Swarthmore College Reviews
Student & Graduate Reviews (4)
Being an undergraduate at Swarthmore College is arguably one of the most rigorous academic experiences you can find. You will do an immense amount of work, attend myriad challenging and thought-provoking classes, and have at least one serious freak out, but by the end of it, you will graduate vastly ahead of your contemporaries at peer schools. With a demanding liberal arts curriculum, Swarthmore teaches you how to learn, so that you can go into any career, any internship, and any graduate school and excel. The best part of Swarthmore is the classes, which are intimate, in-depth, and taught by incredible, involved professors. Students are encouraged to take courses in as many different disciplines as possible, regardless of their major, and this breadth of academic material allows for something of a conversation between courses and between subject areas during the semester. A conversation on bioethics in a philosophy class could inform a conversation on population in a political science class, which could inform a conversation on conservation in a biology class. This type of learning is a more accurate replication of real world, learning environments, where one must make decisions based on information from a number of different individuals and sources with different backgrounds and different expertise. The underlying force driving Swarthmores academics is a fleet of amazing, caring professors who make an effort to engage with students both in and out of the classroom. Swarthmore classes are very small, and in most classes, the student to teacher ratio is eight to one. Most professors are really available and encourage students to meet with them during office hours, and sometimes invite their classes to their homes. Developing close relationships with ones professors far easier in these intimate environments than it would be in a larger university in a 200-person lecture. These relationships are also crucial to personal and professional growth as professors are people who you can ask for life advice, career advice, recommendations for jobs and grad schools, or simply a book recommendation. All of this being said, Swarthmore is not for everyone. The social life is incredibly limited as there are very few party spaces, and with so much work to do, there is very little free time. There are generally at most two parties a week, and there are also no bars in the town of Swarthmore because Swarthmore is a Quaker town where selling alcohol is banned. There is only one dining hall at Swarthmore, and in comparison to peer schools, it is terrible. There are very few options in terms of food, there is not enough seating room in the dining hall, and the hours are terrible (the dining hall closes at 8pm.) The administration is well aware of these challenges, though, and will hopefully work to improve them in the coming years. Ultimately, if you can make it through, four years at Swarthmore will make you a smarter, more aware person, who is better able to navigate the world with an eye for social justice.
Pros: eye-opening, diverse, highly intellectual, socially conscious student body, very academically rigorous, pretty campus, prepares students well for grad school or academic jobs, little competition between students Cons: no focus on self-care, grueling workload in many classes, lots of anxiety/depression, unresponsive administration on some key issues, does not teach many life skills or job skills for non-academic positions, needs more dorms and more air conditioning, lots of mice in the winter
Swarthmore was a great place for people who are highly motivated and want to push their intellectual boundaries. One of the best parts of Swarthmore was that it didn't feel like an ivory tower- students and professors were very excited to apply knowledge to improve the world around them. Swarthmore is not a place to come if all you care about is grades our informal motto is "anywhere else it would have been an A." One of the aspects of Swarthmore that I loved the most was that none of my friends cared about grades- we could focus on what's actually important- learning about the world and our roles in it.
Swarthmore College is highly academic, intellectual, and liberal-minded. The student body is highly diverse regarding nationality, socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and gender identity. I greatly valued all of those aspects of Swarthmore, and felt that my time there opened my eyes to a whole new world. I left Swarthmore feeling that my mind had been greatly sharpened and expanded. On the other hand, I also felt that the workload was unnecessarily heavy for optimal learning and mental health. Many members of the administration also have a lot of room to improve regarding treating students with respect when it comes to difficult situations such as sexual assault and (obviously much less difficult in comparison) housing issues. (I'm talking about things like mice in the winter, questionable building maintenance, difficulty housing students with special medical needs, etc.) As for the location of Swarthmore College, I found it to be ideal. The town of Swarthmore is beautiful, safe, and peaceful while also featuring highly convenient connections to Philadelphia and other Philly suburbs via public transit.