How to Write the Vassar College Essays 2023-2024
Vassar is a prestigious liberal arts college located in Poughkeepsie (pronounced puh-kip-see), New York, just two hours north of Manhattan. Since the school is selective, your essays will be important to making your application stand out.
Vassar has one required essay and two optional essays/submissions. Keep reading to learn how to tackle Vassar’s supplemental essays to improve your chances of acceptance!
Read these Vassar essay examples to inspire your writing.
Vassar College Supplemental Essay Prompts
Prompt 1: Please select and respond to one of the following prompts in 300 words or less.
- Option A: At Vassar, we aim to foster an inclusive community through our philosophy of engaged pluralism. Engaged pluralism is rooted in “the conviction that collaborating across differences is necessary for social transformation and critical for the well-being of any community and its members.” In short, we believe it’s our differences that make us stronger. Tell us a little bit about what makes you unique and what you hope to add to our community.
- Option B: Vassar is a diverse community that inspires positive change through open inquiry, deep dives into society’s most difficult challenges, and collaborative problem solving. We care deeply about one another, the communities that have forged us, and the community we build together on campus. Tell us more about the community (or communities) you come from and how it has shaped who you are.
Prompt 2 (optional): If you wish to provide details of circumstances not reflected in the application, please upload a file here. Similarly, if you wish to upload your resume, include it here.
Prompt 3 (optional): Your Space is your opportunity to allow the Committee on Admission to learn something about you that you have not addressed in another section of the application. For example, in the past, applicants have shared poetry, short stories, cartoons, digital images of art projects, photography, and collages, and/or links to videos, and short films. It is your space, so if you choose to complete it, send something that is a reflection of you! Your Space is entirely optional.
Prompt 1, Option A
At Vassar, we aim to foster an inclusive community through our philosophy of engaged pluralism. Engaged pluralism is rooted in “the conviction that collaborating across differences is necessary for social transformation and critical for the well-being of any community and its members.” In short, we believe it’s our differences that make us stronger. Tell us a little bit about what makes you unique and what you hope to add to our community. (300 words)
This is a standard Diversity Essay, which is important to colleges, as they’re trying to build a vibrant campus community. (It’s also important to note that this prompt could also fit an Extracurricular Essay you’ve already written, with some slight modifications).
Remember that diversity can take many forms, including:
- Race, ethnicity, culture, and language
- Hobbies, talents, and interests
- Opinions and perspectives
As you brainstorm a topic for this essay, reflect on the aspects of your identity that are central to who you are. Then, think about which ones you’ve already covered in your application. The topic you choose should present new information to admissions officers, or dive deeper into a topic of which you’ve only scratched the surface.
This prompt is especially good for unique activities that aren’t easily explained in the Activities Section of the Common App. Some examples are self-driven activities, such as building a computer, training for a triathlon, solving a Rubik’s Cube competitively, or sewing your own clothes.
Keep in mind that you don’t need to bend over backwards to seem “unique.” Your quality or activity doesn’t have to be something that no one else does. It just needs to be something that is important to you.
This prompt lends itself well to narrative storytelling. You can consider starting your essay with an in-the-moment anecdote of you doing the activity or showing that specific attribute. What do you feel? What are you thinking? What is happening? You can even include some dialogue.
From there, you’ll want to reflect on this activity or quality and why it’s important to you. What is the backstory behind it? What have you learned from it and how does it impact the rest of your life?
Finally, you’ll want to explain how you’ll enhance the Vassar community as a result of this activity or quality. We encourage you to avoid straightforward answers like “I played ultimate frisbee in high school and want to keep doing so at Vassar.” While it’s fine (and great!) to mention a specific Vassar community you want to join, you need to go the extra step and explain how you’ll impact that community.
Here are a couple examples:
- A student who sews their own clothes out of fabric scraps might explain how their hobby started after watching a documentary on fast fashion. They could describe the challenges of learning sewing on their own, their creative process of putting together a piece, and how they’ve inspired their friends to upcycle their clothing. They hope to continue to share practical slow fashion tips in college and beyond, by starting a club and organizing community clothing swaps or a free closet.
- A student who has backyard chickens could describe the joy of raising them from chicks to adult hens. They could share the painstaking research they did, the process of weather-proofing and predator-proofing their coop, and what they do to keep the hens happy and healthy. They became vegetarian because they saw how much personality the hens had. They’re passionate about the benefits of raising your own animals, as it makes you more compassionate and it helps reduce stress. They hope to start a meatless Monday table at Vassar’s dining hall and to reintroduce hens to Vassar’s Farm and Ecological Preserve.
