Jul 17, 2024  
Catalogue 2014-2015 
Catalogue 2014-2015 [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Degree Requirements & Courses of Study

Vassar College offers a balanced course of study leading to the degree of Bachelor of Arts. To permit flexibility, it also offers an opportunity for a four-year program leading to a combined Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts or Science degree in a limited number of specified areas. It encourages students to pursue the degree through the development of a coherent program of study that recognizes, as much as possible, individual needs.

Requirements for the Degree of Bachelor of Arts


  • Each candidate for the bachelor of arts degree is required to complete 34 units of work, equivalent to the standard of 120 semester hours recognized by the Board of Regents of the University of the State of New York. The system of units is fourfold:
  • the single unit, a course for one semester
  • the half unit, equivalent to one-half of a semester course taken over an entire semester or for a half-semester only
  • the double unit, consisting of a year sequence of semester courses or the equivalent of two semester courses in one term
  • the unit and a half earned in one course over one semester

Freshman Writing Seminar, Quantitative Course, and Foreign Language Requirements

All graduates must comply with the Freshman Writing Seminar requirement, the Quantitative Course requirement, and the foreign language proficiency requirement.


Four years of full-time enrollment is the usual length of time expected for the baccalaureate degree. However, students may be permitted to spend a longer or shorter time. The fact that many students will benefit from a break in the four-year sequence is acknowledged and reflected in the residence requirement. While students are expected to make orderly progress toward the degree, they are encouraged to move at the pace and in the fashion which suits their needs and those of their chosen program. Students who want to accelerate their degree program should consult with the dean of studies.

Residence Requirement 

  • A student choosing a regular four-year program must spend at least three of those years in residence.
  • Students on a three-year program (accelerating students, those entering with a considerable number of pre-matriculation Advanced Placement credits, those transferring after one year at another college) would normally be expected to spend two and one-half years in residence. If special one-year off-campus programs-e.g., Junior Year Away or academic leave of absence-were deemed essential to their studies, the residence requirement would be reduced to two years in those cases by permission of the Committee on Leaves and Privileges.
  • Students entering Vassar as juniors must spend two years in residence and elect at least 17 units-the minimum amount of Vassar work required of transfer students for a Vassar baccalaureate degree.
  • Any special permissions relating to the residence requirement (academic leaves of absence) must be sought individually from the Committee on Leaves and Privileges by February 15 of the previous academic year.
  • All students must be in residence for at least two semesters of their junior and senior years in college.

Attendance at Class

The educational plan of Vassar College depends upon the effective cooperation of students and teachers. Each student bears full responsibility for class attendance, for completing work on schedule, and for making up work missed because of absence. In cases of extended absence the instructor may, with the approval of the dean of studies, refuse a student the opportunity to make up work or to take the final examination, or may exclude a student from the course.

To protect the integrity of the academic year, students are required to be in residence by midnight of the day before classes begin in each semester. Exception from this rule is by prior permission of the dean of studies.

The Vassar Curriculum

Vassar offers students a choice of four ways to proceed toward a degree which embodies an education that is personally significant. They are concentration in a department, the Independent Program, and the multidisciplinary and interdepartmental programs.

Freshman Writing Seminar

Each year numerous introductory courses, designated Freshman Writing Seminars, provide entering students the opportunity to develop particular abilities in a small class setting along with fellow freshmen who are making the transition to college work. Intended as introductions to the collegiate experience, these courses are limited in enrollment to seventeen freshmen and are offered in a variety of disciplines. In general, they serve as introductions to those disciplines. Particular attention is given to the effective expression of ideas in both written and oral work.

All entering freshmen are required to complete at least one Freshman Writing Seminar during their first year. The Freshman Writing Seminar offerings are listed every year in the Freshman Handbook.

Quantitative Courses

Facility in quantitative reasoning is an important component of liberal education. Quantitative reasoning includes the ability to understand and evaluate arguments framed in quantitative or numerical terms; to analyze subject matter using quantitative techniques; to construct and evaluate quantitative arguments of one’s own; and to make reasoned judgments about the kinds of questions that can be effectively addressed through quantitative methods.

Accordingly, all Vassar students are required before their third year to complete at least one unit of course work that shall develop or extend the student’s facility in quantitative reasoning. Qualifying courses are designated by the faculty and are noted in the schedule of classes. Exemption from this requirement may be granted to students who have completed equivalent coursework as certified by the dean of studies.

Foreign Language Proficiency

Recognizing the unique importance in undergraduate education of the study of foreign languages, the Vassar curriculum provides for both study of and concentration in Chinese, French, German, Greek, Italian, Japanese, Latin, Russian, and Spanish. In addition, students may learn Arabic, Hebrew, and Old English and, through the self-instructional language program, Hindi, Irish, Korean, Portuguese, Swahili, Swedish, Turkish, and Yiddish.

All three- and four-year students whose first language is English are required before graduation to demonstrate proficiency in a foreign language by one of the following six ways:

  • one year of foreign-language study at Vassar at the introductory level or one semester at the intermediate level or above;
  • the passing of a proficiency examination administered by one of the foreign language departments, the self-instructional language program or, for languages not in the Vassar curriculum, by the Office of the Dean of Studies;
  • Advanced Placement score of 4 or 5 in a foreign language;
  • SAT II achievement test score in a foreign language of at least 600;
  • equivalent foreign-language coursework completed at another institution; such courses may involve languages not taught at Vassar, including American Sign Language; or
  • completion of Old English and Beowulf (ENGL 235  and ENGL 236 ); both Old English and Beowulf must be completed to satisfy the requirement.
  • International students whose first language is not English must show formal academic study of their home language to fulfill this requirement. For information about the exemption process consult the Office of the Dean of Studies.

College Course

The College Course program was established to ensure that students can have direct exposure in their years at Vassar to some important expressions of the human spirit in a context that is both multidisciplinary and integrative. The aim of introductory level College Course is to study important cultures, themes, or human activities in a manner that gives the student experience in interpreting evidence from the standpoint of different departments. The courses relate this material and these interpretations to other material and interpretations from other departments in order to unite the results of this study into a coherent overall framework. The interpretations are expected to be both appreciative and critical; the artifacts will come from different times, places, and cultures; and the instructors will come from different departments.

Concentration in a Department

A student must choose a curricular program and a major within a field of concentration no later than the end of the second year of study or the midpoint in the student’s college years. The choice must be filed with the registrar.

Minimum requirements for the concentration vary with the department. At least half of a student’s minimum requirements in the field of concentration must be taken at Vassar.

Of the 34 units required for the degree, students may not take more than 50 percent or 17 units in a single field of concentration. At least one-fourth of the 34 units, or 8 1/2 units, must be in one or more of the divisions of the curriculum outside the one in which the student is concentrating. This minimum may include interdepartmental courses or courses offered by the multidisciplinary programs. No more than 2 units of the 34 may be for physical activity courses in Physical Education. For students matriculating in 2014 or after, units earned from Advanced Placement exams will not  be permitted to count toward fulfillment of the minimum number outside the of the division of concentration. It is strongly recommended that students take courses in each of the four divisions at Vassar. Students are also expected to work in more than one department each semester.

