Swarthmore College Campus View

Swarthmore College

Last summer I spent a week on the campus of Swarthmore College attending the IECA’s professional Summer Institute for educational consultants. Beyond the beauty of the College’s 425-acre arboretum campus (the College claims 4,000 varieties of distinct plant specimens), Swarthmore has a lot to offer students who are highly accomplished and intellectually inclined.


Swarthmore College is a small liberal arts college located 11 miles from Philadelphia. Admission is extremely competitive (a notch under the Ivies).

Strengths and Distinctions

  • Nearly 100-year-old Honors program modeled on Oxford’s tutorial system and the only one of its kind in the nation. One-third of students participate through small classes and seminars, heightened engagement with faculty, and opportunities for independent learning, special research and projects, and a constant sharing and discussion of ideas.
  • Tri-college consortium enables students to take courses at Bryn Mawr and Haverford. Cross registration with the University of Pennsylvania also is available.
  • Close access to the Philadelphia (only a 25-minute train ride from campus) and the internship, cultural, and other activities and opportunities available in the nation’s fourth largest city.
  • Quaker heritage tends to attract student activists who have an unusually strong interest in civic engagement and community service
  • More than 40 majors and programs including one in engineering — not typically offered at a small liberal arts college

Other Facts

  • College’s pass/fail grading policy in the first semester encourages freshmen to explore a variety of classes without worrying about their GPA and adjust to college life.
  • Generous need-based financial aid program — 50% of students receive some financial aid on the basis of demonstrated need

Admission Facts

  • Offers Early Decision I, Early Decision II, and regular decision application options
  • Swarthmore still offers no-loan, need-based awards for all students receiving grant aid (money students do not have to repay after they graduate)