Swarthmore College
Swarthmore, PA, USA

Reviews

Swarthmore College
4.33 Average Rating

Some Swattie

a current student here
14 people found this review useful
Categories Comments
Am learning a lot
Swarthmore is one of the toughest colleges in the country, but it pays off. Aside from major intro classes like Psch 1 and Bio 1&2, class sizes are very small. Professors are brilliant and AVAILABLE--unlike profs at huge research universities, they only teach undergrad and therefore have time and patience for undergrads.

DO: Take advantage of the Writing Associates, your professors and advisor, and first-year seminars.

DON'T: Underestimate the amount of work you'll be doing.
Am enjoying being here
Swarthmore is small and can get feel a little cramped sometimes, and often you'll find yourself with too much work to fully take advantage of all the other things going on. That aside, I love it.

The people here are not only brilliant but really interesting and friendly. Everyone has a pet project. The campus is gorgeous and very walkable, dorms are quite good, and there are plenty of parties on the weekends as well as lectures, exhibits, film screenings, weird traditions, and various other get-togethers.
Bang for the buck
The school is expensive but has a big endowment, which translates to a lot of financial aid. Appealing for more aid does help if you can point out some concrete reasons--I appealed my first financial aid offer and got a better one. About half of the students here are getting some sort of assistance.
Tips for prospective students
Take advantage of everything the school offers! Create a project.
Great for these types of students
Quirky people who want to work hard academically but are also interested in making some kind of social change.
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NY

a current student here
14 people found this review useful
Categories Comments
Am learning a lot
Swarthmore is known for being one of the most academically rigorous college in the country. This is true but studying what one is truly interested in and passionate about makes the heavy reading and problem sets worth while.
Am enjoying being here
Swat has a social life that is a leap forward for some and a step back for others. There usually is something for everyone, but going into Philly to fill in the gaps is a good idea.
Tips for prospective students
Ask for help! Seek academic tutoring and personal advice from peers, upperclassmen, profs, and deans. Everyone is willing to help but only if they know you need it.
Great for these types of students
Intellectually curious, hard working, self-motivated, open-minded, loves challenges, values intimate settings
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Sarah from Wynnewood, PA

a past student here
13 people found this review useful
Categories Comments
In three sentences
Swarthmore is a great place to pursue your academic passions and push yourself to realize your full potential. It's not for everyone; the academics can be pretty intense, depending on your major and if you choose to enter the Honors Program, and the social scene can be subdued compared to other colleges.
Tips for prospective students
Make sure you love to learn for the sake of learning. If you're more interested in college as a means to an end, you will probably be pretty unhappy at Swarthmore.
Academic Rigor
Of course, a college education is what you make of it, and you can get through Swarthmore with less than five-star rigor, but if you push yourself, the expectations can be very high, especially when you take your honors exams senior year.
Dorm Life
Dorm life is essential to the social scene at Swat, and very few people live off campus. Study breaks, hall crawls, and random social events are a key part of campus life, even for upperclassmen.
Food and Dining
There is only one dining hall, Sharples, one snack bar, and two coffee bars. The selection is not fantastic compared to many other schools, but I found it met the needs of a busy student who just wanted to be fed without worrying about cooking. Having one dining hall actually makes Sharples a great place to run into people, and catch up with busy friends over a meal.
What to do for fun
There are on-campus parties (almost nothing happens off campus, as Swarthmore is a dry town), which range from standard frat parties to pub nights to completely sober events, like SCCS video game events, or Parrish Parlor Parties (usually games and free food). The first floor of the main library or science libraries are places to socialize while still vaguely getting work done.
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Emily from Ellicott City, MD

