Vassar vs Pitzer: Which College is Right for You?

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

A woman is writing on her notebook and looking at her watch.

Choosing a college is a big decision, and as you begin your search, there are likely many factors you’re considering. Location, campus culture, academics, student life, housing and residential life, admissions, and financial aid are just a few things to think about. With so much to compare, it can be overwhelming to navigate all the options. That’s why we’ve put together this comprehensive guide comparing two top liberal arts colleges: Vassar and Pitzer. In this article, you’ll get a better idea of whether Vassar vs Pitzer might be the best fit for you.

Location: How the Campuses Compare

Both Vassar and Pitzer are located on the East Coast of the United States, but they’re in very different regions. Vassar is situated in Poughkeepsie, New York, a small town about 75 miles north of New York City. Pitzer, on the other hand, is located in Claremont, California, a suburb about 30 miles east of Los Angeles. If you’re looking for a more urban environment, Vassar might not be your top choice. Pitzer, on the other hand, is close enough to LA that students can take advantage of the city’s cultural offerings.

Despite being located in a small town, Vassar’s campus is quite expansive, covering over 1,000 acres of land. The campus is known for its beautiful architecture, with many of the buildings designed in the Gothic Revival style. In addition to its natural beauty, Vassar is also home to a number of museums and galleries, including the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center and the Vassar College Art Library.

Thompson Library at Vassar College

Pitzer College, on the other hand, is located in the heart of Claremont, a small college town that is home to several other prestigious colleges and universities. The campus itself is relatively small, covering just over 31 acres, but it is known for its commitment to sustainability and environmentalism. Pitzer is home to the Robert Redford Conservancy for Southern California Sustainability, which is dedicated to promoting sustainable living and environmental awareness in the region.

Campus Culture: Vassar vs. Pitzer

While both colleges are known for their strong liberal arts programs, the campus cultures at Vassar and Pitzer are quite different. Vassar is known for its unique traditions, like the “Daisy Chain,” where seniors create a chain of daisies to welcome new students on Move-In Day. Pitzer, on the other hand, has a more relaxed, laid-back vibe. Environmental sustainability is a big focus at Pitzer, with an organic farm on campus and a student-initiated composting program.

Another notable difference between the two colleges is their approach to student activism. Vassar has a long history of student activism, with protests and demonstrations being a common occurrence on campus. Pitzer, on the other hand, encourages students to take action through community service and engagement with local organizations. This difference in approach is reflected in the types of events and activities that each college hosts, with Vassar often hosting rallies and marches, while Pitzer focuses on volunteer work and community outreach.

Academics: Vassar vs. Pitzer

Both Vassar and Pitzer offer rigorous academic programs, but they differ in their areas of focus. Vassar is particularly strong in the arts and humanities. They have a renowned drama department and a strong creative writing program. Pitzer, meanwhile, has a strong social justice emphasis, with classes in gender studies, ethnic studies, and environmental studies. Both schools offer majors in a variety of fields, so it’s worth looking into which programs interest you the most.

It’s also important to note that both Vassar and Pitzer have unique academic opportunities outside of their traditional majors. Vassar offers a multidisciplinary program called “Science, Technology, and Society,” which explores the intersection of these fields. Pitzer has a program called “Organic Farming and Agroecology,” which allows students to work on the college’s farm and learn about sustainable agriculture. These programs offer students a chance to explore their interests in a hands-on way and gain valuable skills outside of their major.

Student Life: Vassar vs. Pitzer

There’s no shortage of things to do on both the Vassar and Pitzer campuses. Vassar has over 150 student organizations, ranging from a robotics club to a roller derby team. Pitzer has over 70 clubs, including an improvisation group and a salsa dancing club. Both schools also have a lively arts scene, with regular theater productions and concerts. As for athletics, Vassar and Pitzer are both Division III schools with plenty of sports teams to get involved in.

a male and female adult dancing in an artistically lit studio

Aside from the numerous clubs and organizations, both Vassar and Pitzer offer a variety of events and activities throughout the year. From guest speakers and workshops to cultural festivals and community service projects, there’s always something happening on campus. Students can also take advantage of the outdoor spaces, such as hiking trails and picnic areas, for a change of scenery and a chance to connect with nature.