These are the curricular divisions:

Arts Foreign Languages and Literatures Social Sciences Natural Sciences
Physical Education
French and Francophone Studies
German Studies
Greek and Roman Studies Hebrew
Hispanic Studies
Russian Studies
Political Science
Cognitive Science
Computer Science
Earth Science

Independent Program

The Independent Program is available to any student who wishes to elect a field of concentration that is not provided by one of the regular departments or the interdepartmental or multidisciplinary programs of the college. Consequently, the student’s own specially defined field of concentration will be interdisciplinary in nature, and may draw upon various methods of study, on and off campus.

A student may apply for admission to the Independent Program no earlier than the second semester of the freshman year and normally no later than the end of the sophomore year. The guidelines and requirements of the independent program are described in the Departments and Programs section.

Interdepartmental Programs

Interdepartmental programs are concentrations in which the concerns of two or more academic departments come together, under the supervision of participating faculty members. They differ from the multidisciplinary programs mainly in that their subjects are by their nature joint concerns of the departments involved and are accessible through the methods and approaches appropriate to these disciplines. Through cooperation in curricular planning, scheduling, and advising, interdepartmental programs offer students coherent courses of study within the levels of instruction of the participating departments. At the present time, Vassar offers seven interdepartmental programs-Anthropology-Sociology; Biochemistry; Earth Science and Society; Geography-Anthropology; Medieval and Renaissance Studies; Neuroscience and Behavior; and Victorian Studies. The regulations and requirements of these programs are specified under course listings.

Fulfillment of distribution requirements for students in an interdepartmental concentration is determined in consultation with an adviser in the program.

Multidisciplinary Programs

Each multidisciplinary program concentrates on a single problem or series of problems that cannot be approached by one discipline alone. The integration and coherence of the program are achieved through work of ascending levels of complexity. At the present time, Vassar has the following fully developed multidisciplinary programs-Africana Studies; American Studies; Asian Studies; Environmental Studies; International Studies; Jewish Studies; Latin American and Latino/a Studies; Media Studies; Science, Technology, and Society; Urban Studies; and Women’s Studies. The regulations and requirements of these programs are specified under course listings.

Fulfillment of distribution requirements for students in a multidisciplinary concentration is determined in consultation with the adviser in the program.

Double Major

Students wishing to apply to the Committee on Leaves and Privileges for permission to take a double major, in which they fulfill all the requirements of each field of concentration concerned, may do so after completing two courses in each field and obtaining the permission of the appropriate advisers and department chairs. Generally, students seeking a double concentration are expected to have a good academic record. They should present a clear statement to the committee indicating the academic advantages expected from study in the two proposed fields. Ordinarily no more than two (2)units of course overlap is allowed between the two majors.

Correlate Sequence

In addition to an elected field of concentration, a student may undertake an optional correlate sequence. Ordinarily no more than one (1) unit of course overlap is allowed between the correlate and the field of concentration.

The correlate sequence provides the opportunity to organize studies outside the major field of concentration, progressing from introductory to advanced work under the guidance of an adviser in the relevant department or program. A sequence usually consists of 6 units, selected to acquaint the student with the methodology of the field and to permit achievement of some depth of learning in at least one of its areas of knowledge. The mere amassing of units is not acceptable. Ordinarily, no more than 2 units may be courses taken at another school. Specific requirements for each sequence are noted in the individual department or program section of the catalogue.

Students interested in pursuing a correlate sequence should complete a Declaration of Correlate Sequence form available from the Office of the Registrar. For students pursuing more than one correlate, ordinarily no more than one (1) unit of course overlap is allowed between the two correlates.

Part-Time Status

Ordinarily, all matriculated students are required to register full time (a minimum of 3.5 units) for eight semesters or until they complete the requirements for their degree, whichever comes first. Part-time status (fewer than 3.5 units, reduced tuition) is reserved for students who, for documented (e.g., medical) reasons, will need to reduce their course load for several semesters. Students who, for documented reasons, require a reduced course load for a single semester may be eligible for full-time under-load status (fewer than 3.5 units, full tuition). All requests for part-time status or full-time under-load status should be submitted to the Committee on Leaves and Privileges, which will evaluate the academic merits of each request. Students considering part-time status who receive financial aid should also consult with the Office of Financial Aid about possible financial implications.

Leaves of Absence

Vassar allows its students two kinds of leaves of absence: academic and nonacademic. Both kinds of leaves are granted upon application through the Office of the Dean of Studies before appropriate deadlines announced annually. Applications for academic leaves, except when of an emergency nature, should be made by February 15 of the academic year before the one for which they are sought. Study abroad is one form of academic leave, applied for through the Office of International Programs.

A domestic academic leave of absence will be granted to a student for a semester or a year within the general framework of sensible and promising academic purpose. It may be granted to a student who wishes to take coursework of a particular kind at another institution or to a student who wishes to gain a different academic perspective. Departmental advisers help students in planning programs which include academic work elsewhere. In certain departments, leaves in the sophomore year may be more desirable than leaves in the junior year, and vice versa. Approved academic leaves may be rescinded if a student’s grades fall below the level required for approval.

Any student seeking such an academic leave should consult the appropriate adviser in the Office of the Dean of Studies in sufficient time to allow for conferences with faculty advisers, followed by submission of an application to the Committee on Leaves and Privileges before the February 15 deadline. Non-transfer students may include no more than 10 units of work taken elsewhere in the 34 units presented for the Vassar baccalaureate degree. For transfer students, the maximum is 17 units.

Leaves of a nonacademic nature generally fall into two categories-leaves for medical reasons and leaves for students who want a period of time off to do something quite different from academic work. These may be leaves for employment or merely for personal reorientation. In any of these cases, the request for leave should be carefully considered by the appropriate adviser and approved by the dean of studies. Applications for nonacademic leaves, except when of an emergency nature, should be made by April 1 of the academic year before the one for which they are sought. Students should submit a written, signed request for nonacademic leaves to the dean of studies. In exceptional circumstances, students may apply for retroactive credit, but in general, students will not receive credit for academic work undertaken while on a personal leave of absence. Students should submit a written, signed request for nonacademic leaves to the Dean of Studies Office, after consultation with their class dean or adviser. Emergency immediate leaves of absence within a semester must be applied for no later than the last day of classes, as announced on the Academic Calendar.

The college reserves the right to limit leaves, within the framework of residential and academic policies. Ordinarily, nonacademic leaves of absence are limited to at most two consecutive semesters.

Foreign Study

Study Abroad

Appropriately qualified students may study abroad on approved programs under conditions set by the Committee on Leaves and Privileges. Usually, but not always, foreign study is planned for the junior year.

All students interested in foreign study should discuss the possibilities with their departmental advisers, and then submit an application to the committee through the Office of International Programs. Study abroad can be especially valuable for students majoring in foreign languages and literatures, and international studies. It may also complement work in other departments and programs. Students should discuss their program with their academic adviser.

As study abroad generally poses particular challenges for students, the college must require reasonable standards of academic performance of students applying for this privilege. In order to merit consideration by the committee, a student requesting permission to study abroad must have a compelling academic rationale as well as the strong support of the adviser and the department concerned, a good academic record (ordinarily with a recommended Vassar College GPA of 3.2 or better), and the foreign language background specified in Junior Year Away guidelines, usually a minimum of two years of college study.

