Vassar vs Middlebury: A Comprehensive Look at Two Prestigious Colleges

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

Two students smiling at the camera

Choosing a college is a daunting task, and even more so when considering selective institutions like Vassar College and Middlebury College. Both schools boast reputations as some of the best liberal arts colleges in the country, but what sets them apart? In this article, we will provide a thorough comparison of Vassar vs. Middlebury, covering everything from admission to campus life to career prospects. By the end, you’ll have a better understanding of what each school has to offer, and which may be the better fit for you.

A Brief Overview of Vassar vs. Middlebury

Let’s start with some basic background information on each school. Vassar College is a private liberal arts college located in Poughkeepsie, New York. Founded in 1861, it has a long history of excellence in the arts, humanities, and social sciences. Middlebury College, located in Middlebury, Vermont, was founded in 1800 and also places a strong emphasis on the liberal arts. Both schools have small enrollments, with Vassar having just over 2,400 students and Middlebury close to 2,800.

Despite their similarities, there are some notable differences between Vassar and Middlebury. Vassar has a more diverse student body, with a higher percentage of students of color and international students. Middlebury, on the other hand, has a strong focus on environmental sustainability and offers a variety of majors and programs related to environmental studies. Additionally, Middlebury has a language school that offers intensive language immersion programs in over 10 languages, which is a unique feature not found at many other colleges.

Campus Life: A Comparison Between Vassar vs. Middlebury

Vassar and Middlebury differ in many ways in terms of campus life. One notable difference is the size of the schools. Vassar’s campus is relatively small, with most buildings within a 10-minute walk from dorms. Middlebury, on the other hand, is spread across a larger area, with some buildings a bit farther apart. Another difference is the presence of Greek life. Middlebury has a larger Greek scene than Vassar, with roughly 25% of students involved in fraternity or sorority life. Vassar, in contrast, has a no-Greek life policy. Campus cultural events differ slightly as well. Vassar’s campus is well-known for its arts scene, with regular concerts, performances, and art exhibits taking place. Middlebury, on the other hand, is famous for its outdoor recreation opportunities, such as skiing and hiking. Campuses differ in many other ways as well, including dining options, dorm life, and extracurricular activities.

Students with Mexican cuisines

Another difference between Vassar and Middlebury is the student body makeup. Vassar has a more diverse student body, with a higher percentage of students from underrepresented backgrounds. Middlebury, on the other hand, has a higher percentage of students from affluent backgrounds. This difference in student body makeup can impact campus culture and social dynamics. Additionally, Vassar has a strong emphasis on social justice and activism, with many student-led organizations focused on issues such as gender equality and racial justice. Middlebury also has a strong commitment to social responsibility but with a focus on environmental sustainability and global citizenship. These differences in campus culture and values can greatly impact the overall experience of students at each school.

The Admission Process: How Vassar vs. Middlebury Compare

Both Vassar and Middlebury are highly selective, with acceptance rates hovering around 15%. Applicants to both schools can expect to submit transcripts, test scores, essays, and letters of recommendation. One key difference between the two is the availability of Early Decision application options. Vassar offers Early Decision I and Early Decision II options, while Middlebury only offers Early Decision I. Another difference is the school’s emphasis on test scores. While both schools are test-optional, Middlebury has a reputation for placing a greater emphasis on standardized testing than Vassar.

Another factor to consider when comparing the admission process at Vassar and Middlebury is the importance of extracurricular activities. Vassar values a well-rounded applicant who has demonstrated a commitment to their interests outside of the classroom. Middlebury, on the other hand, places more emphasis on an applicant’s academic achievements and intellectual curiosity. This means that while extracurricular activities are still important at Middlebury, they may not carry as much weight as they do at Vassar.

It’s also worth noting that both schools have unique application requirements. Vassar, for example, requires applicants to submit a graded written paper from a humanities or social science class. Middlebury, on the other hand, asks applicants to submit a supplemental essay that focuses on one of their core values: environmental stewardship, global citizenship, or inclusion. These additional requirements give applicants the opportunity to showcase their skills and interests in a more specific way and can help set them apart from other applicants.

Academic Programs: What Sets Vassar Apart from Middlebury

Both Vassar and Middlebury offer rigorous liberal arts programs, but each school has its own strengths. Vassar is well-known for its strong programs in the humanities and social sciences, offering majors in English, History, Political Science, and more. Middlebury, on the other hand, is known for its excellent foreign language programs, international studies programs, and environmental studies programs. In terms of research opportunities, both schools offer a variety of opportunities for students to engage in original research alongside faculty members.

However, what sets Vassar apart from Middlebury is its commitment to interdisciplinary studies. Vassar encourages students to explore multiple fields of study and offers a variety of interdisciplinary majors such as Cognitive Science, Urban Studies, and Environmental Studies. This approach allows students to gain a broader perspective and develop a more well-rounded education. Additionally, Vassar has a strong emphasis on experiential learning, offering opportunities for students to engage in internships, community service, and study abroad programs that complement their academic coursework.

