Vassar vs Duke: A Side-by-Side Comparison

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

Male student holding a book in a library.

Vassar vs Duke: A Side-by-Side Comparison

When it comes to choosing the right college, there are many factors to consider. For those considering Vassar and Duke, two prestigious institutions, it can be difficult to know where to begin. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at key aspects of Vassar vs Duke to help you make an informed decision.

Location and Campus Features: Vassar vs. Duke

Location plays a big role in college choice, and Vassar and Duke offer very different settings. Vassar is located in Poughkeepsie, New York, a small city in the Hudson Valley region. The campus features stunning Gothic and Victorian architecture and is surrounded by parkland. In contrast, Duke is located in Durham, North Carolina, a mid-sized city in the Research Triangle area. The campus is known for its beautiful Georgian architecture and ample green spaces, as well as its proximity to the city of Raleigh.

Both colleges offer state-of-the-art facilities, including modern classrooms, libraries, and common areas. Duke has several world-renowned museums on campus, including the Nasher Museum of Art and the Duke Lemur Center. Meanwhile, Vassar boasts a stunning art museum and theater center.

Different books for the education of students

Aside from their physical features, Vassar and Duke also differ in terms of their academic programs. Vassar is known for its strong liberal arts curriculum, with a focus on the humanities and social sciences. The college also offers a unique interdisciplinary program called the “Exploration of Urban Environments,” which allows students to study the relationship between cities and the environment. On the other hand, Duke is renowned for its STEM programs, particularly in the fields of engineering and computer science. The university also has a highly regarded business school, the Fuqua School of Business.

Another factor to consider when choosing between Vassar and Duke is the student body. Vassar is a small, private college with a student population of around 2,500. The college has a reputation for being politically active and socially conscious, with a strong emphasis on diversity and inclusion. Duke, on the other hand, is a larger university with over 15,000 students. The student body is known for its school spirit and athletic culture, with a strong emphasis on basketball.

Student Body Demographics: Vassar vs. Duke

Diversity is an important consideration when choosing a college, and both Vassar and Duke boast diverse student bodies. Vassar has a student population of just over 2,400, with a 55:45 female-to-male ratio. The student body is also highly diverse, with 45% of students identifying as students of color. Duke, meanwhile, has a slightly larger student population of around 18,000, with a closer 50:50 female-to-male ratio and a similar percentage of students identifying as students of color (44%). Both colleges attract students from all over the United States and the world.

However, there are some differences in the types of diversity represented at each school. Vassar has a higher percentage of international students, with 12% of the student body coming from outside the United States. Duke, on the other hand, has a higher percentage of students from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups, with 22% of the student body identifying as Black, Hispanic/Latino, Native American, or Pacific Islander. Both schools prioritize creating inclusive and welcoming environments for all students, regardless of their background.

Academic Programs and Curriculum: Vassar vs. Duke

Academic programs are a major draw for both Vassar and Duke. Vassar is known for its strong liberal arts curriculum, with majors ranging from English and history to neuroscience and computer science. Duke, on the other hand, is known for its strong programs in engineering, nursing, public policy, and business.

a nursing student wearing her uniform smiling to the cmaera

Both colleges offer a range of unique academic opportunities, including small-group seminars, undergraduate research programs, and study abroad programs. Additionally, Duke has a selective honors program and Vassar offers the option to design your own major.

One of the key differences between Vassar and Duke’s academic programs is the size of their classes. Vassar prides itself on its small class sizes, with an average of 20 students per class. This allows for more personalized attention from professors and a greater opportunity for class discussion. Duke, on the other hand, has larger class sizes, with an average of 20 students per class. While this may mean less individual attention, it also allows for a wider range of perspectives and experiences in the classroom.

Another difference between the two colleges is their approach to interdisciplinary studies. Vassar encourages students to explore multiple fields of study and offers a variety of interdisciplinary majors, such as Environmental Studies and Urban Studies. Duke, on the other hand, has a more traditional approach to academics and emphasizes the importance of specialization within a particular field. However, Duke does offer a few interdisciplinary majors, such as Neuroscience and Global Cultural Studies.

Cost of Attendance: Vassar vs. Duke

College is an investment, and cost is an important factor to consider. According to CollegeData.com, Vassar’s tuition and fees for the academic year come in at just over $67,000. Room and board, books, and other expenses will add to this figure. Meanwhile, Duke’s tuition and fees for the same time period come in at just over $66,000. Again, other expenses will add to this figure. Both colleges offer need-based and merit-based financial aid to help offset costs for eligible students.

It’s important to note that the cost of attendance can vary depending on a student’s individual circumstances. For example, students who live off-campus may be able to save money on room and board expenses. Additionally, students who receive scholarships or grants may have a lower overall cost of attendance compared to those who rely solely on loans.

Another factor to consider when comparing the cost of attendance at Vassar and Duke is the availability of part-time job opportunities. Both colleges offer work-study programs, which allow students to earn money while gaining valuable work experience. However, the availability of these programs and the types of jobs offered may vary between the two schools.

