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General Questions

IsaacMIsaacM Registered User Posts: 465 Member
edited January 2011 in Swarthmore College
1. Is this a good school for sciences and math?

2. What is the campus/surrounding town like? Social life related things?

3. How hard is it to get into the honors college and what is that like?

4. What are good stats to have to have a good chance at getting in?

5. Any cool things to know about the school?
Post edited by IsaacM on
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Replies to: General Questions

  • liminalliminal Registered User Posts: 113 Junior Member
    Yes. Swat is strong in the sciences and math, particularly our engineering program which is uncommon among liberal arts colleges. Consortium with haverford and bryn mawr as with Penn fill in any gaps Swat might manage to have.

    Swarthmore is... quaint. The town closes early and definitely has no interest in catering to the students. There's a local coffee shop as well as a dunkin donuts, their hours are usually inconvenient but they are there. There's a local (organic-friendly) grocery store that's pretty steep for a typical college students budget. There's 2-3 restaurants that I know students frequent and some haircutteries. Media which is a shuttle away has a bit more to offer, but the train into Philly (which is anywhere from 20-30 minutes depending on which stop you get off at) definitely has the most to offer. The college also has a shuttle that runs into Philly on weekends which is great. Social life is much more vibrant than many would expect -- whether you want a dry or wet activity you will find something to do on campus. Bryn Mawr and Haverford students come more often to Swat than I would say Swat students go to their campuses. When you get bored you can always hop into Philly.

    So honors at Swat isn't a "college" but a seminar based track that encourages more in-depth focus of a major (and a required honors minor), and ends with an external examiner coming in at the end of your senior year to ..examine you based on what you have studied. Examiners use seminar papers that you have written to perform the interview. There's also a written examination as well. So it's not that smart kids take honors and stupid kids do a non-honors major (called a course major), it's really just a matter of how you want to study what interests you (and if you want to be worrying about those final examinations the spring of your senior year). Non-honors majors can take honors seminars. The number of seminars you have to take for your major/minor depends on the department.

    Stats are vague and depend on what kind of candidate you are. The stats for admitted applicants are high, and a strong case for why you belong at swarthmore (and why swarthmore needs you!) is also an important factor. The stats for admitted applicants are posted online but in a vague sense, the top of your class (below top 10% is going to be an issue), the most challenging courseload, strong testing scores (a total shot in the dark here... at least a 34 on the ACT, above 2200 on the SAT), passionate about extracurriculars. These numbers all shift depending on what else you bring to the table (legacy? urm? athlete? etc.), the less hooks you have the more you're going to need a 2400.

    Swat's an awesome place if you love learning. It sounds clich
  • rover2792rover2792 Registered User Posts: 31 Junior Member
    Adding on to liminal, and specifically, to address your first question, Swarthmore is an awesome place to study science. Of the small liberal arts schools I looked at on my college search, its science departments were the most impressive. And so far, as a freshman, they have lived up to my expectations. Speaking specifically as a potential biology major, having taken my first introductory bio course, I can say the department focuses less on rote memory of biological processes and specific biological molecules involved and more on applying knowledge of the processes to more global implications. For example, while it is not insignificant to show knowledge of each step in photosynthesis and the exact products and ATP input/output at each stage, the bio department is more interested in your being able to explain how products from the light reactions can regulate the dark reactions and what would happen should a gene mutation disrupt a certain protein integral in photosynthesis.

    The lab work is connected directly to the lectures (I'm certain all around, but I speak specifically for Intro. Bio now). In the lab, emphasis lies on perfecting lab techniques and exposing students to a wide range of biotechnologies, from enzyme assays and spectrophotometers, to electrophysiology equipment that measures nerve impulses. The lab is used to further contextualize material from lecture.

    Swat also teaches you how to write for the academic/scientific community. Seriously, it's a crash course for most, but one that will pay off. Lab write-ups emphasize proper formatting, phrasing, and content. The department is a stickler for incorporating a wide amount of sources (internet, scientific journals, lab manual, textbooks) in the lab reports in discussing the significance of the experiment and justifying the materials and methods used.