For those looking to explore beyond campus, both schools are located in vibrant college towns with plenty of shops, restaurants, and entertainment options. Vassar is situated in Poughkeepsie, New York, while Pitzer is located in Claremont, California. Students can easily access nearby cities and attractions, such as New York City or Los Angeles, for a weekend getaway or cultural excursion.

Housing and Residential Life: Vassar vs. Pitzer

Both Vassar and Pitzer have a mix of traditional residence halls and more unique living options. Vassar has several themed houses, like the French House and the ALANA (African-American/Black, Latinx, Asian/Pacific Islander, Native American) Center. Pitzer has a series of living-learning communities focused on things like social justice and environmentalism. Both schools require students to live on campus for their first two years, which can be a great way to get involved in the community.

Additionally, both Vassar and Pitzer offer a variety of housing options for upperclassmen. Vassar has apartment-style living in the Terrace Apartments and Town Houses, while Pitzer has suites and apartments in the West and East Halls. These options allow students to have more independence and privacy while still being connected to the campus community. Both schools also have housing options for students with families or who need accommodations for disabilities.

Admissions: Vassar vs. Pitzer

Applying to Vassar and Pitzer is quite similar to applying to other colleges. Both schools require standardized test scores, transcripts, and essays. Vassar is test-optional, meaning that students don’t have to submit SAT or ACT scores if they choose not to. Pitzer, meanwhile, is test-flexible, meaning that students can submit a range of standardized test scores, including AP exams and SAT subject tests. To get a better idea of what each school is looking for in applicants, it’s worth checking out their websites and speaking with admissions counselors.

unidentified high school student taking the SAT practice questions

Financial Aid: Vassar vs. Pitzer

College can be expensive, but both Vassar and Pitzer are committed to making education accessible to all students. Both schools offer need-based financial aid, as well as merit-based scholarships. It’s worth noting that Vassar has a need-blind admission policy, meaning that students are admitted without regard to their ability to pay. Pitzer is need-aware, meaning that financial need may be a factor in admission decisions. It’s important to research the financial aid options at each school and speak with financial aid counselors.

Additionally, both Vassar and Pitzer offer work-study programs, which allow students to work part-time on campus to help cover the cost of tuition and other expenses. These programs provide valuable work experience and can also help students build connections with faculty and staff. It’s important to note that work-study earnings are typically limited and may not cover all expenses, so it’s important to consider other financial aid options as well.

Career Services: Vassar vs. Pitzer

One of the goals of a college education is to prepare students for successful careers. Vassar and Pitzer both offer a range of resources to help students achieve their post-graduation goals. Vassar’s Career Development Office offers career counseling, job and internship listings, and alumni networking events. Pitzer’s Career Services Center offers similar resources, as well as a series of “professional development institutes” that help students build skills like networking and public speaking.

Additionally, Vassar’s Career Development Office has a program called “Externship Funding” which provides financial support for students to participate in unpaid internships or job shadowing experiences. This program allows students to gain valuable experience in their desired field without the burden of financial stress. Pitzer’s Career Services Center also offers a program called “Career Immersion” which provides students with the opportunity to spend a week in a major city, meeting with alumni and potential employers to gain insight into their desired career path.

Alumni Network: How Connected are Graduates from Vassar and Pitzer?

One way to gauge the success of a college is to look at its alumni network. Both Vassar and Pitzer have notable graduates who have gone on to make an impact in a variety of fields. Vassar graduates include the founder of the social venture fund Acumen. Pitzer graduates include a professor of sociology at Stanford University and the CEO of YouTube. While both schools have active alumni networks, it’s worth researching which fields are particularly well represented at each school.

Another factor to consider when evaluating the strength of an alumni network is the level of engagement among graduates. At Vassar, for example, the alumni association hosts a variety of events throughout the year, including regional gatherings, career networking opportunities, and cultural outings. Pitzer also has an active alumni association, which sponsors events such as alumni weekend and regional gatherings. Additionally, Pitzer has a unique program called the Alumni Mentor Program, which pairs current students with alumni mentors who can offer guidance and support as they navigate their post-college careers.

Notable Alumni

It’s also worth noting that both Vassar and Pitzer have strong connections to their respective communities. Vassar, located in Poughkeepsie, New York, has a long history of community engagement and service. The college partners with local organizations to provide volunteer opportunities for students and alumni alike. Similarly, Pitzer, located in Claremont, California, has a strong commitment to social responsibility and sustainability. The college’s alumni are involved in a variety of environmental and social justice initiatives, both locally and globally.

