An Interview On
Swarthmore College

Background

Interview Date:February 2019

Gender Identity: Male
Race/Ethnicity: Black
Sexual Orientation: Heterosexual
Graduation Year: 2020
High School Experience: Private school in Livingston, NJ with a graduating class of about 100. There was a culture of going to college.
First Generation College Student: No
Major: Economics
Minor: Psychology
Extracurricular Activities: I was a student-athlete for my freshman year and part of my sophomore year. I have a leadership role in SWIFT which is about helping people at Swarthmore with their personal finances and that takes up a lot of time.

Academic Experience

Can you describe the weekly coursework for Economics?
Now it’s usually just a lot of reading and preparing for class discussion. In previous semesters, my courses have been more problem set heavy, those were courses like microeconomics and macroeconomics. For this semester, there aren’t really problem sets, except for Financial Accounting.

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 would you describe the learning environment? Do you think it’s particularly competitive or collaborative?
At Swarthmore, the environment is more so collaborative than competitive, which I really like. Students and professors are really willing to help you out whether it’s a problem set or preparing for a test because, for the most part, they know how stressful it is. The professors have been in your shoes and at the same time push you to do what needs to be done. The students see that and they want to do it together because there’s no reason to bring down others.

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.

Why did you pick Economics? Are you happy with your choice?
The initial reason I picked it was because my mom showed me that Economics majors make more money after college. She was like, “You don’t want to be broke!” [laughs]. I then started taking classes and I still wasn’t that interested in it but liked the fact that in history, technology, and politics everything ties back to economics. I don’t regret it at all. I’ve met a lot of really amazing professors and really interesting individuals in my classes.

How was managing both your sport and your coursework?
It was honestly fine. One reason was there was an accountability system built within the team that showed you were completing assignments. The other reason was the players were high achieving individuals in the academic realm, so they were helpful in figuring out my schedule and how to manage it all. A lot of my teammates were also Economics majors, so we’d work together on problems and preparing for tests.

On and Around Campus

Where have you lived on campus?
Freshman: Mary Lyon Hall with one roommate. It was about a 15-20-minute walk from my classes and campus. Because of that, I moved to a double in Willets Hall.

Sophomore & Junior: N/A

How was transitioning from your hometown in New Jersey to Swarthmore, PA?
It was fine. My sister went to Swarthmore so I had a pretty good sense of the area and the college already.

Can you describe the level of safety you’ve experienced on and around campus?
Safety-wise I’ve never had concerns. When there’s snow and ice things can be slippery, but outside of that, I’ve always felt relatively safe on this campus.

Pros and cons of being located in Swarthmore, PA:
Pros:
1) 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.
2) There’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.

Cons:
1) It’s a small town, so it’s not a bustling area. I’m not too much of a city person, but I sometimes wish there was a little bit more going on. You can find something to do, but sometimes you wish there was a little bit more activity going on.

Social Opportunities

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 is the impact of Greek life and sports teams on the weekend options?
In terms of sports teams, it’s not anything big. I don’t think they have a big impact on party life at all, to be honest. In terms of the frats, for me, it wouldn’t change anything if they weren’t there because if it was just my friends and I sitting in a room together talking, I’m happy.

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.

How happy have you been with the weekend options at Swarthmore? Is there anything you would change if you could?
I wouldn’t change things too much. It’s more about the people for me honestly. I don’t care about partying too much and it makes no difference to me.

Campus Culture

How did you meet your closest friends?
I met them freshman year through random events. Being friends with one person led me to be close to other people. I don’t have specifics, it just kind of happened after having deep conversations about life and self-improvement. They had great values that I really admired and we kept building and growing together.

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.

To what extent do people of different races and sexual orientations mix socially?
From my perspective, that happens a lot. No one here won’t hang out with somebody because of their race or sexual orientation. I’d say people tend to have diverse groups of friends.

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.]

How would you describe the student body?
I think students at Swarthmore are extremely intellectually gifted and that they are going to achieve a lot of amazing things. I think the one thing about Swarthmore students that annoys me is that students can lack life skills and social skills. People will say that Swarthmore is a place with weird people, but people here are just very socially awkward. That’s something that I discovered for myself, and after almost three years it’s something that’s annoying and interesting at the same time. Somebody will be socially awkward because they’re working really hard on a research project or a side project, so obviously, something is going to have to give in their day to day life. Being around people like that won’t lead you to be less socially awkward. Another thing that bothers me is there are a lot of really driven and ambitious people, but they are driven towards traditional paths like investment banking or getting a Ph. D. Based on the interactions with people I’ve had, I wish people dreamed a little bit more and wanted more outside of a regular job.

Careers

Has the alumni network helped you find internships or jobs?
For me, no. That is only because I haven’t used it very much. A lot of the mentors we have for SWIFT are Swarthmore alumni who work in business and they are extremely helpful amazing people.

What have you used the career office for? How helpful have they been?
I don’t really think our career office is that helpful from my experience. On a personal scale, I’ve gone two or three times and I didn’t find anything to be of great use to me.

Have you learned any computer programs or languages that will be helpful to you professionally?
I learned Python in a Computer Science class I took last semester and I’ve used Excel and Stat in my Economics classes.

Financial Aid

Have you used financial aid? If so, how helpful was the office?
I’ve had no complaints with the office. I work with them all the time and they’ve been awesome. I know students who’ve had their complaints, but for me, I haven’t had any problems with them and how they’ve helped me with what I need to do.
[Swarthmore practices need-blind admissions, meets the full demonstrated need of students, and aid is loan-free.]

Advice for Prospective Freshmen

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.

Reasons to attend Swarthmore:
1) It’s a challenging environment, but pressure makes diamonds.
2) You’re forced to think differently. Swarthmore is a very liberal left-leaning institution, but, at the same time, you’ll still be able to get a lot of different perspectives from people and learn a lot of different things. That’s been very helpful for me because my process of thinking got more analytical and open-minded, which I think is really cool.
3) Swarthmore is a well-renowned place, so when you’re looking for a job people know what Swarthmore is. Because of that, the alumni network is great.
4) There are a lot of resources at this school that I was not privy to until my sophomore year. You can get things funded here if you want to, there are professors who have been published in all different places, and alumni who are doing amazing things. If you try to, you can really maximize that.

Reasons to not attend Swarthmore:
1) If you’re really looking for a social scene or party scene that is very vibrant, Swarthmore is not the place for you.
2) If you’re not into the small-town feeling, Swarthmore is not the place either.

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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