Jenny Kerbs, ‘16, attends Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York. She has not decided on a major but is considering economics. She plans on minoring in French.
Q: Why did you choose Vassar?
A: It’s funny. When I initially toured Vassar during my junior year, I was looking at over 10 schools on the East Coast in one week, (and) it didn’t particularly stand out. Now, that just makes it evident to me that it is so important to not just tour a school or go to an information session. Going back a second time, meeting students, professors and my (volleyball) team, I knew that it was the right place for me.
The liberal arts education is incredible, and as someone who is undeclared, it made my decision even easier.
Also, we have the most amazing library. I’m not even biased – it’s a fact.
Q: What classes are you taking?
A: I am currently enrolled in Astronomy, French 212 (which focuses on analyzing French literature and films), Economics, Spaces of Global Capitalism (which is focused on economic geography) and Comparative Politics.
Q: Which is your favorite?
A: So far, I’m really liking Comparative Politics. It is by far my hardest class, but I’m learning so much. And I am so much more well-informed about past and current politics in our country and around the world.
Q: Least favorite?
A: Definitely Astronomy. I really like all of my classes except this one. It’s just not really a subject I’m as interested in. I took it because I wanted to take five classes, and it was one of the only ones that were available for me to take with my busy schedule. It (is) tolerable, but I wish I had other options.
Q: Why did you want to take five classes?
A: Last semester I had to drop one of my four classes because I was overwhelmed with my schedule, so I wanted to make up for that lost unit.
Q: How big are your classes?
A: My largest class is my Astronomy lecture class, which is about 50 students. My smallest is Comparative Politics, which is around 25.
Q: Do you like the sizes of your classes?
A: I am getting a lot out of the small class sizes here. Professors encourage and even require participation, which allows me to really grasp all of the difficult concepts. For two of my classes, participation is worth 20 percent of my grade.
Q: Have you participated in clubs or extracurriculars?
A: I’m on the Vassar volleyball team, which honestly is the best experience I’ve ever had. Some of my best friends are on the team, and I couldn’t imagine my transition to Vassar or my overall Vassar experience without the program.
Q: Why is volleyball so integral to your college experience?
A: It was a huge part of my first semester. We had tournaments and games, both at home and off campus every weekend. Our season was really successful, and I have met so many incredible people through the program.
Q: Did you transition well?
A: In terms of leaving a school I had gone to for 13 years and moving to a brand-new one on the other side of the country, it was a lot easier than I thought.
In terms of academics, it’s a tough transition. The workload here is just beyond compare. Lots of reading, essays and studying to be done! People who tell you that college is easier than high school are lying.
Q: How do you get around the campus?
A: The farthest possible walk from one side of campus to the other is 20 minutes. But from my dorm, I can get to all of my classes in fewer than 10 minutes, which is great.
Q: What is Poughkeepsie like?
A: Not too much. Directly off campus, there are a couple blocks of restaurants and a little local market and Dollar Store, but most people tend to stay on campus. There’s so much (work) to do at all times that I kind of forget about Arlington (a community in the town of Poughkeepsie). Unless students are taking the train to the city or taking the bus to the mall, I’d say that most people stay on campus.
Q: What do you do in your free time?
A: Well, during (volleyball) season, it was basically play, eat, work, sleep and repeat. Now I have more free time. I usually go to the gym every day, and we also have required lifting off season. I spend time with friends and watch movies. I also sometimes go to guest speaker lectures.
I just recently went to a lecture where a Harvard sociologist named Matthew Desmond talked about his new book, “Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City,” which was really interesting.
Q: What is your dorm like?
A: I got unlucky with housing. We are placed randomly freshman year, and I live in one of two dorms that (are) not in the main quad. All of my closest friends live in the main quad, so it’s kind of a hassle walking back and forth, especially when it’s freezing.
I also live in the dorm with the smallest rooms. There’s like one arm’s length between my roommate’s bed and mine.
Q: How is your roommate?
A: She’s great. She probably hates me because I go to bed way later than her, but she hasn’t complained.
Q: What’s the weather like?
A: It’s been snowy and cold, especially at night, but there are also random warm days. Like today (Feb. 2) it is 55 degrees, and tomorrow, classes may be canceled because we’re supposed to get up to a foot of snow!
Q: What don’t you like about Vassar?
A: The food. It’s pretty bad. But we’re getting a new food provider next year, and we’re all very excited about that.
Q: What makes your school unique?
A: I find this school to be extremely accepting of all people from every background – more than any other school I’ve been to.
Q: Have you made any freshman mistakes?
A: Oh, my god. Too many to count. Everyone’s personal favorite happened in my first month at Vassar. Someone on my team told the freshmen her “Deece hack” (the Deece is our dining hall). She said to fill a gallon-sized bag with cereal and take it back to your dorm, so you can eat breakfast in your room in the morning and get more sleep. Brilliant!
I walked straight to the cereal station, plastic bag in hand, and filled it to the brim. I didn’t really think about the fact that it is totally not allowed to steal food from the cafeteria, and a worker confiscated my huge bag of cereal in front of 100 people.
Later, my friend clarified that she fills up bowls and takes them back to her table until she fills the bag. Moral of the story: don’t steal.
Q: What is your advice for the class of 2017?
A: This is going to sound really dumb, but you don’t realize how reliant you are on others until you are completely self-sufficient. So, if you’re not already, start preparing for your independence.
If you don’t use a planner or calendar, start using one. The Reminders App saves my life on a daily basis. If you don’t schedule your own appointments, meetings, etc., start doing it.
I thought my structured(ish) and efficient life in high school was all my doing. It was not. Shout-out to my mom and dad.
—By David Situ