Why Vassar College Essay

This is my essay for my Vassar Supplement. I'm a male high school senior attending a performing arts high school, applying Early Decision [Round I] and my deadline is November 15. I like it and my teachers and peers have proofed it, but I'd like to see how people who don't know me at all may perceive it. I'd like to hear your reactions. :]

Right now, it clocks in at 789 words. My prompt was: How did you learn about Vassar and what aspects of our college do you find appealing?

The One

As I stood in the Ninoy Aquino International Airport bookstore, skimming the fiction section for a self-indulgent airplane read, I came across a title that piqued my interests. I was thirteen going on thirty and undergoing my fashionista stage, as proven by my wafer-thin scarf and wool beret in the humidity of my native Philippines. I picked up a thick paperback from the shelf, a glamorous woman decked with scarlet stilettos and an arrowhead tail on the cover. After reading the sidebar, The Devil Wears Prada sounded like the perfect blend of decadence and bite I was looking for. On my flight, I learned that while working for the fashion magazine Runway, the protagonist Andie befriends a beauty editor named James, a Vassar graduate. Naturally, I enjoyed the animated James and his scathing wit and decided to keep tabs on his alma mater. I believed that if someone who was essentially the me in ten years, albeit fictional, attended Vassar College, it could be a fitting place for me. After eighteen hours of crossing the Pacific, I landed in scalding Las Vegas, scarf and beret in hand in a summer desert, ready to begin my freshman year of high school.

Between musical rehearsals and English lectures and frog dissections, I began my college search. A counselor advised me to seek a college where I can study what I want to study and learn how I want to learn. Well, I thought, I want to study everything from the history of Greek drama to how magazines influence people's lives. I want to learn those things through diverse approaches and points-of-view. I want to experience the "ivy-covered buildings" of a traditional college setting but I want to be near a metropolis, too. All of that, and I had to go and look for it? The hunt for the right college loomed and it was daunting.

My counselor said to me, "Don't worry. When you find the right college for you, you'll know. You'll get that vibe. You'll find 'The One'."'

I picked up The Devil Wears Prada again for fun and as I read, my eyes passed over the word "Vassar". I stopped myself and thought about James, the me in ten years. A peculiar sensation surged through my chest. Could it be? All I knew about Vassar was the Shakespeare Garden and the Powerhouse Theatre. I hungered to know more.

A Vassar student from my own high school taught me everything I needed to know. As a fellow dancer, she knew about my desire to continue theatre and dance in college and illustrated how Vassar's extracurricular activities could nourish my own interests. My loves of musical theatre and mass media would both be welcomed and cultivated at Vassar. I even made it a personal goal to join the Future Waitstaff of America, Vassar's musical theatre troupe, after seeing their production of Bare: A Pop Opera online. Additionally, Vassar's proximity to New York City would be a major plus. I would be able to visit the capital of the world and sit on the hill near Sunset Lake and embrace the serenity of Hudson Valley all in one day.

I learned that the Freshman Writing Seminar, the quantitative courses and the foreign language requirement would allow me the academic freedom to explore various fields of study, including the opportunity to double major in Drama and Media Studies. Finally, I obtained Vassar's College Catalogue. The statement of academic purpose read like a list of my life goals. Vassar would help me study what I want to study and learn how I want to learn. My counselor's advice echoed in my mind. With each bullet point I read, I experienced that same curious sensation in my heart crescendo into a climax that I can only describe as reaching nirvana or slipping into the perfect pair of jeans.

I could not believe it. I found "The One" when I was in the eighth grade. Vassar was my soul mate and it took me four years to figure that out.

A funny thing about Vassar and The Devil Wears Prada: Meryl Streep and Anne Hathaway starred in the movie adaptation and guess what? Both went to Vassar. Anne attended briefly while Meryl graduated with a B.A. in Drama. Without a doubt, it was fate at work. I spent the last four years learning about my soul mate, and I would be delighted to share my life with Vassar for another four. One day, I will be driving down Raymond Avenue, scarf around my neck and beret on my head with the next four years in a trunk full of boxes, and my eighth-grade dreams will be fulfilled, because Vassar and I, we go way back.

Any kind of constructive criticism would be greatly appreciated. Thanks again.

You are a very good writer and this is a very interesting read. I was hooked throughout.

However, a college is not a soul-mate. You used that term more than once, which makes it sound like you seriously mean it rather than being figurative. It's ok to be figurative like that, but you have to be very careful. The first question I'd ask as a committee member would be, "What if you are not accepted here? Are you prepared to lose your soul-mate?"

in the first paragraph, The Devil Wears Prada should be italicized.

