Northwestern vs Vassar College

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

a father helping her daughter to make recommendation letter

Northwestern vs Vassar College

Are you a high school student considering Northwestern University or Vassar College as your college choice? Picking the right college can prove daunting, mainly if you’re unsure which one will meet your academic and personal needs. In this article, we’ll compare and contrast Northwestern vs Vassar College based on their location, history, academics, and many more.

Location: Where are Northwestern University and Vassar College located?

Northwestern University and Vassar College are located in different areas of the United States. Northwestern University is found in Evanston, Illinois, a suburb 30 minutes away from downtown Chicago. In contrast, Vassar College is situated in Poughkeepsie, New York, a small, temperate town in the Hudson Valley, two hours north of New York City.

If you’d like to live in a small, college town with an extensive range of recreational activities, Vassar would be an ideal choice. On the other hand, if you’re attracted to the allure and opportunities of a big city such as Chicago, Northwestern University should be at the top of your list.

View of Northwestern university

Aside from their location, comparing Northwestern vs Vassar College, both also differ in terms of their campus size and layout. Northwestern University’s campus spans over 240 acres and is divided into two main areas: the Evanston campus and the Chicago campus.

The Evanston campus is home to the majority of the university’s undergraduate programs, while the Chicago campus houses graduate and professional schools. In contrast, Vassar College’s campus covers 1,000 acres of land and is known for its beautiful gardens, arboretum, and historic buildings.

Another notable difference between Northwestern University and Vassar College is their academic focus. Northwestern University is a research university that offers a wide range of undergraduate and graduate programs in various fields, including engineering, journalism, and business.

Vassar College, on the other hand, is a liberal arts college that focuses on providing a well-rounded education in the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences. Both institutions are highly respected in their respective fields and offer unique opportunities for students to pursue their academic interests.

History: A Brief History of Northwestern University and Vassar College

Northwestern University was founded in 1851 by Methodist leaders. It is one of the country’s premier research institutions, emphasizing engineering, science, social sciences, and the arts. Vassar College, on the other hand, was founded in 1861 by Matthew Vassar, an entrepreneur, and philanthropist who shared a deep commitment to women’s education.

As a result, excellent liberal arts education is primarily tailored toward young women. A quick comparison of the institution’s illustrious histories illustrates as to how each has evolved into a prominent higher education institution.

Despite their different founding principles, both Northwestern University and Vassar College have made significant contributions to academia and society. Northwestern has produced numerous Nobel laureates, including economist Milton Friedman and physicist John Bardeen, while Vassar has educated many notable alumnae, such as poet Edna St. Vincent Millay and anthropologist Margaret Mead.

Both institutions continue to prioritize academic excellence and innovation, and their graduates go on to make meaningful contributions in a variety of fields.

Campus Life: Comparing the Campus Life at Northwestern University and Vassar College

Northwestern University’s campus is tiny, which is surprising given its location very close to Chicago. The same isn’t the case with Vassar College, whose campus is vast and stunning. Dorms are situated within easy walking distance to classrooms and have amenities like a fitness center and regular events, which makes it easy to meet new people.

At Northwestern, students can join over 400 clubs or organizations that cater to their interests, attend over 30 plays and concerts, or cheer on the Northwestern Wildcats sports teams. Vassar College has more intimate spaces and smaller student organizations, which means you’ll build strong bonds with other students and faculty but will not have access to an extensive range of events and opportunities that a city like Chicago provides.

Students working with their teacher in the classroom.

However, Vassar College offers unique opportunities for students to engage in community service and social justice initiatives. The college has a strong commitment to social responsibility and encourages students to get involved in various service projects.

Vassar also has a robust program for studying abroad, with over 50 programs in 25 countries, allowing students to gain a global perspective and expand their horizons. Northwestern, on the other hand, has a strong focus on research and innovation, with numerous research centers and institutes that provide students with hands-on experience in their fields of study.

