Vassar College Top Questions

What are the academics like at your school?


Classes are challenging yet rewarding. Aside from some science courses you can find almost any class you want.


The academics here are outstanding. My department (Cognitive Science) is full of amazing professors who know their stuff, and that can be said for pretty much all departments here. The classes are small so you build a real relationship with professors, which opens the door to research opportunities later on. There are no grad students to compete with, so the professors are really here to teach. Additionally, there is no core curriculum, so you have the freedom to explore your academic interests without filling distribution requirements.


The academics at Vassar are truly its selling point. The professors are simultaneously respected researchers, as well as exceptional teachers. Unlike larger universities, the professors are primarily there to teach, and their accessibility pays testament to their commitment to teaching. Given the small nature of the student population (2,450), the classes are generally small and intimate. However these are not like small high school classes, in that the professors are of an incredibly high caliber. They challenge, argue, lead, and educate in such a fashion that students want to study and do well because they are interested by the matieral and impressed by the the faculty. Generally there is a lot of reading and lab work. There are no distribution requirements, so students take classes they want to take from the very beginning. Classes are not very difficult to get into, yet are still very small. Both of these attributes add to a healthy relationship between students, professors, and academic interest/achievement.


The Vassar education is more in depth than what is offered at most schools, in part because students aren't forced to waste time on a core curriculum. What I've found is that, by and large, Vassar graduates know a great deal about a few subjects, rather than not much about a lot. (It is always a few subjects, and not just one, because Vassar encourages interdisciplinary studies.) The class sizes are small. The professors are a regular part of your life. If a class isn't readily available, independent studies are easy to come by. The faculty and administration do everything they can to encourage and nurture a spirit of creative intellectualism.


Academics at Vassar are great. Intro classes leave a lot to be desired, but once you hit 200-level and above, it's a very satisfying learning environment. Classes are small - one of mine this semester was huge at 40 members - and professors usually know your name by the third week, if not sooner. It's frustrating that you have to pick just one or two majors; I want to take every class in every department because they all sound incredible. The interdisciplinary majors offered at Vassar (American Culture; Media Studies; Latin American/Latino Studies; Science, Technology, and Society; etc) are phenomenal, and really give great, well-rounded approaches to their subjects. Students are not competitive at all - everyone wants to do well, but that does not come at the expense of others' success. Very few (if any) students would refuse to help on an assignment or deliberately misguide a classmate.


Classes were pretty much the same size as my high school classes (generally 25 students, which I found to be a good thing). However, classes do vary in size from small seminars of 11 students to intro to art history, a 200 person lecture hall class. Most professors will get to know your name, and most of my classes involved discussion and student participation. Every professor has office hours, and most reply quickly through email. Some professors even give out there cell phone numbers or are available on IM. But every class / professor is different. One of my favorite classes was an Art History class on European painting from 1850-1900. The professor didn't know anyone (straight lecturer), but he was such a great lecturer (very funny with interesting side stories about Monet, Van Gogh, etc personal lives) that I loved it. Sometimes a no-discussion class can be a nice change from other, more student participation focused classes.


Vassar is not a good school if you are more science oriented. There aren't enough options in the biology department. Everything is either about plants and/or animals. If you want to learn about human anatomy and physiology, Vassar is not the place for you.


Be careful. Check I have philosophical conversations all the time outside of class.


Most professors will know your name by midterms, but it all depends on what kind of class you are taking. In Art History 105 and 106, which are lecture classes with small conferences, most professors didn't know all of their students names. People definitely have intellectual conversations outside of class. Professors are really good about encouraging students to meet outside of class to discuss ideas. I've had multiple group sessions outside of class in philosophy to discuss the material. I absolutely love the requirements at Vassar. I am completely hopeless with math and science, so the one QA requirement that studends have is wonderful. It allows students to focus on things that they KNOW they want to do, without taking so many gen eds.


Professors range anywhere from divinely brilliant golden gods to downright incompetent. Usually you're lucky to hit a happy medium--only a few are insufferable to be around, most are actually ridiculously nice and interesting people once you get them outside of a classroom.