"A funny thing about Vassar and The Devil Wears Prada: Meryl Streep and Anne Hathaway starred in the movie adaptation and guess what? Both went to Vassar. Anne attended briefly while Meryl graduated with a B.A. in Drama."

I feel as though this stands out from the rest of the tone you've set in your essay. Is there another way to incorporate it using your voice?

otherwise, very well written. i can definitely tell a lot of time was spent on this essay.

@Steven Thank you. Do you think the whole "soul-mate" idea could be addressed by only using the term once?

@Bridget Thanks. I'll try modifying it. It does sound a little "The More You Know!"-esque.

I second Bridget's statement for the Meryl Streep and Anne Hathaway section. I don't think you should include this at all. It seems to have little relevance to anything about going to Vassar, aside from emulating celebrities. Which I doubt is the point you're trying to make.

Also, there are a few sentences that I would like to point out, all of which seem a little generic in their wording.
"The hunt for the right college loomed and it was daunting."
"A peculiar sensation surged through my chest."
"I hungered to know more."
All of these sentences are portraying great concepts within your story, but they employ some unnatural vocabulary.

"Additionally, Vassar's proximity to New York City would be a major plus."
The structure of this sentence is unbalanced. You start of with great prose and then your ending sounds very common, and, it might as well have "dude" to close. "Major plus" is what needs to be replaced.

Other than that, I am slightly jealous of this essay. You present yourself very well to a stranger, and you stay consistent with your personality from the opening to closing line. Overall, this is great and I still can't get over the "...because Vassar and I, we go way back." Pure genius!

Good Luck!

For what it's worth, I wouldn't use the term at all. I just wouldn't go there.

It is possible to talk about deep connections and feelings without that. I think that the term 'soul-mate' has become so laden with meaning now that it's just impossible to use without someone thinking that's what you mean.

If you must use it, however, do so only once and then don't refer to it again.

@Stephen Yeah, I could go without using "soul-mate". I already refer to it as "The One" and I think that goes far enough. Thank you!

@donfilipe I cut out the Meryl and Anne parts (it was hard!) but I think it was a good choice. It was irrelevant and with it gone, the flow into the concluding paragraph is actually smoother. Thanks for that.

Same thing happened with the 'college loomed' sentence. Cut it, flowed better. And I just changed "hungered" to "needed". I felt that using 'needed' would be trite, but 'hungered' wasn't the right fit anyway. And thanks for pointing out "major plus". It was awkward. I cut that and it turned into:

Thanks to Vassar's proximity to New York City, I would be able to roam free in the capital of the world and lounge on the hill near Sunset Lake and embrace the serenity of Hudson Valley all in one day.

Again, thanks very much!

This is a very interesting and unique essay.

I could not believe it. I found "The One" when I was in the eighth grade. Vassar was my soul mate and it took me four years to figure that out.

I think there is a better way to word that. Right now it seems a little amatureish.

A funny thing about Vassar and The Devil Wears Prada: Meryl Streep and Anne Hathaway starred in the movie adaptation and guess what? Both went to Vassar.

I would stay away from using rhetorical or any types of questions. You can make it sound more professional without the question.

Other than that, I really like your essay. I can definitely see your interested in Vassar and how much thought you've put into this essay

Could you please leave me a feedback on my short answer question? Thanks

@Yoo I've cut the Meryl and Anne parts and the essay is much more cohesive without it. As for the "I could not believe it", I'll find a way to reword it. I agree that there should be a more elevated way of conveying that disbelief. Or at least a less generic way of doing so.

Thanks, and I'll be happy to read your essay.



Standardized Test Requirements

Vassar requires all applicants to submit standardized test results from either the ACT or the SAT. For candidates taking both the SAT and the ACT, Vassar will use whichever composite scores are higher. The latest test dates acceptable for Regular Decision and Early Decision II applicants are the December ACT and/or December SAT of their senior year. Early Decision I applicants must complete required testing by November of their senior year. However, applicants are advised not to wait until the last test date available for your application round. In the event of test date postponements due to weather, or delays in test score releases, Vassar tries to work with students but cannot guarantee scores will arrive in time for applicants to be considered in their chosen application round.

SAT 

Vassar will accept either the pre-March 2016 SAT or the redesigned SAT. Vassar does not require the optional essay.

In assessing SAT scores, Vassar uses the highest individual subscores of the same version of the SAT from multiple test dates. For applicants submitting both the pre-March 2016 SAT and redesigned SAT, the results will not be superscored across the two versions.

ACT 

Applicants submitting the ACT are not required to submit the optional writing test.

In assessing ACT scores, Vassar uses the highest subscores taken from multiple test dates and recalculates a new composite score.