Academics: A Comparison of Academic Programs and Majors Offered at Northwestern vs Vassar College

Both Northwestern University and Vassar College offer a range of academic programs and majors that cater to different academic interests. Northwestern University is renowned for its engineering and business programs, as well as its Communication and Journalism majors – notably the internationally recognized Medill School of Journalism.

In contrast, Vassar College is known for its strong liberal arts education programs and wider course offerings in the Humanities and Social Sciences. The Modern Languages and Literatures program is particularly outstanding.

Northwestern University also offers a variety of interdisciplinary programs, such as the Mathematical Methods in the Social Sciences program, which combines mathematics, statistics, and social sciences to provide students with a unique perspective on social issues. Additionally, the university has a strong focus on research, with opportunities for undergraduate students to participate in research projects alongside faculty members.

On the other hand, Vassar College has a unique program called the Urban Studies program, which allows students to explore the complexities of urban life through a multidisciplinary approach. The college also offers a range of study abroad programs, allowing students to immerse themselves in different cultures and gain a global perspective on their academic interests.

Furthermore, Vassar College has a strong commitment to social justice and activism, with many opportunities for students to get involved in community service and advocacy work.

Admission Process: Northwestern vs Vassar College

Getting admitted to Northwestern University or Vassar College is incredibly competitive. Students graduate well-prepared to exceed in their next endeavors. Northwestern University receives over 39,000 applicants each year, making their acceptance rate require a heightened level of academic rigor.

In contrast, Vassar College receives less than 7,000 applications and is more upfront in admitting international students. Vassar College is especially interested in students with creative abilities, talents, and accomplishments.

Scholarship document, admission paper or letter on table.

Northwestern University has a holistic approach to admissions, taking into account not only academic achievements but also extracurricular activities, leadership skills, and community involvement. The university also requires applicants to submit standardized test scores, such as the SAT or ACT. On the other hand, Vassar College has a test-optional policy, meaning that applicants can choose not to submit their test scores. The college also values diversity and encourages students from underrepresented backgrounds to apply.

Both Northwestern University and Vassar College offer early decision and regular decision options for applicants. Early decision is a binding agreement, meaning that if a student is accepted, they must attend the university or college. Regular decision, on the other hand, is non-binding, and students have until May 1st to decide which school they will attend. It is important for applicants to carefully consider their options and make an informed decision that aligns with their academic and personal goals.

Student Body: Differences Between the Student Body at Northwestern University and Vassar College

When you visit Northwestern University, you’ll see the student body is vast, diverse, and ambitious. The global student body that comprises 25% of the students brings different perspectives and experiences to campus. Vassar’s small student size makes for a tight-knit community that emphasizes a strong culture of collaboration and individual support.

Another difference between the student body at Northwestern University and Vassar College is the academic focus. Northwestern University is known for its strong programs in journalism, engineering, and business, attracting students who are interested in pursuing careers in these fields. Vassar College, on the other hand, has a strong liberal arts curriculum that encourages students to explore a wide range of subjects and develop critical thinking skills.

In terms of extracurricular activities, Northwestern University offers a wide range of options, including over 400 student organizations and a thriving Greek life. Vassar College, while smaller in size, also has a vibrant student life with a variety of clubs and organizations, but with a greater emphasis on the arts and social justice initiatives.

Athletics: A Comparison of the Athletics Programs at Northwestern vs Vassar College

The Northwestern Wildcats’ athletics program offers 19 varsity sports while Vassar’s campus supports fewer sports teams – 8 varsity sports – primarily in the women’s division. Northwestern plays in the Big Ten Conference, and its renowned for its varsity football program, whose games are attended by an average of 40,000 fans. However, if you don’t enjoy a broader sports culture, you may find Vassar’s focus on a small number of activities more enjoyable.

It’s worth noting that while Northwestern has a larger athletics program, Vassar’s teams have achieved significant success in their respective sports. Vassar’s women’s rugby team, for example, has won multiple national championships and is consistently ranked among the top teams in the country.

Additionally, Vassar’s squash team has produced several All-American players and has competed in the national championships. So, while Northwestern may have more options for sports, Vassar’s smaller program still offers opportunities for students to excel in their chosen activities.