Prompt 1, Option B
Vassar is a diverse community that inspires positive change through open inquiry, deep dives into society’s most difficult challenges, and collaborative problem solving. We care deeply about one another, the communities that have forged us, and the community we build together on campus. Tell us more about the community (or communities) you come from and how it has shaped who you are. (300 words)
This prompt is very similar to the previous one, but it’s more focused on collaboration and community, and it doesn’t require you to explicitly explain how you’ll impact Vassar’s community. Instead, you’ll need to reflect on how this community has shaped you, and it can be helpful to show how that impacts your future goals.
Again, you can reuse an existing Diversity Essay or Extracurricular Essay you wrote for another school. This time, you won’t need to modify it unless that existing essay has school-specific elements.
If your meaningful activity or quality doesn’t lend itself well to brainstorming how you’ll impact the Vassar community, you may prefer this prompt. Just keep in mind that this prompt requires you to focus on an experience in an organized group of some sort (it can be formal or informal).
Keep in mind that community can also mean many things, including:
- Clubs, teams, classes
- Community groups
- Interests or activities
- Geography, culture, or hometown
Similar to the previous prompt, a narrative structure would work well for this essay. Rather than trying to describe the community in general, it may be helpful to focus on a specific experience that was formative to you.
Most of the essay should describe the event, including what happened, your state of mind as it was happening, your emotional state, and how your perception of the event has changed over time.
The remaining one-fourth to one-third of the essay should be a reflection on how this event and community has shaped who you are.
Here is an example:
- A student comes from a low-income community, which forced her to be extremely resourceful growing up. She wore her older sister’s hand-me-downs, which were often sizes too large. She rarely ate out, and when she did, you saved the containers to use as Tupperware. She had to cut open her toothpaste tubes to scrape out every last bit. While she used to be embarrassed about her financial situation, she also recognizes how it pushed her to be more sustainable, and is happy these types of habits are now being popularized. She plans to take her resourcefulness to the next level by becoming an environmental engineer.
If you wish to provide details of circumstances not reflected in the application, please upload a file here. Similarly, if you wish to upload your resume, include it here. (optional)
While we recommend that you complete most “optional” essays to demonstrate your interest, you don’t have to do this one if you don’t have anything to say. This prompt is usually for students who faced unusual circumstances that negatively impacted their academic or extracurricular profile, such as a family death, an illness, or family responsibilities.
This is also a fitting place to mention anything central to your identity that wasn’t reflected in other parts of your application. For instance, maybe you’re really passionate about learning Esperanto, the “international language,” and you’re part of a strong online community of Esperanto speakers. This could be something you include in this section.
You have the Additional Information space in the Common App for these situations, but Vassar provides more space to elaborate upon these aspects of your high school career. Just be sure not to repeat anything already in your application. If it’s already in your Additional Information section, no need to say it again.
If you wish to upload your resume, you can, but only do so if you want to provide more info. No need to rehash your Activities section. Uploading a resume could be a good idea for students with ample work experience, however.
Your Space is your opportunity to allow the Committee on Admission to learn something about you that you have not addressed in another section of the application. Your Space is entirely optional. If you choose to include a Your Space submission, be sure it is labeled with your name, high school, and date of birth. Due to the volume of submissions, we will be unable to return your work. Please do not send anything that is irreplaceable. (optional)
This submission is optional, but we highly recommend that you complete it, especially if you have a creative hobby. This is a place to share any meaningful aspects of your identity that you weren’t able to share in the rest of your application. It is also a chance for you to showcase anything you did mention first-hand.
For example, maybe you discussed in an essay how writing poems helped you get through your mom’s passing, and you could share some of those poems here. Or, maybe you listed winning a short film award on your application, and you can share the film here. Perhaps you have a comic book collection that you didn’t get a chance to mention, so a photo and description of it might be fitting for this section.
Whatever you choose, be sure that it’s meaningful to you and reveals more about you as a person. If you submit something more creative, such as a short story or photography samples, be sure that it’s high-quality. Sending in something that’s mediocre, or not very good, may hurt your application.
This is similar advice we give to students considering submitting an arts supplement; there will be many students who share extraordinarily-developed skills, so samples at a lower level of expertise will only pale in comparison. We recommend getting a second opinion from a trusted mentor, just to be sure!
Where to Get Your Vassar Essays Edited
Do you want feedback on your Vassar essays? After rereading your essays countless times, it can be difficult to evaluate your writing objectively. That’s why we created our free Peer Essay Review tool, where you can get a free review of your essay from another student. You can also improve your own writing skills by reviewing other students’ essays.
If you want a college admissions expert to review your essay, advisors on CollegeVine have helped students refine their writing and submit successful applications to top schools. Find the right advisor for you to improve your chances of getting into your dream school!