The classes are great. The small classes really help you to get to know the professor well. The professors are really interested in what you have to say. They are always there to help and are really dedicated so take advantage!! The students for the most part are focused on their academics. It really is a very intellectually stimulating environment.


It really depends on your major... some classes are big, most are medium/smallish, some are very small. you can really decide how you want to structure your academic life. there aren't a lot of requirements, both in general and for majors, so you can for the most part choose your own path.


Classes at Vassar are pretty small, usually between 10 and 30 students. Professors are easy to contact and meet with and usually know your name. Class participation is a huge part of class here because professors truly care what you have to say, and tend to base a part of your grade on it. Students are not, in my opinion, competitive, but they still enjoy intellectual conversations and learning. At the same time, they know how to have fun!


Most of my classes have been really great. The academic atmosphere is serious but not humorless, and definitely not competitive. Students study and participate at various rates, but in my experience most classes are pretty lively and interesting, though of course there are always some lame discussions where people haven't done the readings and otheres where people make pretentious comments. I can't speak for other students, but my homework generally ends up happening from after dinner to 12 - 2ish on Monday through Wednesday or Thursday, and all day and most of the night Sunday. Finals, midterms and big projects are of course a different story. And sometimes I slack off... I've had mostly really great professors, I've had some less great professors, but they all seemed to take a genuine interest in me and my understanding of the material. I have felt very well supported by my professors, even the ones I wasn't that crazy about in other ways. I have good relationships with the professors in both the department where I work and in my major.


Classes at Vassar are always engaging. We have amazing professors, but even if you got a less amazing prof. (which, let's face it, is bound to happen eventually), our class sizes are so small that the sheer force of the ideas coming from the other students always makes it worthwhile. Your professor will almost always know your name, and we have an unusually close relationship between the deans of the college and students. Most of the student body has had at least one conversation with Cappy (President Cathy Hill). The Drama department in particular is a really close knit place. Every senior drama major does a significant senior project in some aspect of drama, and everyone (faculty, majors, the whole student body really) gets excited for the shows that we put on. Our facilities are fantastic. The Martel Theater is as well equipped as just about any stage on broadway, and we put all that potential to some really good use.


I loved the academics at Vassar. I thought the classes were the perfect size and for the most part, the professors were more than qualified and personable. It is wonderful to be in a classroom setting where the professor knows every student's name.


Students here are definitely more cooperative than competitive. Most of the professors are good, some are fantastic, and some are a waste of time. Almost all of them are approachable, though, and most of them want to know your name. Students absolutely have intellectual conversations outside of class, with and without professors. In fact, one of the best poli-sci professors was at my house last semester at a semi-social, semi-intellectual get-together. Some people complain that the Vassar education is too geared towards learning for its own sake, and not enough towards getting a job.


Fantastic if you thouroughly look through the course catalog and find the professors and classes that actually interest you instead of taking the easy route and following generic routes through the education process. There seems to be a breakdown between students where studying is concerned: a) not at all b) study a lot and upset because they can't study more because of all their awesome extracurriculars. I highly recommend the Earth Science and Geography department, for potential majors and not. It is the one truly unique department at Vassar where the teachers are actually your extended family, and so are their dogs, and kids. There are fantastic classes, hard but worth it, great teachers, good people who work together and lots of field trips. Best ever. There certainly are intellectual conversations outside of class, but honestly many of them can become pretty pretentious and meaningless bandying back and forth of terms that have lost all meaning. I would definitely focus of taking classes with teachers you like, over looking for class that distinctly grab you (though i guess that's how you find teachers you like...)


I honestly can say I like Vassar. It's a great place. Because classes are small professors give you the time of day and they even know your name! :) Some professors even gave office hours on a weekend. Classes aren't really competitive. Sure you'll have the one or two students who always strive for the perfect grade, but from my experience, everyone is so enthusiastic about learning that the grade isn't the only thing people worry about. The most unique class I've take at Vassar is the Political Landscapes of 21st Century Chile. The class was geared toward different aspects of Chilean Society via primary sources (we went to Chile!) and secondary sources. Going to Chile and meeting the people that I had read about was an incredible experience. It showed that the books read in class are not the only thing I should base my knowledge on.


