Vassar vs Brown University: What Are the Key Differences?

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

Smiling student holding her books.

Vassar vs Brown University: What Are the Key Differences?

When it comes to choosing a college or university, there are so many factors to consider. From location and campus resources to academic programs and extracurricular activities, it can be overwhelming to make a decision. In this article, we’ll take a comprehensive look at Vassar vs Brown University and compare some of their key differences.

Introduction to Vassar and Brown Universities

Founded in 1861, Vassar College is a private liberal arts college located in Poughkeepsie, New York. The university prides itself on its commitment to diversity and inclusion, with a student body representing over 50 different countries and a wide variety of ethnic, racial, and socioeconomic backgrounds.

Brown University, on the other hand, is a private Ivy League research university located in Providence, Rhode Island. Founded in 1764, it is one of the oldest universities in the United States and is renowned for its academic rigor and commitment to interdisciplinary study.

One of the unique features of Vassar College is its beautiful campus, which spans over 1,000 acres and includes a renowned art museum and a historic arboretum. The college also offers a wide range of extracurricular activities, including over 100 student-run clubs and organizations, as well as a robust athletics program.

Brown University is known for its innovative approach to education, with a focus on interdisciplinary study and collaboration across academic departments. The university also boasts a vibrant student life, with over 300 student organizations and a thriving arts and culture scene in the city of Providence.

Location and Campus Overview

One of the most obvious differences between Vassar and Brown is their location. Vassar is located in a suburban setting, surrounded by the picturesque Hudson Valley. The campus covers over 1,000 acres, with beautiful aged trees and historic buildings. In contrast, Brown is located in an urban setting, in the heart of Providence. The campus is more compact and densely populated, with a mix of historic and modern architecture.

Front view of Brown University

Both universities offer a wide range of campus resources and amenities including libraries, athletic facilities, and dining options. Vassar is home to a renowned art museum and a strong performing arts program, while Brown boasts impressive research facilities and a top-ranked medical school.

Another notable difference between the two campuses is their proximity to major cities. Vassar is located about 75 miles north of New York City, providing easy access to the cultural and professional opportunities of the city. Brown, on the other hand, is located in the heart of Providence, a vibrant city with a rich history and thriving arts scene. Students at Brown have the opportunity to engage with the city and its many offerings, while Vassar students can take advantage of the nearby metropolis.

Admission Requirements Comparison

The admissions processes for Vassar and Brown are both highly competitive. According to the most recent data, Vassar had an acceptance rate of 19% and Brown had an acceptance rate of 5%. Both universities consider a range of factors when evaluating applicants, including academic achievements, extracurricular activities, essays, and recommendations. Vassar is test-optional, meaning students can choose whether or not to submit SAT or ACT scores, while Brown requires them.

Additionally, Vassar places a strong emphasis on demonstrated interest, meaning they want to see that applicants have engaged with the school in some way, such as attending an information session or meeting with an admissions counselor. Brown, on the other hand, does not consider demonstrated interest in their admissions process.

It is also worth noting that both universities have a need-blind admissions policy, meaning they do not consider an applicant’s ability to pay for tuition when making admissions decisions. However, once admitted, both schools meet 100% of demonstrated financial need for all students, through a combination of grants, scholarships, and work-study programs.

Student Body Demographics and Diversity

As previously mentioned, Vassar prides itself on its commitment to diversity. According to the university’s website, 48% of students identify as people of color and 44% receive financial aid. Brown also values diversity, with 49% of the undergraduate student body being made up of students of color. Both universities have active student organizations and initiatives dedicated to promoting inclusivity and equity on campus.

A man is holding a book standing in the foreground while other students in the background are chatting.

In addition to racial and socioeconomic diversity, both Vassar and Brown also prioritize gender inclusivity. Vassar was one of the first colleges in the United States to become coeducational, admitting women in 1969. Today, the student body is approximately 60% female and 40% male. Brown has a similar gender breakdown, with 52% of undergraduate students identifying as female and 48% identifying as male.

Furthermore, both universities have made efforts to increase the representation of marginalized communities in their faculty and staff. Vassar has implemented a faculty diversity initiative, which aims to recruit and retain faculty members from underrepresented groups. Brown has also made strides in this area, with 30% of its faculty identifying as people of color and 50% identifying as female.

Faculty Credentials and Teaching Styles

Both universities have impressive faculty credentials. At Vassar, over 90% of faculty members have a Ph.D. or terminal degree in their field, and the student-to-faculty ratio is 8:1. Brown has a similarly low student-to-faculty ratio of 6:1, and many professors are world-renowned experts in their fields. Teaching styles at both universities vary, with a mix of lecture-based and discussion-based courses. Both universities emphasize the importance of undergraduate research and provide opportunities for students to work closely with faculty members on research projects.

