On a recent trip to the Hudson Valley, I spent the afternoon touring the beautiful park-like campus of Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, NY. The 1,000-acre campus is an arboretum with 230 species of trees. Most of the buildings are built in the Gothic style, and many are designated historic landmarks. The ample green lawns are the perfect venues for throwing Frisbees or hanging out with friends.
Vassar was founded as a women’s college in 1865 and was one of the first single sex colleges to open enrollment to men. Today, Vassar has approximately 2,400 undergraduates with more than forty percent men. Although Vassar is a liberal arts college, its overlap institutions are primarily larger, research universities.
The college offers 45 majors with English and economics being the most popular. The Vogelstein Center houses the well-known film and drama programs. Meryl Streep and Lisa Kudrow are just a few notable alumni. Film has a production component at Vassar. Cognitive studies and neuroscience are also strong majors. Vassar has pledged its commitment to the physical sciences and is building a new gorgeous, state-of-the-art science center that is scheduled to open in 2015.
Students have the freedom to explore their academic interests without fulfilling common core requirements. However, students must meet four college-wide requirements: declare a major by the end of sophomore year, demonstrate proficiency in a foreign language, complete a freshman writing seminar, and complete a quantitative requirement.
Many students schedule their classes Monday-Thursday to allow the flexibility to hold internships on Fridays. Sixty-eight percent of students intern before graduation. NYC is a popular destination for students interested in finance and the entertainment industry and is 90 minutes by train. Students who intern eight hours a week throughout the semester can earn one credit hour.
Our tour guide was from Missouri and told us that she was drawn to Vassar’s strong sense of community and its overall tenor: promoting individuality and intellectual curiosity. Students are involved on campus, and many are politically active. Only twenty percent of students participate in division III athletics.
The housing system is a long-standing tradition at Vassar. Students are placed in a “house” and usually stay in their house for three years. Each house has its own government, events, and mascot. On-campus housing is guaranteed all four years.
Admissions and Financial Aid
The director of admissions told us that admissions is highly selective, but it takes a holistic approach when reviewing applications. Students can either submit the ACT with writing or SAT with two subject tests. Vassar is need-blind and meets one hundred percent of demonstrated need. There is no merit aid.
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