a current student here
11 people found this review useful
Categories Comments
In three sentences
Swarthmore challenges me every day to be my best, and to learn for the sake of learning rather than going through the motions to get the best GPA possible. In just one year, I have been exposed to so many interesting and informative people and experiences that I will remember for my entire life. The collaborative learning environment encourages not only learning in the classroom, but also through interactions with peers, and creates a great place to live and learn.
Tips for prospective students
Come to Swarthmore with an open mind. Do your research and visit the campus before you commit to attending the school. It is a wonderful experience for many people but is definitely not the place for everyone. I would recommend participating in overnight visits such as Ride The Tide (perspective students weekend) to talk to current students.
Academic Rigor
The work load is challenging but manageable if you use your time wisely. Professors and other students are always willing to help and answer questions. While it can be overwhelming at times, the work you will do is interesting and rewarding.
Dorm Life
Dorm life is what you make of it. I would recommend leaving your door open and interacting with your hall-mates as much as possible. The co-ed, all-year floors were great for me this year. Having upperclassmen next door was definitely helpful and helped build our school community.
Food and Dining
The dining hall food is not your mother's home cooking, but it is good. Many upperclassmen get tired of the cycling menu after three or four years, but as a freshmen I was more than happy with the selection, both in Sharples (the main dining hall) and Essie Mae's (a deli/cafe that accepts meal swipes). My main complaint is that there are certain hours where there are no dining options available.
What to do for fun
There is a train on campus that goes directly into Philly, which is a great source of entertainment. Some clubs and events on campus provide free tickets into Philly to encourage students to experience the city and the culture it has to offer. Classrooms are frequently used to screen movies or TV shows, Soccer and Basketball games are very popular to attend, there are school sponsored parties every Thursday and Saturday. The student body is so diverse that you are guaranteed to find a group of people with the same interests as you. There will never be a dull moment if you reach out to the school community.
Bang for the buck
The Buck is quite large, and I know that finances are a huge deal breaker for many students who choose not to go to Swarthmore. However, my experience so far has been better than I would have imagined and I'm confident that the job I am able to get after leaving Swarthmore will more than pay for the tuition.
Share any unusual traditions or locations on campus
Since Swarthmore was originally a Quaker school, the school tries to maintain some Quaker values and traditions. One of these is First Collection as a freshman class. The entire freshman class meets in the amphitheater (very cool outdoor amphitheater), lights candles, and talks about their expectations for their college careers and their experience at orientation. After first collection, the amphitheater is also used for Last Collection and Graduation. Every year we set up a huge screen outside and watch The Graduate. The screen is also used for other movies throughout the year. There are too many traditions to list all of them.
Great for these types of students
Dedicated, openminded, interested in learning, hard working, accepting.
Clubs and Activities
You will be able to find any club that you could possibly imagine. There is a group for everyone.
Greek Life
We have one sorority that does not have a house, but is active in the community. We have two fraternities whose houses are used mainly for parties. Greek life is not essential to be active in campus life.
Campus Safety
I have never felt unsafe on campus.
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Kelly from Los Angeles, CA

a current student here
10 people found this review useful
Categories Comments
In three sentences
Swarthmore is a small liberal arts school and is perfect for students who are interested in social justice and diversity. The faculty are very caring and reach out to students with opportunities and advice. Some things that students are working on to fix on campus is more awareness of social issues to create a conversation about creating a more accepting community.
Tips for prospective students
Try to provide an accurate representation of yourself on your application. Call the admissions office if you have any questions at all; they are so nice and helpful!
What to do for fun
There are many clubs and organizations on campus that host events like open mic nights, spoken word acapella performances, plays, and other events. People also enjoy going into Philly and hanging out in dorms.
Bang for the buck
Swarthmore is definitely academically challenging but it is an amazing place where you learn to manage your time and have faculty help you along the way.
Share any unusual traditions or locations on campus
Annual pterodactyl hunt that takes place across campus, First Collection which is a quaker tradition that takes place in our outdoor amphitheater where we respond to questions about community and light candles before starting our freshman year, The Crum Regatta is a race where people build floats and race down Crum Creek, the entire campus is a beautiful arboretum!
Great for these types of students
Swarthmore is looking for students with unique perspectives and who can promote diversity -- racial, geographic, and ideological -- on campus and who are motivated to make a change in the world.
Clubs and Activities
There are many different groups on campus! And if there is something that isn't here, it's very easy to start your own club and get funding for it.
Greek Life
There are two fraternities and one sorority on campus but not many people are involved in greek life
Campus Safety
Our public safety department is always on call
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High School Senior from Swarthmore

