Vassar College Top Questions

What should every freshman at your school know before they start?

Haley

My high school self was extremely nervous about leaving her old life behind and starting a new one in college. Oh, how I would love to go back and talk some sense into that naive girl! I would first remind her of how lucky she is to even have the opportunity to go to college, which so many young people do not. I would do my best to alleviate her fears of leaving her beloved high school, though from what I can recall, it would probably not do much good! To explain to her just how bright, exciting, and full of new wonderful experiences her future is would certainly be no easy task, but I would try my hardest to get the point across: THERE IS NO NEED TO FEAR! College will be a fantastical new experience that will change her as a person, and open her eyes to a world she had never known. Such a positive experience should not be dreaded, but rather looked forward to with the greatest anticipation.

Stacy

Get involved as early as possible. I think many students, especially first-generations, underemphasize the importance of early involvement in their prospective fields. After freshman year it's easy to have the mentality, "I'm only a freshman, I know nothing, I'll get an internship once I'm an upperclassman." This thought is dangerous. Sure, one summer at home working your high-school job is fine, but this mentality snowballs and backfires. By the time you're a junior and ready to begin applying for summer opportunities you'll have the issue of an empty resume. "I know nothing," quickly turns to "I have done nothing!" and it becomes harder and harder to land a summer position. Internships and research opportunities are meant to teach you things. Professors and companies want to help new students get a start in their field. Of course college freshman aren't meant to be experts- don't underestimate your abilities! Overall, don't hesitate to get involved with internships/research due to a lack of academic confidence. It's easy for employers to interpret an empty resume as a lack of ambition even when that isn't the case. Don't be scared!

Brittany

I wish that I could go back in time and tell myself to just relax about making new friends and to let things happen naturally. I was going into a brand new environment out of state with new people and was so intrigued by anyone that gave me the slightest bit of attention. I did end up meeting some very interesting people, but things could have began much differently and should have happened at a slower pace. I would also tell myself to put myself out there more. I let my anxiety and fear get in the way of communicating with others and getting involved with other student organizations. Lastly, I would definitely say that I should stand up for myself and let others know that I have a voice and that it is important and valuable.

Kate

Don't worry about what others think about you. There are so many fascinating individuals in college and so many groups to chose from. Embrace your quirkyness, because your true friends will be the ones who appreciate all your oddities. Afterall, those who think you should change you behavior to fit in aren't going to be real and dear friends. Being clever and smart is the new cool, so who cares if you're a geek? That boundless imagination and love of adventure and "nerdy" things will only aid you in the future, because you will be capable of thinking outside the box, capable of using your knowledge of geekdom to better yourself during college. Not only will it help you earn better grades, but it will also teach you who you are. For real, this time. Only good things will come from it. Trust me, I'm you. P.S. bring more warm socks. New England winters are cold!

Sarah

Stop taking yourself so seriously. No, listen, Sarah: Life is not about who is the most poised, collected, and altogether boring perfect student with the flawless smile and meticulously coifed hair. That life is a languid slog through a mud field that millions have traveled before. There's actually a small path right next to it, paved with laughter and moment of self-doubt (I can't lie to you), but many miss it because it's unsure. It doesn't look as stable, as safe, as known. Learn to laugh at yourself, at your mistakes, at the unfairness of the world, and you will be more capable of picking yourself up and solving your own, and your community's, problem. Think of it this way. If you could have any copy of Harry Potter in the world, which would it be: an ornately bound, brand-new compilation of all seven books; or the one you saw at Barnes and Noble back in 5th grade that's torn on the edges, smells like old book, and may or may not have been dropped in the toilet? One looks perfect. But the other? That one tells more than one story.

Kristine

I would tell myself to relax - making friends is easy, adjusting to college life is simple as long as you embrace it. Additionally, I wish I had known to live more spontaneously and "for the now;" once you leave college the things you got away with because of your age evaporate quickly. I would have told myself to date more people, explore more options, take more classes just for fun as opposed to with a career goal in mind. More than I think anyone realizes before they leave, college - especially Vassar - is a great place to do all the things you had never thought you would do and might never do again. Go with it.

