What Makes Vassar Exciting?

… and Berkeley is where I got mine!

1 Like

@backbeat1, thank you for that encouragement! My daughter’s UCB PhD is now my long shot life dream!

1 Like

So sorry that I didn’t see this when it was on-going; son is finishing first year at Vassar and it has been beyond his or our expectations. He continues to talk with three of his four faculty from the fall as he prepares to take his spring finals; he knows the chairs of every program that he is considering for his major (and none are pushy, but all are encouraging and helpful in working through the ramifications and possibilities of his different choices - he has found it so easy to meet with them); the academic experience in the classroom has been superb - faculty and peers; he was led to a large grant for this summer that will pay for him to work on his language acquisition abroad (not as a major, just as an intellectual interest); he has a friend group that appears to be profoundly supportive and surprisingly diverse in interest and background; when he is struck by an idea to “fix” something at Vassar, he has had no problems getting meetings with administrators and Deans who gently mentor him; he is so involved in a rotating cast of activities that we can’t keep track of them all … he has truly flourished in this first year, and his world seems to be filled with so many possibilities.

I just can’t overstate the excellence of the faculty not just as instructors, but as mentors to young people figuring out how they’re going to live lives of purpose and meaning.


@kaslew, thank you so much for your response. No worries that it is coming now; clearly I (and, judging from the thumbs up you’ve gotten, many others) are still reading the thread and thinking about Vassar.

It is hard to single out any one thing from your reply, as it’s all so encouraging. I’ll just say, as a college teacher myself, I really appreciate your emphasis on the excellence and the personableness of the teachers. To help students figure out how to “live lives of purpose and meaning,” that is point of a liberal arts college. I’m so glad Vassar is doing that your your son.


This is of course subjective so there’s no right or wrong answer but I and my gang would disagree on this point. We’ve toured several times and one of my kids closely considered it, versus other peer LAC’s, after acceptances. It’s true the Hudson Valley is pretty, but the campus is in the middle of Poughkeepsie which doesn’t feel anything like the picturesque scenery of the Hudson Valley. It’s fine, there’s nothing wrong with it, but it’s not an exceptionally beautiful town. And the campus is literally a walled garden separated from it. The campus itself is nice but none of my kids ranked it in their top 5 of attractive campuses they visited.

The school is awesome. Not dissing it. Just have a different opinion on its surroundings being one of its major selling points. Location relative to NYC is great. Theater is amazing.

Ahem, I never said Poughkeepsie is beautiful!

But Vassar is self-contained, and is widely acknowledged to be gorgeous. That’s fine if you don’t think so, we all don’t like the same things.


@citivas, I reckon you’re including the surrounding neighborhood and possible city in terms of “campus.” In that sense, I agree that Vassar lags behind, say, Reed or Brown or Berkeley, or even Bard, (depending on one’s taste). But it’s tough to critique the campus per se. As cinnamon1212 says, it’s pretty darn gorgeous. Separated from Poughkeepsie, which matters and didn’t impress us, but still gorgeous.

I have a ton of kids (8) and my last one is a rising senior and we are doing a new round of college visits. While we are not done yet, he just loved Vassar and says that, at least for now, he thinks he wants to apply there ED. His mom is pushing for Colgate (where two siblings went, along with his mom), because it’s also a great school and having the family connection might give him a little bit of an edge. But he seems set on trying for Vassar. I actually love the school. It is beautiful, progressive and seems a bit quirky (like my son), and I think he would thrive at a school without frats. He is straight but has a lot of LBGTQ friends, and he pushes against being traditional. We’ll see if he gets in, but he needs to find a place he is excited about. As for the comment on University of Chicago, I understand wanting your kid to go to the best possible college. One of mine got in to UChic and wanted to study economics, so it seemed perfect. But he chose Michigan. He wanted a classic big time “college experience,” etc. And it turned out great. He ended up working at the Daily (the student paper) and is now a succesful reporter at the Wall Street Journal. That wouldn’t have happened if he had gone to UChic. It’s nerve wracking being a parent, but so exciting to watch your kids leave the nest.


Quite possibly. On average, each would weigh 250lb.

ETA: Seriously, though, I am jealous that your son loves Vassar. I thought it would be a great match for my S22, but he wanted to be in NYC, not just nearby :frowning:

1 Like

As a permanently singular aspect of Vassar, it appears to be the first school globally to have established an undergraduate major in cognitive science.

Minus the chairs, this is probably what heaven looks like.


Also in the day used as a great pitch to “borrow” a dinning tray and take a snowy run down hill onto the frozen lake or for the band Trouble Funk to play. Sorry making me nostalgic. Vassar was and is special!!


Reminds me of the scene in “Modern Family” where Phil and his daughter “tray race” at Phil’s alma mater!

What a spectacular campus! I wish we had seen it during our college visits this summer.

1 Like

I will have to catch that scene.

Never too late to add one’s two cents. Franz, based on how you described your daughter choosing Vassar over UC was totally the right choice. We had one child go to UC at the turn of the century and one go to Vassar about a decade later. Twenty years ago UC’s acceptance rate was in the mid-30 percent range, much higher than schools with similar academic pedigrees. The reason–there were only a small percentage of high achievers who wanted to subject themselves to grade deflation, the death of fun, and a quarter system whose legacy was the Spanish Inquisition. UC was, and still is, an intellectual’s paradise where academic learning is the raison d’etre. Our son did not enjoy his 4 years there even though he graduated with honors and worked with a nobel prize winner on his thesis. Now UC’s applications are through the roof as parents prod their children to get into the highest ranked school they can whether it is a fit or not. Our second child loved Vassar where every day was more like camp than a gulag. My wife and I visited UC and Vassar many times. One noticeable difference was that when we went to Vassar the students always seemed to be smiling unlike in Hyde Park. UC is the perfect place for some students, but not those whose perfect place is Vassar.


Thanks, Stuckinthe80s, for that real experience comparison. I believe UChicago is kinder to undergrads now, but it is never going to change all that much or it would no longer be, well, what it is. I’m sorry your son did not enjoy his years there, despite the amazing intellectual journey had clearly had. I bet he went on to further study and a better experience.

Meanwhile, here we are in Poughkeepsie, dropping off the girl. Move-in tomorrow. Time to being the four year summer camp!


What’s dorm if you don’t mind me asking? They each tended to have a unique personality.

Mom and an academic, developmental psychologist specializing in mental health during the transition to adulthood. Daughter is a first-year student at Vassar, just dropped her off. Having studied and researched first-year college adjustment for 20 years, I am pleasantly surprised and very impressed by Vassar’s deep understanding of the young adult psyche. In my professional opinion they could not do more right, academically and developmentally. High praise for this beautiful college and the administrative vision.


Great to hear they have come a long way!!

In the early 1980s they just planted a few beer trucks around the dorm quad and people played music on speakers out of their dorm room windows and mingled. With some slight variations this went on for several days with a few Brewer traditions sprinkled in. At the time I believe that was considered “best practice”.

I had a blast but in hindsight probably not ideal for some.

Good luck to your kid!!!


I’d be curious to know what Vassar did/is doing that impressed you?

1 Like