Faculty: Differences in Faculty Size, Quality, and Teaching Styles at Northwestern vs Vassar

At Northwestern University, you can expect comprehensive education from prestigious faculty members with diverse backgrounds. With over 100 majors, students will have access to unique disciplines, as the top-rated faculty members teach across various ranges of programs.

Vassar’s faculty is unique in its commitment to the liberal arts and focuses on providing you with an individualized education. Small class sizes give you the chance to interact with your professors who will adjust their teaching styles based on their student’s scholastic skills.

Northwestern University’s faculty is composed of over 2,500 full-time professors, making it one of the largest faculties in the United States. This means that students have access to a wide range of experts in their fields, and can benefit from their diverse perspectives and experiences. Additionally, Northwestern’s faculty is known for its research and innovation, with many professors leading groundbreaking studies and projects.

On the other hand, Vassar College’s faculty is smaller, with around 300 full-time professors. However, this allows for more personalized education, as students can develop close relationships with their professors and receive individualized attention. Vassar’s faculty is also known for its commitment to social justice and activism, with many professors actively involved in advocacy work and community engagement.

Social Life: Comparing Social Life on Campus at Northwestern University and Vassar College

Northwestern University students experience a variety of social activities on campus, including active student-run organizations, such as fraternities and sororities. Vassar College, in contrast, emphasizes an open, laid-back social and academic environment. The campus culture is more cooperative, which fosters close relationships among different pairs of peers.

Group of students walking in the stairs.

At Northwestern University, students can also participate in a wide range of sports and recreational activities, such as intramural sports, fitness classes, and outdoor adventures. Vassar College, on the other hand, offers a more intimate and personalized social experience, with small class sizes and close-knit communities. Students often engage in intellectual discussions and debates outside of the classroom, which further enhances their social and academic growth.

Another notable difference between the social life at Northwestern University and Vassar College is the diversity of the student body. Northwestern University has a larger and more diverse student population, with students from all over the world and a wide range of backgrounds.

Vassar College, while still diverse, has a smaller student body and a more homogenous demographic. This can impact the social dynamics on campus, as students at Northwestern University may have more opportunities to interact with people from different cultures and perspectives.

Tuition Fees & Financial Aid: A Comparison of Tuition Fees, Scholarships, and Financial Aid Offered by Northwestern University vs Vassar College

Northwestern University’s higher academic ranking and associated prestige come at a significant cost. According to the National Centre for Education Statistics College Navigator, the median in-state tuition for Northwestern in 2019 was $57,119. Comparatively, Vassar’s tuition was $58,990. Despite the tuition cost, both institutions offer scholarships and financial aid programs to make college more accessible for students from low-income families.

Northwestern University offers a variety of merit-based scholarships, including the Presidential Scholarship, which covers full tuition and fees for four years. Additionally, Northwestern’s financial aid program is need-based and provides grants, loans, and work-study opportunities to eligible students.

Vassar College also offers merit-based scholarships, such as the Vassar College National Scholarship, which covers full tuition and fees for four years. Vassar’s financial aid program is also need-based and provides grants, loans, and work-study opportunities to eligible students.

It’s important to note that both Northwestern University and Vassar College have a commitment to meeting 100% of demonstrated financial need for admitted students. This means that if a student is admitted and demonstrates financial need, the institution will provide enough financial aid to cover the full cost of attendance. This commitment ensures that students from all economic backgrounds have access to high-quality education at these institutions.


In the end, both Northwestern University and Vassar College are excellent institutions that produce highly-skilled graduates. By comparing aspects such as academics, student life, faculty, and many more, it will ease off the daunting task of choosing between the two prestigious schools. Ultimately, you’ll choose according to your interests and preferences, what fits best based on the programs, and what’s important to you as a student.

Want to learn more about getting into College? You’ve come to the right place. At AdmissionSight, we have over 10 years of experience guiding students through the competitive admissions process.

AdmissionSight can help you put your best foot forward when applying to college this fall. Contact us today for more information on our services.



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