kids wanted nothing to do with any college that had such strict requirements. You have to really believe in the core to be happy there.

Classes are much smaller at Vassar. The professors take attendance. They expect you to contribute to class discussion. There is no hiding in the back of a 200 person lecture hall.

Vassar’s library is also gorgeous and their dining hall is beautiful with an amazing selection of food at every meal. There are at least 5 different stations where you can get food, not counting the dessert area.

My son is a junior there and has a friend who turned down Yale for Vassar. There are a lot of really smart kids at Vassar who picked it for fit. Your daughter will find amazing friends, have great professors, and be able to get amazing recommendations for grad school if desired.

Our kids only have one chance to attend a SLAC. There is always grad school for UChicago :slightly_smiling_face:

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You know - I have to agree. Their admitted student day was the least impressive of all I attended. And I have twins so have been do quite a few lately. I was at the 80 degree one where they forgot to turn the heat off in the chapel…it started off poorly and then never really got more impressive. I left feeling just “meh” about it. Yet it’s in her top 2 and she’s deciding today.

I hear nothing but good things about the kids and profs there. Every single parent I talk to says their kid loves it there and there are always lots of comments re: maturity and personal growth. For that reason I will be happy if she chooses it today!

One other thing that should make you feel better - that campus strikes me as much safer than UChicago. So that’s one less thing to worry about!

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I’m really glad to see this thread too.

If your DD loves the vibe, trust her. It’s a great reason to enroll! It’s often hard to explain why the fit is right, but it’s great that she is learning what that feeling is and that you as a parent are supporting her when she recognizes it.

DS and I went to the 2nd accepted student day (Thursday 4/14), the hot weather one, and I agree that the programming was terrible.
Vassar had been one of his top choices, but it was easy to cross off the list.

By reputation I know it to be a terrific school with smart students and professors who are experts in their respective fields who also truly care about the teaching.

I wanted to hear about the many opportunities and get excited about the school. Instead, the school covered topics about how a student develops “a fondness for a place” which could apply to any school and resources if a student is struggling. DEI issues are very important on every campus, but it sounded like a vacuous buzzword all day.

The lunch panel had 2 professors who’d been on a panel in the morning in the chapel, and the topics were similar to ones that had been discussed in the chapel. The head of school spoke a bunch of platitudes to the parents. My son said that of all the accepted student days, Vassar tried harder to convince the parents than any other school.

We didn’t get to hear from current students until the last, optional panel of the day. They seemed active on campus, but none of them had much idea of what to do afterwards.

I wish we’d heard from more students and faculty earlier, and I wish we’d been able to choose more targeted information throughout the day to hear about.

We left having no idea what made Vassar different from any other school. Vassar is a great school, but this presentation just didn’t get any of us enthusiastic.

Sorry to hear this - we went to the first one, when it was 45 degrees & the parents had to eat outside in the tent. I didn’t really care about programming, since my daughter was ED and already committed, and I’m always bored by things like this. But overall I thought the profs who spoke were impressive, and more importantly excited about teaching and including the kids in their *research. My daughter, who is pretty introverted and doesn’t make friends easily, found people to sit with at lunch and had a nice time. She said they had a student panel about residential life during lunch, so they at least got to hear from students while the parents heard from the President & some of the offices like disability services, etc. I was actually super impressed with the president - she got some (relatively) tough questions from the audience and was pretty honest about where the school did well and where they needed work. But honestly I didn’t listen to much because I was too busy trying to move around & stay warm :). After lunch we really enjoyed the panel for kids interested in the arts, mainly because the kids seemed interesting & were very enthusiastic about what they’ve been able to do at Vassar, and had a great visit to the dance department (my D is a dancer). The dance professors were incredibly welcoming, showed us all around and she got (re)excited about the program. Now, admittedly, I have no other admitted student day events to compare it to, so it may have been dreadful in comparison. But as a parent of a kid who was already committed to going there I found it much better than I expected. But like I said I’m always bored at stuff like this, so I didn’t expect much. My D came home still excited & thinking she had made the right choice, so I consider that a major win.

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I have two kids, one at Vassar and the other at a smallish private university. Both have had very good experiences but the experiences have been quite different even though they are quite similar in personality and interests.

The Vassar kid quickly got to know students across years and even recent alums who came back to campus to visit friends or participate in events. The smaller community makes it much easier to cross “divides” of all sorts.

From my kid’s experience so far (finishing up freshman year), Vassar is not a pressure cooker. Students take their coursework seriously and work hard but there is also ample time to participate in clubs and sports. Professors are very approachable–the Vassar kid has met with multiple professors. The kid at the small private has only met with their faculty advisor–most of their interactions are with TAs.

This summer the Vassar kid is taking part in a program where small groups of current students, led by alums at consulting firms, provide advice to local Poughkeepsie businesses that have approached Vassar for help. A pretty unusual opportunity in my experience, but in keeping with Vassar’s ethos.

Another anecdote that I think is revealing: As parents of a Vassar student, we were invited to participate in a local alumni event in our city–putting together bags of cookies to be distributed during finals week to current Vassar students from our city. We felt compelled to attend and help out!

All the best with the decision-making and congrats on having really good choices!

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President Bradley is very impressive and in my brief experience as a Vassar parent, the administration as a whole is responsive, tactful, and candid.

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Hi all, my daughter has to make a decision about Vassar and a medium-size university in the south by tomorrow and she is torn. I would be grateful to hear some inside information about the social life at Vassar. D is outgoing, social-justice-minded, interested in the liberal arts but good in math, reads a lot, has lots of girl friends, straight, likes going to parties. She does not see herself going out to theater performances on a Friday or Saturday. On the other hand, she appreciates the proximity to New York City a great deal. Are there sizable parties or just small gatherings in dorm rooms? (This is not her only concern, but an important one).

Thank you. I have enjoyed reading the responses to Franz Metcalf’s question.

Hi @lyle1 - I can’t really answer the question about parties as my D likes parties, but also likes small gatherings of friends, so it wasn’t a factor in her decision making. I’d really recommend, if she hasn’t already, that your daughter join the discord or whatever social media thing the kids are using to communicate - I’m not sure if there has been a lot of chatter on it overall, but I’m sure if your daughter asks some questions there will be some responses (or if not, there’s your answer :)). My kid is at school all day & night today w/ two performances of the musical so I can’t ask her what the kids have been saying. My impression is there is plenty to do on campus on the weekends and there are probably parties in the townhouses/apartments that the older students live in, but I can’t say that for sure.

My daughter is a sophomore at Vassar. Her experience of parties has mainly been though the clubs she joined. She has certainly been busy most weekends with plenty of club activities and smaller parties. It is hard to compare to previous years since COVID definitely impacted her freshman year.
Sounds like you student is deciding between two very different schools. When we had to make this decision Apr 2020 without revisiting schools I got my daughter to write pros and cons list and decide which were her must haves things and most importantly where she could see herself living for four years. I also told her there is no wrong answer!
Good luck with the decision making!

Congratulations on your daughter’s decision! Vassar is a wonderful school.
You might consider joining Vassar College parents Facebook group. Lots of great information there.