Vassar College


When Matthew Vassar decided to open a college for women in 1861, he went big— by erecting the largest building in the entire country.

That’s right: when it was first constructed, Vassar’s Main Building at the heart of the campus was larger than any other American building. But then, Matthew Vassar was accomplishing something big—the establishment of a college where a woman could obtain an excellent and well-rounded education in a time when few women had access to such opportunities.

Vassar has always been an educational pioneer in its dedication to academic discovery and the spirit of true independence. When it opened, it was the first college in the country to include a museum in its facilities; today, Vassar’s Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center has more than 18,000 works in its collection, including pieces by such masters as Picasso, Rembrandt, O’Keeffe, and Pollock. In 1982 Vassar became the first college or university in the world to grant an undergraduate major in cognitive science. Vassar was also the first of the Seven Sisters colleges to become coeducational, when it rejected a merger offer from Yale and instead opened its doors to male students in 1969. Vassar’s student body is now forty-one percent male, which is about the national average for a college or university.

But the exceptionality of Vassar does not lie merely in its history, but rather in its ability to balance tradition and cutting-edge modernity. In the new century, its newest additions include a Media Studies major, the Interdisciplinary Robotics Research Laboratory, and the Frances Daly Fergusson Dance Theater. Today Vassar continues to serve as a place where anything is possible.

Vassar Living

Here’s the rundown on campus residences:

  • Jewett House: At nine stories tall, newly renovated Jewett towers over the campus. Legend says that poet Edna St. Vincent Millay threw herself from the top of Jewett once but fell into a nearby oak tree and was saved.
  • Davison House, Raymond House, Lathrop House, Strong House: These four quad dorms are the places to be on weekend nights. Strong is also the only all-female dorm on campus.
  • Cushing House: Set slightly apart from the other dorms, Cushing provides a tight-knit dorm community behind its ivy-covered walls. m Main House: Main is at the center of campus, so it’s a convenient and happening place to live.
  • Noyes House: Its unique curved shape and retro “Jetson” lounge were designed by Eero Saarinen, the architect of the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Missouri.
  • Josselyn House: The first dorm at Vassar that opened with showers (1912), “Joss” has its own green stretch of lawn known fondly as “Joss Beach.”
  • Ferry Cooperative House: Ferry House provides upperclassmen the opportunity to try out communal living. This cooperative housing environment is completely operated and administered by the students who live there.
  • Terrace Apartments, Town Houses, and South Commons: These apartments provide Vassar seniors with a chance to move away from dorm living and toward more independent housing arrangements.

On the day I graduated from Vassar, I expected to feel miserable. After all, I was moving away from the place that had been, for four whole years, my home, and I was leaving behind the friends I’d grown to love like family. Packing up my stuff the day before had almost reduced me to tears, and so I thought, as I walked across the amphitheater to receive my diploma, that I’d start to feel a terrible sense of loss, a palpable awareness of the end of an era in my life. But among the sadness at what I was losing, among the fear of the unknown, I actually felt so much excitement, so much anticipation, and so much pride. I knew then that Vassar had really, truly prepared me for my postgraduate life; while I could look back on what I had accomplished at Vassar with a fondness and nostalgia that, even now, never seems to diminish, I could also look forward to putting the experiences I had known, the knowledge I had accrued, and the strength I had gained from Vassar to good use.

Vassar is arguably the most brilliant and beautiful of the Seven Sisters. Clearly, she is the most independent and rebellious, and the only one with enough chutzpah to turn down a marriage proposal from Yale. —Samuel L. Jackson, Commencement speech to the Class of 2004

It’s an exciting feeling, knowing that you’ve got a whole big world waiting for you, and an entire life to try and figure it out. And that’s what Vassar really gives you: the tools to navigate life, and the courage to go ahead and use them.

Information Summary

Ranks 1st in New York and 17th overall. See the entire top 2,000 colleges and universities list
Overall Score (about) 98.7
Total Cost On-Campus Attendance $72,760
Admission Success rate N/A
ACT / SAT 75%ile scores 33 / 1510
Student Ratio Students-to-Faculty 9 : 1
Retention (full-time / part-time) 96% / N/A
Enrollment Total (all students) 2,456


Vassar’s academic curriculum is based upon fierce intellectual curiosity and uninhibited scholastic exploration. Here, course offerings are numerous, professors are often mentors and friends, and classes can be as small as just three or four students. Vassar prides itself on being a place where students can discover new academic pursuits while continuing to study their old favorites. And one of the ways this happens is through Vassar’s unrestrictive academic requirements.