researching this school
10 people found this review useful
Categories Comments
In three sentences
Swarthmore is challenging, beautiful, and has a very suburban liberal feel. The students are really all individuals, and it seems like you could find any type of person on campus. I feel like as long as you're dedicated and passionate about something, you'll fit right in.
Tips for prospective students
Be open to new things. SEPTA will be your frienemy, take the train into Philadelphia and explore the whole city (I recommend getting a day pass and a map and just seeing all the sights). Go to the Amphitheater when it's full, and alone or with just a few friends. Take advantage of all the free opportunities around town. Get a ridiculous amount of candy from the Head Nut when you're having a bad day, or fries from Renato's. Be friendly to everyone, because everyone is friendly (given, some of them might actually be evil, watch out for that). Also, visit!!! The people I've talked to said that their visit was what made them choose Swarthmore.
Academic Rigor
Swarthmore is no doubt academically challenging, but I hear the professors are pretty cool (depending), so make sure you go to them for help. There's a lot of work, and the school can get kind of competitive amongst students, so just stay on top of things and know who's cool.
Dorm Life
The dorms aren't that great. I guess it depends where you stay. They look really pretty from the outside, but inside they're just okay. The walls can be kind of thin, so just don't go around shouting. People really seem to make homes out of them though, and from what I can tell you'll enjoy the people you live with.
Food and Dining
I hear students complain about food a lot. Mostly about their meal plans and having to skip meals. There are some cool places right next to campus (Dunkin' Donuts & Baskin Robin's, coffee/sandwich shop, Chinese, Mediterranean, pizza place, and a few other shops, there's also a small grocery store [kinda expensive] that should have the basic stuff you need), but they get kind of expensive and if you don't have the money you're stuck with on-campus dining, which I'd imagine is pretty decent but people aren't quick to praise it.
What to do for fun
Go to the giant hammock, the more the merrier. Also, the giant chair, at least once, even if you think it's cheesy. Join a random game of quidditch (the team is super cool and accepting). Walk down to the falls to do homework, totally beautiful and worth it. There's usually lots of stuff happening on campus, just walk around. There's a good bit to do in Swarthmore, but there's even more if you walk or take the bus into Springfield (mall, shopping center, just explore baltimore pike). There are also swings on campus!
Bang for the buck
It's really expensive, but you'll probably get a really good education and financial aid if you need it. Swarthmore is also kind of an expensive neighborhood (not all of it), so a lot of people there will have money, and there will be random expensive crap.
Share any unusual traditions or locations on campus
Go to the trestle (ask someone about it, it's really cool). Again the giant hammock & chair, and the amphitheater. There are also a lot of weird statues around, climbing them is kinda fun/kinda dangerous. I've encountered a lot of streakers, and you probably will too. No one in Swarthmore really cares about much.
Great for these types of students
Hippies for sure. You have to be a geek about something, or like really passionate. It can be a multiple of things, but you have to be able to really geek out about something. Students are generally nerdy and liberal. Also artsy, and sometimes painfully existential.
Clubs and Activities
People seem to really enjoy sports (play quidditch, I'm serious), and there seem to be a large variety of clubs on campus. I'm sure you'll find your niche somewhere, and if you can't, people are open-minded enough you can probably start something.
Greek Life
It seems to be pretty nonexistent, even though I'm pretty sure they have one (kind of). You'll definitely encounter a lot of drunk bros, though (like I said, streakers).
Campus Safety
There was an article published a little while ago about someone having $9 stolen out of their car and people were revolted. You should be fine. It's a very sheltered environment, but the cops can kind of be a pain. But I've hand friends just walk around in the middle of the night and nothing ever happens to them. Nothing really ever happens to anyone in Swarthmore.
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Cally from North Potomac, MD

a current student here
10 people found this review useful
Categories Comments
Am learning a lot
One of things I like most about Swarthmore is that sometimes you don't even realize just how much you are learning and not just in class. Hanging around all kinds of different people with different majors and interests means you'll pick up on a lot of new things.
Am enjoying being here
It can get a bit stressful when everyone is worried about exams but usually the campus is full of very relatively happy, diversely entertaining individuals.
Bang for the buck
It is quite expensive, but I feel as though it is worth it, so long as you are willing to make it work for you.
Tips for prospective students
Swarthmore likes well-rounded people. I have friends who are fluent in 12 languages and worked for corporations in NY, or are ultimate frisbee playing, theater performers majoring in engineering, etc.
Just do what you like and don't feel the need to limit yourself to one thing.
Great for these types of students
Swarthmore in the past has had a reputation for drawing in swawkward students as they say but really the school is nicely mixed between all types of people. The thing we all have in common is we came here knowing we were going to have to do a lot of work because we wanted to learn.
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Elizabeth