Ian

I have so far managed to avoid the propensity to treat college the first chips in the slab of marble that eventually becomes one's career. I look at this as quite a victory; as a science major I am constantly reminded of material benefits of my education. "Learn biology and become a doctor!", "churn out new and exciting technology!" are the mantras that bellow from a society absorbed by the bleak job prospects for my geneneration. Thus, it is with difficulty that I have been able to sustain the view that an education is valuable for educations sake. This is the value I take from attending my small liberal arts college. School has given me the tools nessesary to churn out technology, but, at the same time, my intellectual curiousity has been allowed to drag me into philosphy and music. My school environment has exposed me to a diversity of new people and experience I had never even expected. What I do expect, is to graduate from Vassar a child of humanism: I will have useful knowledge, but with the additional value of being an interesting person.

Alexandra

Coming in to college less than a year ago, I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to study, or what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I was confident about my future, strangely certain that I am destined for greatness, but felt lost and even a little embarassed because I had no reason to be. I would think to myself that maybe I am a math genious, or maybe I'm a fantastic sculptor, or maybe I am an amazing poet. But actually trying my hand at these things scared me because, well, what if it turns out I'm not? In just one year I feel like I've built up the confidence (and been given the means) to pursue all the things I wouldn't have dreamed of before, and for the first time in my life I feel unashamed to admit that yes, I do think I am destined for greatness, and yes, I have good reason to be.

Deirdre

What has been the most important aspect of my college experience has been the academic intensity, freedom, and sense of community that Vassar College offers. Professors are, on average, intellectually stimulating and eye-opening; Vassar's relaxed core requirements and major requirements allow dedicated students the chance to take classes outside of their comfort zone and get to know professors in all departments. I'm an English major, but I've been able to take multiple classes in Environmental Science, Philosophy, Political Science (Both International and American), Psychology, Middle Eastern history, as well as Russian, Asian, and Hispanic Studies. Vassar has expanded my cultural horizons as well: next spring semester, I will be taking a Jewish Studies class that includes an opportunity to study in Jerusalem, and I intend to enroll in Vassar's 3-week summer program in Peru to enhance my language skills in the near future. These opportunites to broaden my knowledge and pursue newly-found interests simply wouldn't be possible without attending this prestigious institution. College has also allowed me to make connections with a wide variety of diverse people (both students and professors), who nonetheless have similar interests as myself.

Carla

I need to advance my education to further my career. I have been in the mortgage industry for the past thirteen plus years, i have also owned my own mortgage loan processing company. Since the mortgage industry has been in a declining bases I now see the need to change my direction in career opportunity. I enjoy working with and training people and would be very useful in the Human Resourses field. I am a single parent with a daughter graduating from high school next month, I will now have the time to further my education.

Catherine

Through my experience at Vassar College, I learned the importance of "Why?". When we accept things-ideas, policies, beliefs without scruniny we sacrfice the possibility of deeper understanding. In asking Why? we are induced to examine and explain the creation and existance of ideas, and it is only in seeing the roots and history that we can fully and independently determine the value and impact of that entity.

Julia

As one who had never lived in the mainland US, acclimating to the American life, let alone college life, was incredibly difficult for this island girl from Saipan (a US territory in the Pacific). Vassar College had been tremendously supportive of this transition by providing ample room for academic and personal growth. Take its curriculum, for instance. The highly-flexible academic program allowed me to explore subjects ranging from music to philosophy while I pursued two majors. While the courses were demanding, I had access to numerous resources at my fingertips to help me succeed; Vassar has an excellent library and supportive professors. Despite my different cultural background, I never felt out of place. About 20% of the students are from abroad, and there is a vibrant international community. The non-international students were open and tolerant to diversity as well, and I had no difficulty making friends. Truly, it was the best undergraduate experience that anyone can ever wish for, providing academic fulfillment and personal growth. Just as I smoothly transitioned into Vassar from Saipan, I stand today ready to undertake any challenge that life has to offer thanks to Vassar's supportive yet thorough training.