The classes are small and the professors always know your name, where you're from and what you're interested in. They love to talk to students outside of class and are readily available. Many of them spend time with their students outside of classes, throwing dinner parties or just meeting at one of the dining halls. The academic requirements are few and fair - you can really take anything you want to fulfill them. Students can be competitive, but if you don't want to compete you don't have to and no one will look down on you for it. Everyone here is an intellectual. Everyone wants to talk, both in and out of class. It's fantastic.


Classes at Vassar are generally very small (average size 15-20 students). Most professors know your name, and class participation (and attendance) is generally expected and graded. Professors are often very open to extra help and hold office hours regularly. Competition for grades is virtually non-existent, and students generally get the grade that their work warrents. Students do have intellectual conversations outside of class, and help each other with coursework. Group work and studying is often encouraged. Education at Vassar is aimed more at learning for its than getting a job in a specific trade.


Well, I can definitely say that I took more great classes than awful ones. And the few times that I had a class or a professor that I didn't like, I always liked my classmates. I was also lucky to get pretty close to several of my professors while I was at Vassar, so by my junior and senior year, I was comfortable designing independent studies and taking classes that I otherwise would have considered beyond my scope.


Almost all classes are very small, as a freshman, I took a class with 3 other people and a professor. I love that everything is taught be professors, there are no TAs. There is a lot of work, but we can usually go out both Friday and Saturday nights and party or hang out. Most people participate in class, especially at the upper levels. Professors are always available, and some even give out home phones or cell numbers. And many of them are really cool. The lack of requirements and ability to be undeclared until junior year gives lots of time to explore options, and the dispersion requirements mean you actually kind of have to try stuff thats different from your major. And everyone actually cares about learning and wants to know stuff. We have academic discussions outside class for our own amusement.


All of my professors have been very accommodating and know me by my first name. The classes are small (my smallest class had 15 people), and people notice when you do not participate. A large percentage of the final grade in a class is normally participation. None of my classes have been "life changing," but all of them have been interesting. My favorite class was called "Hip hop and critical citizenship." I had to write and perform my own rap songs, write papers about rap songs and analyze rap lyrics in our class discussions. For my final exam I recorded my own album and wrote a short paper explaining each of the songs I had written. The class was always very energetic and the discussion was always heated. The class was split almost in half between black kids and white kids and we would get into some pretty intense arguments about not only rap music, but also social justice and civil rights. The class helped me understand that we have a long way to go on the road to equality.


All of my professors know my name. I am a philosophy major, and the department is great. In classes that warrant discussion, class participation is usually engaging and interesting. There is a very good academic air among students: it is not uncommon for me to have interesting, intellectual/academic discussions with my friends outside of class, and I have never gotten any sense of a cut-throat competitiveness that I have heard you can experience at some schools. I once took a German studies class called "Vampires, Lunatics, and Cyborgs" that was mostly a compartive literature class. It was really good. My favorite class has probably been Ethics, in the philosophy department.


Academics at Vassar are wonderful. Classes are small and it is easy to become close with professors. It is common to have dinner at professors' houses andthey definitely remember you after a couple of years. Vassar has few academic requirements outside of the majors, allowing for a lot of flexibility. Take a variety of classes freshman year and figure out what you really like before deciding a major.


majority of profs are great, small classes, not all courses are impossible


Vassar is a very intellectual place, which is great because no one feels "dorky" for talking about their academic interests ANYWHERE on campus.


I was surprised by how not competitive most of the students are. Generally, students are eager to help one another and discuss their classes and opinions outside of the classroom. That said, the education is definitely learning for its own sake. As long as that is recognized by the students, however, it really is not an issue. Most are aware that these four years are a vacation from reality.


Academics at Vassar are among the best in the world. I have nothing to say here except that if you are going to Vassar to become smarter, learn, and get a great job, then you're going to Vassar for the right reasons.