Information on the policies and procedures (including important deadlines) for petitioning for permission to study abroad is available on the Office of International Programs website. Students wishing to apply for permission to study abroad should familiarize themselves with the Fundamentals of Study Abroad document available online.

Academic Year Programs

Berlin Consortium for German Studies

Based in the city of Berlin and managed by Columbia University, the Berlin Consortium for German Studies (BCGS), of which Vassar College is an Associate Member, offers an intellectually challenging and diverse program of study meeting the highest academic standards common to its member institutions. The BCGS provides students with the opportunity to enroll in courses at the Freie Universität Berlin (FU Berlin) for spring semester or a full academic year. The program begins with a six-week intensive language practicum, which, in conjunction with a month long home-stay, prepares students for study at the FU Berlin. Upon completion of the practicum, students enroll in one course taught by the BCGS directors on a topic such as culture, politics, history, literature, theater, or cinema; and for at least two, possibly more, FU Berlin courses for which they meet the prerequisites. Program tutors are available to assist BCGS students with the transition into the German university system. Cultural activities and field trips support the academic program. Some students also intern during the semester and between the fall and spring semesters.

Vassar-Wellesley-Wesleyan Program in Bologna

Vassar College, Wellesley College, and Wesleyan University offer a study abroad program at the Università di Bologna in Italy. The program is committed to high academic standards and to providing opportunities for students to develop their knowledge of the Italian language and culture in one of the most venerable and prestigious academic environments in Europe.

Undergraduates wishing to study humanities and social sciences may enroll for the fall or spring semesters or for the full academic year. Students who enroll for the full year or for the spring semester and who have at least an intermediate knowledge of Italian complete two regular university courses at the Università di Bologna, as well as take courses in language and Italian studies offered by the program. Since all courses are offered in Italian, participants must have completed the equivalent of second-year Italian. Those interested in applying should consult with their advisers before making a formal application to the dean of studies, Office of International Programs, Main N-173.

Vassar London Program in Media and Culture

Qualified students, regardless of their field of concentration, may spend the fall semester at Goldsmiths College, University of London. Students live in Goldsmiths dormitories and have access to all facilities and services available to University of London students. A Vassar faculty member serves as Resident Director, teaches a seminar, and mentors Vassar students in independent projects; both the seminar and the independent work use London as a laboratory, an object of study, and source of inspiration. Students also take two Goldsmiths courses: one in the Department of Media and Communications an done elective chosen from offerings in Anthropology, Art, Computing, Drama, Education Studies, Economics, English and Comparative Literature, History, Languages, Music, Politics, Psychology, Sociology, or Visual Cultures. Information regarding Goldsmiths course descriptions may be obtained through the Office of International Programs. Those interested in applying should consult with their advisers and with the Media Studies Program before making formal application through the dean of studies, Office of International Programs, Main N-173.

Vassar-Wesleyan Program in Paris

Qualified students majoring in any discipline may spend a semester or an academic year with the Vassar-Wesleyan Program in Paris. The program offers courses in language, culture, literature, art, the social sciences, as well as an internship. Additionally, many courses are available through the University of Paris. Courses cover France and the French-speaking world (for course descriptions, see the listing for French). Students normally participate in their junior year, but sophomores and seniors are also eligible. Since all courses are given in French, participants should have completed a 200-level course above French 210 or the equivalent. Those interested in applying should consult with their advisers and with the Department of French and Francophone Studies before making formal application through the dean of studies, Office of International Programs, Main N-173.

Vassar-Wesleyan Program in Spain

Qualified students, regardless of their field of concentration, may spend a semester or an academic year with the Vassar-Wesleyan Program in Spain studying at Universidad Carlos III de Madrid. The program offers courses in Spanish language, literature, history, art, politics, and society (for course descriptions, see the listing for Hispanic Studies). Students normally participate in their junior year, but qualified sophomores and seniors are also eligible. Since all courses are given in Spanish, participants must have completed the equivalent of second-year Spanish (Hispanic Studies 205, 206). Those interested in applying should consult with their advisers and with the Department of Hispanic Studies before making formal application through the dean of studies, Office of International Programs, Main N-173.

Vassar in St. Petersburg, Russia, at European University

Qualified students with an interest in Russian Studies and/or art history may spend the fall semester at European University in St. Petersburg studying art history, and language and culture. The St. Petersburg program is unique in allowing students virtually unlimited access to the Hermitage Museum with its collection of Western art that is rivaled only by such famous sites as the British Museum or the Louvre. Our students are granted equally unrestricted access to the Russian Museum, a treasure-trove of Russian art ranging from medieval icons to Malevich and beyond. Classes are held under the tutelage of Hermitage curators and professors of the city’s European University. No previous exposure to Russian language is required, since the three principal courses are offered in English. All students must be enrolled in a Russian language course at their appropriate level. Additional instruction in Russian can be arranged for advanced Russian speakers.

Clifden, Ireland: Internship in Irish Schools

Vassar College, in cooperation with the Clifden Community School, Clifden, Ireland, offers a one-semester internship in Irish elementary or secondary education. Students interested in teacher certification, the theoretical study of education, or the study of cross-cultural education are assigned as interns in the elementary or secondary school in Clifden, Ireland. They may also take a “half-tutorial” of study at University College, Galway, in areas such as: history, English, psychology, history of art, physical sciences, geography, or other subjects taught in the general university curriculum. Those interested in applying should consult with their adviser and the Department of Education before making formal application through the dean of studies, Office of International Programs, Main N-173.

Vassar College Program at Cloud Forest School in Costa Rica

Vassar College in conjunction with the Cloud Forest School in Monteverde, Costa Rica, offers a fall or spring semester of study plus an internship experience in the school’s bilingual setting. The program offers field work and an independent study project in the field of education and educational policy plus intensive Spanish language courses at varying levels. Participants must have the equivalent of at least one year of Spanish language, Hispanic Studies, 105-106. Education 235, Contemporary Issues in Education, is also required in order to participate in the program. Qualified students majoring in any discipline may apply. Those interested in applying should consult with their advisers and with the program coordinator in the Education Department.

International Exchange Programs

Vassar has established exchanges that students may choose to participate in with the following six institutions:

  • Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris (Science Po) Exchange Program -Full year or spring term only. Requires excellent French language skills.
  • Bilgi University and Bogazici University, Istanbul, Turkey -Fall, spring or full year study is available.
  • Ochanomizu University, Tokyo University (female students only)
  • Ritsumeikan University, Kyoto, Japan -Fall, spring or full year study is available.
  • University of Exeter, United Kingdom -Full year or spring term only.

Domestic Study, Off Campus

Bank Street Urban (NYC) Education Semester

Vassar College, in cooperation with Bank Street College of Education, offers a one-semester program in urban education. Students interested in teacher certification, the theoretical study of education, or the study of cross-cultural education are assigned as interns in New York City public schools. In addition to the 2 unit internship, students also take three additional courses at Bank Street College. Those interested in applying should consult with their adviser and the Department of Education before making formal application through the Office of the Dean of Studies.

