All You Need to Know About Vassar College

It’s almost always that Vassar College will pop out of someone’s mouth when elite liberal arts colleges in the US are being talked about. Having an idea of what it’s known for and many other essential matters about it can make it easier to determine whether or not you should send an application together with other supporting documents.

Vassar College is known for being one of the Seven Sisters schools. However, it became co-ed in 1969. Today, it’s known for being a highly selective and high-ranking liberal arts college. Some of its most popular majors include Social Sciences, Biomedical Sciences, and Visual and Performing Arts.

Among the different schools that make up the Seven Sisters, Vassar is the only one that accepts not only females but also males, although the majority of its students are still females.

If you are thinking about sending an application to Vassar College, continue reading. Below, you will come across just about everything you need to know about the school, from its acceptance rate, cost of attendance (COA) to its most notable alumni, to help you figure out if it’s the right college for you or another institution.

A Brief History of Vassar College

It was in 1861 when Vassar College was founded by Matthew Vassar, a philanthropist, merchant and brewer — hence, the school’s nickname, Brewers. But because of the American Civil War, it opened in 1865.

Vassar was founded in order to provide women with high-quality education, which was exclusive to men during that time. In 1898, it became the very first all-women’s college to have a Phi Beta Kappa honorary society chapter. For some time after World War II, Vassar College accepted a small number of male students, all of which were war veterans.

In 1926, the Four College Conference came into being. It was a consortium consisting of Vassar and other highly selective liberal arts colleges in the US: Wellesley College, Mount Holyoke College and Smith College.

Eventually, three more all-women’s colleges were invited to join. The consortium’s name was changed to the Seven Sisters, a group of schools that served as Ivy League institutions for women.

Now that we’re through with the school’s history, here are some quick facts about it…

  • Nickname: Brewers
  • Location: Poughkeepsie, New York
  • Campus type: Suburban
  • Size: 1,000 acres
  • Education system: Liberal
  • School type: Private, non-profit liberal arts college
  • Reputation: Non-party school
  • Number of majors: 48
  • Best majors: Social Sciences, Biomedical Sciences, Foreign Languages, Visual and Performing Arts
  • Selectivity: Highly selective
  • Average class size: 17 students
  • Student-to-faculty ratio: 8:1
  • Retention rate: 96%
  • Graduation rate: 91%
  • Colors: Burgundy and gray
  • Mascot: The Brewer
  • Sports: Basketball, volleyball, soccer, baseball, rugby, tennis, lacrosse, squash, track and field, cross-country, fencing, swimming, rowing, field hockey (women only), golf (women only)

What is Vassar freshman boy syndrome?

Vassar freshman boy syndrome (VFBS) is a term used to refer to the tendency of male first-time, first-year students at Vassar College to want to sleep with female students and never talk to them again.

Despite the name, VFBS is not limited to freshmen males at Vassar but also male students from various year levels.

What is the Acceptance Rate at Vassar College?

The acceptance rate at Vassar College is 23.7%. To put that in context, the average acceptance rate among colleges and universities in the US is 68%. This makes Vassar a highly selective school, and it doesn’t come as a surprise since it was founded as an all-women counterpart to the Ivy Leagues.

While talking about the brief history of Vassar, we established the fact that it’s one of the Seven Sisters schools. And among these schools, selectivity-wise, it’s not the hardest to get into and not the easiest to get into.

Let’s check out the acceptance rates at the Seven Sisters schools (minus Radcliffe College):

Barnard College11.80%
Wellesley College21.60%
Vassar College23.70%
Smith College32.50%
Bryn Mawr College33.20%
Mount Holyoke College38.00%
Acceptance Rates at Women’s Colleges

By the way, in 1969, Vassar started accepting both male and female applicants.

This makes it the only member of the Seven Sisters that’s a co-ed school. Currently, 59% of its students are females and 41% of its students are males. It’s also a diverse school, ranking at number 122 diversity-wise across the nation.

After knowing the school’s acceptance rate, let’s get to know its different admission requirements…

Vassar College

Does Vassar College Require SAT or ACT Scores?

Vassar College does not require applicants to submit standardized test scores. The school is test-optional, just like many other US colleges and universities. A test-optional admissions process is beneficial for students who are unhappy with their test scores or failed to take the SAT or ACT.