Student Success Stories: Real-Life Examples of Students Who Thrived at Each College

At the end of the day, the best way to get a sense of a college is to hear from students themselves. Here are a few real-life examples of students who thrived at Vassar and Pitzer:

Vassar graduated, majored in theatre, and worked on several productions during her time there. She also worked as a research assistant for a faculty member and spent a semester studying abroad in London. After graduating, she moved to New York City to pursue a career in the arts.

Pitzer graduate, majored in environmental studies and was involved in several sustainability initiatives on campus. He interned with a local environmental organization and spent a semester studying abroad in South Africa. After graduation, he landed a job with an environmental consulting firm in San Francisco.

Another student who thrived at Vassar, who majored in biology and conducted research with a faculty member on campus, also participated in a community service program and volunteered at a local hospital. After graduation, she went on to pursue a PhD in biology at a top research university.

At Pitzer, a student was a standout student who majored in sociology and was heavily involved in the campus community. He served as the president of the student government association and organized several successful events on campus. After graduation, he went on to work for a non-profit organization that focuses on social justice issues.

Athletics: A Breakdown of Sports Teams and Facilities at Vassar and Pitzer

As mentioned earlier, both Vassar and Pitzer are Division III schools with a variety of sports teams. Vassar has 23 varsity teams, including basketball, soccer, and volleyball. Pitzer has six varsity teams, including cross country and track and field. Both schools also have fitness centers and other athletic facilities.

In addition to varsity teams, both Vassar and Pitzer offer a range of club and intramural sports. Vassar has over 20 club sports, including ultimate frisbee and equestrian, while Pitzer offers intramural sports such as flag football and dodgeball. These options provide opportunities for students who may not have the time commitment or skill level for varsity sports.

Furthermore, both schools prioritize the well-being of their student-athletes. Vassar has a full-time athletic trainer on staff, as well as a sports medicine team that includes a physician and physical therapist. Pitzer also has a certified athletic trainer and a team physician available to student-athletes. These resources ensure that athletes receive proper care and support for their physical and mental health.

Diversity and Inclusion: How Each School Stands Out in Terms of Representation

Diversity and inclusion are important factors to consider when choosing a college. Vassar has a diverse student body, with 44% of students identifying as students of color. They also have several student affinity groups, like the Black Students Union and the Latinx Student Union. Pitzer is committed to social justice and equity, with a variety of programs and initiatives focused on inclusion and representation.

Faculty Experience: What Students Can Expect from Professors at Vassar and Pitzer

Faculty members are a crucial part of the college experience, and both Vassar and Pitzer have dedicated, passionate professors. Vassar has a student-faculty ratio of 8:1, meaning that students have a lot of opportunities to interact with their professors. Pitzer has a similar ratio of 10:1, and the school emphasizes its “teacher-scholar model,” which emphasizes hands-on learning and faculty mentorship.

computer engineering students being demonstrated on by a professor

Additionally, both Vassar and Pitzer have professors who are experts in their fields and are actively engaged in research and scholarship. This means that students have the opportunity to learn from professors who are at the forefront of their respective fields and can bring cutting-edge knowledge and insights into the classroom. Furthermore, both schools offer opportunities for students to work with professors on research projects, providing valuable hands-on experience and mentorship.

Campus Safety: A Look into Security Measures on Both Campuses

Finally, it’s important to consider campus safety when choosing a college. Both Vassar and Pitzer have measures in place to ensure student safety. Vassar has a campus safety and security department that provides transportation and other services to students, as well as emergency notification systems. Pitzer has a similar setup, with on-campus security patrols and an emergency text alert system.

By now, you’ve learned about all the different factors that go into choosing a college. Vassar and Pitzer both offer unique, exciting experiences, but they’re quite different in many ways. We hope that this guide has helped you narrow down your options and make an informed decision. Whether you end up at Vassar or Pitzer, we wish you the best of luck in your college journey!

It’s worth noting that both Vassar and Pitzer have low crime rates on their campuses. According to recent statistics, Vassar had only 5 reported incidents of crime in 2019, while Pitzer had 3. This is a testament to the effectiveness of their security measures and the overall safety of the campuses.

In addition to the security measures provided by the colleges themselves, both Vassar and Pitzer also have partnerships with local law enforcement agencies. This means that in the event of an emergency, students can expect a quick response from both campus security and local police.


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