Exchange Programs

Vassar students may apply, with the approval of their major department adviser, to study for a year or a semester at Amherst, Bowdoin, Connecticut College, Dartmouth, Mount Holyoke, Smith, Trinity, Wellesley, Wesleyan, or Wheaton, all member colleges of the Twelve College Exchange Program. Included in the possibilities are a semester at the Eugene O’Neill Memorial Theatre Center in Waterford, Connecticut, with academic credit sponsored by Connecticut College, and a semester of studies in maritime history and literature, oceanography, and marine ecology at the Mystic Seaport in Mystic Connecticut, with academic credit sponsored by Williams College. In addition, students may apply to study at one of the following historic black colleges: Howard University, Morehouse College, and Spelman College. Election of specific courses at Bard College is also possible. For a more complete list of programs within the United States as well as an explanation of the academic leave of absence, students should consult the Study Away website.

For information about the application process and credit transfer related to exchanges and academic leaves of absences students should consult the Office of the Dean of Studies.

Field Work

Offered by most departments for academic credit, field work enables students to examine the way the theories and the practical experiences of a particular discipline interact. It provides opportunities for observation and participation which are not ordinarily available in classwork. Depending on their academic interests, students undertake internships in a variety of organizations and agencies in the local community and other places. Every field work student is supervised by a faculty member who evaluates the intellectual merit of the proposed field work, determines the amount of credit to be given, and decides upon the academic requirements for the awarding of credit. Generally, field work students have prerequisites or a corequisite in the faculty member’s department. All field work is ungraded (Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory). See section on Ungraded Work for specific information.

Field work may be done during the academic year or in the summer. Students interested in field work placements should consult the director of field work during preregistration or at the beginning of each semester. Students seeking credit for summer placements must complete their registration before they leave campus. Students may not apply for retroactive field work credit.

During the academic year, some students commute to New York City or Albany one or two days a week to serve as interns in government, nonprofit organizations, or businesses. In cooperation with the Career Development Office, the Field Work Office also maintains an extensive listing of summer internships. The Field Work Committee may approve academic credit for nonresidential placements for a semester away for special programs proposed by students and their advisers in consultation with the director of field work.

Transfer Credit Policy

Course work which may be eligible for transfer credit can include course work taken prior to a student’s matriculation at Vassar, as well as course work done on a Vassar approved Junior Year Abroad, a domestic academic leave of absence, and summer course work taken at other institutions. With the exception of pre-matriculation course work, students are expected to have courses pre-approved for transfer credit if they plan to take them at institutions outside of Vassar.

Courses which are ineligible for transfer credit include ungraded courses, ungraded field work, online courses, courses done at unaccredited institutions, courses which come under the category of pre-professional or vocational, continuing education courses (CEU’s), and course work taken on a personal leave of absence.

Transfer credit may be earned both prior to matriculating at Vassar and while a student is a degree candidate. A maximum of 4 units of pre-matriculation credit of this type will be awarded.

Pre-matriculation Credit

The definition of pre-matriculation credit comprises college-level work completed before a student has matriculated at Vassar. The category of college level work is a broad one that includes exams such as the Advanced Placement Exams (APs) and the International Baccalaureate (IB). Vassar also recognizes GCE/Cambridge Advanced Level examinations (A Levels), the French Baccalaureate, the German Abitur, and the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE). Other college level pre-matriculation examination results will be evaluated as they are submitted provided they are accompanied by appropriate documentation authenticating and supporting their academic integrity and level of proficiency. In some cases transcription and translation must also be provided.

Pre-matriculation course work also includes college or university courses completed while a student was attending high school. However, course work of this type must be completed at the college or university campus along with other undergraduates, taught by a qualified college teacher, and may not have been used to fulfill any high school requirements. Students may not apply for transfer credit for these courses until after they matriculate and are active students at Vassar. A maximum of 4 units of pre-matriculation credit of this type will be awarded.

*Note: The minimum grade required for any course to be eligible for transfer credit is C. A maximum of 4 units of pre-matriculation credit of this type will be awarded. Grades will not appear on the transcript for pre-matriculation credit, only the department, course title, and units transferred. Grades earned at other institutions for pre-matriculation credit will not be figured into the Vassar GPA.

Advanced Placement (APs)

The general policy: Students will receive 1.0 unit of pre-matriculation transfer credit for every score of 4 or 5 up to a maximum of 4.0 units. Admission into higher level courses on the basis of AP credit is at the discretion of the individual department.

Please refer to the Freshman Handbook for department specific AP information.

Note: Scores will not appear on the transcript for Advanced Placement credit, only the department, course title, and units transferred.

International Baccalaureate (IB)

The International Baccalaureate Program is described as a “demanding pre-university course of study that leads to examinations; it is designed for highly motivated secondary school students and incorporates the best elements of national systems without being based on any one.” Scores achieved for the Higher Level examinations are eligible for pre-matriculation transfer credit. Students who achieve a 5, 6, or 7 on an IB exam will receive 1.0 unit of transfer credit.  Also, as with AP credits, 4.0 units is the maximum allowable amount of transfer credit.

Note: Scores will not appear on the transcript for International Baccalaureate credit, only the department, course title, and units transferred.

International Credentials

Students may receive 1.0 unit (equivalent to a course for one semester) of pre-matriculation transfer credit for every eligible foreign exam score up to a maximum of 4.0 units. Admission into higher level courses on the basis of this credit is at the discretion of the individual department. Common examples include: GCE/Cambridge A-level exams with a grade of A or B; French Baccalaureate exams with minimum coefficient of 4 and minimum score of 11; German Abitur exams with minimum score of 10; CAPE exams with a grade of I or II. Other college level pre-matriculation examination results will be evaluated as they are submitted provided they are accompanied by appropriate documentation authenticating and supporting their academic integrity and level of proficiency. In some cases transcription and translation must also be provided.

Post-matriculation Transfer Credit

Students normally matriculate at Vassar in their freshman year. Students who matriculate as freshmen may transfer a maximum 10.0 units of credit including pre-matriculation credits. Students have a range of options for earning post-matriculation transfer credit. They can take work at another institution over the summer, they can go on a Vassar approved JYA program, or they can take a Vassar approved domestic academic leave. In the case of summer work, pre-approval is recommended. In the case of JYA or domestic academic leaves, pre-approval of proposed course work is required and is built into the application process. Students may not take the same course at another institution which they have already received credit for at Vassar.

The procedure for having summer work done at an institution outside of Vassar pre-approved for credit is for the student to complete a Summer Election Away form. This form can be obtained at the Vassar Registrar’s Office. The student must take the form along with an official description of the summer course or program to the chair of the department in which the course would be assigned at Vassar. Both the respective department chair and the student’s adviser must sign the form and return it to the Registrar’s Office. Once the student has completed the course he/she must request that an official transcript of completed course work be sent to the Vassar Registrar’s Office. When the transcript is received, the credit will be applied automatically to the student’s Vassar transcript provided the student achieved a grade of C or better.

Grades will appear on the transcript for all post-matriculation credit whether earned over the summer, on a JYA semester, or on a domestic academic leave of absence. However, they will not be factored into the student’s GPA.