Additionally, Vassar has a strong emphasis on interdisciplinary studies, with many faculty members holding joint appointments in multiple departments. This allows for a more holistic approach to education and encourages students to explore different fields of study. Brown, on the other hand, has a reputation for its innovative and experimental approach to teaching, with many professors incorporating technology and multimedia into their courses.

Furthermore, both universities prioritize diversity and inclusivity in their faculty and teaching styles. Vassar has a dedicated Office of Accessibility and Educational Opportunity, which provides support and accommodations for students with disabilities. Brown has a Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan, which outlines specific goals and initiatives to promote diversity and equity on campus. Both universities also offer courses and programs that focus on social justice and cultural competency.

Academic Programs Offered by Vassar and Brown Universities

Vassar and Brown both offer a wide range of academic programs but with some notable differences. Vassar is a liberal arts college, offering majors in humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, and interdisciplinary studies. Brown, on the other hand, has a larger number of majors and offers programs in fields such as engineering, computer science, and applied mathematics, in addition to the humanities and social sciences. Brown also has a well-regarded creative writing program and a strong focus on visual and performing arts.

a math problem with a pencil

Another notable difference between Vassar and Brown is their approach to undergraduate research. Vassar has a strong emphasis on undergraduate research, with opportunities for students to work closely with faculty members on research projects in a variety of fields. Brown also offers undergraduate research opportunities, but their approach is more focused on independent research projects, with students encouraged to design and carry out their own research projects with guidance from faculty members. Both universities provide excellent opportunities for students to engage in research and gain valuable experience in their chosen fields.

Comparison of Curriculum and Course Requirements

The curriculum and course requirements at Vassar and Brown are also different. Vassar has a flexible curriculum, allowing students to design their own program of study within certain requirements. Brown has a more structured curriculum, with required courses in a variety of fields. Both universities have distribution requirements to ensure that students have exposure to diverse academic fields.

However, Vassar also offers a unique program called the “Exploration Gap Year” where students can take a year off before starting their college education to explore their interests and gain real-world experience. This program allows students to come back to college with a clearer idea of what they want to study and a better understanding of their personal and academic goals. Brown, on the other hand, offers a variety of interdisciplinary programs such as the Program in Liberal Medical Education (PLME) which allows students to earn both a Bachelor’s degree and a Medical degree in eight years.

Extracurricular Activities Offered: Vassar vs. Brown University

Both universities have thriving extracurricular scenes, with a wide range of clubs and organizations for students to get involved in. At Vassar, students can participate in everything from community service groups to dance troupes to club sports. Brown has over 200 campus organizations, including a strong emphasis on student activism and social justice. Both universities also have active Greek life communities.

Additionally, Vassar and Brown both offer unique opportunities for students to explore their interests outside of traditional clubs and organizations. Vassar has a robust outdoor education program, which includes activities such as rock climbing, kayaking, and backpacking. Brown offers a variety of student-run businesses, including a coffee shop and a fashion boutique, where students can gain hands-on experience in entrepreneurship and management. These programs provide students with valuable skills and experiences that can enhance their academic and professional pursuits.

Study Abroad Opportunities Comparison: Vassar vs. Brown University

Studying abroad is a popular option at both Vassar and Brown, with many students taking advantage of the universities’ extensive study abroad programs. Vassar has partnerships with over 50 universities worldwide and offers immersive language programs in a variety of countries. Brown has a similarly wide range of programs, with options for semester-long and year-long study abroad experiences.

Group of students gathered in a table.

One major difference between the study abroad programs at Vassar and Brown is the level of support provided to students. Vassar has a dedicated study abroad office that helps students with everything from choosing a program to navigating the visa process. Brown, on the other hand, relies on individual departments to manage their own study abroad programs, which can make the process more confusing for students.

Another factor to consider when comparing study-abroad opportunities at Vassar and Brown is the cost. While both universities offer financial aid and scholarships for study abroad, the cost of living and studying in different countries can vary greatly. It’s important for students to research the costs associated with each program and factor that into their decision-making process.

Housing and Dining Facilities: Vassar vs. Brown University

Both universities offer on-campus housing options for students, with varying levels of amenities. At Vassar, first-year students typically live in dorms before moving into apartments or houses in later years. Brown has a unique housing system called “residential colleges,” which are designed to create smaller, close-knit communities within the larger university. Both universities have a range of dining options, with Vassar emphasizing sustainable and locally sourced food and Brown offering numerous dining facilities and meal plans to choose from.

