Vassar College is a highly selective, residential, coeducational liberal arts college. Those descriptive words are key components of Vassar’s character as an institution, although not necessarily in that order.
First and foremost, Vassar is a liberal arts college. We have a diverse student body (2,450 students from over 50 states and 50 countries), a distinguished faculty (290 members), a low student-faculty ratio (8:1), an idyllic 1,000-acre campus, and exceptional facilities. We believe that the best foundation for a successful life is a broad foundation — an understanding and an appreciation of the range of ideas and methods of inquiry and artistic achievements that have shaped the human experience.
Small classes, personal interaction with faculty — these are features that all the liberal arts colleges share. So what differentiates them? Each college has a distinct character that’s the product of its location and its history. Vassar is in Poughkeepsie, a small city on the east bank of the magnificent Hudson River, 75 miles north of New York City — quite possibly the best location in the world for a liberal arts college. As one student put it, “Vassar looks the way a college should look,” yet it’s an easy commute to one of the most fascinating cities in the world.
The historical fact that best explains Vassar’s character is that the college was founded in defiance of conventional wisdom. When the first young women arrived in 1865, the nation held its breath, waiting to see whether Matthew Vassar’s “Great Experiment” — higher education for women — would succeed.
That pioneering spirit has characterized the Vassar enterprise for over a century and a half. It’s the same spirit that led Vassar to open its doors to men in 1969, becoming the first of the well-known single-sex colleges to go coed. It’s the spirit that characterizes our students, faculty, and graduates. One professor put it succinctly when she said, “There are more independent thinkers here than any other place I’ve taught.”