Eloy Bleifuss Prados and Bethany Terry contributed reporting
While the Class of 2017 might still seem like a far-off abstraction to current students, for them, Vassar is a constant source of excitement and preoccupation.
“As I learned more about this school, I found myself every more amazed at the freedom one could deal with their classes, as in, it was basically a free for all, nothing holding you back from what you wanted to take. Add in a great academic reputation, and it’s a golden place for any student who really wants to learn,” wrote Amanda Ma, an early decision applicant from Saco, Maine, in an emailed statement.
Max Moran ‘16 had similar sentiments as Ma concerning the flexibility of a Vassar curriculum. Said Moran, “I was most excited for the classes. I read the entire course catalog twice—something I definitely recommend doing—because you finally have the opportunity to choose course in whatever subject you’re interested in, and you’re not bound by high-school requirements.”
The College’s reputation for top-notch academics, as well as the flexibility of course selection, also appealed to incoming freshman Samantha Hoher.
Wrote Hoher in an emailed statement, “I choose Vassar because of the amazing academics—no core curriculum—and community. I read amazing things about the professors and courses.”
However, college life is about far more than just academics and for incoming freshmen, parties, new roommates and other social activities can be a greater source of concern.
“My view of Vassar changed a great deal [since my overnight],” said Hoher. “I had been reading a lot about partying at Vassar and I was a little nervous because that is really not my scene. However, after spending a night on a wellness floor, I feel like I will be able to find people who aren’t into partying.”
For most students, Vassar is most fulfilling when they can find their own niche on campus. Getting involved in extracurriculars, most agreed, is central to the college experience.
“I was hoping for a community of students who had kind of diverse interests, not only academically were interested in things outside their major, but also having a thriving theater community and sports, I guess, although I am not really an athlete,” said Julianne Johnson ’16.
Coming into college, many incoming freshmen need time to find what really suits them, both in the way of academics and extracurricular activities.
Ma, who had an open mind about the activities she would participate in once at Vassar, said, “For extracurriculars, I think that I’ll end up where I want to be. Whatever sounds interesting. I’ll try, though I definitely want to perhaps join an intramural sport, considering I want to play even though I probably suck at sports.”
Even though extracurricular activities and academics are integral parts of the college experience, peer-to-peer interactions also play an important role in students’ ideas about college in general and Vassar in particular.
What many rising sophomores stressed about their change in perceptions about Vassar from when they first arrived were their personal feelings of belonging and hominess.
“I think I see Vassar now as a more welcoming place. When I first got here I was overwhelmed and it was hard to adjust but now like now I see it as a very homey…place. Once you get to know everyone it is a lot easier to find your place here at Vassar,” said Hannah Harp ’16.
Johnson said that though leaving home can feel like an unsettling change, once she adapted to her new life it felt completely normal. In fact, for her, Vassar became something like a new home.
“I definitely feel like this has become a real home for me—at the beginning, as I’m sure was true for all freshmen it was a big shift. Now it feels so natural to be here than like being at home almost feels weirder at this point,” she said.
While a large part of this home-like feeling can come from establishing a network of ever-present friends, this too can be an aspect which requires getting used to.
Said Moran, “It was hard of me to get used to constantly being around other people. Since you eat, sleep, work, and do basically everything in between with your friends and classmates, it was a little difficult for me to transition into having a lot less down time. You get used to it really quickly, however, and once you find your group of friends it’s really great always being around people.”
Ultimately, Moran said his freshman year encompassed more than he could ever anticipate.
“Vassar absolutely exceeded my expectations. The classes I’ve taken and activities I’ve participated in and the people I’ve met have all been amazing and made my experience so far at Vassar phenomenal.”
He advised incoming freshman: “Participate in everything. It may seem overwhelming at first, but try a little bit of everything before you decide what you want to spend your time on. You may come into college thinking you’re interested in only a couple of specific things, but I promise you that if you try some new ones, you’ll fall in love.”