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Dartmouth vs. Swarthmore

CrumpledpaperCrumpledpaper Registered User Posts: 6 New Member
I am hoping that someone may have a gem to share to help with the decision process.... which basically means this evening. Our daughter has been accepted at a number of very good schools, but effectively has narrowed the selection to Dartmouth vs. Swarthmore. Right now the "conceptual" issue/debate is the Ivy league nature of Dartmouth ( prestige, resources, name recognition....but large, party oriented and less personal) vs. the "friendlier more intellectual" Swarthmore ( smaller, more personal attention, more rural, but less name recognition[prestige], fewer resources). It would be very helpful to hear thoughts on this selection.... By the way, our daughter tends to be quiet. Her interests are English(creative writing), maybe a natural science,math or french as a double major.... There are no differences in the financial aid.

Thanks !
Post edited by Crumpledpaper on

Replies to: Dartmouth vs. Swarthmore

  • datadrivendatadriven Registered User Posts: 388 Member
    Tough choice and usually should be done based on fit (both great schools with unlimited opportunities).

    I would go with Dartmouth. Somebody said "you can make the large school small but you can not make small school large", meaning that you can find your niche, circle of friends, etc. that will make a bigger school feel smaller for you.

    Dartmouth is still not really huge (it is like a big LAC). Plenty of kids do not party or do it in moderation (by the way there is plenty of partying at Swarthmore).

    On name recognition, alumni networking and many other fronts Dartmouth wins.
  • cameliasinensiscameliasinensis Registered User Posts: 2,294 Senior Member
    Don't make decisions based on prestige. The differences are so small, and anyway it really doesn't matter.

    In the interest of full disclosure, I was admitted to Dartmouth but waitlisted at Swarthmore. I won't waste my breath explaining that Swarthmore is an excellent school (I'm sure interesteddad will do an admirable job of that :)), but maybe I can help calm some of your fears about Dartmouth.

    First, has your daughter visitied both schools? I had some of the same concerns about the size (coming from a high school with just over 200 students) and party atmosphere, but going to Dimensions convinced me that Dartmouth was the right school for me. I'm a soft-spoken, "intellectual," Swedish vegan with interests ranging from French and creative writing to linguistics and neuroscience, and I had less trouble fitting in than I did at my oh-so-worldly international high school -- the students I met at Dimensions were some of the most fun, interesting, diverse, unassuming-but-really-ridiculously intelligent people I've met in my life. You mentioned friendliness; I think you'd be hard-pressed to find a friendlier, more welcoming school than Dartmouth, but of course I am biased. ;)

    Things I did at Dartmouth that did not involve beer:
    * Sitting in the sun with friends talking about... life, or something
    * Playing frisbee (badly, never having played before) on the Green
    * Performing a dreadful rendition of Nelly's "Hot in Herre" at the GSA's gay karaoke bar night (and I have terrible stage fright!)
    * Hanging out in a common room having "deep" conversations that deteriorated into a huge pillow fight
    * Attending a performance by an "Illusionist/Mind Reader" (and enjoyed myself immensely in spite of my skepticism)
    * Seeing an improv comedy performance (first time for me)
    * Going for an 11:30 pizza run in "downtown" Hanover
    * Squeezing seven people into a three-person couch to watch a midnight showing of Little Miss Sunshine
    * Walking around campus late at night without a sweater because none of us wanted to go to sleep our last night there
    * Many more things that I'm forgetting

    Of course there were frat parties during this, but we really didn't notice much disruption, to be honest. Most if not all of the fraternities are located in the same general area, and if your daughter doesn't want to be exposed to that type of social life, she could just avoid going to that part of campus on a Friday night. During my conversations with other prospective students on CC, Facebook, and at Dimensions, the party atmosphere has been the concern brought up most frequently -- and if that many students are choosing Dartmouth for everything else that the school offers in spite of the party scene, I don't think your daughter will feel alienated. Definitely PM sybbie719 or cangel if you'd like to know more; both have daughters at Dartmouth and could give you the perspective that I can't (after all, what do I know? I'm only a pre-frosh).

    As for size and personal attention, I was very impressed with the classes I attended during Dimensions: Youth and Society (sociology), Words (linguistics) -- my favorite!, Anthropology of Religion (er, anthropology), and War and Peace in the 20th Century (history). I would never have chosen a history class if it hadn't been for some friends who wanted to see this one, but the professor (who had previously taught at Yale but came to Dartmouth because he hated New Haven) brought such insight and enthusiasm to the topic that even I was captivated. The history and anthropology classes were the largest, around 50 students, but both professors were very skilled lecturers and were able to involve the students in spite of the size of the class. There were no TAs that I could see. The linguistics class was an upper-level class where prospies outnumbered actual students(!). I was actually surprised and impressed by the amount of professor-student interaction in both large and small classes, and I come from a high school where my largest class has 12 students (my smallest has three).