researching this school
5 people found this review useful
Categories Comments
Will learn a lot
I felt that the academic rigor of Swarthmore is exactly the type for which I am looking. I love how Swarthmore aims to eliminate academic competition by making the first semester of freshman year all shadow grades.
Will enjoy being here
I love the people and the feel of the campus at Swarthmore. I can really see myself prospering in the type of environment Swarthmore has.
Bang for the buck
Swarthmore is expensive, but there is a fair amount of financial aid and they do all they can to help you. It is a great school and worth every penny.
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N from Louisville, KY

a current student here
1 person found this review useful
Categories Comments
In three sentences
Workload is rigorous, but at the end of the day you'll learn so much. Most importantly are the students and the professors who make you feel welcome in every way. And lastly the campus is an arboretum so it is 10/10 beautiful!
Tips for prospective students
The college acceptance is rigorous but Swarthmore does a really good job about holistically looking at each student. Make sure you get an interview with an alum or on campus if you can!
Academic Rigor
Every day is an academic exercise. The professors know how to hammer you with large workloads but its never felt fruitless.
Dorm Life
Live in Parrish. There's no AC so in the hotter parts of the year it can be a little unbearable and due to an influx of students I reside in a forced triplet. But there is a shared kitchen space and the halls/bathrooms are generally clean so its nice and cozy.
Food and Dining
There is only one dining space on campus making it overly crowded during lunch and dinner rush hours. Additionally the food in not so good, although they do offer vegetarian, vegan and gluten free options for those who need it. A bonus however are the points in the meal plan that can be used for on campus and off campus food places. Or you could go to Bryn Mawr for a real treat...
What to do for fun
There is a train right on campus! Which means easy access to Philadelphia. There are also weekly shuttles that will take you to the mall and theaters on the weekend.
Campus Safety
Situated in the quiet suburbs, there has never been any need for tight security. A few blue lights do exist near the train though.
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Jacob from Wayne, MI

accepted here and planning to attend soon
1 person found this review useful
Categories Comments
In three sentences
Swarthmore's campus is absolutely breathtaking, and this is largely due to the fact that the campus itself is a registered arboretum.

The academics are really open for students to pursue their specific or interdisciplinary interests; for example, I am planning on majoring in a program that will allow me to study linguistics and two foreign languages (one ancient and one modern).

The school has recently declared itself dollar-free, meaning that laundry, printing, and even trips to UPenn and other nearby schools are either free or subsidized.
Tips for prospective students
You definitely need to visit if given the chance, because the environment is not for everyone. Some absolutely love how green the campus is and some wish that there was more of a city feel. Look up Swarthmore's fly-in programs (and other school's fly-in programs)! Fly-ins are (usually) completely free weekend visits to a school and can dramatically assist in making a decision.
Academic Rigor
The academics are extremely challenging at Swarthmore. It is sort of hard to describe, but the courses at Swarthmore are going to be very hard. However, during everyone's first semester, all classes are either pass or fail (with no grade attached).
Dorm Life
Having stayed overnight, the dorms are all right in size. Most are really cozy, but the whole dorm system is hoping for the best one--in terms of centrality, AC, size of rooms...). It is also important to note that gender-neutral or mixed-gender housing (and bathrooms) are an option.
Food and Dining
As a vegetarian, I think the food is absolutely delicious. I heard that it can get repetitive though.
What to do for fun
Philly is very close to campus, and there is a train on Swarthmore's campus that can take you there. There is also a really small town just outside the school. Aside from this, there are many clubs to join (like Queer Union or various a Capella groups).
Bang for the buck
Overall, Swarthmore is a great school. Financial aid is also very generous.
Share any unusual traditions or locations on campus
There is an area of campus called the Crum Woods that is just a giant woods area--very fun to explore.
Great for these types of students
Swarthmore is great for students who want to dedicate a lot of time to academics but who also want to be able to be involved in school.
Clubs and Activities
It's a small school, so there aren't that many clubs available. Though, some interesting ones include Jazz Ensemble, Circus Club, and Animal Alliance. Students can always start their own club.
Greek Life
It exists but it has almost no presence.
Campus Safety
Swarthmore is pretty guarded in, I just don't remember seeing many blue-lights or campus security officers.
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