OPINION: Junior’s Look at Vassar


After a year of visiting several colleges, I thought I came to a final decision that Bowdoin would be my top choice to attend. I heard several mentions of Vassar being an excellent school as well, but since I felt that I had found my choice, I did not take particular interest in visiting Vassar. One person told me that the neighborhood was shabby, which was not appealing, since I would occasionally want to take a jog outside of the campus.

When I got to Poughkeepsie, my first impression was that it was a huge town. The main street was basically a highway, with three lanes on both sides of the street. Shopping centers were every two blocks, and the line of cars never ended. It did not seem to be the type of rural college I would want to go to. When we got off that street, however, I felt much more comfortable. In reality, the neighborhood directly around the campus was quiet, neat, and definitely welcoming. My first impression of the campus was much greater than I thought; in order to enter the campus, you drive underneath an arch of the largest and oldest building, and you are instantly surrounded by beautiful, well-designed miniature castles.

I took the tour of the college first. Our tour guide told us a story about a world record they almost had. The entire campus is an arboretum, filled with dozens of different species of trees and plants, and the largest of the trees shortly held the world record for the longest un-supported branch. However, the branch became too heavy to support itself, so the faculty attached a cable to keep it up. They were caught by the world record faculty, and since then, Vassar was forbidden to be part of that contest anymore. Every college has their own quirk, and since I love nature, this aspect was a plus for my checklist.

Their science buildings are all in one area of the campus, and our guide explained that there are few lecture rooms, leaving the rest of the rooms are dedicated to lab work and experiments. “A bridge is being built between all of the science buildings, literally and figuratively. The bridge will allow the students to walk to the different buildings, while it will also create unity between all of the students,” he explained. The college spent several million dollars on the construction, which is another plus – they are endowed enough to spend money on improving the school.

At the info session, I discovered many other excellent aspects of the school. Travelling abroad is highly recommended, since Vassar is able to support students who cannot afford to travel for several months. Not having enough time or money for the program is never a problem. They call the program Junior Year Abroad, but this name is not entirely representative, since the students are not necessarily in junior year, it is not necessarily an entire year, and it is not necessarily abroad. Some students can travel to Indiana or to another state to study for several months.

I spoke to several students about how they feel in the college, and I was surprised to remark that all of the students were happy to talk. It appeared that they were walking around to wait for someone to ask them where the music building was or what they liked the most about the school. I was told repeatedly that it is an intimate environment, and that the small student-to-faculty ratio and average class size of 17 requires all of the students to participate in classes. No one can hide and let others speak for them. This situation allows for the students to all get the experience of speaking their thoughts and having others intently listen to what they have to say. Students get a more personal connection with the professors, since the professors know all of their students names.

One of the determining points that convinced me to go to Vassar was the non-competitive environment. No one cares what their class rank is or what everyone else’s is. Everyone is more than willing to help someone who is struggling in a class. They are not there to become better than everyone else – they are there to help everyone succeed, and to make themselves better and more knowledged people.

Even if you are not interested in attending Vassar, I highly recommend that you visit to have an eye-stimulating walk. As I previously praised the school for, the wide variety of plant life and enthralling buildings are worth seeing. Not to mention that their buffet-style cafeteria, filled with a fresh variety of meats, vegetables, and pasta, is difficult to leave.