Impressions Of
Swarthmore College

Academic Experience

Male Economics Major C/O 2020

Is there anything you feel the Economics department does especially well or poorly?
I’m someone who likes to be very hands-on, but at a liberal arts college, things are more theory-based. I feel like a lot of the classes here are theoretical graphs and things of that nature, and that annoys me sometimes. In Education classes, the students will go into schools to teach and help in the classroom, and I wish some of the Economics courses provided more of a hands-on, practical option. Financial Accounting does that to an extent because it’s all about analyzing income statements and balance sheets, which I think is really cool. At the beginning of the class, the professor made sure that we knew that we would use that. In general, the professors are very knowledgeable about the subject matter that they’re presenting which is really nice and something I’m grateful for.

How accessible are your professors?
They’ve been very accessible. They’re an email away and some live in the area so you can talk with them at office hours or outside of that. Office hours are open to everybody too, so you don’t necessarily have to be a student in their class to come in to talk. I literally did that last week with a professor who I wanted to talk with.

Female Sociology Major C/O 2020

How would you describe the learning environment? Do you think it’s particularly competitive or collaborative?
It depends on the type of person you are and the crowd you hang around. I’ve had friends who feel it can be competitive, but I frequent crowds who are more collaborative focused. I won’t say Swarthmore is never competitive, but it’s something that you can have control over.

How was transitioning academically as a first-generation student? Were there any systems in place to help you adjust?
There were definitely some challenges, but something Swarthmore is good at is if they see you going down a certain path or are having a rough time, they try to nip it in the bud immediately. The first time I got a bad grade, both Biology professors [I had the class with] and the dean emailed me trying to have meetings to tell me about different resources and support I can get throughout the semester. How accessible they make the professors and the deans are have made my transition pretty okay.

Male Biology Major C/O 2020

Is there anything you feel your major’s department does especially well or poorly?
I’ve had experience with all the professors in the department, and all the professors are really warm and welcoming and it’s really easy to go talk to them. If you’re having academic problems you can go in and talk to them. I’ve also done research over the summers and it’s very easy to work with faculty on research projects, which I appreciate.

What was the process of you getting involved in research?
I basically walked into a professor’s office and said, “Hey, I looked at some of the papers you’ve worked on, your work seems interesting. Can I join you over the summer?” We had some conversations from there assessing potential research topics and that’s pretty much it.

How would you describe the learning environment? Do you think it’s particularly competitive or collaborative?
It’s not competitive whatsoever. It’s a very collaborative learning environment. If you have a problem with any of your homework you can find a friend or anybody you’re in a class with, and, unless they’re really busy, they’ll be glad to help you out. It’s never really felt competitive at all.

Social Opportunities

Non-Binary Computer Science and Religion Double Major C/O 2020

What kind of weekend activities or nightlife do you like to participate in?
I like to dance, so I’ll go to parties if I feel like I’ll enjoy the music and if it’s being hosted by people I like. Something that happened my freshman and sophomore year was called Freestyle Fridays, where people would get together and freestyle their instruments. It’s fallen off and I’m not sure who’s in charge of it, maybe it’s still going on. There are talks about other people taking over it and it coming back. Since we’re so close to other campuses like Bryn Mawr, Temple, and Penn, there is stuff to do on those campuses as well.

How happy have you been with the weekend options at Swarthmore? Is there anything you would change if you could?
Maybe I have a particular taste, but more often than not I don’t enjoy what’s happening, so I feel like me and my friends have to take the initiative if we want to do something exciting.

Male Economics Major C/O 2020

What kind of weekend activities or nightlife do you like to participate in?
I do go out to a few parties here at Swarthmore, but if I don’t do that I’m either working on SWIFT, doing homework, or reading books. I’m not too picky about what party I go to, I’m more concerned about the people around me who I’m going with. Swarthmore only has two fraternities, Delta Upsilon and Phi Psi, and there’s Olde Club which is a venue on campus we go to. We’ll bounce around places and if we like one place we’ll stay there. There are usually at least two or three events going on Saturday. I’m more about being with people who I am close with because I wouldn’t go out if it was just me.