You can get an outstanding education at Vassar because classes are small, professors accessible and well-qualified. the work is tough, but there is no cut-throat competition between students. we dont talk about grades much at all, and definately not GPAs. when you get an A, you know you deserved it, not like at Harvard from what i hear. However, Though we arent limited by a core curriculum, the college is still an institution that has rules and regulations, and is saturated with institutional racism, sexism, clasism and ablism, like most institutions. for example, supposedly there are not enough resources or student demand for an ethnic studies program, but there is a Victorian Studies program and Classics department that have less than 5 majors a year consistently.


For the most part, Vassar academics are great. The professors are approachable, classes are small, and there is a wealth of interesting topics to take classes in. I'm a science major, but I have a strong interest in education, philosophy, social justice, health and health care, English literature, and history. I have had an excellent education in a number of these topics. The science departments are great, but my specific focus (biology) is mixed--I much prefer the chemistry department. You need to be selective and self-motivated to get a truly strong background in biology.


Everyone is a high achiever, but definitely not in a competitive way- professors are always available and go out of their way to help you, and really value your opinions. You are expected to participate in class, to share your ideas, and to be open to those of others. You are expected to push yourself, to take your thoughts as far as possible. There are no requirements and it is amazing! You can take classes in so many different departments, and the interdepartmental classes are great as well.


Classes at Vassar are pretty small, which is great because the professors always know your name and are willing to help you. There are no TAs or grad students, so all classes are taught by real professors. Several of the professors live in the dorms with their children and pets, and a lot of students are actually friends with their profs. Most people don't discuss grades with other students, because we're usually afraid we'll embarrass ourselves by admitting that we got the highest grade in the class, and/or ruined the grading curve for everyone else. So people are mostly competitive with themselves. At Vassar we learn because learning is fun! Although it is entirely possible to avoid all practical and job-related classes, many people also do learn practical skills. The Career Development Office also offers workshops for seniors on things like how to write a resume, how to negotiate salary, what all of those benefits actually mean etc.


After going abroad this semester, I've really come to appreciate the academics at Vassar. While there are certain professors who are not the best, there are also the professors who go out of their way to make sure that their students succeed. Classes and tests here are not meant to confuse or scare students, but meant to help us learn the material better. The requirements to graduate are minimal and really allows students to take classes that we want to take. The school tries to promote an all around education, but does not force students to take classes that they might not want to take.


Academics here are incredible. Classes are small, usually around 15 kids, unless you take an intro course and they can get up to 30. The smallest class i've ever had was 5. Professors are really intelligent and know their subjects- and as difficult as the class may be, professors are always looking to help you out. I can't choose just one favorite class but ill list some of the titles of a few i really enjoyed: English- Because Dave Chapelle Said So, Composition, African American Literature, Travel Writing, Literary Non-Fiction Pysch- Sex on the Brain CogSci- Science Fiction of the Mind Women's Studies- Fashion and the Feminine I think Vassar, and it's professors, do a good job of choosing topics that are both contemporary and academic. Students really like the options and the creativity that go into these classes. Class participation is very common since the classes are so small. Usually it is not just a professor lecturing but a class discussing. The intellectual interest that these classes spark definitely follows students outside the classroom. People who go to Vassar are people who like to learn, like school, and don't let academic discussion fall just because they are not in class. That said, we do know how to have fun: lots! Students definitely get to know there professors out of class. It really depends on the professor; some of them are really young so they play pickup sports with the students or get involved in campus activities. Vassar's academic requirements are very fair. It is a very prestigious academic school and it is definitely challenging but they really try to stay away from the boring and ordinary in order to have you learn the same things but in a more interactive or interesting way.


Professors all know my name, the classes are usually very small. Vassar is very encouraging to students to experiment in different fields. Any given student is an expert in more than one area.


I'm a science guy, and the intro classes seem to be somewhat hit or miss. My experience with upper level classes is limited, though has been good, and I've heard good things about them from friends who are in them.


