The backs of a group of students walking across campus past historic gray brick building on sunny day

A Visit to Swarthmore College

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Swarthmore logo in red

By Sue Luse

I visited several colleges in the Philadelphia area in early October, and months after my visit Swarthmore College still stands out. It is located in a beautiful suburban area, only 10 miles from Philly and with close, easy access to the airport. There is a train on campus to take students into Philly and all over the east coast, which gives students the flexibility to explore Washington D.C. and New York. Swarthmore is part of a Tri college consortium with Bryn Mawr and Haverford, which expands a student’s academic opportunities and social life, and students can take some classes at UPenn. Swarthmore is known for its Quaker roots and mission. Besides its great academic opportunities, the college’s beautiful 425-acre campus is a nationally registered arboretum with rolling wooded hills. 

Large historic gray-brink building on green lawn with white Adirondack chairs
Iconic Parrish Hall is the heart of the Swarthmore campus.

Swarthmore is very challenging academically, and students don’t just focus on grades there, they love to learn. They also appreciate Swarthmore’s flexible academic requirements, professors and resources. Swarthmore’s strong engineering and computer science programs are unique and hard to find at other small liberal arts universities. Students are required to take some core classes and also demonstrate foreign language proficiency and pass a swimming test. Freshman at Swarthmore are graded on a pass-fail system their first semester to reduce stress, and there is no class rank or dean’s lists. Courses are very challenging, but Swatties are known to be more collaborative than competitive. Class sizes are intimate, with 73% having less than 20 students, and they are taught by professors. Swarthmore does have an honors program that features independent study with written and oral exams like a PhD program. It is among the top 5 colleges in the nation of graduates that earn PhDs.   

Campus Life 
The Swarthmore community is a family of students who not only engage in learning, but are politically active and demonstrate civil responsibility. There is no typical Swattie, but everyone is brilliant with unique talents and interests. They are proud to be called nerds, and they are very diverse and liberal. Many are involved in the arts, 86 percent are from out of state and 15 percent are international. There are no Greeks, which students love. Sports are Division III and more low-key. 

Students from all class years live together in housing, and the campus is cash free, which is a part of the Quaker philosophy. Ninety-five percent of students live on campus all four years, and housing is guaranteed all four years. Swatties love their dorms, each with their own personalities and traditions. Thirty-five percent of students study abroad, and 75 percent do independent research with professors. Annual traditions include the Primal Scream at midnight before finals and decorating the library with toilet paper.

Two female tour guides at Swarthmore walking down sidewalk
Two enthusiastic Swatties served as our tour guides. Swarthmore students are active, talented and proud to be called “nerds.”

Fast Facts
Enrollment is about 1700 students, a size the college plans to keep because it is the perfect for student involvement and professor interaction.
Great food
Free laundry 
Events are all free
A diverse campus
67% students of color
Students have intellectual curiosity, love to learn 
Students are not allowed to declare majors (even engineering) until the end of sophomore year
20 of 32 credits are outside of your major
Engineering students can double major 

Regular decision acceptance rate is approximately 6%
Early decision (ED) acceptance rate is approximately 23%
Half of the class is filled by ED applicants
ED applicants have increased 26 percent in recent years
Only about 50 students are deferred 
Your academic profile is more important than test scores 
Admissions has been test optional for 5 years
In 2021-22, 48 percent of students applied test optional; 39 of those students were admitted
The yield rate is 43%
Admissions is need blind
Swarthmore uses the Common App and has only one required supplement about taking intellectual risks and being intellectually challenged. 

Who would be happy here
Students looking for challenging academics and an intense intellectual atmosphere. If you love talking about philosophy at 4 am, you would love Swarthmore. If you are looking for a liberal, multicultural, close-knit, politically active campus, this might be the right place for you. Learn more here:

The backs of a group of students walking across campus past historic gray brick building on sunny day
Strolling across campus on a sunny day.

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