What’s an alternative to going to a party on campus that you like for a night out?
I’ll either, go and exercise – I like to run to clear my mind – or I’ll hang out with some friends and maybe go for a walk, or I’ll chill in my room. The neat thing about Swarthmore is it’s very close to a lot of other institutions like UPenn, Drexel, and those are always valid options too. I haven’t traveled off-campus too much for parties, but those are options.

Male Biology Major C/O 2020

What kind of weekend activities or nightlife do you like to participate in?
I don’t go to many parties or campus events. Once or twice a year my friends and I will go to New York City for the weekend. I personally like to go rock climbing at night or go eat out around Swarthmore or in Media, which is a small town nearby. We also sometimes go to Philadelphia.

How happy have you been with the weekend options at Swarthmore? Is there anything you would change if you could?
There is usually a lot of academic work you need to do over the weekends, so you don’t have time to do a lot over the weekends. I guess it would be nice to have a little more free time over the weekends, but that’s not always possible.

Campus Culture

Non-Binary Computer Science and Religion Double Major C/O 2020

How would you describe the Black community on campus? How strong is it?
It’s different than what it was freshman year, and I think every freshman will think that. Freshman year I felt like people would automatically be friends because they are Black, instead of seeing if there is real compatibility or if there was a good friendship to maintain. I found that now I’m a junior there’s a lot more respect, and people aren’t trying to force as many relationships. Freshman year it felt like there was an in-crowd and an out-crowd, but I don’t feel like that anymore.

How do you like the size of Swarthmore in terms of undergraduate enrollment? How does it influence your social experience? [Swarthmore has about 1,647 undergraduate students.]
I like the size. There are definitely moments where the campus is too small, but for the most part, it’s good academically. I need the more one on one connection with my professors. [There is an 8:1 student-faculty ratio]. It’s also a lot less overwhelming because I’m not too worried about how far I have to go from one point to another, or how lost I’m going to be. I know those were big concerns my freshman year because I’m terrible with distractions, and directions. The small school helped with my own anxiety.

Male Economics Major C/O 2020

How would you describe the overall social scene at Swarthmore?
It is what is. It’s something talk to people about [laughs], like, “Yo, the social life here is mad” [laughs] – if that’s an indicator of how it is. It’s a very small school so you see the same people very frequently, so I think that puts a damper on the social life because you want to meet and see new people. Not to say you can’t meet new people here, but most likely the same people will be going to the same parties and events on the weekends.

How would you describe the Black community on campus? How strong is it?
Speaking from my perspective, it’s been good. The people who I surround myself with in the Black community are strong individuals, but obviously, there are people who don’t want to be friends with others and maybe act a certain way that alienates them from the group. Because Swarthmore’s a small school and the Black community within it is small, the drama is magnified much more than it would be at a larger institution. [About 6% of students are Black.]

Male Biology Major C/O 2020

How would you describe the overall social scene?
In terms of nightlife and partying, Swarthmore isn’t great. A lot of students don’t have a lot of time for that because they are focusing on academics. A lot of time is spent in libraries or in cafes and places like that. When there are social things, it’s great because you’re going with friends.

How do you like the size of Swarthmore in terms of undergraduate enrollment? How does it influence your social experience? [Swarthmore has about 1,647 undergraduate students.]
It’s a little small, but I don’t mind. That was actually one of the few things I was looking for when I was looking for colleges, so I personally do enjoy it. You get to know everyone in a sense, or at least know their face. You have to be aware that everyone becomes a familiar face, which can be a good thing or a bad thing. If you want to be anonymous, Swarthmore is not the place to go to. At the same time, you can develop really close bonds here.