Kaylee

College has made me realize that there are enormous social issues that are not frequently addressed outside of my campus. Issues concerning gender, sexual orientation, race, class, and other traditionally disenfranchised groups are discussed frequently and frankly in all of my classes, yet these issues often fail to reach outside of the classroom to the population at large. My education has made me realize the importance of bringing knowledge and activism to the world outside of college campuses in order to enact real change throughout our society.

Lucinda

I would tell, and try to convince myself at that point in time that change is inevetable and will usually bring more exciting things. The only way to experience your true self is to not be afraid and become receptive of oncoming tasks and requirements. I would also tell myself to enjoy the smaller things in high school. Some things you have to get used to not having. And while that is most of the reason why college is great, getting used to being on your own, it was really nice living at home.

Sarah

It's a big world out there. Take your time and breath. You will face things you can't control, remember that. You like to plan every little detail of your life and enjoy knowing what the future holds- be prepared to let that go- once you hit the mainstream you'll have to roll with the punches. Don't give up on your dreams or let anyone else tell you who you are!

Dana

I don't need to time travel to remember the anxiety I felt when I started searching for colleges four years ago; that knot under the ribs that would twist every time I asked myself the question "What do I want?" and which would promptly answer back "I don't know!" Through Campus Discovery, a message to my former self: "Of course you don't know." At the time, I had some basic parameters about what I wanted: good professors, small classes, a nice campus. The tricky thing is that in high school I did not know about the parts of college that I now value the most. My former self might ask me how she could look for something that she doesn't know exists, which is a valid question. I would say, "look for a place where you feel comfortable enough to challenge yourself; a place that offers you the support for the things you want, but also things that you have never heard of. I spent so long searching for a college, yet in many ways I overlooked the fact that college itself is a search. Once you get to college, continue to search."

Julian

A young man lounges at his desk, his feet propped up on his copy of "Jane Eyre," a book that was assigned in his AP English course - the one that he'll get a C- in next marking period. Around this time, most high school seniors will be making decisions about colleges - and fearing the decisions colleges will make about them. The young man put all his eggs in one basket, a basket known as Vassar College. A basket that he knows he wants to be carried in through the next four years of his life. It worked. He got in. He lounges. This young man is obviously me. If I could go back and give myself advice, it would be this: "Incubate." I needed to grow more before 'accepting my acceptance.' That old version of me took his senior year of high school for granted. He didn't understand how much he needed to grow before being ready for college. But now I understand: college is a new life and a new world. "Make sure you incubate long enough in the old world," I'd say, "before moving on to the next." Those words would have enlightened me.

Rachel

I was really stressed out about the whole college process as a senior. I guess I would tell myself that everything is going to work out, and to try and enjoy my senior year. High school is different than any other point in one's life. I probably could have enjoyed it a little more thoroughly.

Jillian

If I could talk to myself as a high school senior, I would advise organization. My senior year was very good, but admittedly stressful between my classes and college applications. There were times when I had to do things as the deadlines came; getting things done ahead of time would have made my first semester easier with my advisor and scheduling. I would recommend doing more scholarship work to get money to aid finances. Following the lines of organization, I would also tell myself to spend time over the summer thinking about all of the things I would need for my dorm room and classes. The first several weeks of school I was somewhat preoccupied with figuring out the basic things I needed. It might also be a good idea to set up ways of staying in touch with high school friends as well as my family, beyond Facebook and email. As an afterthought I would encourage my senior self to keep working hard in school and remember that Calculus isn't as bad as it may seem at times - no matter what, you'll get through it. And I did! I would deliever a message of organization and optimism.

Madison

Don't do all the reading for your classes because you can still do well without scrutinizing over every word. You should take classes that you normally wouldn?t that are unrelated to your major because the subject may become your new passion. Go to your professors? office hours regularly to chat, and don?t be intimidated by them because they are there to help you. Having relationships with your professors outside of the classroom can help you because they will write you recommendations and may even help you find a job after college. Get an on-campus desk job because you will basically be getting paid to do your homework. College isn?t only about grades. Set aside plenty of time to hang out with your friends. Go to a lot of different club meetings and join the ones in which the people seem the coolest. Run for a small position on the student council board so you can be connected to not only the inner workings of the school, but also your fellow students. Make the best out of the dining hall. Try looking up recipes online, and use the food that is available to make something delicious.