Admission Requirements: A Side-by-Side Comparison

Getting into college is no easy feat, and both Vassar and Duke have competitive admission requirements. According to CollegeSimply.com, Vassar has an acceptance rate of 19%, meaning around one in four applicants will be admitted. Duke, meanwhile, has an acceptance rate of 6%, making it highly selective. Admissions requirements vary between the two colleges, but both require transcripts, test scores, essays, and recommendations.

man is studying for his exam, solving math problems to practice.

One major difference between the admission requirements of Vassar and Duke is the standardized test scores. Vassar is test-optional, meaning that applicants can choose whether or not to submit their SAT or ACT scores. Duke, on the other hand, requires all applicants to submit either SAT or ACT scores, and the scores are a crucial factor in the admissions decision.

Another difference is the emphasis on extracurricular activities. Vassar values a well-rounded applicant who has demonstrated a commitment to their interests outside of academics. Duke also values extracurricular activities but places more emphasis on leadership roles and community service.

Faculty and Staff Quality: Which College Has the Best Professors?

When it comes to higher education, faculty quality is key. Both Vassar and Duke have highly respected faculties, with published authors, celebrated scientists, and renowned scholars on staff. According to Niche.com, Vassar has a student-to-faculty ratio of 8:1, meaning students benefit from individualized attention and close relationships with their professors. Duke, meanwhile, has a larger student body and a student-to-faculty ratio of 5:1. Both colleges prioritize teaching, research, and collaboration as part of their academic mission.

However, there are some differences in the way these colleges approach faculty development. Vassar has a strong emphasis on faculty diversity and inclusivity, with programs and initiatives aimed at recruiting and retaining underrepresented groups. Duke, on the other hand, places a greater emphasis on faculty research and innovation, with ample funding and resources available for faculty to pursue their scholarly interests. Despite these differences, both colleges have a shared commitment to providing their students with the highest quality education possible.

Campus Life and Extra-Curricular Activities: Vassar vs. Duke

College is about more than just academics, and both Vassar and Duke offer active campus communities. Vassar has over 120 student-run organizations, including music groups, culinary clubs, and political organizations. Duke has over 400, including cultural organizations, sports teams, and community service groups. Both colleges offer robust intramural and varsity sports programs, as well as a range of wellness services.

One of the unique aspects of campus life at Vassar is the emphasis on sustainability and environmentalism. The college has a student-run farm, where students can learn about sustainable agriculture and participate in hands-on farming activities. Additionally, Vassar has a strong commitment to reducing its carbon footprint, with initiatives such as a bike-sharing program and a LEED-certified science building.

Duke, on the other hand, is known for its strong Greek life presence. Approximately 30% of students participate in Greek organizations, which offer a range of social and philanthropic opportunities. Duke also has a thriving arts scene, with a student-run theater group, a dance company, and a cappella group. The university hosts a number of cultural events throughout the year, including a popular international festival.

Athletics Programs: A Comparative Analysis of Vassar and Duke

Athletics programs are a major part of campus life, and both Vassar and Duke have competitive programs. Vassar is part of the NCAA Division III and has a range of men’s and women’s sports teams, including basketball, cross country, and soccer. Duke is part of the NCAA Division I and has a broader range of sports teams, including basketball, football, and lacrosse. Duke is also known for its strong men’s and women’s basketball programs.

famle student inside a locker room and carrying a basketball

Despite the differences in the size and scope of their athletics programs, both Vassar and Duke prioritize the well-being and safety of their student-athletes. Both schools have dedicated athletic trainers and medical staff who work closely with the teams to prevent and treat injuries. Additionally, both schools have implemented policies and procedures to ensure that student-athletes have access to mental health resources and support.

Research Opportunities: Vassar vs. Duke

Research is an important part of many academic programs, and both Vassar and Duke offer unique opportunities for undergraduate research. Vassar has a strong focus on interdisciplinary research, with opportunities to work with faculty in fields ranging from music and theater to biology and chemistry. Duke also prioritizes research and offers a range of programs, including summer research fellowships and training programs in innovation and entrepreneurship.

One of the advantages of conducting research at Vassar is the college’s location in the Hudson Valley, which provides access to a diverse range of ecosystems and communities for field research. Additionally, Vassar’s Undergraduate Research Summer Institute offers students the opportunity to work on independent research projects with faculty mentors over the summer.

On the other hand, Duke’s research opportunities are bolstered by its strong partnerships with nearby research institutions, such as the Research Triangle Park. Duke also offers a variety of research-focused programs, such as the Duke Clinical Research Institute, which provides students with hands-on experience in clinical research and trial design.

Post-Graduate Success Rates: How Do Vassar and Duke Compare?

