- Class: Junior
- Major: Other
- Gender: F
- High School: Theodore Roosevelt High School
- Transfer Student: N
Vassar, like most colleges and universities, is what you make of it. Though I'd say it straddles the line of being too small, its size does allow for some incredible opportunities. For example, just through classes I've taken and people I've met, I'm now a Research Assistant for one class and I've been asked to help interview faculty candidates in a department on campus. Because Vassar is so small, the academic opportunities are not only plentiful, but they're attainable. Professors are incredibly available; if you need an extension on a paper or if you just want to sit and chat with them about something, they're typically quite open. I've had some incredible conversations with professors, and I genuinely don't think I would be able to say that were I at a larger institution. If I could change one thing about Vassar, I think it would be the social scene, to be honest. There's often a sense of hostility--a kind of "too cool" attitude--that permeates campus. People don't smile a lot when you walk by them (which may not seem like a big deal, but for a girl from the Midwest, this was kind of shocking), even if you've had a class with them or done projects together. And nothing gets vented about more than the dating scene at Vassar, or lack thereof. The female students get bitter because they vastly outnumber the male community, and the guys on campus tend to have an inflated sense of self regarding what kinds of ladies they can get. What's even more depressing is that the female students let this happen. I can't count how many times I've seen my incredibly intelligent, strong, confident female friends dumb themselves down for a guy who doesn't deserve them for the sake of a random hook up. This is where the small size, which is so great academically, comes back to bite you in the***socially. Everyone knows everyone's business. Gossip runs amok. In a lot of ways, it can seem like high school all over again. When I tell people I go to Vassar, they're either extremely impressed, or they give a look of vague recognition and then say, "That's an all-girl's school, right?" For the latter people, I simply smile and explain that no, in fact, we've been co-ed for almost 40 years, to which they seem embarrassed. I'd say, outside of my room, I spend the majority of my time in Main Building. Administrative offices, the Retreat (one of the dining options), the parlors for rehearsals and studying, conference rooms for meetings, the Villard Room for concerts, Matthew's Mug for late-night dancing--Main houses a lot of things. It's kind of great to have most everything right there in one place. If I ever have to run errands on campus, they can generally all be taken care of in Main. Poughkeepsie, as I'm sure many people will tell you, leaves much to be desired. It's not the most accessible town to explore, so having a car has been a pretty great advantage for me. I've been able to find places to go and things to do that make Poughkeepsie a much more available place. The town really does have things to offer--great restaurants, for instance--you just have to be willing to invest time into finding them. The surrounding towns, such as Hyde Park, Rhinebeck, and New Paltz, are even more fantastic. They're quaint, quirky, and definitely jive with the alternative lifestyles many Vassar students have. I have to say that I'm really excited by the lengths the college is going to to make Poughkeepsie more available to students. They've just implemented a community shuttle that stops at numerous places around the town, and our new President, Cappy, has started some great initiatives to make Vassar's relationship with the community stronger. I wish Vassar had more school pride. Athletics, while they're often good, are not really supported by the majority of students on campus. Coming from a high school that had a lot of school pride, it was a big adjustment that I would rather have not made. But we do all have pride for our school, though it's not necessarily boasted through athletics or other competitions. We know we're lucky to be at this school, and I don't think we take it for granted. There are some great experiences about Vassar that I'll always remember: serenading in the fall to kick off the school year (where the whole campus essentially gets in a huge food fight after every dorm serenades the senior class), primal scream before finals (walking to the quad and screaming at midnight), Founder's Day (a big carnival in early May to celebrate our founder's birthday), Gays of Our Lives (a panel during Freshman Week that challenges gender norms), countless theater and a cappella performances--these things make Vassar unique.
Academics at Vassar are no joke. What you hear is true: they're rigorous, mind opening, and often intense. I'd say that Vassar students take academics seriously, though like most college students, we're known to blow off responsibilities every now and again. Class participation is vital in almost every class I've ever taken at Vassar. Often, it's a large chunk of your grade. It's not difficult to get Vassar students to talk in class--you'll hear us joke a lot about those kids who start every phrase with "I feel like..." or "I think that...." Sometimes, though, it can be a little bit frustrating to have so much participation. Some students talk just to listen to themselves. In other classes, you'll suddenly realize that the class has been discussing something for 45 minutes but everyone's essentially saying the same thing. Because Vassar is so politically homogeneous, there's not a lot of challenging debate that occurs. It does happen occasionally, but often times, it's just the same stuff being said over and over again in a different way from a different mouth. Academic competition, I'm happy to say, is at a minimum on this campus. Everyone takes academics seriously, but at least in my circle of friends, we don't often disclose grades or compete with one another to see who's doing better. We understand that grades at Vassar are often extremely subjective and vary from department to department. Vassar students certainly have intellectual conversations outside of class. I'm always impressed by the staying power that conversations in class may have, and if I'm inspired by a class topic, I'll bring it up with my friends. But even without our classes as inspiration, we definitely discuss current events, ideals, opinions, and the like. But we also talk about, like, celebrity gossip and ridiculous things like that, too. We strike a balance--we are college students, after all. Vassar has so many unique course offerings. I'm taking an Adolescent Literacy class right now where we actually go into a public middle school and tutor a student. There's one class that has students visit prison and get to know inmates for a semester. There are other classes that meet at professors' homes. Other classes take trips into New York City for some real-life application. Academics at Vassar are impressive, and it's apparent that the vast majority of professors are passionate about their jobs. Are there occasional duds? Absolutely, both in reference to classes and professors. But the other incredible classes make up for it. I'd say the academics at Vassar could be argued as geared both toward getting a job AND learning for its own sake, depending on what students study. I don't think any of us are under any kind of false pretenses being at a liberal arts institution; we know that job allocation is not the highest priority, and that's okay.
Everyone at Vassar wants their voice to be heard, and for the most part, it is. the LGBTQ community is extremely prevalent on campus. There are numerous racial and religious organizations on campus, as well, and they sponsor a number of events throughout the school year. And if your race or religion or sexuality isn't represented in one of the organizations already established, the school is very willing and encouraging to have students create more groups. I would say, however, that Vassar is fairly homogeneous in both racial and socioeconomic terms, and this can often silence those that ARE racially or socioeconomically different. But, in true Vassar form, these groups of people are banding together to create more awareness on campus. Vassar students cannot be accused of not advocating for themselves. I would say that anyone, if they tried hard enough, could fit in at Vassar. I can tell you, though, who would have the hardest time: Conservative, fraternity/sorority-loving, Abercrombie & Fitch-wearing, straight laced types. That type is so different from the majority of Vassar students, and while we have the occasional Hollister shirt and pro-Bush bumper sticker, they are few and far between. Students at Vassar wear whatever they want. Seriously. No matter how ridiculous, or mismatched, or expensive, or bizarre, or comfortable. I've seen it all. And it's great--I never feel weird wearing things on this campus. What's also great about Vassar is that everyone is separated by about two degrees. I've often thought about creating a web to see how I'm connected to every student on this campus, because I'm pretty sure it's possible. I interact with students from all different areas: academics, athletics, drama, music, art, etc. There is certainly some hostility or judgment between groups, but when it comes down to individuals, people interact with most everyone.
The Best Things
The academic opportunities.
The Worst Things
The political homogeneity.