In my junior year, Professor Darlington walked into our Romantic Poets class and told me that she thought my paper was ‘brilliant.’ You don’t know what that meant to me—there I was, a small-town girl from Ohio who had worked so hard to get into college, and now my hard work was really paying off. I’d never felt so encouraged before, so completely free to write and think as I chose. To this day, whenever I mess up or feel silly, I think back to what Professor Darlington said to me, and I remember how much I gained from my classes at Vassar.


One of the most popular aspects of the Vassar curriculum is its flexible graduation requirements. Unlike some other schools where graduation requirements are rigid and intended to force students to follow a one-size-fits-all academic program, Vassar’s requirements allow students to choose what they want to study while still exposing them to subjects they might not otherwise have taken.

To graduate from Vassar, students need thirty-four credits (with most regular, semester- long courses worth one credit), including a freshman writing course (a writing-intensive intro course in a particular field), a foreign language credit, and a quantitative course credit. At least 8.5 credits must be taken outside the student’s major division. Each student will also have specific requirements for his or her particular major.

Students have until the end of their sophomore year to declare a major. Majors may be declared in either a single department (such as English or biology), an interdepartmental program (such as medieval and Renaissance studies or neuroscience and behavior), a multidisciplinary program that draws from multiple fields and numerous departments (such as cognitive science or media studies), or an independent program, which allows the student to design his or her own major. Students can also choose to declare a correlate sequence (the equivalent of a “minor”) in any one of a wide variety of fields. Vassar is known for helping students to customize the curriculum to fit their educational interests and professional goals.


Vassar credit can also be earned outside the classroom. Last year, more than 500 Vassar students participated in field work internships for credit, in Poughkeepsie and the surrounding Hudson Valley, and many as far as New York City. Vassar’s study abroad program is also very popular, with many students studying at other institutions in the United States or abroad during their junior year or over the summer. Vassar has its own programs in Germany, Ireland, France, Italy, Spain, and Russia, but accepts credit from a large number of other study abroad programs.

Studying At Vassar

At Vassar, classes are often intimately small; the average class size is sixteen, but classes can run even smaller. As a result, many students find that they are easily able to get to know their professors and to establish a relationship that goes beyond student-teacher formality. Most Vassar students meet with professors outside the classroom, either for extra help during office hours, to work on a special research project, or just to discuss a particular issue over lunch at the dining hall.

Vassar Courses: A Sampler

  • Africana Studies 263: Words of Fire: African American Orators and Their Orations
  • Biology 172: Microbial Wars
  • Computer Science 379: Computer Animation: Art, Science, and Criticism
  • Economics 388: Global Imbalances, Global Consequences
  • English 362: Woven Stories: Medieval and Renaissance Tapestry and Text
  • Film 214: Genre: The War Film
  • German Studies 101: Vampires, Lunatics, and Cyborgs: Exploring the Uncanny Recesses of the Romantic Consciousness
  • History 381: Love and Death in Tokugawa Japan, 1603–1868
  • Music 259: Soundscapes: Anthropology of Music
  • Urban Studies 350: New York City as a Social Laboratory
  • Women’s Studies 254: Bio-politics of Breast Cancer


Most students spend at least some study time in the fabulous Frederick Ferris Thompson Memorial Library, a cathedral-like building that houses one of the finest undergraduate collections in the country, including a million print volumes, numerous electronic resources, and a computerized learning center known as the Media Cloisters. Also housed there is the Archives and Special Collections Library, a collection of rare and primary sources that can be accessed by appointment. The rare books in the collection date from as early as the fifteenth century, and the manuscript collection includes unique medieval manuscripts, original documents by alumnae writers Mary McCarthy, Elizabeth Bishop, and Edna St. Vincent Millay, and the papers of naturalist John Burrows, astronomer Maria Mitchell, and physicist Albert Einstein.