Transfer Students

Students who are accepted as transfer students have spent a minimum of one semester at a school other than Vassar. The work they have completed at their previous institution(s) will be evaluated for transfer credit. Transfer students may also earn transfer credit once they have matriculated at Vassar. The maximum amount of transfer credit a transfer student may apply to their Vassar transcript is 17.0 units. Transfer students are also able to do summer work, go JYA, or take a domestic leave of absence, provided they have not exceeded their transfer credit limit.

Approved transfer units may be used to fulfill the freshman writing seminar, quantitative course, and/or foreign language requirements where appropriate and as evaluated by the dean of studies office. For information about transfer credit evaluation students should consult with the Office of the Dean of Studies.

Courses Which Are Not Eligible for Transfer

When students consider taking courses at institutions outside of Vassar, they must bear in mind that certain categories of courses will not be approved for transfer. These include physical education courses, pre-professional courses, vocational courses, continuing education courses (CEU’s), business courses, and online (distance learning) courses. This policy applies equally to courses taken at other institutions prior to a student’s matriculation at Vassar.

Summer Work

Summer Work Taken at Vassar

Students taking summer ungraded work of any kind for Vassar credit are limited to a maximum of 2 units per summer. The deadline for application for summer work is June 1. Students may not apply for retroactive credit. There is no tuition charge for the first 2 units of Vassar summer independent study or field work. If a student takes more than 2 units the student will be charged the part-time rate.

October 1 is the deadline for the completion of summer ungraded work. Students registered for Vassar summer work will be held responsible for completing the work unless they notify the registrar before July 1 of their intention to drop the work. Failure to complete the work by October 1 or to notify the registrar by July 1 of termination of work will result in a mandatory grade of “Unsatisfactory.”

Summer Work at Another Institution

Work taken at another institution in the summer may be counted as transfer credit. In order to guarantee transfer of credit in advance, students must obtain signed permission from the chair of each department in which they are seeking credit, as well as their adviser, before the end of the second semester. Forms for registration of this work are available in the Office of the Registrar. See section on Transfer Credit Policy for specific transfer credit rules.

Students may apply for retroactive credit, but the college makes no guarantee of transfer of credit unless summer work has been approved in advance.

Academic Internships at Vassar College

Each summer, Vassar sponsors academic internship programs in the sciences, humanities, and social sciences where students collaborate with faculty mentors on original research projects. All internship participants receive stipends to cover room and board expenses and meet their summer earnings requirement.

Undergraduate Research Summer Institute (URSI)

The Undergraduate Research Summer Institute (URSI) began in the summer of 1986 to support collaborative student-faculty research in the sciences at Vassar. Each year, students spend ten weeks during the summer working with faculty members from the Departments of Anthropology, Astronomy, Biology, Chemistry, Cognitive Science, Computer Science, Earth Science, Mathematics, Physics, and Psychology on research projects at Vassar and at other sites. Recent URSI students have studied the mass balance of chloride ion in the watershed of the Casperkill Creek that runs through Vassar’s campus; worked to develop an automated, analytical technique that scans shapes and identifies them; investigated globally declining amphibian populations by studying nutritive stress as an immunomodulator in the African clawed frog; analyzed tar samples from a fourth century BC Greek shipwreck; developed structure activity relationships with titanium tetrahydrosalen complexes in asymmetric catalysis; created musical artificial intelligence software that finds patterns in compositions to use in extending them; studied a geometric approach to the theory of orthogonal complements in finite-dimensional complex vector space; and researched word play riddle understanding during the elementary school years of children to figure out the reasons why children get better at choosing the funnier riddles. Information on the program and a complete listing of last summer’s projects is available on the URSI website.

Ford Scholars

Established in 1988, the Ford Scholars Program at Vassar College fosters student and faculty collaboration on research projects in the humanities and social sciences. The program encourages academic mentoring relationships between undergraduate students and expert scholars. Faculty mentors initiate and mentor each project and design them to include significant student participation. Students become junior partners in rigorous scholarship, course preparation and teaching related research. Ford Scholar experiences this past summer included a wide range of research and curriculum development projects. Twenty-one projects were funded in anthropology, sociology, economics, Africana studies, education, English, science, technology and society, film, Russian studies, Latin American and Latino/a studies, history, French and Francophone studies, German studies, drama, political science, and curatorial studies. The Ford Scholars program allows students to test their own interests in pursuing a life in academe. Additional information can be obtained on the Ford Scholars website.

General Academic Regulations and Information

Students preregister for each semester’s classes toward the end of the previous semester. Additions in registration are permitted during the add period, which extends through the first ten class days of each semester, and courses may be dropped, provided minimal full-time status is maintained, until the midpoint of each semester. No changes may be made without consultation with the student’s adviser.

The average course load in each student’s program is 4 or 4 1/2 units per semester. Permission from the Committee on Leaves and Privileges is required if the student wishes to take more than 5 or less than 3 1/2 units, with the exception of first-semester freshmen who may, in special circumstances, drop to 3 units with the approval of the dean of freshmen and their pre-major adviser. Students will not be permitted to register for more than 4.5 units during the Preregistration Phase I period. Students can add up to a total of 5.0 units during Preregistration Phase II.

All students in residence are expected to enroll in at least 3 1/2 units each semester, and permission to elect fewer units is granted only in exceptional cases, usually for reasons of health.

Every course elected, including independent work, must be completed even though the course may be in excess of the minimum number of units required for graduation. Students may not drop any semester course after the sixth Friday of the term. When for reasons of health or serious emergency the dean withdraws a student from a course after this date, the notation WD signifying a withdrawal without penalty is recorded in lieu of a grade for the course.

Evaluation of Work

The Grading System

A student’s standing in college and the requirements for graduation are determined by a dual standard, one of quality and the other of quantity. The quality of the work is measured by the quality points and the grade average; the quantity is measured by the units completed. The semester and cumulative grade averages are based on the ratio of the total number of quality points received to the total number of graded units elected at Vassar.

Letter Grades

A indicates achievement of distinction. It involves conspicuous excellence in several aspects of the work.

B indicates general achievement of a high order. It also involves excellence in some aspects of the work, such as the following:

  • Completeness and accuracy of knowledge
  • Sustained and effective use of knowledge
  • Independence of work
  • Originality

C indicates the acceptable standard for graduation from Vassar College. It involves in each course such work as may fairly be expected of any Vassar student of normal ability who gives to the course a reasonable amount of time, effort, and attention. Such acceptable attainment should include the following factors:

  • Familiarity with the content of the course
  • Familiarity with the methods of study of the course
  • Evidence of growth in actual use both of content and method
  • Full participation in the work of the class
  • Evidence of an open, active, and discriminating mind
  • Ability to express oneself in intelligible English

C-, D+, and D indicate degrees of unsatisfactory work, below standard grade. They signify work which in one or more important respects falls below the minimum acceptable standard for graduation, but which is of sufficient quality and quantity to be counted in the units required for graduation.

Work evaluated as F may not be counted toward the degree.

Provisional Grades

A department may offer provisional grades for a-b and a/b courses. For the student electing both terms of such a course, the final grade received at the end of the year automatically becomes the grade that will be recorded on the student’s transcript for both the first and the second semester. For the student who elects only the a-term of an a/b course, the first semester grade is final. A student who elects to take a provisionally graded course under the Non-Recorded Option must take both semesters on this basis.

