Williams vs Dartmouth (with Vandy & Vassar on the side)

Hello everyone. I am an international student who has luckily been accepted to several schools (Williams, Vanderbilt, Dartmouth, and Vassar). I have narrowed the race down to Dartmouth and Williams (my ED1 school, from which I was deferred then admitted), but anyone wanting to make a case for Vandy (I am a Cornelius Vanderbilt Scholar) or Vassar is also welcome.

I. About me

Major: Theatre and Film/Cinema/Media Studies

My goal:

  • Attend top graduate professional schools in theatre, e.g., Yale School of Drama, NYU Tish School of the Arts, USC School of Drama, etc.

  • Build connections (with professors, classmates, alumni) to advance my future career in the industries.

My priorities:

  • Financial Aid

  • Academic quality: courses, professors, study abroad opportunities, summer courses, student productions, etc.

  • Career development: internships, networking, etc.

  • Postgraduate support: grants to support graduate studies, internships, employment, etc.

  • School spirit: Close, tight-knit, intimate

  • Student life + Extracurriculars: I am quite averse to Greek Life (therefore, Dartmouth’s frat scene is a con), extremely interested in debate (it was my spike while applying), want to explore sports (individual and nature-related) and outdoor activities without huge pressures (not a sportsperson or diehard fan), etc.

  • Others, such as mascots, colors, websites, anything you find interesting

II. Williams
Financial Aid:

  • Very comprehensive: tuition, room & board, travel, books and supplies, vacation, etc.

  • Parents’ out-of-pocket contribution (mostly for personal expenses): 800$/year

One unique thing that allures me uniquely is the tutorial system. I love the concentration.

III. Dartmouth
Financial Aid:

  • Comprehensive: it includes tuition, room & board, travel, books and supplies but not vacation & toiletries

  • Parents’ out-of-pocket contribution (mostly for personal expenses): 1800$/year

IV. Core questions I have in deciding between the two:

What impact does the number of students have (if any): 4000 for Dartmouth vs 2000 for Williams

What school has better networks and prestige for the graduate schools I want to get in? Does the Ivy brand warrant the 1000$ increase in payment?

How is the greek life scene at Dartmouth? I am very averse to frats and fearful of any “Animal House” situations as well as some scandals regarding harassment on its campus, but I also don’t know how true my knowledge is. This is an area I really want to learn more about.

Which school has better postgraduate prospects?

Finally, a bit auxiliary, but which school is better at debate? Tangible metrics are things like club size, club funding, and results at the major league tournaments (US Universities Debating Championship, North America Debating Championship, World Universities Debating Championship, etc.)

After my personal research, these points are symmetrical for me (but feel free to add anything that may break the deadlocks):

  • Overall Academics: both are stellar with a multitude of opportunities, but I may lean a tad bit towards Williams with tutorials and winter study.

  • Both have beautiful rural landscapes, beautiful campuses, beautiful colors and merch (minus Dartmouth’s Keggy the Keg lol), great nature and the type of outdoor activities I want to pursue, both are dynamic in terms of extracurriculars (a lot of their clubs appeal to my interests)

Thank you for the help!!!

How much are Vassar and Vandy?
Otherwise, based on what you said, it seems Williams is your best bet. It’s got lots of connections, close access to the outdoors, the FA can’t be better, + all the reasons you listed.
I can’t comment on the debate team’s strength and both will have excellent postgrad prospect (perhaps a nod to Williams for what you’re interested in).

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You won’t go wrong with either choice.

Additionally, you might consider Vassar’s summer program with New York Stage & Film at the Powerhouse theater. It was where many Broadway plays were developed including: Hamilton, The Humans, Doubt, Tru, Side Man, and Hadestown. Beyond Broadway, Vassar alums have a very strong presence in Hollywood - think Streep, Kudrow, and Hathaway - but also directors (Noah Baumbach and Shaka King), producers (Jason Blum and Kelly Edwards), writers (John Gatins, Greg Rucka and many others) and studio executives (Elizabeth Murdoch and Lloyd Braun).


Both are still very affordable, but the contribution is greater, so I rule them out. Thank you for the answer!

For your area of interest, Vassar is the best of that bunch. You will have more fun, exposure, fans and if you are thinking Yale for grad, the two schools have very high regard for each other and a lot of connectivity and collaboration across the board. Vassar used to be Yale’s sister school.


Yess, Vassar is very strong in the fields with many notable alumni. I’ll factor that in as well. Thanks!

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I did not know that! This connection with Yale may end up being a huge factor haha!!

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It’s worth appealing your financial aid from Vassar. Include screenshots of your Williams package. Vassar really is the best place for someone who wants to pursue theater. Good luck.


As stated by others, Vassar most suits your criteria.

Regarding your acceptances in general, you have done well . . .


Congrats on all your amazing acceptances. I have one kid at Vandy and one at Vassar. I think the pros of Vassar mentioned above are worth considering. It would be worth it to appeal the financial aid and see what happens. Vassar is filled with artsy, creative kids and its proximity to NYC is a plus. Best of luck!


Just to give an example of the Yale-Vassar connection to this date, President Salovery just had a webinar on how colleges have dealt with Covid organized by Yale; and who was his guest co-panelist? President Bradley of Vassar.

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From Vassar’s site, “Prior to becoming the eleventh president of Vassar College, Elizabeth Bradley was the Director of the Brady-Johnson Program in Grand Strategy at Yale. She was also the Head of Branford College.” Boola, boola! Elizabeth Howe Bradley - Faculty - Vassar College


Williams and Dartmouth both will be equally well-regarded by graduate schools. Both will provide a great undergraduate learning experience with small classes and great professors.