Of course, if you’re looking for a laid-back atmosphere, you could study in the Java City café, where you can grab a snack to keep you focused or a latte to keep you awake during late-night homework sessions. Or hang out in the Atrium Juice Bar in the Athletic and Fitness Center, which serves delicious flatbread pizzas and a seemingly endless variety of fruit smoothies—while you’re there, you can grab a quick stress-busting yoga class or jogging session in between studying.

Because of Vassar’s adaptive requirements, engaging faculty, and comfy study spaces, studying at Vassar is often a limitless and adventurous experience. It’s a place where you can really explore all your options, discover novel passions, and develop your academic potential in whatever direction you choose.

Most Popular Fields of Study


building :: Vassar College building :: Vassar College
Vassar College


So you’ve read all the glossy brochures, checked out the Web site, had Coke and hors d’oeuvres at an informational function, talked with a representative, and maybe even visited the school. And you’ve decided that, yes, Vassar is for you. Now for the important part – applying.

Although Vassar students form a diverse community, they all share a background of high academic achievement. For the class of 2010, the admissions committee accepted a record low of 30 percent of the 6,075 applications submitted, the third-largest pool in college history. Of those accepted, 670 students (36.6 percent) enrolled.

The class of 2010 had a particularly strong academic profile. Nearly ninety percent of them came from the top twenty percent of their graduating class, while forty-four percent were in the top five percent. Their average SAT score was 1380 and their average grade point average was an unweighted A­.

Naturally, Vassar does not require every candidate to present the same credentials, but they do expect applicants to have taken the most rigorous course load available to them. A qualified student ideally will have elected to take four years of English, mathematics, laboratory science, history or social science, and foreign language. If available, most of those courses will be at the accelerated, honors, Advanced Placement, or International Baccalaureate level.

How to Apply

Early Decision applications (for students who know Vassar is their first-choice school) are due on November 15 with notification in mid-December, or on January 1 with notification in late January; Regular Decision applications are also due on January 1, but don’t receive admissions decisions until mid-April. Vassar uses the Common Application, which is accepted at a wide variety of schools across the United States and can be filled out online. Candidates should plan to take the SAT I and two SAT II subject tests, or the ACT, by no later than December of senior year for Regular Decision applicants or November or December for Early Decision I and II applicants, respectively. In addition to the basic application, candidates must include a personal essay and a $60 application fee. Then there’s “Your Space,” an optional blank space where you can express who you are without SAT scores or biology grades. Some people send poems they’ve written, some send notes to the admissions office, and some send drawings or sketches. You can do anything for “Your Space”—even leave it blank. Also optional are alumni interviews (although they are definitely recommended).

Transfer Students

Vassar accepts a limited number of transfer students each year; most years, only about twenty transfer students enroll. Applicants from other colleges or universities must demonstrate high academic achievement and cannot have taken more than four full semesters of college-level work.

International Students

About 10% of Vassar’s student population holds foreign citizenship, and current students represent fifty different nations, with the largest representation coming from Bulgaria, China, India, Jamaica, Canada, Ghana, Singapore, Ecuador, and Romania. International applicants use the same application and must take the same standardized tests as American applicants; however, if English is neither your first language nor the primary language of instruction you have used throughout secondary school, you will need to submit the results of the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). Vassar typically expects scores of at least 100 on the Internet-based TOEFL. Vassar also accepts IELTS as an alternative to TOEFL.

For more on applying, check out Vassar’s Admissions Web site: http://admissions.

Financial Aid

Don’t assume that a private, selective school such as Vassar is out of your reach. Its financial aid program is strictly need-based, with fifty-eight percent of students receiving some aid and an average Vassar scholarship of $28,224. As a need-blind school, Vassar doesn’t take your family’s financial situation into consideration when making admissions decisions, and the school meets one hundred percent of the demonstrated need of all admitted students for all four years.

Vassar has also recently established a policy that eliminates loans from the financial aid packages of students whose families earn $60,000 or less, and replaces them with scholarship aid.