In the past, students that got accepted into Vassar had SAT scores between 1370 and 1520. On the other hand, they had ACT scores between 31 and 34. Due to this, the school is intimidating for those with low test scores.

Submitting your SAT or ACT score may or may not be done when applying to Vassar College.

That’s because it now has a test-optional admissions process. So, in other words, they will use your test score when deciding your fate only if you provide it. If you don’t submit your SAT or ACT score, your fate will be based on other things.

I loved my time at Vassar. I’m a first-gen college student in my immediate family and suffered some imposter syndrome feelings while there, but I found my network of friendly, warm, supportive individuals among the students, staff, and faculty there – with many of whom I still communicate.

Alum Review –

However, being test-blind doesn’t mean that it’s easier to gain admission into Vassar.

You will still need to have a strong application, such as a high GPA — we will talk about this very important admissions-related matter in a few, so don’t stop reading now.

If you have a high standardized test score and you want to prove to the school’s admissions officers that you are what they’re looking for, consider submitting your SAT or ACT score.

For the academic year 2018 to 2019, 69% of admitted students submitted their SAT scores, and 40% of admitted students submitted their ACT scores.

And this takes us to this pressing question many hopefuls are too shy to ask…

GPA You Need to Get Into Vassar College

To improve their chances of getting into Vassar College, applicants need to have a 4.0 GPA. Most students attending Vassar were at the top of their class in high school. Besides a high GPA, applicants also need to have high test scores and impressive extracurricular activities and take AP or IB classes.

Whether you are applying to Vassar or another school, your GPA is the most important part of your application. As a matter of fact, it’s something that the discerning eyes of a school’s admissions officers will focus on right away.

It’s no secret that Vassar College is a highly selective school, which means that having a high GPA score can increase your chances of getting an acceptance letter rather than a rejection letter from it. With a GPA requirement of at least 4.0, the school is looking for applicants with nearly straight A’s in all classes in high school.

Refrain from assuming that having a GPA of not less than 4.0 will guarantee you admission into the school.

Vassar has a holistic admissions process. This means that it takes into account other things than just an applicant’s GPA. For instance, it will help you get thumbs up from the admissions officers if you have meaningful extracurricular activities and impressive recommendation letters and admission essays.

To demonstrate college readiness, it’s a good idea that you have taken AP or IB classes, in particular difficult ones. But if your high school doesn’t offer any, Vassar College won’t blame you for it.

Now that you know the GPA and other application requirements, let’s give an answer to this question…

Vassar College in history

Does Vassar College Offer Early Decision?

Vassar offers both Early Decision I (ED I) and Early Decision II (ED II) decision plans for students who wish to apply early as they are committed to going to the school. If they get accepted into Vassar, they will have to withdraw their applications from other schools as ED I and ED II are binding.

Earlier, we established the fact that Vassar College is a highly selective school since it has an acceptance rate of 23.7% only. Luckily, students may apply ED I or ED II to increase their chances of getting accepted.

See to it that you will beat the deadline for a certain decision plan by checking out this table:

ED I15-NovMid-December
ED II4-JanLate January to early February
RD4-JanLate March

* Always check the college website for the latest dates

While you may enjoy increased chances of becoming a Vassar student when you apply ED I or ED II, you will still have to submit the very same things as students applying RD.

However, there is another document that you will have to submit together with your application and supporting documents: the Early Decision agreement.

Simply put, the Early Decision agreement is a contract where you agree to turn your back on other schools if Vassar accepts you. And before submitting the agreement, it should be signed by a parent or a counselor and you.

Here are the things to submit when applying for ED I or ED II:

  • Common Application or Coalition Application
  • Early Decision agreement
  • Teacher evaluations
  • Mid-year grade report from the high school counselor

As you can see, your SAT or ACT score is not on the list. That’s because, as talked about earlier, Vassar College has a test-optional admissions procedure. This means that it’s up to you if you will submit your SAT or ACT score or not. Just make sure that the rest of your application is strong.

No matter the decision plan of your choice, it’s a definite must that you know the answer to this…

How Much Does It Cost to Go to Vassar College?

The cost of going to Vassar College for one year, based on the rate for the academic is $78,580. The school’s tuition alone is $61,940. This is 165% higher than the average tuition for most four-year schools in New York ($23,406), which makes going to Vassar College expensive.