SAT II Subject Tests (Optional)

SAT Subject Tests are not required, and students opting not to send Subject Tests will not be penalized. However, SAT Subject Tests will be considered if submitted as part of a testing profile. Subject Tests may enhance an applicant’s credentials, particularly for applicants from non-traditional school backgrounds (homeschooled, non-graded schools, etc.). Note that a strong score on an SAT Subject Test is also one way to fulfill Vassar’s Foreign Language Proficiency requirement.

TOEFL/IELTS Requirements

In addition, if English is neither your first language nor the primary language of instruction you have used throughout secondary school (minimum of three full years in English), you should submit the results of the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). Vassar typically expects scores of at least 100 on the Internet-based TOEFL and 600 on the paper-based version. As an alternative to the TOEFL, Vassar also accepts the IELTS. A minimum score of 7.0 on the IELTS Academic Test is required. Vassar does not grant waivers for TOEFL/IELTS based on SAT/ACT or other exams.

For applicants required to submit the TOEFL/IELTS, Vassar recommends that you also submit an interview as an additional way to demonstrate English language proficiency. You may request to meet with a Vassar alumnae/i volunteer (submit request) and/or participate in a third party interview service. Vassar accepts interviews from InitialView and Vericant. Please note that these vendors, unlike our alumnae/i volunteers, are not Vassar specific. InitialView and Vericant interviewers will not be able to answer questions about Vassar. You must complete your third party interview by March 1st to have it reviewed for Regular Decision.

We understand there is a cost for these vendors; therefore interviews are recommended, but not required. In cases where the interviewing fee would be prohibitive, you or your high school counselor can contact the vendors directly to obtain a fee waiver.

Interviews

If you would like to learn more about Vassar through a one-on-one conversation, off-campus informational interviews are available for first-year applicants. These are conducted all over the world by Vassar alumnae/i and are available from November through February. These conversations are non-evaluative and are not required, but they are a great way to gain a unique perspective on the Vassar experience. Not having an interview will not affect your admission decision. Information about requesting an informational alumnae/i interview is available here.

Early Decision at Vassar

Each year, many students consider applying to Vassar under one of our Early Decision options. Such an application has distinct advantages both for you and for the college. If, after careful consideration, you have decided that Vassar is your first choice, then an Early Decision application can help you complete your college search mid-way through your senior year and ease the stress that often accompanies the college selection process. We believe that students are more likely to thrive in a college environment which they feel best meets their interests. Finally, an Early Decision application allows the Admission Committee to take your commitment to Vassar into account in the selection process.

However, since Early Decision at Vassar is a binding agreement, you should give considerable thought to your college plans before applying in this fashion. If admitted, you are required to withdraw your applications to other colleges and universities. If you are ready to make that commitment to Vassar, then we welcome your Early Decision application and feel it is clearly beneficial for both you and the college.

Vassar is committed to meeting 100% of the demonstrated financial need, as determined by our Financial Aid Office, of all admitted Early Decision candidates. Aid awards are sent to admitted Early Decision applicants at or near the time of the offer of admission, assuming that all the necessary information has been filed by the applicant at that point.

Vassar offers students two separate rounds of Early Decision:

  • Early Decision Round 1: All application materials must be submitted by November 15.
  • Early Decision Round 2: All application materials must be received by January 1.

Along with the Common Application and required materials, all Early Decision applicants must complete an Early Decision agreement, signed by a parent, counselor, and the student. You can submit your ED agreement form online via the Common Application website or download a copy here and submit it to our office. ED Applicants must also submit their first quarter/trimester senior grades. 

Art, Music, and Dance Submissions

If you have devoted a significant amount of time to art, music, or dance which you plan to continue at Vassar and which you would like to have our faculty evaluate as part of your application for admission, please consult our Guidelines for Optional Art, Music, and Dance Submissions.

QuestBridge

QuestBridge is a non-profit organization that connects high-achieving, motivated low-income students with educational and scholarship opportunities at some of the nation's best colleges and universities. Vassar College has been a proud QuestBridge partner college since 2007. If you are planning to forward your QuestBridge application to Vassar, please complete the Vassar College Selection Form for QuestBridge Applicants and the Vassar QuestBridge Writing Supplement. Read more about QuestBridge at Vassar.

Veterans at Vassar

Vassar is actively seeking to enroll qualified men and women who are veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces. In partnership with the Posse Foundation, Vassar was the first college to enroll veterans through the Posse Veterans Program, a program aimed at increasing enrollment of veterans at selective colleges and universities. Vassar also participates in the Yellow Ribbon Program to fund tuition and fee expenses that exceed the amounts payable under the Post-9/11 GI Bill®. Read more about the Posse Veterans Program and the Yellow Ribbon Program. 

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