My average day in college was highly individualistic—almost solitary. Classes consisted of unknown faces and brief acquaintances, and evenings were often spent with high school friends. It was difficult to make friends in such a vast community of students at my school, Michigan State. Those who did were extremely overt and had to make a huge effort just to reach out to others. This obviously excludes those in Greek life who essentially bought their college friends.
Though I was aware that different colleges would elicit different experiences, I thought the life of a college kid was essentially similar around the nation, regardless of location or school size. In fact, I was advised not to go to a small college. Counselors and friends warned me of a lack of class selection, “cliquey-ness,” a lack of diversity, and the risk of not meeting ANYONE you could relate to. Needless to say, this made me completely rule out colleges like Vassar, the few-thousand student institution it was.
I have visited various campuses—at least in the Midwest—and I can safely say that Vassar is a one-of-a-kind school. Its architecture and campus resemble a close-knit neighborhood or community rather than a school. It is both quaint and magnificent at the same time. The layout is intimate and welcoming, unlike the expansive concrete jungle of many state schools like mine.
Vassar’s emphasis on preserving its natural environment made the campus all the more breath-taking. Visiting in the fall was definitely a good choice; all of the trees were changing color and looked beautiful against the rusty red brick of the dormitory houses.
What surprised me the most about this college was the campus climate. In my short stay, my overall impression was that Vassar students harbored a real sense of community and friendliness that built an environment of kind-heartedness and consideration towards fellow students. You weren’t just students going to the same school; you were closely tied to one another and appear to truly care for the well-being of your fellow Brewers.
The sidewalks weren’t littered by hundreds of students trying to hurry home or to their next class. Instead there was a sense of serenity and familiarity with the few students who were out and about. The ACDC, though definitely more limited in its dining options than I was expecting, had an intimate feeling. I could tell it was also a place where students congregate and socialize. There were many friendly nods and small talks shared amongst different groups. It was as if everyone knew everyone else, which was definitely something I wasn’t accustomed to in my three years at MSU.
Classes were pea-sized compared to my lecture halls, and discussions involved every student’s input. Teachers knew everyone by name, and I certainly couldn’t get away with drifting off in my girlfriend’s calculus class. The entire dynamic of the academic and social aspects of Vassar differed completely from what I was used to. I saw college as a selection of classes taken to achieve graduation; Vassar saw it as an opportunity to be a second home for students. Even though my first visit only lasted a few days, I could see how holistic your college experience is.
Thank you Vassar for crushing my previously-conceived notions of a small college. If I had known how positive an intimate college setting could be, it may have changed which school I ended up going to. And who knows? Maybe I would’ve been a Brewer too.
William Driscoll ‘14 is a Mechanical Engineering major. He is a student at Michigan State University.