Kristina

When I graduated high school I was looking forward to the wild ride ahead. I had an open mind, a new wardrobe, and was ready to solidify friendships and my own identity. But when Freshman year began, it was not the wonderful roller coaster I expected-- I wanted to get off. Though I had spent a summer preparing myself for college life, the efforts of putting my past aside, reaching out to strangers, taking on a drastically different workload and adjusting to the opposite of home-cooked meals overwhelmed me. I felt disconnected, disappointed, and lonely. Now, as a Senior who has experienced the most elated highs along with the most dejected lows during my time here, I am grateful for the disorientation I once felt. If I could speak to my excited , anxious high school self, I wouldn't tell her to expect the loneliness and fear that I experienced at first, but to keep on striving to fulfill those dreams of a fierce, confident identity and amazing lifelong friends. By staying focused on my goals and values, my good friends and community work, the ride has been just as thrilling and beautiful as I had hoped. Keep going!

Sydney

I would tell myself to expect the difficulties inherent in change, and be careful to make thoughtful choices. And dump your high school boyfriend.

Charles

Through the anxiety and stress of the college application process, from standardized testing to applications to admission letters, people learn a lot about who they are as individuals. It is a journey of self-discovery best undertaken with openness to new ideas, people, and places. So many people enter the process with ridged expectations and don?t open themselves to amazing possibilities that they could have never imagined. I was one of those people, but I took one risk and applied to one school so different from where I was coming from in life that no one thought I would actually go there. That one risk has changed my life so much for the better, and I would never change it. There are kids that go to their first choice schools and hate it, and there are those that find themselves somewhere they could have never imagined and flourish. The real difference between the two is an openness to growth that empowers a student to take full advantage of the new ideas, new people, and new places that every college provides. That is the thue measure of success in finding the right college and taking the most from it.

Liz

Follow your heart and make sure you like what you're doing and who you're with. That's the best advice I can give.

Kelly

Selecting a college may be the defining choice of your life. That being said, I think it is a choice that should be wholly with the heart. If you can go to school somewhere where you will feel at home (even when you are thousands of miles away from mom and dad), then everything else will fall into place. At college you meet your soul mates, people always imagined were out there waiting to meet you, but could never find. You will learn and love and become the very best version of yourself, and the place you have chosen will shape you. So look for a place that just gives you a big feeling deep in your stomach, a feeling that great things are about to happen for you. Odds are, you're right.

Danielle

College is a great time to discover who you are and what path you want to follow in life. In order to choose the right college experience, take not into consideration facts you have heard about the school from others. Take the chance to visit the college, ask the current students questions and allow your ward to stay over at the school for a weekend or even come for a day of class. Through the little visit, the prospective student will be able to find out more about the school than any catalog can provide. Also, parents should trust their children to choose schools they think are right for their various temperaments. No student should be forced to attend a school out of obligation. It takes away all the fun that college represents. Either way, the college does not matter, it is waht you learn that matters the most.

Jennifer

Parents: Visit 100 different colleges. Buy 100 college books. Talk to as many people as possible! In addition, why don't you just go ahead and freak out?! Here is a much better idea...you should calm down and listen to your student. What kind of activities do they want to do in college? Do they perform better with small classes or would they rather take large lecture hall classes? Start with the small questions that affect everyday happiness and don't pressure your student to go somewhere just because you think its a great school. If the shoe fits, your student will know. Students: Let your parents help you make your decision, but don't let them make the decision for you. You will be happiest at the place that fits you best. Search for a match. A match is best discovered by visiting a campus. But remember, the prettiest campus is not always the best match. When you finally get to college, don't hesitate to get involved. Do what you love or try something new. And finally keep your door open (literally and figuratively)!

Sarah

Try to choose a school that has the best all around selection of attributes that you are looking for. But honestley don't stress about the perfect school. There are are probably 10 schools that you would be so happy at. To make the most of college once you get there don't go in with any preconceptions about yourself, the school, your classmates or what it will be like. Live a balanced life and find what you love.

Lauren

Make sure you weigh carefully all of your options, thinking not only about the prestige of the school or the value of the degree but also of the social and regional environment you'd like to spend the next few years of your life in. College is about so much more than academics; make sure you're purposefully seeking your new home when making a decision.

