Hey I was wondering if this looks like what swarthmore is looking for at all for music/creative writing majors:
GPA: 4.19 weighted (going to rise)
3.88 unweighted (same)
Rank: 32/317 (getting better..it's in the 20's now)
SAT: (they're not fair)..writing 610, crit reading 520, math 550.
ACT: June 10th, not taken yet.
9th grade i took almost all honors (I have 3 B's on my transcript), 10th grade i took 2 honors, this year (11) i took 1 ap and 4 honors and have all A's (one b+). From 10th grade on, I have all A's on the transcript. Next year, I am taking 4 AP's (2 AP and 2 ap weighted honors) and 1 actual honors honors.
Extracurriculars: People to people student ambassador program, national youth leadership conference (possibly--next summer), glsen (helps teach others about diversity), junior mendelssohn choir, voice lessons, piano lessons, cantoring for my rabbi, jazz choir, chamber choir (most elite), and many others that I can't think of.
Your SAT scores are quite low for Swarthmore. I don't know if the courses you've taken are the most challenging for your school or how challenging your school is, so I can't really judge that. Your extracurriculars look pretty good, but nothing spectacular (like curing cancer ) or distinguishing.
I would say that Swarthmore is an extreme reach for you, but you never know--so apply anyways. Just make sure to have some good safeties and matches as well.
In terms of improving your app, I'd suggest focusing on the SAT scores (or see if you do better on the ACT). As unfair as they may be, they're important. Like my English teacher always says, "play along with their game now, and you can go to a great college and graduate and take over the College Board and change everything around. But for now you have to play along." Good luck.
Your SATs are very low for Swarthmore, that's true. BUT your ECs show a real passion, and Swarthmore likes that. If you can bring up your SATs a bit, write a good "Why Swat" essay, and really emphasize your passion for music/arts, then I think your chances will be pretty decent.
That's for ACCEPTED students, right? That would be a signficant jump if it were for ENROLLED students. Averages have been running slightly lower than median.
As for the original poster's questions: Based on what you've provided so far, Swarthmore is going to be a big reach, I'm afraid. 56% of the students accepted at Swat this year were in the top 2% of their high school class; 91% were in the top 10%. Those who were not in those ranges were likely from very competitive high schools.
In this year's enrolled freshman class, 69.8% were above 700 on the SAT verbal/critical reading and 62.3% above 700 on the math SAT. 96.1% and 95.1%, respectively, were above 600 on each.
Having said that, you are in a good situation with higher GPA and class rank than your SAT scores. While it might not be enough for Swarthmore, that is much more attractive to colleges than the other way around. Big SATs and low class rank is the kiss of death.
If you are a URM, you stand a chance. A friend of mine, a Puerto Rican from an inner city school, got into Georgetown with similar stats as you have. He took the SATs twice. The first time, he got only 1500, the second time, 1700.