Road Trip: "Aha!" Moments at Vassar College

Vassar College is your picture perfect New England liberal arts school — situated in the Hudson Valley on 1,000 acres with two lakes, an arboretum, Shakespeare Garden, farm, ecological preserve, 7 miles of running trails, and surrounded by Revolutionary War history. Except Aha! it is just an Amtrak ride from NYC. The convenience of the train melts away the 75-mile commute and about 20% of Vassar’s students work in NYC as interns. Many work there for class credit, and many continue after receiving credit.  Vassar provides a unique opportunity to live in a bucolic environment with urban access. 

98% of Vassar’s 2500 students live on campus all four years.  There is no Greek life, no affinity houses, and no freshman dorms (there is one women-only dorm). Dorms are referred to as houses with two faculty families living in each as house fellows.  It is typical to have coffee with your professor; the average class size is 17 with the largest two classes —Art History and Intro to Astronomy — at 50 students.  All this builds community.

And, the community is engaged.  In addition to the 20% of students working in NYC, 45% study abroad, about 12% do research, 20% play varsity sports, there are 9 a cappella groups, and 50 theatrical performances (mostly student run) on campus each year.  

Academically, Vassar has an open curriculum with very few core requirements.  Double majoring is not uncommon and most do a major and a minor. Vassar is part of a 12-college consortium and it offers an engineering program with Dartmouth where students attend Vassar for two years, Dartmouth for a year, their senior year at Vassar and a 5th year at Dartmouth, receiving two bachelor degrees.  Based on test scores, the student body at Vassar is bright and based on the opportunities the college offers they are curious. In 2016 an 8,000 square foot Integrated Science Center opened on campus that “bridges” the various areas of science with lab space and allows for hands on learning.

Mentorship and guidance seems to be plentiful if our tour guide was even close to representative.  She has five advisors – for pre-college, for her major, for her two minors, and for study abroad.  

Consider Vassar College if you are looking for a liberal arts school with a strong community, a high level of engagement and opportunity, and proximity to NYC.