Extracurricular Activities: Vassar vs. Middlebury

Vassar and Middlebury both offer plenty of extracurricular opportunities for their students to explore. Vassar boasts over 200 student organizations, including cultural clubs, political groups, and everything in between. Middlebury has a similarly wide range of clubs, with a strong emphasis on outdoor recreation clubs. Both schools offer plenty of opportunities to get involved in music, theater, and other arts as well. It’s important to note that while Vassar has a strict policy against Greek life, Middlebury’s Greek system is very active, with a range of fraternities and sororities to choose from.

Student Sorority dancing

Aside from the numerous student organizations, Vassar also offers a variety of community service opportunities for students. The college has partnerships with local organizations and non-profits, allowing students to engage in meaningful service work and make a positive impact in the community. Middlebury also has a strong commitment to community service, with a dedicated center for community engagement and partnerships with over 100 local organizations.

Furthermore, both Vassar and Middlebury offer unique opportunities for students to study abroad. Vassar has a robust study abroad program, with over 50 programs in more than 20 countries. Middlebury also has a strong study abroad program, with its own schools in 11 countries and partnerships with over 40 other programs. Studying abroad can be a transformative experience for students, allowing them to gain new perspectives and broaden their horizons.

Faculty and Student Ratio: A Look at Vassar vs. Middlebury’s Teaching Environment

Both Vassar and Middlebury have small student-to-faculty ratios, with Vassar having a ratio of 8:1 and Middlebury having a ratio of 9:1. This means that students at both schools have ample opportunities to engage with faculty members and receive personalized attention. Both schools also offer robust advising programs to support students in their academic and career goals. One difference between the two schools is the classroom experience. Vassar prides itself on offering small, discussion-based classes, while Middlebury focuses more on lecture-style classes.

Another factor to consider when comparing the teaching environment at Vassar and Middlebury is the research opportunities available to students. Vassar has a strong emphasis on undergraduate research, with many students working closely with faculty members on research projects. Middlebury also offers research opportunities, but they are more limited in scope and may be more competitive to secure. Additionally, Vassar has a unique program called the Undergraduate Research Summer Institute, which provides funding for students to conduct research over the summer months. This program allows students to delve deeper into their academic interests and gain valuable research experience.

Student Diversity: A Comparison Between Vassar vs. Middlebury’s Student Body

Both Vassar and Middlebury have diverse student bodies in terms of race, ethnicity, and nationality. Vassar’s student body is slightly more racially diverse than Middlebury’s, with roughly 60% of Vassar students identifying as students of color. Middlebury, on the other hand, has a strong international student presence, with roughly 10% of students coming from outside the United States. Both schools have active student groups focused on diversity and inclusion, with regular programming and events to celebrate and support these communities.

Diverse community of college students smiling together on a yellow wall background

Despite their similarities in terms of diversity, there are some notable differences between Vassar and Middlebury’s student bodies. Vassar has a higher percentage of LGBTQ+ students, with approximately 20% of the student body identifying as LGBTQ+. Middlebury, on the other hand, has a higher percentage of students from low-income backgrounds, with roughly 20% of students receiving Pell Grants.

Both schools have made efforts to increase diversity and inclusion on their campuses. Vassar has implemented a need-blind admissions policy, which means that a student’s ability to pay for tuition is not taken into consideration during the admissions process. Middlebury has also taken steps to increase diversity, including the creation of a Center for the Comparative Study of Race and Ethnicity and a commitment to increasing the number of faculty members from underrepresented groups.

Cost of Attendance: How Much Does It Cost to Attend Each School?

The cost of attending Vassar and Middlebury is high, as is typical of selective liberal arts colleges. Middlebury’s tuition for the academic year is $65,280, with room and board costing an additional $18,600. Vassar’s tuition is similar, with a cost of $67,805 for tuition and $17,415 for room and board. Both schools offer robust financial aid programs to support students from a range of socioeconomic backgrounds.

It’s important to note that the cost of attendance at a college or university goes beyond just tuition and room and board. Other expenses to consider include textbooks, transportation, and personal expenses. According to the College Board, the average cost of books and supplies for a full-time undergraduate student at a four-year public institution is $1,298 per year. Additionally, transportation costs can vary depending on whether a student lives on or off campus and how far they are from home. It’s important for students and families to carefully consider all of these expenses when planning for college.

Career Prospects: A Comparative Analysis of Post-Graduation Opportunities

Vassar and Middlebury both have strong career centers that offer a range of resources and support for students preparing for life after college. Both schools have impressive rates of post-graduation employment and acceptances into elite graduate programs. In terms of specific fields, Middlebury is known for its strong environmental studies program and has many alumni working in environmental advocacy and policy. Vassar has a strong reputation for producing successful writers, artists, and scholars.

Lecturer Helps Scholar with Project, Advising on Their Work.

