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124 Raymond Ave., Poughkeepsie, NY 12604

(845) 437-7000 

Vassar College

Vassar College

Founded in 1861, Vassar College is a highly selective, residential, coeducational liberal arts college. Consistently ranked among the top liberal arts colleges in the country, Vassar is renowned for pioneering achievements in education, for its long history of curricular innovation, and for the beauty of its campus.

An Undergraduate Experience Like No Other

Vassar is a community of special character in which people of divergent views and backgrounds come together to study and live in the distinctive tradition of a residential liberal arts college. A Vassar education opens minds and doors.


The mission of Vassar College is to make accessible "the means of a thorough, well-proportioned and liberal education” that inspires each individual to lead a purposeful life. The college makes possible an education that promotes analytical, informed, and independent thinking and sound judgment; encourages articulate expression; and nurtures intellectual curiosity, creativity, respectful debate and engaged citizenship. Founded in 1861 to provide women an education equal to that once available only to men, the college is now open to all. Vassar supports a high standard of engagement in teaching and learning, scholarship and artistic endeavor; a broad and deep curriculum; a community diverse in background and experience; and a residential campus that fosters a learning community.


ALUMNAE/I PARADE: Nowhere is the spirit of fellowship more evident than in the annual reunion of alumnae/i in June, the highlight of which is the colorful Alumnae/i Parade of Classes. In 2010, 1,600 alumnae/i and their guests marched in the parade, carrying their banners and wearing their class colors. Each reunion class plans its own activities and organizes its members for the parade. In years gone by, reunion classes wore elaborate (and sometimes hilarious) costumes, carried signs declaring their accomplishments, and marched in formation. While today's parades are typically less fanciful, they are an equally festive display of alumnae/i loyalty and solidarity.

CONVOCATION: Twice a year, in the fall and spring, the college community gathers in the chapel to hear from the president of the college, the president of the Vassar Student Association, and a special speaker who is usually a member of the faculty. The faculty and seniors dress in their academic robes. The fall convocation is the official opening of the academic year at Vassar. Following Fall Convocation a photograph is taken of the Freshman Class and following Spring Convocation the Senior Class is photographed.

FOUNDER'S DAY: Founder's Day, the oldest Vassar tradition, was first celebrated in April of 1866, the spring of the college's first year. Planned as a surprise birthday party for the Founder, it "began with the escorting of the pleasantly surprised Matthew Vassar through a line of handkerchief waving girls to Main parlor where speeches expressing everyone's gratitude were given," according to an unsigned article in The Vassar Chronicle in 1956. A century later the event has morphed into what we call Founder's Day today—a Saturday celebration, on the weekend closest to Vassar's birthday (April 29), which kicks off with a toast in the brewer's memory, and then quickly escalates into an afternoon of full-blown revelry, with carnival rides, cotton candy, lots of beer—in 1992, on the bicentenary of his birth, the beer was brewed from a recipe similar to his own—and concludes with fireworks.

MATRICULATION: A new student officially becomes a member of the student body when he or she pledges to uphold the standards of Vassar College by signing the Book of Matriculation at freshman registration.

PRIMAL SCREAM: Primal Scream is the ghostly sound of hundreds of voices screaming in unison in the Quad at midnight on the eve of final exams. The Scream now unofficially marks the beginning of exam week.

SERENADING: In recent years, it has devolved into more of a food fight than a song fest—a free-for-all involving ketchup and chocolate sauce, to such an unpalatable degree that college administrators recently imposed a "water only" restriction on the event. There is still some singing—sophomores, juniors, and seniors march through campus, singing their class songs, and stopping at each house, where the first-year students emerge and sing the song they've composed for the occasion. The entire student body then gathers, and each class and each house sing their songs for a group of administrators. The senior class officers pick the winners.