Uncompleted Work

Incomplete indicates a deferred examination or other work not completed, for reasons of health or serious emergency. Grades of incomplete are granted by the dean of studies, the dean of freshmen, and the class advisers, usually in consultation with the instructor or the college health service. New due dates will be established for the completion of work based on the student’s particular circumstances by the dean or class advisor; if the work is not completed by the established due date, the grade for the outstanding work automatically becomes a failure. If a class dean or class adviser, in consultation with the appropriate instructor, determines that the overall objectives of a class cannot be achieved by the completion of the outstanding, incomplete work, then the student will be withdrawn from the course without penalty.

Credit Restrictions

A student who chooses to drop the second semester of a hyphenated course after passing the first semester automatically receives a grade of WP and loses credit for the first semester. No course for which credit has been received may be repeated for credit.

Non-Recorded Option

Courses designated by a department or program as available under the Non-Recorded Option are noted in the Schedule of Classes each semester. Most departments limit the option to nonmajors only. In order to elect the NRO in a designated course, a student must file a NRO form, signed by his or her adviser, with the Office of the Registrar indicating the lowest letter grade the student wishes to have recorded on the permanent record. The deadline for electing a course under the NRO is the last day of the sixth full week of classes. After this deadline, a student may neither change the choice of the NRO nor change the minimum grade elected.

A regular letter grade will be assigned at the end of the course by the instructor, who will, before turning in grades to the registrar, have knowledge of whether the student has elected the NRO, although the instructor will not have knowledge of the minimum grade set by the student. If the grade assigned by the instructor is lower than the student’s elected minimum grade, but is still passing (D or better), a grade of PA is entered on the permanent record. (The grade of PA is permanent; it may not be revoked and the letter grade assigned by the instructor may not be disclosed.) If the letter grade assigned by the instructor is an F, an F is recorded and serves as a letter grade on the student’s permanent record. The election of a course under the NRO counts in the total NRO Vassar work allowed each student, even if a letter grade is received.

Non-Recorded Option Limit - Students may elect a maximum of 4 units of work under the Non-Recorded Option. For transfer students, this limit is reduced by 1 unit for each year of advanced standing awarded to the student.

Ungraded Work

Ungraded work is open to all students who have the appropriate prerequisites subject to limitations imposed by departments on work done in the field of concentration. This work is graded SA (Satisfactory) and UN (Unsatisfactory).

“Satisfactory” work is defined as work at C level or above.

“Unsatisfactory” work will not be credited toward the degree.

Field Work (290), Independent Work (298, 399), and Reading Courses (297) are all considered Ungraded Work. Other courses, including some half-unit courses and many theses/senior projects may be designated as Ungraded as well at the discretion of the department. All Ungraded work is noted in the Schedule of Classes with an SU grade type.

Special Note: Grades of “DS” - Independent Work and Ungraded Theses/Senior Projects may allow for grades of “DS” (Distinction) in addition to “SA” and “UN”, where appropriate and where the department policy indicates.

Ungraded Limit - Students may elect a maximum of 5 units of Ungraded Work. For transfer students, this limit is reduced by 1 unit for each year of advanced standing awarded to the student. This ungraded limit does not apply to any units taken in excess of the 34-unit minimum required for graduation.

Categories of Ungraded Work

Independent work, field work, and reading courses are treated as ungraded work and may not be taken for letter grades. To elect any of these opportunities for ungraded work, a student needs the permission of an instructor.

INDEPENDENT STUDY. Independent study in any field is intended to give students responsibility and freedom in investigating subjects of special interest to them. It may take a variety of forms, such as independent reading programs, creative projects in the arts, research projects, group tutorials, or additional work attached to specific courses. The categories are:

290 FIELD WORK-Open to students in all classes who have appropriate qualifications.

297 READING COURSES-Reading courses offer an opportunity to pursue a subject through a specified program of unsupervised reading. They make possible intensive investigation of specialized fields in which classroom instruction is not offered, and allow a student to develop the capacity for critical reading. Reading courses are open to all students who have the appropriate requirements as set by departments.

298 INDEPENDENT WORK-Open to students of all classes who have as prerequisite at least one semester of appropriate intermediate work in the field of study proposed.

399 SENIOR INDEPENDENT WORK-Open to students in their senior year plus other qualified students who have taken 200 level independent work in the discipline.

The Grade Average

The grade-average ratio is determined on the basis of quality points: each unit given a mark of A counts 4 quality points; A-=3.7; B+=3.3; B=3.0; B-=2.7; C+=2.3; C=2.0; C-=1.7; D+=1.3; D=1.0; F=0. The grade average is arrived at by dividing quality points by graded units.

Work graded PA under the Non-Recorded Option, ungraded work at Vassar, and work done at other institutions but accepted for Vassar credit does not enter into the grade average.

Standards for Continuance at Vassar College and Graduation

Compliance with the standards of scholarship is expected at Vassar College. Instructors are urged to notify the dean of studies of students whose work falls below the satisfactory level, and the college reserves the right to require a leave of absence or withdrawal for any student whose academic performance falls below its standards. The status of all students with unsatisfactory records is reviewed at the end of each semester by the Committee on Student Records, and this committee may, at its discretion, allow students to continue at the college or require a leave or withdrawal. Students whose work is below C level are placed on probation if they are allowed to continue. Students on probation may expect academic reports to be made to the deans’ offices during the semester of their probation. The committee reviews the records of juniors and seniors with grade averages below C in their areas of concentration and may require changes in concentration, leaves, or withdrawal. A student remains in good academic standing as long as he or she is matriculated at Vassar and is considered by the committee to be making satisfactory progress toward the degree.

The Senior Year Requirements

All students must be registered at Vassar College for their senior year requirements. The nature of the required senior work varies with the several departments or programs. Senior-level work is described under departmental offerings and in the statements on the independent, interdepartmental, and multidisciplinary programs.

Graduation Grade

Graduation depends upon the student’s successful completion of all stated requirements for the degree, including those of the senior year.

An average of C for all courses, i.e., a 2.0 grade average, and an average of C in courses in the field of concentration or major program, constitute the minimum grade requirement for graduation.

Written Work and Final Examinations

Normally, in introductory and intermediate courses, some form of written work will be assigned and returned to students by the midpoint of the semester. The instructor may set the due date of final work, excluding final exercises, no later than the last day of the study period. Exceptions to this deadline must be approved by the dean of studies.

Final examinations may be given on both a scheduled and a self-scheduled basis at the option of the instructor. The instructor in each class announces within the first week of the semester what the requirements of the course will be and whether there will be a written examination or another form of evaluating student accomplishment, such as papers or special projects.

If the examination is to be on the regular schedule, it must be taken at the posted time and completed at one sitting. If it is self-scheduled, the student will obtain the examination at the beginning of the period chosen, take it to an assigned room, complete it at one sitting, and return it at the end of the allotted time.

A student fails an examination unless the prescribed procedures are followed or unless the student has been excused from the examination by the appropriate dean. A student who is ill should report to health service which, if it thinks it advisable, will recommend to the dean the need for an incomplete. In cases of an emergency, students should be advised by the Office of the Dean of Studies.

Rules governing conduct in examinations and expected standards of academic integrity are cited annually in the Student Handbook, and students are responsible for conforming to these expectations.