Vassar has tiny, tiny classes. This is great for the most part, as the professors are very accessible, and if you want to have real class discussion it's a constant aspect of class life. It cuts both ways, though; if you're quiet and shy, it may be held against you, and if you have a professor you don't like you'll have to deal with them face to face every day you have class. People here are smart. That was my first impression and it's held true for 3 years. They'll challenge you, and expect to be challenged in return, though they'll still almost always want to be right. Academics aren't competitive in a who-made-the-dean's-list sort of way; I'm pretty sure we don't actually have a dean's list. Instead, it's often more the competition of who has more work to do and can complain the loudest about it.


Academics are amazing here. The classes are small and students are expected to participate. Every school has a variety of professors, but for the most part, Vassar's are articulate, clear, fair, and willing to get to know and work with students. The work is hard but doable.


because we have such small class size, most professors make it their responsiblity to know their students by name. the teachers i have had so far are mostly very knowledgeable and passionate about their field of study and sharing it with the students. some people that i've met here are consistently stimulating academically, philosophically, and spiritually. i'm a premed music major. the music professors here are amazing, and so are the music majors here. they are all very friendly and relaxed, but when it comes to music, they couldn't be more serious, fierce and passionate. i think many students in vassar major in areas that don't necessarily guarantee jobs. However, most of them do it out of their true passion for that subject. Many students believe that even though the content/material of their study might be seemingly-irrelevant, the personal and wholistic growth that arises from such academic pursuit gets them ready for the real world.


The academics at Vassar are perfect for someone who wants a rigorous curriculum, but also wants freedom to choose what academic route to take. There is essentially no core curriculum, although students tend to take a wide variety of courses anyway, because there are so many interesting ones to choose from. Students are noticeably not competitive (at least not with one another, though each individual strives to outdo him or herself each time they tackle an assignment). Classes are small, professors work hard to know students' names and encourage participation in every class. This is also a common stereotype at liberal arts colleges, but the individual attention given by professors as well as their accessibility is truly outstanding, especially after having spent a semester abroad in a large university where I was a number rather than a name.


The student-professor ratio is excellent, and most classes are well under 30 people, so you really have a lot of opportunities to get to know professors. Students are generally not competitive, and will help each other figure the answers out- particularly in the computer science department. Of all the majors, I've noticed that cognitive science majors are most likely to engage in class-related conversations outside of class, and it's rare to get a couple of them together without some healthy bashing of classical AI or dualism. A Vassar education intends to feed curious minds rather than necessarily prepare them for jobs, but that depends largely on what classes you take. (Hint: being a drama-English double major will be less likely to get you a job right out of college than, for example, being a chemistry major.) There's far too many classes I want to take for me to be able to take them all in time, alas.


Professors know name - yes Students study quite a bit Class participation is often required Intellectual conversations do occur outside of class Students are not particularly competitive I am a double major in film and political science. The film department is still small and doesn't have quite as many offerings as I'd like, but there is truly a plethora of great political science classes Vassar's academic requirements - a handful of required courses, but overall a lot of freedom - are about right Geared toward learning for its own sake.


FIRST name basis with professors, the biggest class I have is BioChemistry with excellent brilliant D. Jemiolo.... 30 some people and he still does personal consultations and keeps lab sizes small and knows at least 2 facts about every person in the room. Vassar is a fantastic learning community, but there is also alot of so called "fucking around" that goes on.. we procrastinate just like everyone else, except that most would consider it productive in some way... learning learning learning never just restricted to the classroom. I cannot speak for other disciplines (namely those that deal w/numbers, I'm a science and poetry kinda girl) but I seem to have the most passionate interesting engaging personable professors... I'm a neuroscience/biology major that has dabbled in EVERYTHING except math and classical language and sociology (yet)--- but seriously, all of my experience with professors here has been positive and progressive and exciting and damn I'm running out of adjectives I think you know what I mean and I should be working on a lab report right now but instead I'm doing this no prob.