Ultimately, the goal of college is to prepare students for successful lives after graduation. Both Vassar and Duke have strong post-graduate success rates, with graduates going on to work in a range of fields or pursuing further education. According to US News & World Report, Vassar has an average six-year graduation rate of 92.5%, and over 90% of graduates go on to find work or pursue further education within 10 months of graduation. Meanwhile, Duke has an average six-year graduation rate of 96%, and over 90% of graduates find employment or pursue further education within six months of graduation.

It’s worth noting that while both Vassar and Duke have impressive post-graduate success rates, the fields in which their graduates find work differ. Vassar graduates tend to pursue careers in the arts, education, and social services, while Duke graduates often go into finance, consulting, and technology. This difference in career paths may be attributed to the different academic programs and resources offered by each institution, as well as the geographic location of the schools.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Initiatives: A Comparison of Vassar and Duke

Diversity, equity, and inclusion are important values for many college students in today’s world. Both Vassar and Duke have made strides in this area, with dedicated initiatives and programs to promote these values. Vassar has a robust bias incident reporting system, active LGBTQ+ organizations, and a commitment to recruiting and retaining diverse faculty and staff. Duke has several diversity and inclusion programs, including a Social Justice living and learning community and a Black Student Alliance.

Group of students with a laptop are chatting while sitting on the stairs.

In addition to these initiatives, Vassar also has a Multiracial and Biracial Student Association, which provides a space for students who identify as multiracial or biracial to connect and support each other. The association hosts events and discussions on topics related to multiracial identity and experiences. Duke, on the other hand, has a Women’s Center that offers resources and support for women on campus, including advocacy for gender equity and programming on issues such as sexual violence prevention and reproductive health.

Alumni Networks and Support Systems: Which College Offers Better Resources?

Alumni networks and support systems are important for students to consider when choosing a college. Both Vassar and Duke have active alumni organizations and resources, including career services, mentorship programs, and networking opportunities. According to LinkedIn, both colleges have successful alumni networks, with Duke alumni working at companies like Google and Microsoft, and Vassar alumni working in fields ranging from education to the arts.

However, there are some differences in the resources offered by each college. Vassar has a strong focus on community service and social justice, reflected in their alumni network. Vassar alumni are involved in organizations such as Teach for America and the Peace Corps, and the college offers resources for students interested in pursuing careers in these fields.

Duke, on the other hand, has a strong emphasis on entrepreneurship and innovation. The college offers resources such as the Duke Innovation and Entrepreneurship Initiative, which provides funding and support for student startups. Duke alumni are also heavily involved in the tech industry, with many working at companies like Apple and Facebook.

Campus Safety Measures: How Vassar Compares to Duke in Terms of Security

Campus safety is a top priority for colleges, and both Vassar and Duke have measures in place to ensure the safety and well-being of their students. Vassar has a dedicated campus safety and security department, with patrols, emergency response training, and outreach programs for students. Duke also has a campus safety department, along with a range of safety resources for students, including a 24-hour safety shuttle and a mobile safety app.

24/7 Emergency service in campus

However, there are some differences in the safety measures taken by Vassar and Duke. Vassar has a strict policy of requiring all students to register their guests and provide identification before allowing them onto campus. Duke, on the other hand, allows students to bring guests onto campus without registration but requires them to be accompanied by the student at all times. Additionally, Vassar has a system of blue light emergency phones located throughout campus, while Duke relies more heavily on their mobile safety app for emergency communication.

Sustainability Efforts: Comparing the Environmental Impact of Vassar vs Duke

Sustainability is an increasingly important consideration for many students when choosing a college. Vassar has a strong commitment to sustainability, with initiatives such as a campus farm, green energy usage, and a focus on reducing waste and water usage. Duke also has a robust sustainability program, including a sustainable transport program, green building certifications, and a commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Despite their similarities, there are some notable differences in the sustainability efforts of Vassar and Duke. For example, Vassar has implemented a composting program that diverts food waste from landfills and turns it into nutrient-rich soil for the campus farm. Duke, on the other hand, has focused on reducing single-use plastics on campus by implementing a reusable container program in their dining halls.

Another area where the two schools differ is in their approach to sustainable investments. Vassar has a policy of divesting from fossil fuels and investing in renewable energy, while Duke has faced criticism for continuing to invest in fossil fuel companies. However, Duke has also made significant investments in renewable energy projects, such as a solar farm that provides energy to the campus.


As we’ve seen in this side-by-side comparison, Vassar and Duke both offer unique strengths for prospective students. Whether you prioritize strong academics, diverse student populations, or robust campus life, both colleges have much to offer. Ultimately, the choice between Vassar and Duke will depend on your own individual needs, preferences, and goals. Whatever you choose, both colleges are sure to provide a rich and rewarding educational experience.

It’s important to note that while Vassar and Duke may have similarities, they also have distinct differences. Vassar is a small liberal arts college with a focus on interdisciplinary studies and a strong commitment to social justice. Duke, on the other hand, is a larger research university with a wide range of academic programs and a strong emphasis on athletics. It’s important to consider these differences when making your decision, as they can greatly impact your college experience.

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