Whether you live in New York, where Vassar is located, or elsewhere, you will still have to pay for the full COA. It’s for the fact that it’s a private school where there are no such things as in-state and out-of-state tuitions.

Based on the figures given above, there is no denying that going to Vassar isn’t cheap. As a matter of fact, the school is at number five on the Most Expensive Colleges in America by Tuition ranking. And, on the Most Expensive Colleges in New York by Tuition ranking, Vassar College sits at number two.

Let’s take a look at the breakdown of the cost of being a Vassar College student for one academic year:

Room and board$15,710

Taking a look at the breakdown of the total cost of attending Vassar, it’s clear that one of the things that are causing the COA to reach sky-high is the room and board.

If you think that living off-campus will help make earning a degree from Vassar College cheaper, think again.

According to the school itself, full-time students need to live in college housing. However, special permission to reside off-campus may be granted by the Director of Residential Life, albeit for the following academic year.

While people find this college amazing, I don’t. After a year here, I have found it to be not only the antithesis of what I was looking for, I felt I have grown a lot more conservative since I first arrived on campus given the hostile attitude toward free speech and open dialogue. Additionally, with the employment situation after graduation, I simply think paying $300k at sticker is a waste of my parents’ money.

Freshman Review –

Fortunately, Vassar awards around $71 million in scholarships every academic year. The money comes from the school’s endowment, fundraising events, and gifts from its friends.

Now that you know how much it will cost you to go to Vassar, let’s check out the answer to this question…

Is Vassar College Prestigious?

Located in Poughkeepsie, New York, Vassar College is a small private liberal arts institution.

It has a beautiful campus measuring 1,000 acres and has a suburban environment. As of this writing, it has 2,516 students, all of whom are undergraduates. About 62% of its attendees are females and around 38% of them are males.

Speaking of which, when Vassar was founded in 1861, it accepted only female students. After all, its mission back then was to offer women a fully equivalent education to that of the best men’s colleges.

In 1969, however, the liberal arts school welcomed male students, too, thus becoming the nation’s first women’s college to become co-educational.

Vassar College Rankings

US News ranks Vassar College #13 in National Liberal Arts College, a spot that it shares with Smith College, which is a private liberal arts women’s college. The institution, meanwhile, is ranked #21 in Best Liberal Arts Colleges in America and #5 in Best Liberal Arts Colleges in New York by Niche.

Some college-bound students think that Vassar College is an Ivy League school because it’s prestigious.

The private liberal arts school is known for being selective alright. However, it doesn’t make it an Ivy League. Nonetheless, the institution is considered a Little Ivy together with 14 other schools:

  • Amherst College
  • Bates College
  • Bowdoin College
  • Colby College
  • Connecticut College
  • Hamilton College
  • Haverford College
  • Lafayette College
  • Middlebury College
  • Swarthmore College
  • Trinity College
  • Tufts University
  • Wesleyan University
  • Williams College

And speaking of other schools, Vassar College, even though it already accepts male students, is often still compared with other women’s colleges, specifically small liberal arts institutions.

Let’s take a look at their US News and Niche rankings:

NameUS News RankingNiche Ranking
Agnes Scott College#63 in National Liberal Arts Colleges#9 in Best Women’s Colleges in America
Barnard College#18 in National Liberal Arts Colleges#1 in Best Women’s Colleges in America
Bryn Mawr College#31 in National Liberal Arts Colleges#5 in Best Women’s Colleges in America
College of Saint Benedict#94 in National Liberal Arts Colleges#3 in Best Women’s Colleges in America
College of Saint Mary#49 in National Liberal Arts Colleges#7 in Best Women’s Colleges in America
Hollins University#102 in National Liberal Arts Colleges#15 in Best Women’s Colleges in America
Meredith College#103 in National Liberal Arts Colleges#14 in Best Women’s Colleges in America
Mount Holyoke College#36 in National Liberal Arts Colleges#6 in Best Women’s Colleges in America
Mount Mary University#58 in National Liberal Arts Colleges#17 in Best Women’s Colleges in America
Scripps College#33 in National Liberal Arts Colleges#4 in Best Women’s Colleges in America
Smith College#13 in National Liberal Arts Colleges#3 in Best Women’s Colleges in America
Spelman College#51 in National Liberal Arts Colleges#13 in Best Women’s Colleges in America
Wellesley College#5 in National Liberal Arts Colleges#2 in Best Women’s Colleges in America

Most Popular Majors at Vassar College

Being a liberal arts college, it doesn’t come as a surprise that some of the most popular majors at Vassar College are those that are a part of the institution’s liberal arts programs. However, the small private institution is also known to offer some excellent non-liberal arts programs, and one of them is computer science.

