Geraldine A. Ferraro ended her four-month quest for the vice presidency tonight with a nostalgic visit to her alma mater, where she described her candidacy as a symbol "that Americans should be able to reach as far as our dreams will take us."

In the face of a likely Republican landslide Tuesday -- and clearly worn down by a grueling, 12,000-mile final campaign week -- Ferraro delivered an emotionally strong speech for the finale at Marymount Manhattan College.

"It hasn't always been easy, but it's been worth it for all of us. Even if this moment were frozen in time, this campaign would still have made a difference," the Democratic nominee said.

"My candidacy has said to women, the doors of opportunity are opening. And for me, life can never be the same because I have been touched by the support, the love and the good will of men and women all over America."

As she has throughout the final days of her campaign, Ferraro appealed directly to American women with a message intended simultaneously to woo voters and to highlight the historic nature of her candidacy.

"Ours was perhaps the first generation of American women free to choose our own careers . . . . Despite the progress we've seen in our lifetime, we want for our daughters more freedom to develop their talents than we had," she said.

After acknowledging the education and values provided by Marymount Manhattan, a small liberal arts college from which she graduated in 1956, Ferraro paid public tribute to her mother, Antonetta, who was in the audience.

"Because of her sacrifice, I had the privilege to attend this college. Because of that dedication, I am what I am today. And tonight, I would like to say to her, from the bottom of my heart, thank you for everything," she said.

On the final flight of her campaign, from Pittsburgh to Newark, N.J., Ferraro's chartered Boeing 727 was decorated with red-white-and-blue crepe streamers and balloons and tiny American flags.

Shortly before takeoff, television crews chanted loudly, "Kill the scheduler," in mock anger at a string of campaign stops that began at dawn Sunday and ended at 2 a.m. today in Cleveland.

Among other stops, Ferraro attended a rally in Waterbury, Conn., which John F. Kennedy visited two days before his election as president in 1960. Ferraro's campaign distributed a detailed account of how 30,000 supporters stood in the rain until 3 a.m. awaiting Kennedy.

Ferraro's arrival bore little resemblance to Kennedy's. No crowds lined the highway; the 2,500 supporters in the Crosby High School gym were warm but not jubilant, and the candidate's delivery was unusually flat.

The rally did provide one of the campaign's more pointedly partisan placards: "President Reagan is 73 -- That's 511 in Dog Years."