What Does it Take to Get Into Swarthmore College?

Strategies by School
May 7, 2020
Known For Its Stunning Beauty, Swarthmore Connects Its Students With Nature To Provide Not Just An Education, But An Experience…

For students who know that the pursuit of knowledge is just as important as their future career, Swarthmore College stands out as one of the most well-known small liberal arts colleges in the country where they can receive that experience. With practical, hands-on, and self-discovery focused courses, Swarthmore puts students in control of expanding their horizons while preparing them for the future.

Surrounded by an abundance of nature and beauty, Swatties learn more than just what they can be taught in a lecture. If this sort of learning experience excites you, read on to see what it takes to be accepted into Swarthmore College.

What You’ll Find In This Article

Swarthmore's Ideal Student

Swarthmore strives to go beyond the traditional liberal arts education, using its uniquely picturesque campus, ideal location, and engaged student body to nurture academic success. Due to this, admission into Swarthmore is very competitive, and the average incoming first-year student has academic scores that look like this:

  • GPA: 4.05
  • ACT: 32
  • SAT: 1470

Swarthmore students (affectionately referred to as Swatties) place importance on both the liberal arts and hands-on education. Often coming from the top of their high school classes, Swatties are just as dedicated to the success of their peers as they are to their own success. Learning, self-reflection, and exploration are group activities at Swarthmore College.

Because of this, the ideal Swattie often shares a set of values that nurture lifelong learning and community interaction. These ideals are what draw students together outside in the trails, bring lively discussions during meals, and form lasting friendships. Throughout the diverse student body, you can find students who share these values and uphold them through their actions.


Swatties are given the invaluable opportunity to challenge themselves both inside and outside the classroom. These students aren’t merely showing up to class every day out of obligation; they thrive on the challenge and consistent academic rigor offered.

  • Recall a time when you faced a difficult moral or social situation.
  • Have you ever had to make a significant sacrifice to uphold a commitment? How did you come to that decision?
  • How do you motivate yourself to perform consistently every day? Do you collaborate with others or use internal motivation?


At Swarthmore, students are encouraged to pursue knowledge out of passion, not just to build a future career. They even structure a student’s first semester to be pass-fail to give first-year students a chance to spread their wings. Swatties don’t just study to learn about the world but to learn about themselves as well.

  • What one-of-a-kind experiences have you had following your natural curiosity?
  • What makes you want to study at Swarthmore College?
  • How do you enjoy learning? Do you read, listen to others, or watch videos?


The ability to learn more about yourself is one of the greatest experiences offered at Swarthmore. Students are encouraged to develop their own opinions and explore their own thoughts to find innovative ideas and solutions.

  • Do you enjoy self-reflection and learning more about yourself?
  • What experience in your life has had the most impact on how you view the world? Why?


From the beginning to the end of your education at Swarthmore, you’ll be surrounded by peers who are just as eager to be there as you are. Swatties are encouraged to work together to solve problems across campus from the classroom to the theater.

  • Recall a time when you worked together with a group. What was your role within that group, and how did you contribute?
  • Are you a leader or a team player? Why?
  • What do you believe you’ll bring to the community at Swarthmore?


At Swarthmore, students receive an education intertwined with unique experiences. As a small liberal arts college with a hands-on approach, Swarthmore is known for allowing students the flexibility they need to pursue their dream major while still learning for the sake of learning. Among students, some of the most popular programs include:


At Swarthmore College, a variety of different students make up the ideal student body. Diversity and understanding are nurtured across campus to bring students together rather than set them against each other in competition. The ideal Swarthmore student is one who brings compassion, a willingness to work with others, and genuine curiosity with them to campus.

What You Need To Get Accepted Into Swarthmore


Students can complete their Swarthmore College applications using either the Common Application or Coalition Application web-based portals. The type of application that is best will depend on personal preference and which institutions you’re applying to; it helps if you can use either the Common App or the Coalition App to submit all of your applications so you won’t have to redo as much work.

For Swarthmore College, there are two important deadlines to remember. The early decision deadline is November 15. The regular decision deadline is January 1.


Students are required to submit an official high school transcript as well as a mid-year grade report halfway through their senior year. Your high school counselor will be able to help you submit official copies of your grades, as well as your school report.