If you are awarded financial aid, your aid package will typically include a combination of different sources, including Vassar scholarships, government or private scholarships or loans, and work-study jobs. Work-study allows students to work between eight and ten hours per week at a campus job in a particular administrative or academic department in order to earn money. The Office of Student Employment always gives job priority to financial aid students, which makes it easier to find the right job match for incoming freshmen with financial needs.

In order to receive financial aid, you must apply as early as possible—don’t wait to find out if you were accepted! In addition to a Vassar form, applicants must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and the CSS PROFILE, the College Board’s online financial aid application service. For more application information and for specific application deadlines, visit Vassar’s Financial Aid Web site at finaid.html.

Student Financial Aid Details

Ranks 5699th for the average student loan amount.
Secrets to getting the best scholarships and financial aid in New York.


Let’s face it: studying is only a part of college life. And while getting an education is a large part of the equation, your social life and activities are also just as crucial to finding the real you.

So what’s life like at Vassar?

For one thing, community spirit runs high. The school is small, with only about 2,400 students, and ninety-eight percent of students live on campus, which makes the college feel homey and intimate. While you won’t know everyone on campus by name, you won’t be able to walk across the Quad without seeing at least two or three familiar faces. The absence of any fraternities or sororities means that the student body socializes together, rather than in fragmented, isolated groups.

I like the College very much—and think that it is a superior boarding school—nearly everything that could be done is done for the students… I am much better contented than I ever expected to be away from home. —Letter, dated Nov. 18, 1865, from Mary Coe Tompson, ’65–Feb. ’66

Vassar students generally love to have fun, mingle with one another, and get involved with their community. No matter what you love, chances are you’ll find someone else who shares that passion at Vassar.


There are more than one-hundred student-run organizations at Vassar, and about 1,650 campus-wide events are held each year, including guest lecturers, visiting artists and performers, exhibits, workshops, athletic events, and concerts. Chances are, you won’t ever be bored at Vassar.

Theater is definitely big at Vassar. Numerous student performance groups, two intimate black-box theaters, and the new 300-seat Martel Theater provide a multitude of opportunities to create and attend shows. There are also improv and comedy troupes, and seven different a capella groups, including the Night Owls, the nation’s oldest continuing women’s collegiate a capella group. Students in the Vassar Repertory Dance Theatre (organized by the Dance department) present a fall season and an annual spring weekend of gala performances at the historic Bardavon Theater in downtown Poughkeepsie, and students lead their own dance troupes such as FlyPeople and Vassar Tap. If you play an instrument or enjoy singing, there are plenty of ensembles (both through the music department and independently) that perform throughout the year. And not only are there an abundance of Steinway pianos in the Skinner Hall of Music, there are also a bunch sprinkled throughout the dorms and other social spaces.


Interested in social activism? Amnesty International, Democracy Matters, Feminist Alliance, Habitat For Humanity, and the Moderate Independent Conservative Alliance are just a few of the groups that are active on Vassar’s campus. Vassar also has student political party groups, including the Vassar Democrats, Vassar Republicans, and the Vassar Greens. Cultural groups include the Black Students’ Union, the Caribbean Students’ Alliance, the Queer Coalition of Vassar College, and Poder Latino, among many others.


Vassar was founded as a college independent of particular denominational ties, which makes it the perfect space for a variety of religious and spiritual beliefs to coexist. The Office of Religious and Spiritual Life (whose motto actually is “Believe It Or Not”) supports and sponsors many student religious groups, including the Vassar Catholic Community, Vassar Christian Fellowship, Buddhist Sangha, the Vassar Jewish Union, and the Pagan Study Group, to name just a few.


Vassar also has several student-run publications and broadcasts—the Miscellany News is one of the oldest student weeklies in the country, and WVKR is one of the most powerful college radio stations in New York State. For creative writers, there is the literary journal Helicon; for aspiring Scorseses, there is the Vassar Filmmakers. Every year new student journals, newsletters, and publications spring up, so there’s always a fresh new take on current events and artistic goings-on.

And these are all just a slice of the student groups at Vassar. From the Barefoot Monkeys (the student circus troupe that gives fire shows on the Quad) to Hip Hop 101, from PHOCUS (photography and cooperative darkroom) to the Outing Club, there’s always something new and challenging to try.

