College Spotlights

What Vassar College is Known For

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.

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 – Niche.com

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 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):

SCHOOLACCEPTANCE RATE
Barnard College11.80%
Wellesley College21.60%
Vassar College23.70%
Smith College32.50%
Bryn Mawr College33.20%
Mount Holyoke College38.00%

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…

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.

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…

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:

DECISION PLANAPPLICATION DUENOTIFICATION DUE
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 year 2021 to 2022, 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:

COLLEGE FEESCOST
Tuition$61,940
Fees$930
Room and board$15,710
TOTAL$78,580

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 – Niche.com

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…

What Famous People 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.

There is no denying that Vassar College is one of the most popular liberal arts colleges in the nation. In fact, in the 2021 US News listing of Best National Liberal Arts Colleges, Vassar is at number 13.

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.

Previous Article: What Does Wellesley Look for in a Student?

Next Article: What Barnard College is Known For


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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