A passion for learning
Swatties are an eclectic lot: smart, funny, and passionate about whatever they do, which is rarely what you’d expect. Engineers go to Nepal to study philosophy. Philosophers edit chess magazines. Biology majors go on to medical school—and develop a sideline in photojournalism. They forge their own paths.
You apply to Swarthmore because you love learning and you’re very good at it. What will surprise you, coming from high school, is that everybody here loves learning and is good at it too.
At first, being among this crowd can be intimidating. But when you discover how fast and how far Swarthmore can take you intellectually, it starts to feel like flying.
On Friday night you may stop by a loud party and dance for hours—or stay up late playing Scrabble and eating pizza with friends. Some of the best hours of your life will be spent sitting in the hall outside your room at odd hours talking about nothing in particular with your neighbors.
The friends you make at Swarthmore come from all over the world—from Iowa to Ghana, from New York City to a small town in Oregon. They see you through hard times and throw you a surprise birthday party. Forty years from now, when your first-year roommate drops in from Paris or Poughkeepsie, it will seem like only days since you last talked.
Academics that stretch you intellectually
It’s true that the academic life at Swarthmore is intense and exciting. It’s an alchemical mix of top-notch professors, brilliant students, excellent facilities, and an atmosphere with equal parts love of learning, cooperation, and mutual respect.
Swarthmore is exclusively undergraduate. That means the radio station, the engineering labs, the weight room, and all other facilities are available just for you. So are the professors. (There are only eight of you for every one of them.) And because Swarthmore is small, you always have the chance to participate—even if you don’t make captain of the debate team, have a lead in the play, or edit the newspaper.
Classes are tough, but you love them. Top grades aren’t the objective. You work hard because you want to, because there is nothing like knowing—really knowing—something you didn’t know before. You spend hours at dinner debating arcane points of philosophy and language. You fall on the floor laughing over biology jokes.
Come junior year you can choose to study your major in Swarthmore’s unique graduate-style honors program, intense and in depth, where you take final exams before a panel of distinguished scholars from other colleges. All of this will teach you more than you can imagine about the world around you, the process of learning, and—most of all—yourself.
Top sciences and engineering
Don’t be fooled by the liberal arts label. Swarthmore students in the sciences and engineering win more than their fair share of National Science Foundation and other science fellowships.
The programs in astronomy, astrophysics, biology, chemistry, computer science, mathematics, and physics are in a league with those in big technical universities. The difference at Swarthmore is that you can also pursue your liberal arts interests.
Swarthmore’s engineering program is among the strongest in the country. If you’ve always wanted to be an engineer but aren’t willing to give up music, religion, theater, or political science, this is the place for you. Swarthmore’s engineering graduates are welcomed in graduate programs throughout the country, and many go directly to jobs in the field.
If you haven’t already, chances are that while you’re at Swarthmore, you’ll begin a lifelong habit of involving yourself in the larger world. Community-building has been rooted in Swarthmore’s principles for 150 years, starting with its founding. Swarthmore’s forward-looking Quaker founders built the College on the premise that all persons have an inner light that must be respected and that each of us can make the world a better place.
Today there are several kinds of grants available to help students carry out such programs while they are at Swarthmore. These grants cover costs for doing the social action program—rehabilitating low-cost housing, for instance, or helping nursing homes manage elderly patients.
Suburban campus, cosmopolitan life
Swarthmore’s 425-acre campus is an arboretum whose beauty defies description. Hundreds of varieties of plants and trees grace the rolling lawns and wooded creek. Graduations have been held in the unique outdoor amphitheater since 1942 (rain or shine).
Yet the city of Philadelphia—historic, cultural, contemporary—is only half an hour away by the train that stops at the foot of campus. You can also take exchange courses at nearby Haverford and Bryn Mawr Colleges or the University of Pennsylvania.
Come for a visit. There’s no substitute for walking in the woods, talking with students, and discussing your interests with a professor in your major. We’re really looking forward to meeting you.
The admission process at Swarthmore is need-blind for U.S. citizens and permanent residents; that is, you are accepted based on your record without reference to your financial situation. All who demonstrate financial need are offered aid—about half of every class. Awards are generous. The average financial aid award for the incoming Class of 2019 was $47,255 and included need-based scholarships and campus jobs—but no loans.
• There are 1,542 students at Swarthmore.
• They come from all 50 states, plus the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and more than 50 foreign countries.
• The College is coeducational and has been since its founding in 1864.
• There are more than 100 student activity groups on campus.
• The student-faculty ratio is 8:1.
• Athletics are Division III and include 22 varsity intercollegiate teams.
• The library has over one million volumes and is linked to the libraries at Bryn Mawr and Haverford for interlibrary loan.
• All campus events are free to students.