    Support systems within all the science departments are superb. All introductory science courses have student science associates, who have already taken the course, attend lectures and run study group sessions at least once a week, and more frequently for certain courses. Each lab section has a lab instructor, a staff member separate from the course lecturer, whose sole job is to help you through carrying out experiments and is available to meet with you when writing lab reports. For introductory courses, labs also have writing associates, students whose job it is to meet with students once for each major lab report to offer suggestions for revision. Course lecturers also post office hours and if not in their offices, can frequently be found in their labs to answer lecture or lab questions.

    Student research is also highly encouraged by the departments and sought after by Swatties. Each year, the Sigma Xi poster session displays dozens of posters of student research, mostly occurring on campus, in professors' labs. Whether you like the greenhouse, the observatory, or massive chalkboards to work out your proofs, the faculty are there to get you involved as soon as you have a semester or two of relevant coursework under your belt.

    I did take a calculus course this semester, but don't really feel experienced enough with the math department yet to comment about the program. Although, I can say the professor was very accessible and helpful and even gave us a take-home final exam during which we were allowed to discuss concepts and problems with classmates (albeit without notetaking, class notes, or any other aids): a testament to Swat's dedication to the honor code and the pursuit of knowledge through collaboration with peers.

    Hope this, too, was helpful!
  • allgood2011allgood2011 Registered User Posts: 96 Junior Member
    Isaac, this is the same block of questions you copied and pasted on the Haverford board. Maybe do some basic research first, then come here and people will be happy to spend time answering your deeper questions, but you're kind of just fishing here for info you can get on their website or any guidebook. It's a lot o work for people to give long, extended answers, so maybe put in a little research time first (do your part), and then ask for help from others?

    Their website is fantastic, check it out. You'll find out all you want to know and more, AND you can come to your own conclusions about some things, too.

    Just saying.
  • momof3sonsmomof3sons Registered User Posts: 5,116 Senior Member
    ...and posted on Reed, Hamilton, Williams and Wesleyan boards. :rolleyes:
    Just do some individual school research and ask school specific questions and I'm sure that people on the individual boards can be really helpful at that point.
  • interesteddadinteresteddad Registered User Posts: 24,177 Senior Member
    4. What are good stats to have to have a good chance at getting in?

    These would be "good" stats to have:

    #1 rank in a top high school
    2400 SATs
    800 SAT II
    URM
    Legacy
    Varsity soccer recruit
    An interesting extracurricular intererst
  • vonlostvonlost Super Moderator Posts: 24,110 Super Moderator
    Hey, it was only six schools where he posted, perhaps those remaining after initial research, and the questions seem reasonable and thoughtful. :)

    Isaac, question 4 can often be answered by googling for a school's Common Data Set and checking sections C9 to C12.
  • dadx3dadx3 Registered User Posts: 1,559 Senior Member
    In my experience 2100+ and top 5% of high school class make admissions possible. 2400 and valedictorian do not guarantee admissions. Being an athlete that a coach wants helps, but does not guarantee admissions. Legacy may help a tiny bit, but it is hard to say if it is anything more than a tip factor. Like the other very top schools, Swarthmore is not a likely for anyone.
  • A.E.A.E. Registered User Posts: 398 Member
    IsaacM wrote:
    1. Is this a good school for sciences and math?

    My personal experience was that the math department was not great, but the science departments were good. If you really want to get the best possible math and science undergraduate experience, there are better choices. MIT, Harvey Mudd, and Caltech come to mind.
    2. What is the campus/surrounding town like? Social life related things?

    The campus is well-manacured, to be sure. Some of the buildings are certainly showing their age, but they're all kept up fairly well. It's a very pleasant place to be during the spring and autumn months. The surrounding town is terrible. 501 College Ave has a 68 walk score, which is not good for a place that heavily restricts automobile use. You will note that both Amherst and Williams have far superior walkscores. The mediocrity of the surrounding communities is one of the biggest drawbacks of Swarthmore IMO.
    3. How hard is it to get into the honors college and what is that like?