TEA IN THE ROSE PARLOR: One of the newest traditions at Vassar. According to College Historian Elizabeth Adams Daniels '41, the custom started in the mid-1970s after dining moved from the dorms to ACDC. It does have its roots, however, in a custom of daily tea for faculty (no longer served), which started in 1925, and in the coffee served in the parlors after dinner. Tea is served every weekday at 3:00 p.m.

VASSAR DEVIL: A rich ice cream and cake concoction which is a traditional specialty of the college. No one should graduate without having one of these.

Student Life:

98 percent of students live on campus (housing is guaranteed all four years). Vassar has eight coeducational houses, one house for women only, and one cooperative (where students do their own shopping, cooking, and cleaning). The great majority of students live in one of these houses through their junior year. Most seniors (and some juniors) choose to live in one of the college’s partially furnished apartment complexes. 

Students participate in over 100 student-run organizations and clubs.

Students attend over 1,000 campus-wide events annually, including guest lecturers, visiting artists, performers, workshops, athletic events, and concerts.

Students compete on 23 varsity teams (NCAA, Division III), club sports, and in intramural leagues. Vassar has extensive athletic facilities, including wood floor gymnasium, elevated running track, 5,000-square-foot fitness facility, and 25-meter, six-lane pool with diving well. 

Over 500 acres, 416 of which are actively managed as a preserve where faculty and students engage in research projects. Adjacent to the preserve are the Vassar rugby fields, cross country trails, community gardens, and a member- supported organic farm.

About 500 students each year do field work for academic credit in local organizations and agencies or in New York City. Over 300 students each year work one-on-one with faculty as paid research assistants or academic interns in the sciences, social sciences, arts, and humanities


The Brewer
Matthew Vassar, founder of Vassar College, was an English philanthropist, businessman and (wait for it...), yes, a brewer (he made been). On one fine day in 1861, dear ol' Matthew bought 200 acres of land for just over $400,000 in order to start an all-girls college. He figured if the whole educating women idea fell through, he could always scrap it and build himself a nice new place to mash his barley. Hence, in tribute to our founding father, the Vassar mascot is the Brewer. Also, there is no real image of the Brewer, just the name left up to your creative imaginings.

Vassar today:

Today, the curriculum is broader, richer, and more varied than ever, with an increasing emphasis on a multidisciplinary approach to intellectual inquiry. Students choose among 30 departments, 7 interdepartmental programs, 12 multidisciplinary programs, 51 majors, and over 1,000 courses.


Vassar has approximately 2,450 students; approximately 65% come from public high schools, 35% from private schools (independent or religious). In recent freshman classes, students of color comprised 32-38% of matriculants. International students from over 55 countries comprise 8-10% of the student body.

Famous graduates:

Anne Hathaway (born November 12, 1982): As a youngster, she was accepted into The Barrow Group theater company. In 1999, she got her first big break on the short-lived television series Get Real. Shortly after the series ended, Hathaway took landed the role that made her famous, playing Mia Thermopolis in The Princess Diaries. In 2006, she found huge success with the film The Devil Wears Prada. In 2007, she starred in Becoming Jane, a film about Jane Austen. Hathaway then garnered both critical and commerical attention for her role in 2010's Love and Other Drugs, due in no small part to her nude scenes in the film, and went on to win acclaim or later film appearances, including those in The Dark Knight Rises and Les Miserables (both released in 2012).

Grace Hopper (born December 9, 1906) joined the U.S. Navy during World War II and was assigned to program the Mark I computer. She continued to work in computing after the war, leading the team that created the first computer language compiler, which led to the popular COBOL language. She resumed active naval service at the age of 60, becoming a rear admiral before retiring in 1986. Hopper died in Virginia in 1992.

Interesting facts about Vassar College:

Legend has it that Vassar College's Main Building was built so wide to allow for the then-all-female student body to comfortably pass each other while exercising in their hoop skirts.

There is a legend at Vassar that the squirrels on campus are the “returned souls of English majors who couldn’t find jobs after graduation.” Maybe. But there is definitely a “Vassar Squirrel Association” whose president sometimes writes op-eds about human behavior.