    I won't tell your daughter where to go, because that is a decision only she can make. I'm going to Dartmouth and couldn't be happier, despite being in many ways the complete opposite of the beer-drinking frat boy stereotype (I do love skiing, though), but either way she really can't go wrong. Good luck! :)
  • prefectprefect Registered User Posts: 1,281 Senior Member
    I don't think Swarthmore is more rural than Dartmouth. Swarthmore is a suburb of Philadelphia, while Dartmouth is very rural...At least from what I remember.
  • cameliasinensiscameliasinensis Registered User Posts: 2,294 Senior Member
    Dartmouth is absolutely more rural than Swarthmore. Hanover is a cute New England small town while Swarthmore is an affluent suburb of Philadelphia (there is a train station on campus).
  • tommybilltommybill - Posts: 849 Junior Member
    Swarthmore is much more intellectual. It’s not that the students are brighter but they are more serious and the school expects more from them.

    The prestige factor is mixed, Dartmouth may have more prestige among those who consider name recognition and prestige the same thing, however among the graduate school community Swarthmore is held in higher regard. Swarthmore is just more rigorous academically and better prepares it students for grad school.

    The only question you should be asking is which school fits your daughter’s personal needs the best. Either school will prepare her for life after college, so long as she is able to take advantage of the opportunities the school offers. The better she fits and feels about the school she attends the better she will be able to take advantage of those opportunities.

    Personal comfort for the student should be the concern here not some ill conceived concept of prestige.
  • 1sokkermom1sokkermom Registered User Posts: 3,515 Senior Member

    Did you attend Swarthmore, or did someone you know attend Swarthmore?

    How do you know it is "much more intellectual" ? How do you know it better prepares students for grad school? What are those opinions based on?

    I know a lot of people who attended Dartmouth who are extremely intellectual AND well rounded! They are very successful, and attended very good graduate and professional schools.

    I think Cameliasinensis adds a lot of credibility to this thread as an actual student who will be attending Dartmouth and spent time researching and visiting the campus. That post is much more valuable to a potential student, than some unsubstantiated rhetoric about intellectualism, alleged rigorous academics' etc.. (based on an opinion?)

    Good job Cameliasinensis! :)
  • suzesuze - Posts: 4,479 Senior Member
    Dartmouth is not exactly a large college, Swat is just tiny. Too small for me along with a and W but my sister chose one of those and I chose Dartmouth. To me the schools are so different that people clearly like one better. Has she visited both?
  • slipper1234slipper1234 Registered User Posts: 9,084 Senior Member
    I am the biggest Dartmouth fan out there. In my opinion the academic experience is the perfect mix of a LAC and a research institution, and I feel as if the undergrad oriented elements and overall spirit of the institution are like nothing else in academia. In terms of business and recruiting, there is no question that Dartmouth has an edge. Professional placement is also outstanding and Dartmouth is usually among the top 7 -8 most represented schools at all the top grad schools that publish lists.

    On the other hand for someone looking to go to an academic grad school I think Swarthmore is incredible. The school is geared this direction and the teaching is supposedly second to none. Given that your daughter is quiet and Dartmouth is full of very social outgoing types I think this further tilts things in the direction of Swarthmore.

    My vote is for Swarthmore.
  • CrumpledpaperCrumpledpaper Registered User Posts: 6 New Member
    Hi Suze -

    Attended both ( along with Middlebury and Amherst)....Unfortunately, as is obvious, it is difficult to compare apples to apples. She wasn't able to attend the "prepared" Dimensions program at Dartmouth, but attended the prepared accepted student program at Swarthmore. Swarthmore really emphasized the "teamwork",non-compete and personal attention aspects of their program and the teachers came across very strong. At Dartmouth, she did the sleepover, attended a party, a dance recital at one of the dorms, and attended a class ( teacher being very good).... she left feeling very good about the quality of the academics at the schools... It seems, with the emphasis here on "seems", like Swarthmore fits her personality better and she really enjoyed the "feeling" of the campus, but she was impressed by the friendliness of the students she met at Dartmouth, advantages of the "D" plan and the IVY feel of the infrastructure/buildings.