Off-Campus Entertainment

Vassar has so much to offer in terms of entertainment that few students feel the need to leave every weekend in order to have fun. There are always plays to attend, films to see, parties to check out at Matthew’s Mug (the campus pub) or in the College Center, concerts to take in, or friends to see at the Students’ Building.

But if cabin fever gets you down, there are plenty of things to do off campus, as well. Student-friendly cafés and restaurants pepper the area around the college, such as Baby Cakes Bakery (a great place to have breakfast on Saturday morning), the Acropolis Diner (a Vassar standby), Sushi Village (home of the best spicy tuna roll in the world!) or the Cubbyhole, a great hole-in-the-wall hangout.

Further off is the Galleria Mall and downtown Poughkeepsie, which has the historic Bardavon Theater, the Civic Center, and the Chance Club for touring acts. Poughkeepsie is also surrounded by several nice locations, including artsy Rhinebeck, college-town New Paltz, and Beacon, home to the world-renowned DIA contemporary art museum. And of course, New York City is only an hour-and-a-half train ride away!

Student Enrollment Demographics

Student Graduation Demographics


Vassar fields twenty-five teams in the NCAA’s Division III (no athletic scholarships), and annually boasts athletic and academic All-Americans. In recent years, Vassar’s men’s volleyball team reached the national championship game; women’s rugby competed in the USA Rugby National Championships; and women’s tennis played in the NCAA tournament for the seventh time in eight years. As a group, Vassar athletes often maintain an average GPA higher than that of the general student body.

Vassar offers excellent facilities, whether you’re a varsity athlete, you play a club sport or in an intramural league, or you just like to work out. The combined Athletics & Fitness Center and Walker Field House includes a wood-floor gymnasium, a multipurpose playing surface for everything from tennis to fencing, a six-lane Olympic-size swimming pool and diving well, an elevated running track, several fitness studios, a large exercise room, and a sports medicine facility. The soccer, lacrosse, field hockey, baseball, and track teams are ecstatic over the multimillion dollar renovation and expansion of the Prentiss Field complex. Kenyon Hall features one of the few dedicated volleyball gymnasiums at a U.S. college, and several international standards squash courts. There are varsity and recreational tennis courts behind Josselyn House, the nine-hole Vassar Golf Course welcomes golfers of all levels, and only minutes from campus, Vassar crew teams row across the Hudson River.


  • Afternoon tea: A simple spread of tea and cookies in Main’s Rose Parlor.
  • Convocation: Incoming seniors ascend to the top of Main to announce themselves with a ritual ringing of the bell. Your camera is a must for the stunning view.
  • Daisy Chain: Group of sophomore women and men who bear a chain of daisies during Commencement.
  • Founder’s Day: All-day annual celebration in late April celebrating Matthew Vassar’s birthday. Must be seen to be believed.
  • Nilda’s Cookies: Favorite Retreat snack from a local baker, the famed Nilda. A sign reminds you not to stick them in the toaster.
  • Primal Scream: At midnight before exam week, students congregate in the residential quad to scream. Cathartic.
  • Serenading: Honoring/roast of the seniors at the beginning of the year with songs from each dorm and class. Water guns and silly string are de rigueur.
  • Vassar Devil: Devil’s food cake with vanilla ice cream, hot fudge, and marshmallow sauce. Its lesser-known angel-food cousin is, naturally, the Vassar Angel.


College is an experience in itself, but it also serves to prepare you for a future career. Vassar graduates have gone into so many fields and taken so many different paths that it’s easy to imagine that a Vassar education can help you to get virtually anywhere you want to go.

On graduation day, it was amazing to see how far we’d all come. I remember sitting there and thinking about what lay in store for each of my friends as they walked up to receive their diplomas—grad school for some, jobs for others, and for a few, travel or relaxation before starting the next phase of their lives. We were all about to go off on so many different paths, and while it was a scary feeling, it was also incredibly exhilarating.

After graduation, you’ll have access to a network of more than 3,000 alumnae/i who volunteer as career advisors. You’ll have a degree that opens doors to numerous graduate schools, jobs, and career paths. And you’ll have four years of amazing memories and friendships that will last for the rest of your life.