Classes tend to be small, professors tend to be nice, and students tend to be supportive and cooperative, never competitive and certainly never cutthroat. Since many professors live in the dormitories, you can get to know them really well as your neighbors. They're very approachable (for the most part). My only real qualm is that the religion department is almost indistinguishable from the anthropology department. In other words, you don't really study different traditions as much as you study the sociopolitical aspects of religion.


Academics are fabulous. All of the professors I have experienced are incredibly knowledgeable, interactive, fair, and pretty funny. (What's worse than a professor with NO sense of humor?) For the most part, professors are very willing to work with you to help you get what you're seeking to gain from the class. They're always available by office hours or appointment. And most are super-quick on their email. That being said, there's a lot of work. No, really, a lot. Be prepared to put a lot of effort into your academics. The workload can get pretty intense at times, especially around midterms and finals. You should be prepared to devote Sunday afternoon-Thursday afternoon to schoolwork and extra-curriculars. Students are really helpful and supportive-- hardly competitive. It sort of comes back to our sense of community. I mean, I've heard of nasty stuff at some other schools, like stealing notes, ripping pages out of textbooks, sabotaging research; I've never even heard of any of that nonsense here. We all like seeing one-another excel.


Academics at Vassar are no joke. What you hear is true: they're rigorous, mind opening, and often intense. I'd say that Vassar students take academics seriously, though like most college students, we're known to blow off responsibilities every now and again. Class participation is vital in almost every class I've ever taken at Vassar. Often, it's a large chunk of your grade. It's not difficult to get Vassar students to talk in class--you'll hear us joke a lot about those kids who start every phrase with "I feel like..." or "I think that...." Sometimes, though, it can be a little bit frustrating to have so much participation. Some students talk just to listen to themselves. In other classes, you'll suddenly realize that the class has been discussing something for 45 minutes but everyone's essentially saying the same thing. Because Vassar is so politically homogeneous, there's not a lot of challenging debate that occurs. It does happen occasionally, but often times, it's just the same stuff being said over and over again in a different way from a different mouth. Academic competition, I'm happy to say, is at a minimum on this campus. Everyone takes academics seriously, but at least in my circle of friends, we don't often disclose grades or compete with one another to see who's doing better. We understand that grades at Vassar are often extremely subjective and vary from department to department. Vassar students certainly have intellectual conversations outside of class. I'm always impressed by the staying power that conversations in class may have, and if I'm inspired by a class topic, I'll bring it up with my friends. But even without our classes as inspiration, we definitely discuss current events, ideals, opinions, and the like. But we also talk about, like, celebrity gossip and ridiculous things like that, too. We strike a balance--we are college students, after all. Vassar has so many unique course offerings. I'm taking an Adolescent Literacy class right now where we actually go into a public middle school and tutor a student. There's one class that has students visit prison and get to know inmates for a semester. There are other classes that meet at professors' homes. Other classes take trips into New York City for some real-life application. Academics at Vassar are impressive, and it's apparent that the vast majority of professors are passionate about their jobs. Are there occasional duds? Absolutely, both in reference to classes and professors. But the other incredible classes make up for it. I'd say the academics at Vassar could be argued as geared both toward getting a job AND learning for its own sake, depending on what students study. I don't think any of us are under any kind of false pretenses being at a liberal arts institution; we know that job allocation is not the highest priority, and that's okay.


The Vassar campus is quite academic. Although there is a great deal going on beyond the scholarly sphere, and academic competition is virtually non-existent, I often encounter intellectual conversations an activities outside of class. The courses offered are extremely varied and often quite unique, even though I do wish there more sections offered for some to accomodate the schedules of more students. Most professors are quite approachable, stimulating in class, and grade quite fairly (perhaps even a bit too fairly; grade inflation, as with other "upper-tier" colleges and universities, is a definite factor here). I have had a few mediocre and even outright bad professors but for every one of them, I've also had one that made a great impression on me. And as for the former, I hear that the administration is fairly good about removing professors who perform badly on the end-of-semester student evaluations.


I talk about my classes with friends all the time, they're amazing. My favorite right now is Religion and Sexuality. Bringing up even the name of that class can start a long conversation with my friends, it's fantastic.