POUGHKEEPSIE - Six hundred and sixty-six freshmen begin classes this week from an initial pool of 7,597 applicants, of which only 24.1 percent were offered admission. Among the many measures of the academic strength of this class, their combined average SAT scores (2088) were nearly the highest in the college’s history. More than 37% of Vassar’s new freshmen are students of color, and 43% are men. This is also a very socio-economically diverse first-year class, with 56% receiving Vassar scholarship aid. Moreover 79 members of the class are "first-generation" students, the first in their family to attend college.
"We are delighted to welcome this incredibly talented, interesting, and diverse group of students to the Vassar community," said president Catharine Hill. "We trust they will take full advantage of the superb liberal arts education that we offer, and that this education will make a difference in their lives and the lives of others."
Among the outstanding students in the class of 2017 are 30 valedictorians, 14 salutatorians, 33 National Merit Finalists or Semi-Finalists, 105 students with perfect scores on one or more standardized test, 38 winners of major book awards, two National Achievement Scholars, four National Hispanic Scholars, and ten National Honor Society presidents. Twenty-five members were class or student council presidents, along with 113 varsity sports captains, 168 school club presidents, 62 founders of a high school club, and 65 editors-in-chief of a major high school publication.
Sixty-six percent of Vassar’s class of 2017 with a high school rank graduated in the top 10 percent of their class, and 40 percent were in the top 5 percent. Their average SAT scores were 700 on the critical reading exam, 687 on the mathematics exam, and 701 on the writing exam, with a mean recomputed high school grade point average slightly above A-minus.
The class of 2017 comes to Poughkeepsie from more than 500 high schools in 47 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and 28 foreign nations. Comprising 13% of the class, 87 members are international students with either foreign or dual citizenship from Austria, Bahamas, Bangladesh, Bermuda, Brazil, Canada, China/Hong Kong, Ecuador, France, Georgia, Greece, India, Italy, Jamaica, Korea, Malaysia, Morocco, Nicaragua, Oman, Pakistan, Poland, Singapore, South Africa, Thailand, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, and Vietnam. One hundred and eighteen members are bilingual or speak English as a second language, and the first languages they speak include Albanian, Arabic, Bengali, Cantonese, Dutch, Farsi, French, Georgian, German, Greek, Gujarati, Hebrew, Hindi, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Latvian, Mandarin, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Shona, Spanish, Swedish, Tagalog, Tamil, Turkish, Urdu, Vietnamese, and Yoruba.
Members of the Class of 2017 have already accomplished many interesting things. One co-wrote a book that appeared on the New York Times young adult bestseller list, and another testified to the U.S. Congress advocating for a national food allergies bill. A member started a tech consulting firm, one started an international health blog, and one worked as a community public health teacher in rural India. Others have established non-profit organizations, including a county-wide organization to encourage voting and a group of high school students that teaches elementary school-aged girls about women in science. The class includes a sushi chef, a therapy dog handler, a young woman who shaved her head to raise funds for a charity, and a student who can recite 1,000 digits of the value of Pi.