    As long as you can maintain a decent GPA, you can get into the honors program. Ultimately, it's not that much different than the standard program. You end up taking most of the same classes as people who are not in the honors program.
    4. What are good stats to have to have a good chance at getting in?

    This has already been covered in this thread. I don't have anything to add.

    5. Any cool things to know about the school?
  • interesteddadinteresteddad Registered User Posts: 24,177 Senior Member
    I believe that the accessiblity of civilization and all the stuff that come with civilization (concerts, pro sports, restaurants, museums, theaters, etc.) to students without cars is the single biggest advantage that Swarthmore has over Williams. A Swarthmore student can be in a Target store and a mall in 10 minutes (walking), downtown Philly in 30 minutes (train), and New York City in 2.5 hours (train and/or bus). In fact, I think the easy access to major cites, without a car, is one of Swarthmore's unique attributes in the universe of top liberal arts colleges. There are few that offer Swartmore's access (and two of them are nearby (Bryn Mawr and Haverford), although neither of those have a train station right in the middle of campus.

    I would agree that a student who is hesitant to travel more than a quarter mile from campus probably will be limited in their options and would probably be happier at a college in a different location.
  • A.E.A.E. Registered User Posts: 398 Member
    What Swattie has the time (or budget) to go to Eagles, Sixers, etc. games? Give me a break. The OP asked about the surrounding town of Swarthmore. I answered that. The surrounding community is not good. The communities immediately adjacent to the surrounding town are also terrible, and are not walkable at all. It is not a pedestrian-friendly area, and Swarthmore heavily restricts car use by students. What's worse is that the things you actually can walk to include Quiznos, and Quiznos is terrible. And that's about a mile away. Hardly worth the walk.

    Maybe for students with some extra time and money, the prospect of a train ride to Philly (which departs but once an hour on weekends) to have a meal at Morimoto or go to an Eagles game or while away an afternoon at a museum is great, but it has nothing to do with the surrounding town. Just be sure not to stay out too late, lest you miss the last train back.

    Basically, you should just get out of here with your irrelevant propaganda. You didn't spend four years at Swarthmore, so you just don't have any clue what it's like to actually live there. Minus the beautifully-manicutred campus, it's pretty bad. Maybe it's just me, though. I have a preference for being able to walk to things, to not have to drive or use public transportation (especially when I'm so heavily discouraged from using a car). It's also far greener to walk around than to rely on any other form of transportation. Maybe I (and the creators/users of sites like walkscore) are crazy for having this preference?

    You like to bag on Williams, and I'm sure it's completely justified, because I'm sure it's just as overrated as Swarthmore, but for things that are actually relevant to young people, it has a lot of stuff within walking distance and a much higher general walk score. The nearest movie theater, for instance, is about 0.2 miles. The nearest theater to Swarthmore? 2.2 miles.
  • A.E.A.E. Registered User Posts: 398 Member
    OP, I seem to have missed this one:
    5. Any cool things to know about the school?

    Yes, but that's always going to be subjective. As I've said at this forum before, the best thing I got out of Swarthmore is access to a good peer group. But, this is not unique to Swarthmore. In my opinion, it is the chief advantage of any elite college/university.
  • murmillomurmillo Registered User Posts: 86 Junior Member
    I don't think it's much of an exaggeration to say that there's NOTHING in the surrounding town for college students. There's a place to get a haircut, a store that sells usually overpriced food, and a coffee place that isn't bad, but that's it. If you walk out 15 minutes, there are more things to do, but it's not really a place where people hang out. It's a major road that has places like Target, Borders, Starbucks, and Panera. It's not a neat place where college kids hang out. It's more for families with cars who are buying things at Toys 'R Us and other major chain retailers.

    It is nice that Philadelphia is accessible, but I don't really go there very much. I'll probably try to get out more this semester, though. But Philadelphia isn't the surrounding area, and the best time to spend in Philadelphia is during the weekend, not the weekday. So during the weekdays and on most weekends, I'm basically stuck on campus, which is pretty lame, unless some special event is going on on campus.