The following is a table demonstrating the most popular liberal arts majors offered by Vassar College according to the total percentage of all graduates who majored in them:

Popular Majors at Vassar
Popular Majors at Vassar

Outside of the liberal arts discipline, there are a handful of sought-after majors at Vassar College.

And one of them is computer science.

As a matter of fact, the liberal arts school is ranked by Niche #84 in Best Colleges for Computer Science in America out of a total of 877 higher institutions offering the major that the popular college ranking site surveyed.

Meanwhile, Vassar College is #9 in Best Colleges for Computer Science in New York by Niche — the #1 spot is occupied by Columbia University, which, as everybody knows, is an Ivy League school.

What makes computer science at Vassar a standout is that it’s unique.

According to the liberal arts college itself, its computer science offering integrates the study of essential theoretical foundations with the study of formidable scientific methodologies that are pivotal to the discipline, thus providing an exclusive preparation for graduate study in computer science as well as work in the profession itself.

Vassar College

Vassar College Reviews: Pros and Cons

Because Vassar College is a selective and highly ranked institution, its name appearing on your resume may help increase your job market value, especially when applying for a post in a field related to your major.

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), as reported by Colleges of Distinction, says that the national average for student-to-faculty ratio in the country is 18.1. On the other hand, the student-to-faculty ratio at Vassar is only 8:1.

As a general rule of thumb, the smaller the ratio, the better the learning experience.

Also contributing to that is the fact that around 67% of all its classes have fewer than 20 students.

Vassar’s 1,000-acre suburban campus is also known for its beauty. As a matter of fact, Niche ranks the institution #18 in Best College Campuses in New York.

Unfortunately, it’s not that easy on the pocket to attend college and this fact can be counted as one of the few bad things about Vassar.

As of this writing, tuition at Vassar amounts to $64,800.

Considering that the national average tuition at 4-year non-profit private institutions, based on a report by the Education Data Initiative, in the US is $37,641, it only means that the tuition at the private liberal arts college is 72% more expensive than at most other American private schools.

True enough, Vassar College is #4 in the Most Expensive Colleges in America by CollegeCalc.

While Vassar College meets 100% of its students’ financial aid need, only around 65% of all first-time, first-year students receive need-based assistance, each one getting an average amount of $52,003.

Famous People Who Went to Vassar College

Many notable people were Vassar students once. Some of them are scientists, authors, playwrights, and actors. A former First Lady of the United States used to attend the school, too. Vassar College takes pride in the fact that it has a network of over 37,000 people who have had the Vassar experience.

Besides the school itself, many people who attended or graduated from Vassar College are successful and popular, too. This helps give applicants the assurance that the co-ed school is capable of producing winning graduates and the thought that they could be just as accomplished and well-known one day.

Without further ado, let’s check out some of Vassar College’s most notable alumni:

  • Jaqueline Kennedy Onassis. The 35th First Lady of the United States and the youngest one, too, Jaqueline Kennedy Onassis was the wife of President John F. Kennedy. She attended Vassar College from 1947 to 1949. She was an active student and even wrote for the school’s newspaper.
  • Grace Hopper. A mathematician and US Navy, Grace Hopper was a pioneer in computer technology development and helped create UNIVAC I. In 1924, she enrolled at Vassar College. She tutored many math and physics students, which was how she realized she was good at teaching.
  • Katharine Graham. The American Newspaper, the Washington Post, was owned by the family of Katharine Graham. From 1963 to 1991, she presided over the publication. She attended Vassar College, although transferred to the University of Chicago after one academic year.
  • Edna St. Vincent Millay. In 1923, Edna St. Vincent Millay became the very first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for poetry. It was for her collection of poems called The Harp Weaver and Other Poems. She entered Vassar College in 1913 and wrote a poem for it entitled The Lamp and the Bell.
  • Vera Rubin. When she earned her bachelor’s degree from Vassar College in 1948, Vera Rubin, an astronomer who pioneered work on galaxy rotation rates, was the only graduate in astronomy that year. She went on to earn a graduate degree from Cornell University and Georgetown University.
  • Elisabeth Murdoch. Born in Australia, British and American media executive Elisabeth Murdoch is the daughter of multi-billionaire Rupert Murdoch, the owner of 21st Century Fox. She attended Vassar College from 1986 to 1990, where she completed her bachelor’s degree in European Studies.
  • Neil Strauss. Author and journalist Neil Strauss regularly wrote for The New York Times and also served as a contributing editor at Rolling Stones. He is best known for his book The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists. He attended Vassar College, but transferred to Columbia University.
  • Anthony Bourdain. A well-known chef and author, Anthony Bourdain hosted TV shows that took viewers all over the planet to learn about food and culture. Before deciding to become a chef, he attended Vassar College for a couple of years and then went to the Culinary Institute of America.
  • Meryl Streep. Considered the best actress of her generation, Meryl Streep has 21 Academy Awards nominations and 32 Golden Globe Awards nominations. She learned she had a knack for acting after appearing in a play at Vassar College, which made her famous across the campus.
  • Lisa Kudrow. Appearing in many 1980s TV shows, Lisa Kudrow shot to fame portraying Phoebe Buffay in the award-winning TV sitcom Friends. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Biology at Vassar College and worked for her father, a physician, for eight years before entering the world of show business.

Before you compare the notable alumni of Vassar with that of other schools, let’s answer this first…

How Vassar College Compare With Other Schools?

In terms of factors like acceptance rate, graduation rate, student-to-faculty ratio, and COA, Vassar College is better than other schools. Students who are looking to have a co-ed experience should consider attending Vassar as it’s the only Seven Sisters school that accepts both males and females.

When choosing which college to go to, it’s not enough that you take a look at the individual profiles of those you have shortlisted. It’s also a must that you compare the schools on your list with one another.

Each college and university has its own set of strengths and weaknesses, and comparing them with each other allows you to have an idea of which one has strengths that can highlight your own. If you like to share the classroom with male and female students, then Vassar should be on the top of your list than other Seven Sisters schools.

Here’s how Vassar College fares compared to other well-known liberal arts institutions:

  • Is Vassar Better Than Barnard College? In terms of acceptance rate, Vassar is better than Barnard — 23.7% vs. 11.8%. This means that applicants have higher chances of getting accepted into Vassar. However, compared to Barnard, Vassar has a higher minimum SAT score requirement, steeper COA, and a lower graduation rate.
  • Is Vassar Better Than Mount Holyoke College? The campus size of Vassar is twice the campus size of Mount Holyoke. However, it has a higher COA and lower acceptance rate than Mount Holyoke. Further, more students at Mount Holyoke are getting more grant aid (74% vs. 55%), making going to Mount Holyoke cheaper.
  • Is Vassar Better Than Smith College? With a 32.5% acceptance rate, there’s no doubt that applicants have higher chances of gaining admission into Smith than Vassar. Going to Smith is cheaper, too. However, Vassar offers more majors, and Smith has a bigger student population despite having a smaller campus size.
  • Is Vassar Better Than Bryn Mawr College? There are fewer students going to Bryn Mawr than Vassar. Still, Vassar has a smaller student-to-faculty ratio — 8:1 vs. 9:1. The good news is that Bryn Mawr is easier to get into, with an acceptance rate of 33.1%. The all-women’s school also has a lower COA than the co-ed school.
  • Is Vassar Better Than Wellesley College? Wellesley has cheaper tuition and fees than Vassar. While it’s easier on the bank to go there, getting admitted into it is harder. That’s because it has an acceptance rate of 21.6% only. Although Vassar has a smaller population than Wellesley, they have the same graduation rate of 91%.

Whether you’re a female or male, you can apply to Vassar College since it has turned from all-women to co-ed in the late 1960s. But that’s the only thing that changed — it’s still a member of the Seven Sisters, which means that it’s just as highly selective as before, with a current acceptance rate of 23.7%.

Above, you came across just about everything you need to know about the school admissions-wise.

Take your time when weighing the pros and cons of applying to Vassar College as well as comparing it with other schools on your list to be able to make a smart choice.

This article is a part of series about Seven Sisters colleges.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the College Reality Check.

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