College Intel

Swarthmore College Admissions

Parrish Hall is featured beyond students lounging on the lawn at Swarthmore College.
If you’re wondering if the first “r” in Swarthmore should or should not be pronounced, either way is perfectly correct. It’s an age-old debate at the school!

Not only is Swarthmore College one of the most highly-ranked liberal arts colleges in the nation, it is also one of the historical centers of the women’s suffrage movement. Furthermore, the renowned institution boasts an alumni base with some of the highest rates of Ph.D. completion and Nobel Prize reception per graduate (trailing just behind Harvard and Caltech). The private liberal arts college located in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania is home to a tiny student body of just 1,700 students, but once these select few graduate, they sure do make quite an impact. In addition to five Nobel Laureates, Swarthmore alumni include thirteen MacArthur Fellows, and other big names such as feminist icon Alice Paul, U.S. Senator Chirs Van Hollen, fashion designer Joseph Altuzarra, and Governor of Hawaii Josh Green.

All students at Swarthmore must complete a distribution requirement across the following categories: “Arts and Humanities,” “Natural sciences and Engineering,” and “Social sciences.” Students must also complete a physical education requirement, a foreign language requirement, and, of course, all of the requirements of their chosen majors. Swarthmore offers a Bachelors of Science to those who complete its engineering program, a degree that is relatively unique among liberal arts colleges. Faculty at Swarthmore have included Nobel Prize laureate Ralph Bunche, psychologist Wolfgang Kohler, and economist Barry Schwartz.

The crowning jewel in the crown of Swarthmore’s academic renown is its Honors Program. Inspired by the tutorial-style pedagogy at Oxford and Cambridge, the Honors Program lets Swarthmore’s highest-achieving students spend their last two years at the college taking seminars that culminate towards an honors thesis. The Honors Program’s website states that two aspects, in particular, make the program unique: “its focus on deep collaboration between students and faculty, and its exams given by outside experts.” Candidates for the program are chosen by faculty for their high grades and perceived academic responsibility. These chosen students must present their programs for honor study to their departments for approval.

Swarthmore was founded in 1864 by wealthy Pennsylvania Quakers. From its inception, Swarthmore has been a coeducational institution, accounting for its pivotal role in educating members of the early feminist movement. While it did become nonsectarian in 1906, Swarthmore has maintained ties to other Quaker-founded institutions in the area, including Bryn Mawr College, Haverford College, and the University of Pennsylvania. Through the Quaker Consortium, students at any of these schools may enroll in classes at all four institutions. The Friends Historical Library on campus maintains extensive archives documenting the history of Quakers on campus and in America. 

The Quaker tenets of acceptance, social justice, and non hierarchical organization still inform campus culture. For example, in 2019 Greek life was totally abolished from campus. The party scene has since prioritized inclusivity. Swarthmore’s “Swatties” also can be found participating in a Division III athletics program that competes in the Centennial Conference, reporting for the campus newspaper, The Swarthmore Phoenix, or writing for a large selection of media publications on campus that is surprising in its scope considering how small the student body is. Prospective members of the Swarthmore community will thrive on campus if they are intellectually passionate and comfortable in a small-scale environment surrounded by the rolling hills of Southeastern Pennsylvania (although nearby Philadelphia is just a train ride away). 

Despite the democratic philosophy of its guiding Quaker principles, Swarthmore has an extremely competitive admissions process that has only grown in exclusivity in recent years. 969 students were admitted to the Class of 2027 from a pool of 14,287 applicants, for a record-low acceptance rate of 6.8%. The characteristics of a successful applicant, as listed by the Admissions Office, include those who make a “sustained commitment” that takes a less is more approach to extracurricular involvement. At Ivy Coach, we couldn’t agree more! The strongest applicants have one narrative, or “hook,” that pervades their entire application. To learn more about how we can help you get into Swarthmore, schedule a complimentary consultation today.


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