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Swarthmore vs. University of Pennsylvania

LilikaLilika Registered User Posts: 12 New Member
edited August 2009 in College Search & Selection
This may sound like a stupid question but I am visiting colleges in the Pennsylvania region tomorrow and I really want to visit both of the aforementioned two...and I only have time to visit one. Can anyone tell me the major differences between the two and major distinctions of those colleges so I can make a decision?

Thanks a million :)
Post edited by Lilika on

Replies to: Swarthmore vs. University of Pennsylvania

  • Biggie_SmallsBiggie_Smalls Registered User Posts: 587 Member
    Ivy League, for starters. That's probably the biggest. If you're from the area Swarthmore has scholarships, whereas UPENN really doesn't have much.
  • ears550ears550 Registered User Posts: 266 Junior Member
    Hi, I actually visited both in one day. I might be in the minority here, but I liked both.

    I visited Penn, and then Swarthmore.

    Penn has more students (undergrad, 9k vs under 2k@Swarthmore), and its a University, while Swarthmore is a Liberal Arts College. Both have great academics; Penn is obviously an Ivy, but Swarthmore is a top LAC. There are other differences in terms of student body, just the the feel of the campus---Penn feels more urban (yet it still has a campus within the city of Philly), while Swarthmore feels more isolated, but it's prettier in terms of nature...BUT I would say the biggest difference would be size and LAC vs. University. It'd be nice if you could try to visit both, but if not...decide on university vs. LAC, size, city vs. suburban, etc. I can answer any more questions based on my visit if you want.
  • MD MomMD Mom Registered User Posts: 6,728 Senior Member
    If you attend either, you can take classes at both, plus Haverford and Bryn Mawr.
  • LilikaLilika Registered User Posts: 12 New Member
    Does anyone know about the academic atmosphere of either? (Like if it's cutthroat, uber intense, etc)
  • kwukwu Registered User Posts: 4,759 Senior Member
    Many of Penn's students are pre-professional and therefore a relatively more competitive atmosphere prevails.

    Swarthmore students are more intellectual, or so they claim. Therefore, there is a comparatively less cut-throat atmosphere at Swarthmore.

    You really should visit both schools. They're 10 miles apart from one another.

    If you must decide, then think city v. suburb.
  • broetchenbroetchen Registered User Posts: 1,130 Senior Member
    I get the sense Swarthmore has sort of a University of Chicago kind of culture. Shades of "where fun comes to die".

    Also the reputation of severe grade deflation -- Swarthmore B -- anywhere else it would be an A.
  • kwukwu Registered User Posts: 4,759 Senior Member
    Grade deflation isn't a bad thing.

    If you're a mediocre person who does mediocre work, relative to that of your outstanding classmates, you get what you deserve. No big deal.
  • broetchenbroetchen Registered User Posts: 1,130 Senior Member
    ^ I agree. And I don't mean to imply anything negative about Swarthmore. I think the students there really enjoy the intense academic atmosphere, as I sense the University of Chicago students do. It just is a very different campus culture than at Penn.
  • CCillinoisCCillinois Registered User Posts: 87 Junior Member
    Grade deflation isn't a bad/good thing. Depends how they do it and why grades are going down.

    If they are always trying to knock kids away from A's at a top-notch, selective school, it probably is very stressful. The level of students at both schools is very impressive. Take a bunch of students who were in the top few in their high-school class, put them in a class of 40 and have them battle to be in the 25% that get As and it could get brutal.

    In top schools its not weeding out the people who don't deserve A's, it is separating people who all deserve As into Bs and Cs to fight grade-inflation. If they aren't going to do excellent work and study hours a day for a class, it would surprise me that they got into Swarthmore.

    When I hear about top schools trying to fight grade inflation it reminds me of that malcom in the middle episode were they all compete to be top in the class, end up studying all day and night and then they go insane. How could it not end up like that.
    I would study as hard as I could to get an A, even if it put a huge dent in every other part of my life and I'm sure most students at top-colleges are like that.

    I am sure every one has been on the reverse side of things. In a class were you put in 10x more effort and you get the same A that 50% of the class got. They should fight to remove those kind of things, if they even exist in top-tier colleges.

    My view is that there are a lot of smart people at those colleges. But, competition to get an A should be against the material and not against the other students.
  • Venkat89Venkat89 Registered User Posts: 7,327 Senior Member
    I'm at Penn and one of my friends from high school is at Swarthmore.

    Both are very strong schools, though have very different atmospheres. The obvious ones have already been stated in terms of size and intellectual vs preprofessional. In terms of academics you shouldn't pick one over the other unless you are interested in business, nursing, or engineeering (or any other major Penn has that Swat does not or vice verca).