Swarthmore, PA

Pros of

  • “Swarthmore College is actually an arboretum, which is really nice. I think that lends itself to the campus being safe as well. If you take the time to take it in, it’s very beautiful and really nice.”
  • “Thre’s a train station not far from campus. You can walk down there and go to Philadelphia or New York if you need to. There are also a couple of bus stations around.”
  • “It’s quiet, and you won’t feel anxious because there aren’t too many people.”

Cons of

  • “It’s in the middle of the suburbs and it’s predominantly White.” [About 81% of residents are White.]
  • “Nothing is open late at night for food.”
  • “It’s a little isolated, so you have to go out of your way to do anything. We don’t have much of a college town around us, which is unfortunate.”

Advice for Prospective Freshmen

Non-Binary Computer Science and Religion Double Major C/O 2020

What is something you wish you knew about Swarthmore before entering as a freshman?
I wish I knew that during orientation they really kind of play things up. I thought there was going to be a big gospel choir on campus, but it’s really mediocre. It’s advertised that you can go to Philly whenever, but it’s so academically demanding. Even if you’re trying to go to Philly for one hour, [it turns into] an entire day trip which is a lot of time to be giving up. I wish there was a lot less fanfare with what they have and what they can do because I find it’s a lot more limiting than they described it as.

What is something a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
If they’re things going on, like dance workshops that happen such as Salsa, Tango, Belly, or Ballroom dancing, I think anyone can go check them out. The group exercise classes are also very nice because you don’t have to go off campus to get these things.

Male Economics Major C/O 2020

What is something you wish you knew about Swarthmore before entering as a freshman?
I wish I had known that it wasn’t as entrepreneurial or business oriented. Now, entrepreneurship and business are two things that I’m really interested in, but there isn’t that much of a focus on it. We have the Center for Innovation and Leadership, but business and entrepreneurship isn’t what Swarthmore’s known for.

What is something a prospective Black student may want to know that we haven’t touched on?
I would just tell them to find those professors, especially professors of color, that you can talk to and will have your back. Many of the Black students I know have spoken very highly of the Black professors they’ve had, and now I’m wishing I had more conversations with them to pick their brain and get to know them better. It’s also important to be social with other students of color because sometimes you’ll be so busy that you don’t see people for days or weeks, but those relationships are important. A lot of my close friendships are with other Black students.

 

Female Sociology Major C/O 2020

What is something you wish you knew about Swarthmore before entering as a freshman?
They have something called Pass/Fail for your first semester. They want you to spend the first semester adjusting and not stressing about grades. The way they carry that message almost encourages freshman to just party and not focus as much on academics. I think what’s misleading about that is you can uncover those freshman grades, which are crucial to your GPA. You should still be concerned about your grades because it could be misleading and, if you decided to uncover them, affect your GPA down the line.

What is something a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
The best things are the classes and the people, and I feel like you get a good gist of this when you visit. They’ll clean the dorms extra, or cook the best meals when people come.

 

Reasons to attend and not to attend Swarthmore College

To Attend

  • “If you want a liberal arts experience but want to be close to the city.”
  • “The people are wonderful and it’s not a rat-race learning environment.”
  • “It’s very much the norm to ask, ‘What are your pronouns?’ It’s a good place to dive deeper into your gender or sexual identity.’
  • “The resources and access you get at Swarthmore in terms of research and internships.”

To Not Attend

  • “It’s a small school. You can’t be anonymous if you ever want to be.”
  • “If you’re looking for a social scene or party scene that is very vibrant, Swarthmore is not the place for you.”
  • “If you’re not into the small-town feeling.”
  • If you want a little more social life. Even sports-wise, even though it’s Division III there is no real community or care for athletics unless you’re on the team, or have a friend on the team.
Notice: Swarthmore College is a trademark. Induck uses it for descriptive purposes, not to imply affiliation with, endorsement from, or sponsorship by Swarthmore College.

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