The fraternity scene is a big part of Dartmouth and there are no frats whatsoever at Williams. So if that matters to you, that is a consideration.

I personally love Williams, attended by my kid, and Vassar, attended by my spouse, but I think most people in your shoes would pick Dartmouth for the “Ivy” name. To pick any choice but Dartmouth in that mix is to know what you want and to know that another college has more of it.

If you do pick Williams, know that you will be warmly welcomed with the freshman entry system that creates an immediate family group for every new student… that clubs are open and inclusive and often low-key… that tutorials are a completely amazing learning opportunity… that the majority of classes and professors are excellent… that class discussion is a big part of most classes… that you will become a stronger writer and thinker by being there.

Here is a link to a list of current clubs: Registered Student Organizations (RSOs) – Campus Life

Not sure about debate. You can scan for it. The Law Society includes a mock trial team and a moot court team.

Good luck and congratulations on four great choices!!!


Agree with @TheGreyKing re Williams for law path. In fact, Williams and Swarthmore are both top per capital feeders into Yale Law School (see College Transitions Dataverse), which is certifiably the coolest and best law school in the Milky Way (setting aside a couple recent faculty out of class serious faux pas), no exaggeration.

Some of the less sophisticated consumers of higher education may choose Dartmouth because of the brand name, but beware of a long history of not so inclusive institutionalized behavior, ie The Dartmouth Review and see eg prevalence of Greek life.

I would say Williams if law or undecided, Vassar if decided for performing arts/ media. I can’t imagine a single scenario in which I would pick Dartmouth over Williams, except perhaps for STEM research.


What factors caused you to apply ED to Williams College ?

Why did you apply to Vanderbilt University ?

Why–in light of your distaste for Greek social life–did you apply to Dartmouth College ?

Did you apply to Northwestern University, USC, or to NYU ?

Is your interest in theatre/acting or in film-making ?

P.S. Based on the schools listed & maybe based on the schools to which you applied, I am not convinced that you have a clear, definite, driving interest in theatre or in film.

There is some questionable information in this thread. Yes, Vassar was Yale’s sister school before Yale went coed in 1969. There is very little connection between the two schools now.

Second, what kind of debate have you done? Most internationals have debated in British parliamentary style. If you have, you want a school with parliamentary debate. Dartmouth has a parli debate team, but it focuses on cross-examination debate, which is very different. Williams has an APDA team. Williams College Debating Union – WCDU APDA does parli and that is the focus of the Williams team To learn a bit more about APDA, look American Parliamentary Debate Association - Wikipedia I would also strongly suggest that you reach out to officers of the debate team at the schools of interest to see what the requirements for joining are. They really vary among schools and at some schools, you have to try out to join.

My own information about debate is very dated, and I am only joining in the thread because it doesn’t look as if anyone has posted current information.

Third, which school you attend has very little impact on the graduate acting program you will be admitted to. At least that is my own understanding. I would recommend that you go to the performing arts Forum to ask. Moreover, I respectfully suggest that you may not want to be a performer 4 years from now.Moreover, it will be extremely difficult to pursue both acting and debate in college.


One thing that hasn’t been focused on much on this thread: if you are interested in theater, you simply cannot do better as an undergraduate than Williams. The campus theater is absolutely spectacular, with three separate state-of-the-art performance spaces, especially for the size of the school; the theater was built just as much to accommodate the world-class Williamstown Theater Festival as it was campus needs. Speaking of the Theater Festival, it provides really great summer internship opportunities to undergraduate students each summer. And, because of it, anyone who is anyone in the theater certainly world knows Williams.

Williams also has many prominent alums in the theater / film worlds, including many younger alums just making names for themselves now. Stephen Sondheim is of course the most famous, but the list is very long: Elia Kazan, John Frankenheimer, Frederick Wiseman, Kristin Anderson-Lopez, David Strathairn, Lee Hom Wang, Jason Hehir, John Sayles, William Finn, etc. …

I participated in APDA debate when I was a student. At the time, we had a really strong and active team. The success of the team fluctuates wildly, depending on the students on campus. All it takes is a few really involved and motivated students to have a good team, you just need 5-6, even. At times when the campus lacks students with a real interest, the team doesn’t do much. At other times, the team has been very strong. But again, if you have a significant interest, it’s pretty easy to find a few others and build a great APDA debate team that can do well nationally.

Overall, Williams sounds like a great fit for you. After all, you applied ED for a reason! Dartmouth does not offer any advantage over Williams in terms of graduate school admissions, educational quality, or post-grad opportunities, more generally. If you believe you would be happier at Williams for any reason (including tutorials and the lack of campus frats), pick Williams. It sounds you are leaning that way, anyway? If you think you’d be happier at Dartmouth, I’d say the same thing – pick Dartmouth. The schools are peers in every respect, including in terms of national reputation, so go where you feel you will have the best college experience.


Considering how large Dartmouth’s fraternity scene is, that may be a pretty big con there.


Today, current Williams students who volunteered to help advise admitted students were given lists of students to whom to reach out. So you will receive an email soon. When you get an email, take advantage of that opportunity to ask the student the type of questions that a student can answer about life on campus!

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Completely agree with @Ephman: The theatre department at Williams is outstanding. My son is currently a Poli Sci major there, but has taken several theater courses there because he has enjoyed the professors. In fact he played Stephen Sondheim in Williams’ tribute to Sondheim just as Covid was unravelling last March. In addition, the nearby Clark and MassMoca bolster the art scene in the area.

Dartmouth is delightful, but if you are adverse to greek life, Williams is a better choice as there are no fraternities or sororities.