by Nicole Clark, Class of 2010
I came to Vassar on a whim. No, really.
I applied here because Vassar would give me the option to study the subjects I was interested in, because I thought it would be cool to live in New York (even though I’d never been farther north than Missouri,) and because I liked the name. My dad and I were touring colleges and universities in Philadelphia when my mom called me to say, “You just got a big letter from Vassar College. Should I open it?” She read the acceptance letter to me and told me she was proud of me. My dad asked if I wanted to go see the place. So we took a four-hour side-trip up to Poughkeepsie. It was during Vassar’s Spring Break, and we’d come unannounced, so there weren’t any tour guides available to show us the campus. We wandered around in a warm downpour, comparing Vassar to the schools I had visited in my search for the perfect school. Less urban than the schools I had seen in Philadelphia. Less uptight than the schools I’d visited in Arkansas. Less of a swamp than the schools I’d toured in Florida.
My dad and I drove back to Philadelphia, and he dropped me off at the airport so I could catch a plane back to Hot Springs, Ark. I spent a great deal of the next week or so sitting on the floor of my dorm room at boarding school with admissions brochures from the colleges and universities that had accepted me and a legal pad filled with lists of pros and cons and headed with acceptance deadlines. I was nearly to the point that I was going to have to just throw the brochures in the air and pick the school that landed on top. I closed my eyes and recalled my walking tours of several campuses, and in what may be one of the rashest decisions I’ve ever made in my life, having never stayed overnight as a prospective student, nor sat in on a class, nor even spoken with a current student, that day I thought, “Yeah, I can see myself at Vassar.”
A lot of the things I’ve done on whims or without much careful forethought since coming to Vassar have worked out surprisingly well. Freshman year, in a moment of little-sister vindictiveness, I signed up for the rowing team. (Anything my big sister can do, I can do better, right?) I can’t count the number of times I wondered what I’d gotten myself into, but my teammates kept me coming back, and four years later, that whim was justified when my boat got a gold medal at the nation’s largest collegiate regatta. (Sorry, I can’t help but mention it; I’m still coming down from that high, and my friends have told me I need to brag about it more.) My sophomore year whim came from a panic-stricken moment when I realized I was half a credit short of being a full-time student one semester and hastily added Stagecraft. Not only did I absolutely love the course, I left it with two work-study job offers. I took a job in the scene shop, working for Technical Director Paul O’Connor, who let us play kickball and play with power tools and cut out tiny giraffes with band saws, who told the best stories and who didn’t mind that I treated him more like a big brother than an employer. At the end of sophomore year, my next whim was to declare a double major in psychology and cognitive science, even though I was kind of advised against it due to a potentially frustrating amount of overlap. That ended up not working out so well, mostly due to my inability to be decisive when it came to crunch time for the cognitive science thesis, and I ended up dropping the cognitive science major so I could still retain at least a little bit of my sanity-but hey, I learned something about myself, so it wasn’t a total loss. My big whim at the end of my junior year was to run for president of the South Commons because it didn’t look like anyone else was going to do it. While I ended up maybe not being the most effective or inspiring leader, I did get to learn more about how best to work with people (figuring out quickly that I needed to include a “too long; didn’t read” option on important e-mails). My big whim for this year will come when I decide what to do with my life after graduation. As I’m writing this, I have no idea what I’m doing in the fall, and my decision strategy might be to play “employment roulette,” but I’m hoping my whims will continue to work for me.