The majority of Vassar students opt for graduate study following the completion of their undergraduate degrees; seventy percent of Vassar grads find themselves in graduate school within five years after graduation. Many alumnae/i opt for professional schools to study law, medicine, or business; in 2007, eighty-five percent of Vassar grads who applied to medical school and eightyeight percent of those who applied to law school were accepted, compared to the national averages of fortyeight percent and fifty-nine percent, respectively.

And how do they pay for all this? With scholarships and fellowships. Vassar awards $150,000 in graduate fellowships, and every year Vassar students receive Fulbrights, Rhodes, Mellons, Watson, and many more renowned awards. Vassar’s Office for Fellowship and Pre- Professional Advising helps students get information on all sorts of grants and awards for graduate school.


Of course, not everyone chooses to continue with education after completing their undergrad degree. For those with an eye toward immediate employment, Vassar can help you jumpstart your career through the Office of Career Development. It can help you figure out what sorts of jobs interest you, where to find them, and how to get them. The Office can also connect you to alumnae/i in your field or with your interests who can advise and mentor you as you move into post-Vassar life. Ultimately, though, the best part about graduating from Vassar is knowing that you’ve got a degree that is applicable in so many different fields and on so many different paths. No matter what you major in, you’ll come out of your Vassar experience knowing more about who you are—and where you’re going.

Prominent Grads

  • Ellen Swallow Richards, 1870, Founder of Ecology
  • Crystal Eastman, ’03, Coauthor of the Equal Rights Amendment
  • Edna St. Vincent Millay, ’17, Pulitzer Prize-winning Poet
  • Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper, ’28, Computer Pioneer and Co-inventor of the Computer Language COBOL
  • Mary McCarthy, ’33, Pulitzer Prize-winning Author
  • Elizabeth Bishop, ’34, Pulitzer Prize-winning Poet
  • Vera Cooper Rubin, ’48, Astronomer, proved existence of “Dark Matter”
  • Anne Armstrong, ’49, Counselor to two U.S. Presidents
  • Mary Oliver, ’54, Pulitzer Prizewinning Poet
  • Elizabeth Titus-Putnam, ’55, Founder of the Student Conservation Association
  • Sau Lan Wu, ’63, High-Energy Particle Physicist, Co-discoverer of Gluon
  • Nina Zagat, ’63, co-founder of the Zagat Survey and guidebooks
  • Bernardine Healy, M.D. ’65, Director of the National Institutes of Health, cardiologist
  • Ellen Silbergeld, ’67, MacArthur Fellow, Public Health Scholar and Advocate
  • Lucinda Franks, ’68, Pulitzer Prizewinning Journalist
  • Meryl Streep, ’71, Academy Awardwinning Actress
  • Jane Smiley, ’71, Pulitzer Prizewinning Author
  • Vicki Miles-LaGrange, ’74, Federal Court Judge, First African-American Woman Named a U.S. Attorney
  • Richard W. Roberts, ’74, U.S. District Court Judge
  • Eben Ostby, ’77, Acadamy Awardwinning Computer Animator
  • Phil Griffin, ’79, President of MSNBC
  • Rick Lazio, ’80, US Congressman
  • John Carlstrom, ’81, MacArthur Fellow and Astrophysicist
  • Matthew Brelis, ’80, Pulitzer Prize-winning Journalist
  • Lisa Kudrow, ’85, Emmy Award-winning Actress and Costar of Friends
  • Marc Thiessen, ’89, Chief Presidential Speechwriter
  • Noah Baumbach, ’91, Academy Award-winning Writer and Director
  • Ethan Zohn, ’96, Survivor: Africa Winner and Co-founder of Grassroot Soccer
  • Sam Endicott, ’99, Lead Singer of The Bravery


Professors at Vassar also serve as academic advisors. Freshman students are assigned temporary “pre-major’ advisors in their academic fields or interest; these advisors help underclassmen to decide what courses they should take and what majors might interest them. After declaring a major, a student is given a new advisor from his or her academic department. Students often choose their new advisors based on previous classroom experience or on mutual research interests.

This website and its associated pages are not affiliated with, endorsed by, or sponsored by this school. has no official or unofficial affiliation with Vassar College.