Vassar College, located in Poughkeepsie, New York, is a privately owned and operated four-year liberal arts college that awards undergraduate bachelor’s degrees in various subjects. Vassar was founded in 1861 as a strictly women’s college. However, in 1969 the college became coeducational–opening its doors to both men and women. The decision to become a coeducational institution was made during a time of consolidation when colleges across the country were merging to increase enrollment and promote growth.
Vassar College is situated on a 1,000-acre campus that is home to over one hundred buildings, many of which have been designed by well-known architects such as Marcel Breuer, James Renwick Jr., César Pelli, and Eero Saarinen. Vassar’s architectural styles and genres range from Collegiate Gothic to International and its campus is marked by both period and modern buildings. Two of Vassar’s buildings are officially recognized as National Historic Landmarks. Vassar’s campus is beautifully manicured and landscaped with over 200 types of trees, as well as various plants and bushes. The campus includes a native plant preserve—a 400-acre ecological preserve—and a unique arboretum.
Vassar has a total annual enrollment of roughly 2,400 undergraduate students, almost all of which (98%) live on campus. About two thirds of entering freshmen come from public high schools and about one third from private schools. While Vassar is a coeducational institution, its student body still has more women than men—a ratio of about 3:2. The college employs about 300 faculty and staff, and almost all professors have doctorate or Ph.D. degrees. The average class size at Vassar ranges from 15 to 18 students.
In 2007, Vassar reinstituted its long-standing policy of need-blind admissions where student applicants are evaluated based on academic and extracurricular performance without regard to their ability to pay for school. The student body at Vassar is comprised of students from across the United States and around the world. Currently, about 10% of the student population at Vassar is made up of international students, which come from over 50 foreign countries.
Academics and Rankings
Vassar awards the Bachelor of Arts (A.B.) degree in over 50 fields of study. It also offers several multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary majors, as well as a self-designed major where students can choose the courses and programs they want to take. A very popular and unique program offered at Vassar is the Self-Instructional Language Program (SILP) that offers courses in some common languages such as Korean, Portuguese, Swedish, and Turkish, as well as some not-so-common languages such as Swahili, Hindi, Irish/Gaelic, and Yiddish.
The curriculum at Vassar is intentionally designed with utmost flexibility in mind in order to motivate students to participate in a large array of study programs and courses. In order to graduate, all students must demonstrate proficiency in a foreign language, take a freshman writing course, and an interdisciplinary course—but that’s where the universal graduation requirements end; each student must also complete the requirements of his or her own major.
Vassar has a well-developed study abroad program and the college encourages its students to take advantage of it. Study abroad opportunities sponsored through Vassar include one or two semesters in England, Italy, China, Germany, Ireland, Morocco, Turkey, Greece, Mexico, France, Spain or Russia. In addition to study abroad programs at Vassar College, students may participate in programs approved by Vassar but sponsored by other U.S. colleges and universities.
One thing that most students at Vassar appreciate is that all of the classes are taught by actual professors, not graduate students or assistants. Currently, the most popular fields of study (based on number of enrollees) include English, psychology, economics, political science and biology. For those students who want to gain more in depth understanding of their area of study, Vassar offers minors and correlated sequences which allow students to delve deeper into the subject matter of their major.
In 2013, U.S. News and World Report categorized Vassar as one of the “most selective” colleges and ranked it 10th in the nation among all liberal arts colleges. It also said that Vassar provides students the 3rd “Best Value” of any liberal arts college nationwide. Forbes ranked Vassar 20th on its list of America’s Best Colleges and Kiplinger ranked Vassar the 9th best value among U.S. liberal arts colleges.
For its size, Vassar has a very impressive library system. The main library building is the Frederick Ferris Thompson Memorial Library. In addition to the main library building, Vassar has 7 other libraries. When Vassar was founded in 1865, the college’s library system consisted of just one room and a small collection of 3,000 books. Today Vassar houses one of the largest literary collections of any undergraduate library in the United States. The library is home to over one million volumes (including 7,500 periodicals) and a large collection of microfiche and microfilm. Since 1943, Vassar’s Thompson Library has been a Federal depository library for many important U.S. Government documents. For the last 25 years, Vassar’s library has been a Reference Center for the State of New York.
In 2001, the Thompson Memorial Library underwent a major renovation. In an attempt to restore its original design and appeal, between 2008 and 2009, the Van Ingen Art Library also underwent a major renovation to both its interior and exterior. The renovation to the Van Ingen Art Library was the largest renovation the library has undergone since it was constructed in 1937.
Box 10, 124 Raymond Avenue
Poughkeepsie, NY 12604-0077
Fax: (845) 437-7063
Contact: David Borus
Dean of Admission and Financial Aid
124 Raymond Avenue
Poughkeepsie, NY 12604
Total undergrads: 2,389
First-time degree-seeking freshmen: 638
Degree-seeking undergrads: 2,343
Small city (50,000 – 249,999)
College has an application fee: Yes
Regular application fee: $60
Online application fee: $60
Percent applicants admitted: 25%
Percent students who return for sophomore year: 96%
Area, Ethnic, Cultural, & Gender Studies
African Studies B
American Studies B
Asian Studies B
Latin American Studies B
Women’s Studies B
Arts, Visual & Performing
Art – General B
Drama/Theater Arts B
Film Studies B
Music – General B
Biological & Biomedical Sciences
Communications & Journalism
Mass Communications/Media Studies B
Computer & Information Sciences
Computer/Information Sciences – General B
English Language & Literature
English Language & Literature – General B
Foreign Language & Literature
Greek, Ancient B
History – General B
Liberal Arts & Sciences
Liberal Arts & Sciences B
Mathematics – General B
Ancient Studies/Civilization B
Cognitive Science B
Medieval/Renaissance Studies B
Science, Technology & Society B
Natural Resources & Conservation
Environmental Studies B
Philosophy & Religion
Jewish/Judaic Studies B
Religion/Religious Studies B
Psychology – General B
International Relations B
Political Science/Government B
Urban Studies B
Degree levels for each major are designated by the following letters:
B = Bachelor’s degree
C = Certificate or diploma
*We do not guarantee the accuracy of information on this page. All information is subject to change. You should confirm all information with a college admissions officer.