Additionally, Vassar has a program called “Food Recovery Network” which collects excess food from the dining halls and donates it to local organizations that serve those in need. Brown, on the other hand, has a student-run food cooperative called “The Brown Market Shares” which provides affordable, healthy, and locally sourced food options to students. Both universities prioritize providing students with access to nutritious and sustainable food options.

Cost of Attendance Comparison: Tuition, Fees, and Financial Aid

Attending either Vassar or Brown is an investment, but the cost of attendance varies between the two universities. According to their respective websites, the total cost of attendance for the academic year at Vassar is $85,220, while at Brown it is $84,828. Both universities offer financial aid packages to qualifying students, with Vassar guaranteeing to meet the full demonstrated need of all admitted students.

It is important to note that the cost of attendance includes not only tuition and fees, but also room and board, books and supplies, and personal expenses. At Vassar, the average cost of room and board is $17,415 per year, while at Brown it is $16,598. Additionally, both universities offer work-study programs to help students offset the cost of attendance through part-time employment on campus. It is important for prospective students to carefully consider the full cost of attendance and available financial aid options when making their decision between these two prestigious universities.

Career Services Available: Vassar vs. Brown University

Preparing for life after college is an important part of the undergraduate experience. Both Vassar and Brown have robust career services programs, offering everything from resume-building workshops to mock interviews to alumni networking opportunities. Vassar also has a unique “Explorer” program, which connects students with alumni in a wide range of fields to learn more about potential career paths.

Close up view of a resume held by a person.

Brown University’s career services program also offers a variety of resources for students. They have a CareerLAB, which provides career counseling, job and internship search assistance, and hosts career fairs and employer information sessions. Brown also has a “CareerLAB to Go” program, which brings career services to students in residence halls and other campus locations. Additionally, Brown’s alumni network is extensive and can be a valuable resource for students seeking career advice and connections.

Alumni Network Comparison: Vassar vs. Brown University

Both Vassar and Brown have impressive alumni networks, with graduates making significant contributions to a wide variety of industries and fields. Many Vassar alumni go on to successful careers in the arts and humanities, while Brown alumni have gone on to win Nobel prizes and other prestigious awards in science, medicine, and technology.

However, there are some notable differences between the two alumni networks. Vassar alumni tend to be more involved in social justice and activism, with many graduates working in non-profit organizations and advocacy groups. On the other hand, Brown alumni are more likely to be involved in entrepreneurship and business, with many starting their own successful companies and ventures.

Campus Safety and Security Measures Compared: Vassar vs. Brown University

Campus safety is a top priority for both universities. Vassar has its own campus security force, and the college also partners with local law enforcement agencies to ensure the safety of all students. Brown has a similar partnership with local police, as well as its own well-trained security personnel.

Additionally, both universities have implemented various safety measures to ensure the well-being of their students. Vassar has emergency call boxes located throughout the campus, as well as a campus-wide alert system that can quickly notify students of any potential dangers. Brown has also installed emergency call boxes and has a mobile safety app that allows students to quickly report any incidents or concerns. Both universities also offer self-defense classes and safety workshops to educate students on how to stay safe on campus and in the surrounding areas.

Future Prospects for Students Graduating: Vassar vs. Brown University

Graduating from either Vassar or Brown is a significant accomplishment, and graduates from both universities are well-positioned to have successful careers and make meaningful contributions to their communities. The choice between the two universities ultimately depends on a student’s individual needs, interests, and goals.

Graduation of students

However, it is worth noting that graduates from Brown University tend to have higher starting salaries and more opportunities for advancement in certain industries, such as finance and technology. On the other hand, Vassar graduates often excel in fields such as education, social work, and the arts. Regardless of which university a student chooses, both Vassar and Brown provide a strong foundation for personal and professional growth.

Conclusion: Which University is the Best Fit for You?

Comparing Vassar and Brown has highlighted many similarities and differences between the two universities. In the end, the decision of which university to attend depends on a variety of factors, such as academic interests, location preferences, and extracurricular pursuits. We hope this article has provided a comprehensive overview of some of the key differences between Vassar and Brown and will help students make an informed decision based on their unique needs and aspirations.

It is important to remember that choosing a university is a personal decision and what works for one student may not work for another. It is recommended that students visit both campuses, talk to current students and faculty, and attend information sessions to get a better understanding of the university’s culture and community. Ultimately, the best fit for a student is the university where they feel comfortable, challenged, and supported in their academic and personal growth.


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