Swarthmore asks each student for two letters of recommendation or evaluation from teachers. When asking for the perfect letter of recommendation, you should always keep one thing in mind: give your teachers as much time as possible to write and submit their letters. Don’t wait until two weeks before you need to turn in your letters to ask!


Swarthmore asks students to pay a nonrefundable $60 application fee. However, students who show financial need may qualify for a fee waiver.


In 250 words or less, students are asked to submit a short answer response to a basic question:

Please write about why you are interested in applying to and attending Swarthmore.” When answering, make sure to keep your answer as specific to Swarthmore as possible. What programs do you want to attend? Is there a part of the school’s rich background that inspires you?

Swarthmore's Campus Life


The scenic beauty and intimate class sizes are cornerstones of Swarthmore’s charm. The expansive 425-acre campus is bustling with life and activity, with over 95% of Swatties choosing to live on campus. The lush Scott Arboretum’s gardens bring life and excitement to campus along with ample learning opportunities. Here, students can truly connect with each other and the world around them through the picturesque gathering places across campus, from the traditional lawns to outdoor theatres.


Swarthmore offers students a diverse range of housing options, from cozy houses to 200 resident dorms where students can feel like they’re in the middle of the action. Regardless of which residence hall a student lives in, first-years and sophomores generally have roommates. When you get hungry, there are plenty of food options available too, starting at Sharples Dining Hall. Swarthmore offers a diverse range of food and uses locally sourced ingredients where available, which is just another example of the school’s commitment to sustainability.


Swatties sport the Garnet in a wide variety of varsity sports. From men’s cross country and basketball to women’s softball and swimming, students can represent and cheer on the Garnet practically all year long.

For students who’d rather join organizations or intramural sports, there are plenty of options as well. From joining Acappella groups or drama clubs to getting your groove on in a dance team or non-varsity tennis, there are plenty of reasons to be out and about on a Friday night at Swarthmore.


Every year the weekend before classes begin, old and new Swatties alike join together to watch a screening of the 1967 cult classic “The Graduate.” Over time, plenty of inside jokes have formed among the student body, and it’s become a beloved tradition to mark the beginning of the new school year.

From Application To Career: What You'll Experience At Swarthmore


In order to stand out on your application for Swarthmore College, it’s important that you tailor your application specifically for Swarthmore.

How can you use your academic and extracurricular achievements to showcase your passion for learning inside and outside the classroom? How can you display your dedication to the ideas that matter most to you? And why are your passions leading you to Swarthmore? The more specific you can be in your application, the better picture you can paint for the admission officials.


As mentioned above, it’s important to be specific in your Swarthmore application. The short answer essay is such a simple “why Swarthmore” question, that it can be tempting to start rattling off facts about the school, but you should resist that temptation. Don’t just skim the surface of what Swarthmore has to offer; relate the unique experience the school has to offer with your own background to stand out from the crowd.


Your years at Swarthmore will be punctuated by feelings of belonging and discovery. By learning side by side with your peers about the world and yourself, you’ll open yourself up to far more opportunities and experiences than your typical four-year college; if you make the most of your time. Swatties are known for their unique approach to problem-solving. This starts on campus with four years of simple, hands-on, yet innovative learning.


A unique education can help fuel one-of-a-kind careers, and you’ll find yourself among alumni such as former governor and presidential nominee Michael Dukakis, actor Stephen Lang, and influential feminist Alice Paul.

Outcomes from Swarthmore look bright, and typical fields for recent graduates include:

  • Research
  • Teaching
  • Business
  • Law
  • Engineering

Your Future At Swarthmore

For Swatties, the future has no limit and the foundational education they receive at Swarthmore College is just the beginning. After four years of learning about themselves, the world, nature, and their fellow humans, many graduates continue to pursue their passions in academia for the rest of their lives. This unique background has propelled graduates to succeed in a wide variety of career fields and locations. Of course, because of the highly unique experience offered by this historic college, it’s only natural that they’re extremely competitive when it comes to applications.

Thankfully, there are ways to personalize your application to help you stand out from the crowd. If you’re looking for more help defining your unique voice for your Swarthmore application, please reach out to our WeAdmit counselors. We know what it takes to make your application shine with personality and passion, and we’d love to help you put your best foot forward throughout the application process!

Are You Ready To Attend Swarthmore?



Need more Information?

Gain all the information you need by getting in touch with our admissions team or booking a free 30-minute counseling session.