    I am hoping that the content of this thread may help her in looking at the options.
  • CrumpledpaperCrumpledpaper Registered User Posts: 6 New Member
    Cameliasinensis -

    Great Post... I think my daughter will find it helpful. I see that you are from the greater DC area, so you may have a different perspective. Living in MA and surrounded by IVYs, we hear little of the excellent schools along the mid-atlanic coast. We came to know Swarthmore through the college search process, but have no "ingrained" sense of it's reputation relative to the IVYs. If you could touch on a few points for us, it would be very interesting....

    Why did you apply to Swarthmore... what drew you there. I was hoping you could speculate for us... if you had been admitted to Swarthmore, would it have affected your decision to go to Dartmouth... and why or why not ? They are clearly excellent schools, both..... ?

    Thanks !
  • slipper1234slipper1234 Registered User Posts: 9,084 Senior Member
    Crumpled it depends on what crowd you are talking about when you reference prestige. Overall Dartmouth is the more prestigious institution , particularly in the business world. In academic circles, however, Swarthmore is absolutely just as prestigious. It depends on what your daughter wants to do. Once again I loved Dartmouth but I have a feeling that a shy, quiet, academically focused person might be intimidated by the overall very social and outgoing Dartmouth student body.
  • tommybilltommybill - Posts: 849 Junior Member
    In response to 1sokkermom's questions and comments.....From Tommybill

    All I offered was an opinion, I made no claims otherwise. I based my opinion on several factors; however regardless of what my opinions are based on, they are still just my opinions. Having said that, I think the fact that in the last 30 years Swarthmore has sent a greater percentage of graduates on to earn Ph D’s than any school in the country with the exception of Cal Tec, Harvey Mudd and Reed, and is third behind Reed and Yale in the percentage of women graduates who go on to earn Ph Ds says something. It is also worth noting that in the same 30 year time span 6 graduates of Swarthmore have won Noble Prizes.

    Which college to attend is a very important and very personal decision. College admissions/selection is the first really big decision most kids have to make, and prestige and name recognition should be very low on the decision matrix. I stand by my comments that the young woman in questions should go where she is the most comfortable, knowing that both schools will “prepare her for life after college.”

    I am quite sure 1sokkermom's antidotal evidence of knowing a “lot of people who attended Dartmouth who are extremely intellectual AND well rounded” is true, the same can be said for any large grouping of people. Dartmouth is a very good school and if she thought I was say anything else she was mistaken in her understanding of my words.

    Intellectualism and academic rigorous are not the sole or most important measure of a college, how well the college prepares the young person for life is. Dartmouth and Swarthmore are both exceptional schools in this regard. By the way so is Berea College in Kentucky and dozens of other small schools most have never heard of.

    College admissions/selection is too important to the young people for their parents to score it like a soccer game. Parents whose main concern is what other people will think of them based on the college sticker on the back window of their SUV should stop and think about their own values
  • rightnotleftrightnotleft Registered User Posts: 434 Member
    As someone who applied to and was accepted to both schools, I guess I can respond to questions regarding "why I applied to Swat".

    I applied because the school has excellent teaching and challenging academics. The complete absence of grad students necessitates that professors be devoted to teaching, and also requires that undergraduates help with research.

    The campus is beautiful and the kids are nice.
    The two schools were my top two choices, and I chose based on where I felt more at home with the student body, and where I wanted to live for four years. It was very tough, but in the end, where your daughter goes should be based more on where she feels at home, not where she was "impressed", in my opinion.

    I vote for Swat.
  • 1sokkermom1sokkermom Registered User Posts: 3,515 Senior Member
    Thanks for your response tommybill. I hope my evidence is considered to be anecdotal rather than antidotal. ;)

    I based my opinion on knowing people, including my daughter's pediatrician, who attended Dartmouth. I also work in Boston, and live in NH. So yes, my opinions are based on real live experiences and discussions that I personally have had with people (including close friends and business associates) who have attended Dartmouth. I have also visited the campus and adjacent medical complex many times.

    I am still not sure if your opinions are based on heresay, college brochures, or what. You never elaborated, and you are entitled to your opinion indeed. At least I gave you somewhat of a basis for mine, be it anecdotal or not.
  • tommybilltommybill - Posts: 849 Junior Member
    You or your daughter might want to call Dean Jim Larimore (610) 328-8365 at Swarthmore College. He joined Swarthmore last year after being at Dartmouth for 7 or so years. He will be able to answer questions about the two schools better than just about anyone, and I am sure he would be glad to help.

    I am quite sure he will give good and honest advice, he wants the students to pick the right school as much as the student’s parents want them to.
This discussion has been closed.