Academic Honors

Honors at Graduation

There are two categories of honors at graduation: departmental, interdepartmental, multidisciplinary, or independent program honors, which will carry the designation “With Departmental Honors”; and general honors, which will carry the designation “With General Honors.” A student may graduate with one or both. In the first category, honors will be awarded to those students designated as meeting predetermined standards and so recommended by the departments concerned, the Committee on the Independent Program, or the faculty of the multidisciplinary programs to the Committee on Student Records, which oversees the continuity of standards. In the second category, honors will be awarded to the top twenty percent of each graduation class.

Alpha Kappa Delta

Alpha Kappa Delta is the International Sociology Honor Society. Founded in 1920 at the University of Southern California by Dr. E. S. Bogardus, Alpha Kappa Delta is an integral part of many Sociology programs and is proud to acknowledge that in the past eight decades, over 80,000 scholars have been initiated into the Society. More than 490 chapters have been chartered in the United States, Canada, China, Finland, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Singapore. The purpose of the honor society is to promote scholarship and fellowship for students, both at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Sociology Majors who rank in the top 35% of their graduating class, and achieve a distinctive GPA in their Sociology classes, are chosen for membership to Vassar’s chapter: Alpha Tau.

American Chemical Society

The American Chemical Society (ACS) is the largest scientific organization in the world and hosts more than 161,000 members. Vassar College is an accredited institution of the American Chemical Society. An approved program requires a substantial institutional commitment to an environment that supports long-term excellence. Certification is awarded to graduates that meet the Society’s criteria for professional education. Certified majors must have instruction in each of the five major areas of chemistry: analytical, biochemistry, inorganic, organic, and physical chemistry.

Phi Beta Kappa

Vassar College was granted a charter by the national honor society of Phi Beta Kappa in 1898. Members from the senior class are elected by the Vassar chapter each spring. The basis for selection is a high level of academic achievement; breadth of study, requiring substantial work in several areas of the liberal arts curriculum; and general evidence of intellectual adventurousness.

Psi Chi

Psi Chi is the National Honor Society for Psychology. It was founded in 1929 for the purposes of “encouraging, stimulating, and maintaining excellence in scholarship of the individual members in all fields, particularly psychology, and advancing the science of psychology.” Membership in Psi Chi is awarded to students majoring in Psychology, Cognitive Science, or Neuroscience & Behavior who have earned the top academic rankings in their class. Psi Chi is a member of the Association of College Honor Societies and is an affiliate of the American Psychological Association (APA) and the Association for Psychological Science (APS).

Sigma Xi

Sigma Xi is a scientific research society with chapters in colleges and universities around the world. A Sigma Xi club was established at Vassar in 1959 that became an active chapter in 1998. Since 2001 Sigma Xi has been recognizing graduating seniors as associate members of Sigma Xi based upon their research accomplishments and academic record. Vassar College is one of the few liberal arts colleges in the country where graduating seniors are bestowed this honor.


Vassar College awards prizes each year from certain endowed funds, according to the terms of the gifts. The recipients are selected by the appropriate departments.

Prizes from endowed funds:

  • Gabrielle Snyder Beck Prize - for summer study in France
  • Catherine Lucretia Blakeley Prize - for a study in international economic relations
  • Wendy Rae Breslau Award - for an outstanding contribution of a sophomore to the community
  • Beatrice Daw Brown Poetry Prize - for excellence in the writing of poetry
  • Virginia Swinburne Brownell Prizes - for excellent work in biology, political economy, and history
  • Sara Catlin Prize - for an outstanding contribution of a senior to the religious life of the community
  • Man-Sheng Chen Scholarly Award - for excellence in Chinese Studies
  • E. Elizabeth Dana Prize - for an individual reading project in English
  • Eleanor H. DeGolier Prize - to the junior with the highest academic average
  • Jean Slater Edson Prize - for a work of music composition chosen in a college-wide competition
  • Lucy Kellogg English Prize - for excellence in physics or astronomy, alternately
  • The Frances Daly Fergusson Prize - to a senior in the art history department for his or her outstanding accomplishments
  • Helen Kate Furness Prize - for an essay on a Shakespearean or Elizabethan subject
  • Ida Frank Guttman Prize - for the best thesis in political science
  • Janet Holdeen-Adams Prize - for excellence in computer science
  • J. Howard Howson Prize - for excellence in the study of religion
  • Evelyn Olive Hughes Prize in Drama and Film - to an outstanding junior drama major for a summer study of acting abroad
  • Ruth Gillette Hutchinson - for excellence in a paper on American economic history
  • Ann E. Imbrie Prize - for Excellence in Fiction Writing
  • John Iyoya Prize - for creative skills in teaching
  • Agnes Reynolds Jackson Prize - for excellence in written work in economics
  • Julia Flitner Lamb Prizes - to a junior major and a senior major for excellence in political science
  • Helen D. Lockwood Prize - for excellence in the Study of American Culture
  • David C. Magid Memorial Prize in Cinematography - for the most outstanding combination of achievement in cinematography and excellence in film study
  • Helen Miringoff Award - for a substantial contribution to an agency or the community through field work
  • Edith Glicksman Neisser Prize - to a student demonstrating a commitment to child study or child development
  • Dorothy Persh Prize - for summer study in France
  • Ethel Hickox Pollard Memorial Physics Award - to the junior physics major with the highest academic average
  • Leo M. Prince Prize - for the most notable improvement
  • Gertrude Buttenwieser Prins Prize - for study in the history of art
  • Betty Richey Memorial Sports Award - to a member of the women’s field hockey, lacrosse, or squash team who embodies the qualities of loyalty, initiative, sportswomanship, leadership, and team support
  • Kate Roberts Prize - for excellence in biology
  • Marilyn Swartz Seven Playwriting Award - to a junior or senior in any discipline who submits the best dramatic work written for the stage
  • Erminnie A. Smith Memorial Prize - for excellence in the study of geology
  • Deanne Beach Stoneham Prize - for the best original poetry
  • Harriet Gurnee Van Allen Prize - for excellence in biology
  • The Masha N. Vorobiov Memorial Prize - for summer Russian language study
  • Frances Walker Prize - for the greatest proficiency in the study of piano
  • Laura Adelina Ward Prizes - for excellence in English and European history, and English literature
  • Weitzel Barber Art Travel Prize - to provide a junior or senior in the art department with the opportunity to travel in order to study original works of art
  • Vernon Venable Prize - for excellence in philosophy
  • Mary Evelyn Wells and Gertrude Smith Prize - for excellence in mathematics
  • Jane Dealy and Woodrow Wirsig Memorial Prize - in recognition of accomplishment and promise in the field of journalism
  • Sophia H. Chen Zen Memorial Prize - for the best thesis in Asian studies
  • Sophia H. Chen Zen Memorial Prize - for the best thesis in history

Department prizes:

  • Frank Bergon Book Prize - to an outstanding senior whose multidisciplinary work best exemplifies the creative accomplishments of Frank Bergon
  • The Melanie Campbell Memorial Prize - to a particularly gifted student in areas of “behind the scenes” service to the department
  • Jeffrey Chance Memorial Award - for excellence in both classwork and research in chemistry
  • Yin-Lien C. Chin Prize - for the best thesis/senior project in the Department of Chinese and Japanese
  • June Jackson Christmas Prize - for academic excellence in Africana studies
  • John F. DeGilio Prize - for creative skills in secondary teaching
  • The Harvey Flad/Anne Constantinople American Culture Book Prize - for an outstanding academic contribution
  • Clyde and Sally Griffen Prize - for excellence in American history
  • Betsy Halpern-Amaru Book Prize - for excellence in the study of classical texts of Judaism, Christianity, or Islam
  • M. Glen Johnson Prize - for excellence in international studies
  • Jesse Kalin Book Prize - for excellence in Japanese language and culture studies
  • Molly Thacher Kazan Memorial Prize - for distinction in the theater arts
  • Leslie A. Koempel Prize- for an outstanding thesis in sociology involving fieldwork or a special project.
  • Olive M. Lammert Prizes - for excellence in the study of biochemistry and chemistry
  • Olive M. Lammert Book Prizes - for excellence in analytical and physical chemistry, organic chemistry, and general chemistry
  • The Larkin Prize - for outstanding work in the study of Latin
  • The Larkin Prize in Ancient Societies - for outstanding work in the study of Greek and Roman civilization
  • Neuroscience and Behavior Senior Prize - for excellence in neuroscience and behavior.
  • Philip Nochlin Prize - for a senior thesis of highest distinction in philosophy
  • Harry Ordan Memorial Prize - for excellence in philosophy
  • The Reno Prize in Greek - for outstanding work in the study of Greek
  • Paul Robeson Prize - for best senior thesis in Africana studies
  • Julie Stomne Roswal Prize - for the most outstanding German student
  • Douglas Saunders Memorial Prize - for an excellent senior thesis in history
  • Marian Gray Secundy Prize - for meritorious achievement in field research and community service
  • Ellen Churchill Semple Prize - for excellence in the study of geography
  • Sherman Book Prize - for distinguished accomplishment in Jewish studies
  • Alice M. Snyder Prize - for excellence in English
  • Lilo Stern Memorial Prize - for the best paper submitted for an anthropology, geography, or sociology class
  • Lilian L. Stroebe Prizes - to the senior German major for the most outstanding work, and the sophomore German major showing the greatest promise
  • Florence Donnell White Award - for excellence in French
  • Frederic C. Wood, Sr., Book Prize - for excellence in moral and ethical concerns

Prizes awarded through outside gifts:

  • Academy of American Poets Prize - for excellence in the writing of poetry
  • American Chemical Society Award - for excellence in analytical chemistry
  • Chemical Rubber Company Award - to the outstanding freshman in general chemistry
  • Elizabeth Coonley Faulkner Prize - to a junior for research on a senior thesis or project in Washington, D.C.
  • The Richard Feitler ‘86 and Margery Kamin Feitler ‘86 Sister Arts Prize - for poetry based on a work of art in the collection of Vassar’s Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center
  • Frances Aaron Hess Award - for sustained volunteer activity on behalf of an off-campus organization
  • The Hinerfeld Family Annual Award - for outstanding work in sociology
  • Phi Beta Kappa Prize - to the member of Phi Beta Kappa who has the most distinguished academic record of the graduating class
  • The Wall Street Journal Prize - to a student with an excellent record in economics

The Advising System

The role of the faculty adviser at Vassar is that of educator rather than overseer. The student is expected to take the initiative in seeking advice from an appropriate adviser. There are three types of advisers: pre-major advisers, assigned to freshmen upon arrival, who advise them until a field of concentration is chosen or until they enter the Independent Program or a multidisciplinary or interdepartmental program; departmental advisers, for those concentrating in a discipline; and advisers for students in the Independent Program or in a multidisciplinary or interdepartmental program.

Advising involves multiple functions. It helps the student discover appropriate individual goals and intentions. It also provides the student with information about alternative programs and modes of study and through special counseling offers appropriate help and guidance. The Office of the Dean of Studies serves to centralize information for advisers as well as students. Students are urged to avail themselves of the services of the Learning, Teaching, and Research Center, the Office of Career Development, the Office of Field Work, the house fellows, the Health Service, the Counseling Service, as well as of faculty advisers.

Withdrawal and Readmission

The student facing a personal emergency which jeopardizes continuance at college should consult the dean of studies, the dean of freshmen, or the class advisers. After appropriate consultation and advice, and upon written request, a student may be voluntarily withdrawn.

A student who seeks readmission after having withdrawn in good standing may reapply to the dean of studies, who will bring the request to the Committee on Readmission. To apply for readmission, a student should write a full letter of application before March 15 of the year of intended fall reentrance, or by December 1 for reentrance in the second semester.

A student whose withdrawal has not been voluntary, or about whose readmission there are special questions, should address any questions to the dean of studies.

The college tries to accommodate the student who wishes to resume interrupted study if it is felt that the student is ready to return.

Transfer Students

Every year, Vassar accepts transfer students into the freshman (second semester only), sophomore, and junior classes. When the students arrive at the beginning of the semester in which they are to enter the college, they are assigned advisers after consulting with the appropriate person in the Office of the Dean of Studies. Evaluations of the students’ previous work are made as they enter the college. Courses taken at other institutions similar to courses at Vassar will be accepted automatically provided a minimum grade of “C” is earned. Credit earned by means of distance learning is not transferable. Occasionally, some of a student’s previous work will not be acceptable for Vassar credit. In such cases, the Committee on Leaves and Privileges will act as the final arbiter of credit. Students who have taken unusual courses would do well to inquire before admission about any problems that are foreseeable. It is sometimes difficult to anticipate problems in maintaining sequences and continuity between the programs of study at the previous institution and Vassar’s offerings and requirements. Therefore, it is frequently necessary for students to make adjustments of one kind or another after they arrive. All transfer students must take at least one-half of their 34 units, or 17, at Vassar College. Prospective transfer students should particularly notice that at least half of a student’s minimum requirements in the field of concentration must be taken at Vassar.

It may be difficult for junior transfer students to complete the necessary courses for teacher certification in addition to the other degree requirements, especially since practice teaching involves a heavy time commitment in the schoolroom upon placement. Students wishing further information on this subject should consult the chair of the Department of Education.

Graduate Study at Vassar College

A limited program of advanced work leading to the master’s degree is available to qualified students who hold baccalaureate degrees. Graduate programs may currently be taken in the Departments of Biology and Chemistry. The minimum requirements for a master’s degree are one year of resident graduate study and 8 units of work, of which 6 units must be at Vassar or under Vassar’s auspices. Programs must include a minimum of 3 units of graded course work, and may include 300-level courses considered suitable for graduate credit, but must include 2 units of 400-level graded courses designed primarily for graduate students. Departments may require a reading knowledge of one or more relevant foreign languages, a thesis, and written or oral comprehensive examinations, as evidence of the candidate’s proficiency. Requirements differ among departments.

Detailed information concerning admission to candidacy and specific requirements for the degree may be obtained from the chair of the department of interest and from departmental statements.

Procedures for Complaint

Complaints concerning classes and other academic matters are normally made to the appropriate department chair or program director. They may also be brought to the Office of the Registrar, Office of the Dean of Studies, or the Office of the Dean of Faculty. Further information may be obtained from these offices.