    Then again, I'm from a major city, and a lot of my friends who go here are from rural/suburban areas, so I don't think they mind as much.

    I also don't know anyone at Swat who would go to some super-expensive fancy restaurant in Media or to an Eagles game. If anyone did go, it's probably a rare occurrence, and I wouldn't use that to describe how most Swatties view the surrounding area. I mean, students just don't do that. They mostly stay on campus, go to class, eat crappy dining hall food, study in the same library every day, do extracurriculars, etc. on a daily basis. On the weekends they party on campus and do more work, and attend some other events if there are any. On the whole, there's just not that much to do outside of campus (and there often aren't many special events to go to that are on campus, either). If students do go out, it's a once-in-a-while happening.

    Know this before you decide to go to Swarthmore! If you're a prospective student reading this, I encourage you to visit the surrounding area (the Ville) and the major road a few minutes away by car from the campus (the Pike). You should get a good look at the surrounding area (as well as the campus, of course), and decide whether you're OK with it, because if you choose to go here, it's where you'll be for four years.
  • interesteddadinteresteddad Registered User Posts: 24,177 Senior Member
    The nearest movie theater, for instance, is about 0.2 miles. The nearest theater to Swarthmore? 2.2 miles.

    Baaa waaa haaa haaaa. Oh, you mean the movie theater on Spring Street? Baaa waaa haaaa haaaa. The nearest real cinema, you know, one that would show first run movies, is 6 miles away in beautiful downtown North Adams, Massachusetts. Do you want to talk about how nice North Adams is? Baaa waaa haaa haaa.

    BTW, for those who are "above" using public transportation, the College runs weekend shuttle vans to downtown Philly, to the Cinema 10 at the Mall, and to restaurant row in Media.

    Honestly, it's laughable to even compare Swarthmore's location to Williamstown. You can go to the airport and fly to Boston, DC, Atlanta, Miami, or Chicago from Swarthmore, quicker than you can drive to the nearest city from Williamstown (if you have a car). If you don't have a car, forget it. Check the bus schedules from Williamstown to Boston sometime. It's like six hours. Basically, unless Daddy gives little Biffy or Buffy a car, you better learn to love Spring Street because that's all there is. Amherst is better because at least you can take the bus over to Northhampton.
  • interesteddadinteresteddad Registered User Posts: 24,177 Senior Member
    I also don't know anyone at Swat who would go to some super-expensive fancy restaurant in Media or to an Eagles game. If anyone did go, it's probably a rare occurrence, and I wouldn't use that to describe how most Swatties view the surrounding area.

    Really? The Swatties I know often went to the Iron Hill brew pub or the Indian or the Thai restaurants in Media. The Indian joint even advertises in The Phoenix. It's fantastic. There are at least a dozen really good restaurants on restaurant row in Media and that's if you don't like the dozen or so chain type restaurants up on the Baltimore Pike -- like Bertuccis Brick Oven Pizza or Panera Bread or Baja Fresh.

    Media Restaurants

    Restaurant row in Media is 2.6 miles from the Swarthmore campus, accessible by college shuttle van or by train (two stops from Swarthmore). We aren't exactly talking about out in the boondocks, despite our two resident grousers.
  • murmillomurmillo Registered User Posts: 86 Junior Member
    Well, I don't drink, so I don't go to the pub. And yes, there's are restaurants (not what I would call "cheap" restaurants) in Media, but I wouldn't say that the average Swattie goes there "often" or even occasionally. It's not in the boondocks, but it's a place where you kind of have to plan to go to. People don't go there on a whim, as it were. It's not a nice hanging out area. It's sort of like, after classes are over for the day, you're not going to ask friends, so, where do you want to grab a bite? If you do, the answer's going to be either the dining hall, the snack bar, getting a bag lunch on-the-go, or at the science center coffee bar. You're not going to go off campus to relax and walk around, then head back to campus to get your work done.

    Then again, Swat is fine relative to a lot of liberal arts colleges that are in really provincial places. But if a "college town" is important to you, then you should think twice before choosing Swarthmore (or any other small college in a small town without a place where students hang out).
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