Swarthmore College, founded in 1864, is consistently ranked one of the top five liberal arts schools in the country. It is located about 11 miles from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, but the picturesque campus setting of 425 acres is set apart from the bustling city. Although the school was initially established by the Religious Society of Friends (or Quakers), there is no religious affiliation today. The private school enrolls over 1,600 undergraduates who take part in rigorous studies, yet still manage to find time to participate in extracurricular activities.
There are more than 40 courses of study available to undergraduates, with more than 600 classes to choose from. Swarthmore College is also part of the Tri-College Consortium (or TriCo); Bryn Mawr College and Haverford College are also members. Students are encouraged to take courses at these schools as well, which broadens even further the amount of classes they have available to them. The most popular majors are social sciences; computer and information sciences; biological/life sciences; engineering; and mathematics and statistics.
Swarthmore is also one of the few liberal arts schools to offer an engineering program. Some popular minors include peace and conflict studies, cognitive science, and interpretation theory. Swarthmore is also noted for its Honors Program. Students who enroll are expected to take double-credit seminars in their junior year and write honors theses. At the end of their senior year, they take exams. One student is awarded “Highest Honors,” and the others are usually awarded “High Honors” or “Honors.”
There are many educational opportunities at Swarthmore. Class sizes remain small, with 70 percent of courses having fewer than 20 students. Faculty members are intensely dedicated to helping students succeed, and the student to faculty ratio is about eight to one. More than half of the students at Swarthmore College take part in the study abroad program. They have programs set up in more than 300 locations. Many students are also involved with on-campus publications like “The Phoenix” and “The Daily Gazette.”
The Swarthmore campus has plenty of activities to keep students busy. There are more than 100 student organizations on campus. Close to 96 percent of students choose to remain in campus housing, so the community is very close-knit. Some popular groups include Mock Trial, the Debate Society, and the College Bowl. Greek fraternities and sororities are once again banned from the campus though Swarthmore has occasionally had a small percent of students involved in Greek life over its history including as recently as 2022. Many students are also involved in activism. The Lang Center for Civic and Social Responsibility helps prepare students for various positions in public service or advocacy groups.
There are also 22 Division III Varsity Intercollegiate Sports Teams. About 20 percent of students are varsity athletes and more than 45 percent of students participate in club sports.
Swarthmore has much to offer in terms of academic excellence and off-campus opportunities. Their committed professors and small class sizes also help students remain focused and inspired. Although the campus is set in a quiet suburban area, Swarthmore is close enough to Philadelphia to entice students interested in being near a major city. The breadth of majors and extracurricular activities should also put Swarthmore College at the top of any student looking for a quality liberal arts education.