Riane

Check the Career Development and internship funding opportunities. Also, make sure that there are ways for student opinion to affect administrative decisions.

Maureen

I would say to students that choosing a college is a very personal matter and no matter what anyone else thinks or feels, ultimately it is your decision because no one else knows you better than you. Figure out what you want in a school, but be mindful of flexibility; sometimes the little imperfections about a college are what make it right for you. I would ask to the parents to make sure they realize how stressful this is for their child and to try to not magnify the situation by adding any extra pressure. Although they can weigh in on the decision and offer opinions when asked, some parents need to remember that their child will be attending the school, not them. No matter how hard it may be the student should have the final say because they are the ones who will have to live with their choice for the next four years. That being said, no decision is ever final. I've known plenty of people who have transferred or changed their plans and have still been perfectly happy. The bottom line is college is what you make it. Go in with confidence and an open mind!

Michael

Before you decide on a college it is crucial that the student spend atleast one night by themselves to see if it is a comfortable place for them. Often times what seems like the best place does not actually fit with the student's personality. Once you choose a college, when you get there, it is important your freshman year to join atleast one extra cirricular activity in order to keep yourself busy for the begining of college, and also to meet some of the people on your campus.

Christina

Make sure it is a career focused college or university. Spend time on the campus to figure out if you can picture yourself as one of the students there. Also, sit in on a class or two to associate with how lectures are held. Transfering colleges can be a hassel, so try to pick the right one the first time around.

Chelsea

Actually visit the colleges you're interested in before filling out the applications the day before they're due. Also fill out the applications earlier than the day before they're due.

Lindsey

College is what you make of it. So, don't worry too much about finding the best college, worry about finding one that you're excited about. Seek extracurriculars, new friends and councelors to build a strong foundation that will keep you sane during midterms. Don't assume all the professors are out to get you either, chances are they want you to succeed just as much as you do. If you have a problem or you need help, don't be afraid to talk to them. Once I figured this out, my college life improved 100%. Keep an open mind while strengthening your own beliefs through research - education doesn't have to mean having the same idea as someone else, but rather learning the tools to form your own ideas. And finally, learn to cut the parental cord and explore your world! Going to college 3000 miles away from home strengthened my relationship with my parents as I grew up into an adult.

Jennifer

Research, research, research! And don't be afraid to be strict in your criteria -- the more restrictions you place on what you're looking for, the better chance of you finding somewhere you will be happy. Make sure to visit campuses -- this is best to do during the academic year so that you can see what the campus looks like with students in classes. It also gives you a greater opportunity to talk with students and professors about their experiences and views. Most of all: don't be afraid to trust your gut instinct. Sometimes you really dislike a college, and you don't quite know why. That's okay! The converse is also true: if you just fall in love with a school for no definable reason -- trust yourself. You will end up going somewhere that makes you say: "I can't believe I ever thought about not coming here!"

Nick

First figure out what it is that you don't want from a college- that's a lot easier to ascertain than what you DO want from a college. In touring a bunch of different schools, i was able to figure out what didn't fit for me. By the time i found the school that fit me best, my experience with what i didn't want had conditioned me to see clearly what i did want. At that point it was just a matter of filling out the application. Try everything once and keep an open mind- perhaps my biggest regret from college is that i didn't get out there and take advantage of all the neat resources that were available to me the whole time. Join clubs, play a sport, do something that interests you beyond schoolwork- that's how you meet the people you went to college to find in the first place.

zach

Do what you feel seems right, finding a comfortable place in college is easy no matter where you go. Just follow what you feel seems to make sense and you will be fine. It's a scary proccess but it will turn out fine!

Amanda

Follow your gut.

Janice

Finding the right college is a daunting process. Not only is it about fit with the school, but other factors such as proximity to home and tuition cost must be considered. Although it is easy to just assume everything will work out, the truth is that picking the "right" college is a lot of work. One of the best things that you can do is to find a school that is open and accepting, where there are many opportunities for people of different backgrounds to find their places. By choosing a school that has a wide array of opportunities, students will be able to make their own fit within the environment. In order to make the most of college, students should experience as much as possible. College is not just about academics; it is about the experiences that a person has while engaging with peers in a collegial setting. Academics combined with social and extra-curricular experiences make the complete picture of what a person gets out of college. Do not limit yourself from exploring the college environment; find more about yourself beyond the books that you are studying.