However, Middlebury also has a strong language program and many graduates go on to work in international relations and diplomacy. The school offers language immersion programs and study abroad opportunities that allow students to gain fluency in a foreign language and cultural competency. Vassar, on the other hand, has a strong psychology program and many graduates pursue careers in counseling, therapy, and social work. The school also has a robust internship program that allows students to gain hands-on experience in their field of interest.

It is important to note that both schools have strong alumni networks that provide valuable connections and opportunities for recent graduates. Middlebury has a particularly active alumni association that hosts events and provides mentorship and career advice to current students. Vassar also has a strong alumni network, with many graduates working in the arts, education, and non-profit sectors. Both schools offer a range of resources and support to help students navigate the job market and achieve their career goals.

Campus Facilities: Which School Has Better Resources for Students?

Vassar and Middlebury both have well-maintained campuses with plenty of resources available to students. Some notable facilities at Vassar include the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, the James W. Palmer III ’90 Athletics and Fitness Center, and the Bridge for Laboratory Sciences. Middlebury’s campus facilities include the Mahaney Arts Center, the Peterson Family Athletics Complex, and the Franklin Environmental Center. Both schools offer a range of academic and research resources for students as well.

However, Vassar has recently invested in a new state-of-the-art music building, the Susan Stein Shiva Theater and Film Center, and a renovated library with expanded study spaces and technology resources. Middlebury, on the other hand, has a newly constructed science building, the McCardell Bicentennial Hall, and a center for entrepreneurship and innovation, the Old Stone Mill. These new additions have further enhanced the resources available to students at both schools.

Alumni Network: A Look at the Success Stories of Vassar vs. Middlebury Graduates

Both Vassar and Middlebury have strong alumni networks, with graduates contributing to a wide range of industries and fields. Middlebury has a particularly strong network in environmental policy and advocacy, with many graduates going on to work in organizations like the World Wildlife Fund and the Environmental Defense Fund. Vassar has a reputation for producing successful artists and writers, with notable alumni actors, writers, and journalists.

However, both schools have also produced successful entrepreneurs and business leaders. Vassar alumni include the co-founder of LinkedIn and the CEO of American Express. Middlebury alumni include the co-founder of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream and the CEO of Burton Snowboards.

Additionally, both schools have strong alumni networks in the field of education. Vassar graduates have gone on to become professors at prestigious universities such as Harvard and Yale, while Middlebury alumni have become leaders in the field of international education, with many working for organizations like the Peace Corps and Teach for America.

Social Scene: Comparing Campus Culture at Vassar vs. Middlebury

As previously mentioned, Vassar and Middlebury differ in terms of their social scenes. Vassar’s campus culture tends to be more arts-focused, with frequent events and performances taking place throughout the year. Middlebury’s culture is centered more on outdoor recreation and sports, with many students participating in activities like skiing and hiking. Both schools have active student organizations and events that cater to a wide range of interests.

Group of four hikers with backpacks walks in mountains at sunset

However, there are some notable differences in the types of events and activities offered at each school. Vassar’s arts scene includes a wide range of disciplines, from theater and dance to visual arts and music. The campus is home to several galleries and performance spaces, and students often collaborate on creative projects outside of class. Middlebury, on the other hand, has a strong focus on environmentalism and sustainability. The school hosts an annual environmental summit and offers many courses and extracurricular activities related to sustainability and conservation.

Despite these differences, both Vassar and Middlebury have vibrant social scenes that allow students to connect with each other and explore their interests. Whether you’re interested in the arts, sports, or environmentalism, you’re sure to find a community of like-minded individuals at either school.

Location Matters: How the Surrounding Areas Affect Student Life at Each School

Vassar and Middlebury are both located in beautiful areas of the country, with plenty of opportunities for outdoor recreation and cultural activities in the surrounding areas. Poughkeepsie, where Vassar is located, is a small city with a range of shops, restaurants, and cultural attractions. Middlebury is located in a rural area of Vermont, surrounded by mountains and forests. While both areas offer unique benefits, it’s important to consider which environment you may feel more comfortable in.

Additionally, the location of a school can also impact the types of internships and job opportunities available to students. For example, Vassar’s proximity to New York City allows for easy access to internships in various industries, while Middlebury’s location in Vermont may offer more opportunities in environmental and outdoor-related fields. It’s important to research the industries and companies in the surrounding areas of each school to determine which location may provide the best opportunities for your career goals.

Final Thoughts: Which College is Right for You?

Choosing between two excellent schools like Vassar and Middlebury comes down to personal preference. Each school has its own strengths and culture, and it’s up to you to decide which fits your academic and personal goals. We hope this article has given you a comprehensive look at what each school has to offer, and made the decision a bit easier.

It’s important to remember that while academics and campus culture are important factors in choosing a college, there are other considerations to keep in mind as well. Location, cost, and extracurricular opportunities are all important factors to consider when making your decision. Take the time to research and visit each school, talk to current students and alumni, and weigh all of your options before making a final decision. Remember, the college you choose will shape your future, so choose wisely.



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