What is it Like to Attend Vassar College?

The tutors behind Varsity Tutors are not just here to teach – they’re sharing their college experiences as well. Logan is a New York City tutor specializing in SAT prep tutoring, History tutoring, Algebra tutoring, and more. He graduated from Vassar College in 2012 with a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science. See what he had to say about his undergraduate years: 

VT: Describe the campus setting and transportation options. How urban or safe is the campus? Are there buses or do you need a car/bike?

Logan: Vassar is located in Poughkeepsie, which is a medium-sized town in Dutchess County, NY, about an hour and a half north of the city. The campus is both beautiful and safe, and most of the students stay on it year-round. For those who do like to venture off campus, there are many reasonably priced, high quality restaurants within walking distance, and the surrounding area is safe and well lit.

In terms of transportation, the only potential challenge is getting from campus to the Poughkeepsie train station (and vice versa). I was lucky enough to have a car and live within driving distance, so I am not completely familiar with the methods used to make that particular trip. From what I gathered, a lot of people used the taxi service, which I’ve heard was fairly reliable.

VT: How available are the professors, academic advisers, and teaching assistants?

Logan: All of the professors I had were readily accessible outside of the classroom and very responsive to emails. Most of my classes were small enough (25 students at the very most) that I could typically converse directly with the professor, rather than a teaching assistant. The one teaching assistant I had taught a language class, and he was friendly and easy to communicate with.

With regard to advisers, you will have one adviser when you enter as a freshman, and then you will switch to someone in your department when you declare a major. I actually changed majors my junior year, so I had three advisers at various points throughout my stay at Vassar. All three were responsive, knowledgeable about the graduation requirements, and accommodating to my needs and preferences.

VT: How would you describe the dorm life – rooms, dining options, location, socialization opportunities with other students?

Logan: I lived in one dorm (Cushing) my first two years, and in town houses my last two years. Cushing was a bit removed from the area which contained the four major dorms (Lathrop, Raymond, Josselyn, and Strong). While this separation did make it a bit less convenient to hang out in the residential “quad,” it did foster a sense of community within the dorm itself. I remained good friends with some of the people I knew from my earliest days at Vassar.

The terrace apartments and town houses are where most people go when they become upperclassmen, with more moving into the latter. A typical TA or TH consists of 4-5 people who were friends and signed up to live with each other. My experience, however, was a bit different my first year living in a town house. I chose to take an opening in a TH with four people who I did not know at all. They were very friendly and welcoming, and they included me when they hung out with their broader group of friends. It was a great experience, and I still hang out with some of the people in this broader group who live near me today.

My final year on campus was a bit more traditional. I moved into another town house, this time with people who I knew beforehand. Again, I had a very pleasant experience. One of the people with whom I lived was a tremendous cook, and would guide us in creating house meals which we enjoyed multiple times a week. Living with these people deepened my friendships with them, and I am tremendously thankful for the opportunity I had to do so.

In general, if you live with friendly, responsible people (of which there are many at Vassar), your upperclassman experiences will be great and memorable.

VT: Which majors/programs are best represented and supported? What did you study and why? Did the university do a good job supporting your particular area of study?

Logan: Vassar is traditionally known as a more humanities focused Liberal Arts school, though its Science and Math programs are strong as well. I actually began as a Math major before switching to Political Science my junior year, so I have had both an atypical Vassar experience, and a more standard one. Both of these areas were well supported, and the teachers I had were tremendously knowledgeable and uniquely witty and humorous. I actually switched away from math after taking Modern Algebra (group theory) because it was too difficult and involved. That program will provide a challenging and engaging curriculum for even the strongest math student. And the more traditional majors are as excellent as advertised.

VT: How easy or difficult was it for you to meet people and make friends as a freshman? Does Greek life play a significant role in the campus social life?

Logan: I transferred to Vassar after spending a semester somewhere else, so my “freshman” experience was atypical. I found it fairly easy to make friends, however, and I am not the most outgoing person. Because of the tremendous diversity in interests and backgrounds of the students there, it is not hard to find likeminded people, as well as people who are completely different from the ones you grew up with and who will broaden your social experience.

There is no Greek life on campus, but there are plenty of social events. Some are of the all-campus variety, and are usually held annually/bi-annually at certain locations, while others are smaller functions geared toward specific student subcultures. In general though, it is a pretty inclusive campus, so if you are looking to socialize in a positive manner, there are ample opportunities for this.

VT: How helpful is the Career Center and other student support services? Do many reputable companies recruit on campus? 

Logan: This is the area about which I know the least. I decided to go to graduate school full-time immediately after college, so I did not get started on my professional career until I was a year and half removed from Vassar.

VT: How are the various study areas such as libraries, the student union, and dorm lounges? Are they over-crowded, easily available, spacious?

Logan: The Vassar library is large and notably beautiful. There are plenty of areas for both private, quiet study, as well as for group projects and discussions. The dorms also have study rooms that are readily accessible. Because it is a relatively small college population, the study areas are rarely over-crowded.

VT: Describe the surrounding town. What kinds of outside establishments / things to do are there that make it fun, boring, or somewhere in between? To what extent do students go to the downtown area of the city versus staying near campus? 

Logan: Again, Vassar is located in Poughkeepsie, New York, which is a reasonably safe, medium-sized town. There are many quality, affordable restaurants nearby, and there are a few bars throughout Poughkeepsie that are popular with the students (e.g. Billy Bob’s, Mahoney’s). In the broader Dutchess County area, there are a lot of historic sites such as the Vanderbilt Mansion, Franklin Roosevelt’s childhood home, the Beekman Arms (the oldest inn in the country), and others, which are all easy to get to if you have a car or know somebody with one.

Vassar is close to other famous colleges and universities such as Bard, Marist, and the Culinary Institute of America. While students predominantly stay on campus, I have made day trips with my friends to all of these places, and have met some wonderful and interesting people doing so.

VT: How big or small is the student body? Were you generally pleased or displeased with the typical class sizes?

Logan: Vassar is a small school, totaling about 2,000-2,500 students. Because of this, and the fact that students primarily stayed on campus, there was a strong sense of community within the school. Most people there enjoyed this aspect of Vassar, however, I have heard some say that it creates a bit of a fishbowl feeling, where everyone knows everyone else’s business. This does not fully describe my own experience, but there definitely is an element of that.

VT: Describe one memorable experience with a professor and/or class. Perhaps one you loved the most or one you regret the most.

Logan: I once took a political science course taught by a very animated professor who would frequently make loud exclamations without warning. One day, after we began reading Friedrich Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom, he made a comment about how peculiar it was that several Vassar alumni had gone on to become Republican politicians, despite the extremely liberal leanings of the faculty and student population there. The professor noted that one particular congressman, who he happened to have taught years earlier, was on television a few days prior lamenting the fact that conservative thinkers like Hayek were left out of most college curriculums. The professor then said, raising his decibel level every couple of words, “So remember…if you’re ever on TV, I TAUGHT HAYEK!” I have had several much more mild-mannered professors, but that incident always stuck in my mind.

Check out Logan’s tutoring profile.

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Varsity Tutors.