    The main difference you should look at is the social atmosphere. Penn is known as the "social Ivy" and has a strong greek presence (frats) and plenty of parties and "social" activities. Swat has like 2 or 3 frats and they are not a significant presence on campus. You are also in Philadelphia at Penn instead of the suburbs (15-20 minute cab/SEPTA ride from the active parts of Center City) so it is very easy to go to restaurants and clubs and all the other stuff Philly offers. At the same time, by being in the suburbs the campus is nicer and is safer (though most Penn students would argue that it's plenty safe).

    If you are serious about both schools, visit both. At least go around campus and try to guage what it's like. Keep in mind you're visiting in the middle of August when summer classes are ending, so any small campus presence that might have been there is now studying for finals. These schools are much more alive during the school year.
  • Rny2Rny2 Registered User Posts: 607 Member
    venkat wrote:
    In terms of academics you shouldn't pick one over the other unless you are interested in business, nursing, or engineeering (or any other major Penn has that Swat does not or vice verca).

    Swarthmore is one of the few LAC's that offers engineering :P

    I visited both, as well, and came away loving Swarthmore and hating Penn.

    A lot of the difference is, as has been stated, in the student population. My Penn tour guide bragged about procrastinating. My Swat tour guide complimented my Theadless T-shirt.

    Diff'rent strokes, 's all
  • Venkat89Venkat89 Registered User Posts: 7,327 Senior Member
    ^Swat's engineering program is a more general one and only has 4 areas you can choose to concentrate in (CS, EE, Mech, and Civil). Penn has 9 areas to major in, nationally top programs in Bioengineering and nanotech, and the opportuniity to get a Master's in 4-5 years in all of the undergraduate areas as well as a top robotics program. Pretty different in terms of engineering offerings.

    I agree that it's more of a feel that should determine which you attend though. When I visited Swat I felt like campus was pretty dead and it was right at the start of second semester, compared to Penn whose campus seemed alive and bustling. I've since been to Swat and it is really nice, but not my cup of tea.
  • ilovebagelsilovebagels Registered User Posts: 3,499 Senior Member
    I never considered Swat (having visited my friends who went there, I have no doubt I made the right decision)
  • dchow08dchow08 Registered User Posts: 3,267 Senior Member
    I'll give a description of Swarthmore:

    Campus aesthetic / Location: A / C. The campus is pretty but small. It has not 2,000 students, but a bit fewer than 1,500 students, which is smaller than many high schools. Swarthmore is in a subarb near Philadelphia. People get to Philadelphia by taking the SEPTA train, about a 20 minute ride. The town of Swarthmore is very boring--it is not a college town at all. There is a pizza place, a Dunkin' Donuts, a place to get a haircut, and an over-priced small natural foods store, as well as a few small places to eat. It is, in short, empty. A bit farther away there are more restaurants and bigger chain stores like Target and Borders, but it is better to go to these places by car. The campus looks dead, because it's a small school and everyone is spread out in the buildings.

    Academics: A/A-. Professors are generally very good, but not all. The work is tough, but if you get in, you should be able to do fine. Professors are generally hard graders, though there are some really easy graders. Small classes (mostly 10-15). Largest class has a bit over 100 people. Professors are accessible for office hours. Plenty of research opportunities.

    Athletics: Sports are not a huge thing at Swarthmore, but I think almost half of the people here play some kind of sport.

    Food: B-. It's like cafeteria food. It gets old and uses a lot of similar ingredients all the time. It helps if you know how to cook. The food is generally too greasy, and there isn't enough fresh produce.

    Housing: B+. I lived in a pretty good dorm my first year. Dorm rooms are pretty spacious, I think, with no bunks. But many dorms are old and there may be plumbing problems, and there is no air conditioning!

    Computers: A-. There are plenty of computers on campus, and we have wi-fi. But they're always being used, so it can be hard to find a computer in the library. Internet can be very slow if you use your own computer. The printer in my first-year dorm kept breaking down and it frustrated everyone in the dorm.

    Diversity: A/A-. Lots of ethnic diversity. Most people here come from wealthy backgrounds (Half the people on campus pay full tuition). Not much political diversity--everyone is liberal. I think it would be better if it were more balanced.

    Activities: We have lots of organizations on campus, and if there's something you don't like, you can create your own group, so there's no reason not to get involved on campus outside of academics. Weekends can get boring if you aren't in some group that meets on the weekend.

    Nightlife: Parties get old, because they're always at the same time, same place, and you're partying with the same people, because the campus is so small.

    Safety: A. From time to time something dangerous happens, like a stranger robs something or breaks into a dorm, but overall it's a very safe campus, even in the middle of the night.

    Weather: A-. It's hot at the beginning and end of the school year, which sucks because we have no AC in the dorms. It rains a lot. It does snow, but not that much, not as much as it does in the Northeast.

    Overall, I think the best thing about Swarthmore is how tolerant it is. You can do whatever you want and nobody will care or judge you much. Academics are excellent.
  • beatfreaksbeatfreaks User Awaiting Email Confirmation Posts: 360 Member
    Visit UPenn because the acceptance rate is .05%. =]
This discussion has been closed.