Academics

Location
Swarthmore, PA
Undergrads
1,537
Tuition
$43,080
Admission Difficulty
Very Hard
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4 College Junior

Academics: You are worked hard, but I guess it's all worth it. Professors, curriculum and workload all vary with department. Science majors should expect to do only school work, while social science and humanities majors seem to have a little more flexibility.

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Rankings View more rankings . . .

  • 38th
    Most Caring Professors
  • 42nd
    Smartest Professors
  • 45th
    Most Flexible Curriculums
  • 55th
    Professors Most Interested in Classes
  • 206th
    Best Registration Process

Student Author OverviewWhat's This?

Sudarshan Gopaladesikan
Hometown
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
Major
Math and Engineering
View all previous student authors

After a semester or two here, it becomes quite evident even to the most phenomenal prodigies that Swarthmore is among the most academically elite colleges in the country. It is not at all uncommon to see a student slumped over a textbook in the library at 1 in the morning or slurring his words in a seminar due to lack of sleep. But this hard work pays off, and many Swarthmore students are published in prestigious academic journals before their junior year! It is certainly no understatement that the experience of jumping into an academic pool like Swarthmore’s can be overwhelming—the school is swarming with passionate, freakishly intelligent students who love to show off their brains.

That said, the academic competition here is hardly “cutthroat.” This might be because of the pass/fail first semester or the general apathy toward the overall grading system, but as the admissions brochures say, “It’s not about competing to learn what has already been learned, it’s about creating new knowledge.” Creating new knowledge can be especially painful in Swarthmore’s classroom experience. At a larger state school, it might be possible to successfully hide behind your notebook in a 300-person lecture room. Here, it’s about looking your professor directly in the face as he or she sits at the other end of your table with five other students and explaining what you learned from last night’s readings. Be prepared to learn in a different way in each class, see the world through new eyes, and, yes, create new knowledge. Rarely does grade inflation occur, and you’ll often see students wearing T-shirts that read: “Anywhere else, it would’ve been an A.”

Facts & Statistics

Student-Faculty Ratio
8:1
Full-Time Instructional Faculty
197
Part-Time Instructional Faculty
39
Total FT Faculty
197
Faculty with Terminal Degree
99%
Average Faculty Salary
$105,532
Full-Time Retention Rate
97%
Graduation Rate
92%
Programs/Majors Offered
73
Academic/Career Counseling?
Yes
Remedial Services?
No
Class Sizes
  • Fewer than 20 students: 76%
  • 20 to 49 students: 22%
  • 50 or more students: 2%
Instructional Programs
Occupational: No
Academic: Yes
Continuing Professional: No
Recreational/Avocational: No
Adult Basic Remedial: No
Secondary (High School): No
Special Credit Opportunities
Advanced Placement (AP) Credits: Yes
Dual Credit: No
Life Experience Credits: No
Degrees Awarded
Bachelor's degree
Most Popular Majors
  • Biology and Biological Sciences: 6%
  • Economics and Econometrics: 7%
  • English Language Studies: 3%
  • Political Science and Government, General: 5%
Graduation Requirements
  • Foreign languages
  • Humanities
  • Sciences (biological or physical)
  • Social science
Special Study Options
  • Study abroad
  • Teacher certification (below the postsecondary level)
Other Academic Offerings
  • Accelerated program
  • Cross-registration
  • Double major
  • Exchange student program (domestic)
  • Honors program
  • Independent study
  • Internships
  • Student-designed major
Best Places to Study
  • The Amphitheatre (weather-permitting)
  • Cornell Library
  • McCabe Library
  • Parrish Beach (weather-permitting)
  • Parrish parlors
  • Underhill Library
Tips to Succeed
  • Check your e-mail as much as possible.
  • Don't concentrate too much on academics. Get out and join clubs, party, and meet people.
  • Don't put too much on your plate but really focus on what you are doing.
  • Get help from friends and fellow students. They are among the best resources on campus. You can't do it alone!
  • Go to Philly or off campus at least once a week to avoid "Swarthmore claustrophobia."
  • Keep up with your work. It's easy to put it off until the end of the semester, but resist the urge.
  • Meet with your professors regularly. Really get to know at least one each semester.
  • Remember that the pass/fail semester really means pass/fail.
  • Take a class at Penn that you can't take at Swat.
  • Take classes you are intimidated by but interested in.
Did You Know?
  • Swarthmore students can cross-register for classes and use the library facilities at Bryn Mawr College, Haverford College, and the University of Pennsylvania.
  • At Swarthmore, no classes are taught by teaching assistants (TAs).
  • The academic advisers are top-notch here. Because of the College's small size, each adviser only has a handful of students to keep track of and many times they offer great and very personal advice about what courses to take and how to approach certain aspects of a student's academic life at Swarthmore. On the same topic, if you decide to become, for example, an engineering major, your adviser will be an engineering professor.
  • Thirty-five percent of Swarthmore students participate in a unique honors program. Based on Oxford University's honor system, the program requires students to participate in very small seminar-style classes sometimes consisting of no more than two or three students per course. At the end of their senior year, students in the honors program participate in External Examinations. Culminating the student's studies at Swarthmore, the External Examinations committee brings in experts in the student's field of study who orally examine the student on their subject.
  • To ease the jump into a pit of academic fury, students take classes on a pass/fail basis during their first semester at Swarthmore. Students receive their first official letter grades in the second semester of their freshman year. Also, after the first semester, students are permitted to take up to four classes on a pass/fail basis during the rest of their time at Swarthmore. In addition to that, students can wait up to nine weeks before deciding whether or not to withdraw from a course or to take a course pass/fail.

Student Polls

How strongly do you agree or disagree with each of the following statements?    Based on 16 responses

Strongly disagree
Strongly agree
  • The academic advisers are helpful.
  • It is easy to get the classes you want.
  • Grading is generally consistent and fair.
  • There are a variety of interesting courses to take.
  • Students are encouraged to explore a wide range of courses and topics.
  • My Gen-Ed requirements are worthwhile and meaningful.
  • The workload is easy to manage.
  • There are plenty of good online course options.
  • Teaching assistants (TAs) are used effectively.
  • The course scheduling/registration process is efficient and student-friendly.
  • Classrooms/labs are up-to-date and incorporate new technologies effectively.

How strongly do you agree or disagree with each of the following statements regarding the professors at this school?    Based on 15 responses

Strongly disagree
Strongly agree
  • Professors are approachable and helpful when needed
  • Professors are engaging and easy to understand.
  • Professors are experts in their field.
  • Professors are passionate about the topics they teach.
  • Professors care about their students' success.
  • Professors put a lot of effort into teaching their classes.
  • Professors use teaching assistants (TAs) effectively.

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