Anna Wiley, '15, and her roommate take a selfie in front of Cushing, a dormitory at Vassar College.

FRESHMAN FOCUS: Anna Wiley does SAT tutoring, enjoys ‘incredible’ teachers at Vassar

Find out what the members of the class of 2015 are up to in their first year of college. A college freshman is featured in the Freshman Focus every Friday.

Anna Wiley, ‘15, is a freshman at Vassar College, in Poughkeepsie, New York. She has not yet declared a major.

Q: What classes are you taking?

A: Jews, Christians and Muslims, Intro to Literary Studies, Reading and Writing in Hispanic Culture and my freshman writing seminar, which is Russia and the Short Story.

It’s really hard to say which is my favorite. Possibly the English class, the Intro to Literary Studies. That professor is awesome; we have the best discussions in that class.

Religion class is also pretty awesome. The professor is really enthusiastic – he’s covered in sweat by the end of the lecture.

Q: How’s your dorm?

A: It’s really nice; the rooms are really big, and we have these cute little window seats. But over winter break, everyone has to move to my dorm so they don’t have to keep the power on for the smaller buildings, so we have to kind of clean up.

Q: How’s the weather?

A: So far it’s not too bad. This has been an unusually warm winter, which is a relief, because I can’t handle the cold.

There are lots of small liberal arts colleges on the East Coast, so I figured I would just have to put up with (the cold).

Q: What’s the food like?

A: It’s not the greatest. I mean, it’s fine; it’s just plain. Everyone complains about it. It’s something we bond about.

Q: What extracurriculars are you doing?

A: My main one is my work-study. I’m working for this program called “Exploring College,” which basically does C Day (college counseling) meetings for kids at Poughkeepsie High School, and we do SAT tutoring, homework help, stuff like that.

Everyone on financial aid at Vassar has work-study. There are some specific jobs that are only available if you have work-study, and there are off-campus community service jobs, so I applied to those.

I like tutoring the SAT because it’s such a big dividing factor. People who can’t afford an SAT tutor are at a disadvantage because the SAT doesn’t actually test your intelligence. It tests your ability to take the SAT.

I’m not heavily involved in anything else, and I want to change that. I’ve gone to a couple clubs. I went to one which is like a pro-Israel but also pro-peace club, so it’s very moderate – lots of people get very angry about that issue. It’s pretty interesting, so I might get more involved in that.

Q: How’s Poughkeepsie?

A: There’s a little area right around Vassar that’s very pleasant, with restaurants and shops, and then it gets kind of gross. It’s kind of scary, and there’s this little gun shop I walk past sometimes.

And then there’s the high school (where I work), and it’s not the greatest. Like they have a person sitting at a desk inside so you can’t go through the second set of doors unless they press a button to let you in. So I think there must be some violence, because they’re very strict about that, and it’s a little intimidating.

Q: How’s the campus?
A: Oh, it’s really nice! It’s a beautiful campus, and I don’t have any complaints about campus life. There’s a lot going on, which is nice because there’s always something to do.

Q: What’s the most embarrassing freshman mistake you’ve had made so far?

A: I’ve made quite a few, and they all involve the dining hall – I don’t know what it is.

I don’t know what I was thinking, like I was really tired, and I put a bunch of soup on a plate, so that was kind of embarrassing.

Q: Has anything disappointed you about the school?

A: This isn’t really about the school, just my hall, but people are sort of antisocial in my hall. Everyone talks about how you go to college and there’s all this great camaraderie and it’s wonderful and you’re friends with everyone, but people in my hall just kind of stay in their rooms, and that’s a little bit sad.

Q: Has anything delighted you?

A: The professors are absolutely incredible. I knew it would be good, but I have the greatest teachers here.

One of my professors accidentally called me “Annie” in class, and he sent me an email apologizing because he wanted to make sure that I knew that he knew who I was.

Q: What makes Vassar special?

A: It has a pretty welcoming environment overall. We don’t have RAs; we have student fellows, who aren’t there in a disciplinary capacity. They’re assigned to freshmen to help us get oriented, and they’re extremely helpful.

Also, there are gender-neutral bathrooms everywhere. I’m worried that when I leave, I’ll forget I have to check the bathroom signs and walk into a men’s room!

Q: Any advice for the class of 2016?

A: When you go to college, it seems like everyone has it really together and knows what they’re doing, but if you talk to people, you’ll see that the adjustment is hard for everyone.

—By Amelia Fineberg

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