Ryan

You really have to visit any school you are seriously considering going to. There is no stubstitute for walking around the campus and getting a feel for how things work. I can assure you that you will know, almost immediately, if it is the right school for you the minute you step onto the campus. Don't discount your initial reactions, they are your surrest barrometer to choosing the right school for YOU. It doesn't really matter where you go, how much money the school has, or even how well it is known, if it is not the school for you then you shouldn't be going there. You will get a better education at a less reputable school that is a good fit to your particular personality, than you could ever get at even the most prestigious of schools if that institution doesn't fit who you are. So, seriously visit the school before you ever make a decision, for this is a choice which will go on to shape your entire life, and no one wants to start that journey being misserable.

Brian

Visit the school. Stay overnight. Talk to students! Nothing can give you a better idea of how you will fit into a community and how that community will enrich your life. The people you meet on your visits are the people who you will be spending four years with. Do not underestimate their influence. Sit in on classes. Talk to your future teachers. The people are what make a campus. How will you learn from these people - socially, intellectually, academically, and even personally? Will these people challenge your views? Will they strengthen your beliefs? And, of course, will you have fun here? In class and out, your college will be your home. You want to have fun. You should learn and have fun at the same time, and all the time. And once you get there, be open. Find people who you can talk to - who will challenge you. Don't forget who you are, and, at the same time, don't be closed off to change. Good luck!

Hope

look for a school where you feel comfortable; do not let financial worries keep you from looking at a school-- i get great financial aid.

Michelle

Go and visit every college that you are interested in. Walk around the campus, see the people. Spend as much time as you can at the ones you are most interested in. You will know just by the feel of the campus and the people you see if it is right for you. As for making the most of it, I would say take classes that you are most interested in, do the activities you are most interested in. Don't be afraid to have the awkward conversations, and dont make snap judgements about anything, you never know who can be your best friend, your favorite class, or your lifelong memory. Also, always do what makes you happy, everything else always seems to fall into place eventually. The only thing that matters is just following your heart and eventually you'll finally get it right. :)

Chris

Students should stay a night or two at the college and try to find some activities and like-minded individuals. Also, a student should find two or three majors that they are interested and a professor or two that they would like to study with.

Elizabeth

visit, visit, visit!

Brooke

Visiting different colleges to get a feel for them is a great idea because you do not run the risk of choosing the wrong place. Once you are there, it is important to work hard but also have a social life. This is important for relationship building that may help you after college as well as finding out who you are.

Katherine

Visit diverse schools, as in schools that are diverse from one another, and spend the night at them. Remember that four years is not a life time, but try to remember how much you have changed since your freshmen year of high school and imagine how much, and in what ways, you might change over the next four years. Remember that a college education is a privilage and treat it as such, not that you should be constantly grateful to be at school, just that you should remember that it's a great opprotunity that most people don't get. Don't forget that there's a world beyond your school. Do your reading, you'll probably learn something really cool. Take classes with the professers that everyone likes and talks about. Be nice to your roommate and they'll have your back.

Cara

When searching for a college, you should find a place where you feel you can be yourself. In the end, the school you choose does not matter as much as what you do while you're there. The most important aspects of the college experience are finding yourself, discovering your passions, developing talents, and forming long-lasting connections (with both peers and professors). And you can only do these things when you feel comfortable with yourself and those around you. Find a place that will give you the opportunity to flourish, in an environment that inspires you. Don't pick a college solely based on its name, rank, or other people's opinions. Pick a place where you feel you will be confident enough to push yourself to try new things, and build upon talents that you already possess. In the end, YOU make your own college experience - not the Princeton Review or your high school guidance counselor. In short, trust your own instincts, and make the most of your four years - Try new things! Make mistakes! Learn! Explore!

Frances

Don't worry about where you should go, but about where is a good fit for you. Don't believe that the ivy league is the only place to go.