Ask A Swattie Anything

Hey! I’m a freshman at Swat who just survived midterm week (barely). Now that fall break’s here, thought I’d try answer a few of everyone’s questions about Swat! I used this site a lot last year, and I thought it would be nice to give back to the community.

Happy asking!

@Kelvin82 I remember you from your journey last year! Hope you’re enjoying Swat!

@GnocchiB I remember you too! Thanks for following me on that journey. Swat has been awesome so far, both academically and socially.

So how is that freshman pass/fail thing working out for you? And how is the workload? Do you have enough slack to take breaks and go on walks in the woods?

My kid is doing a midweek overnight in a couple of weeks. Looking forward to hearing about the campus in autumn.

@ninakatarina Having the assurance of pass/fail there has been incredibly helpful. It helped me adjust to the higher expectations in terms of writing papers and doing problem sets. Another thing I love is the collaborative atmosphere. There are so many help sessions available to take advantage of, and being able to talk to upperclassmen who went through the same material has proved to be an invaluable resource.

The workload is manageable, I think. I had to learn to stay on top of things, and not procrastinate haha. I’ve had time to take breaks and let off steam. When there is a spare moment, I like to walk around the rose garden and the Wister Center. There’s a medley of clubs and events happening on campus, so it’s impossible to go to every one of them, no matter how interesting they all sound. I will say that one of the highlights was being able to have a discussion with Renee Elise Goldsberry and then go to her concert at the Lang Concert Hall.

I’m glad! If he would like to meet up, I’m happy to accommodate. Swat in autumn is gorgeous.

Hi. In your experience, thus far, is grade deflation a real thing at Swarthmore? Do other students talk about this? Academic support there sounds great but if a student needs to maintain a 3.6 GPA for grad school consideration is that possible with a lot of hard work?

^Well, if freshman year is pass/fail, that is not an issue for the OP.

@Kevin82 : What’s the religion scene like at Swarthmore? Are there many evangelical Christians there?

Are the fall colors going to last another two weeks? Kiddo is going on the overnight on the last week on October. I’m hoping to see foliage, Leaves have just barely started to turn where we live. Is it full blown colors yet?

@ninakatarina - There is very little color out in this area. I think the Halloween week is likely to be really nice.

@Muad_dib - as the parent of a recent grad, I don’t think there is a lot of religion on campus…period. The school is Quaker, but exhibits less Quaker tradition than in the past (something older alums complained about 3 years ago at an event we attended). First collection / last collection, weekly meeting on campus, and a few other hints of Quakerism can be found if you’re looking. I’m sure larger religious groups are represented on campus, but the school never felt religious the way a Catholic School can feel occasionally (with religious leadership for example).

Just a minor quibble, the school was founded by Quakers but no longer has any official connection. When I went there the vestiges (“traditions”) remaining were more or less what you listed, so I don’t feel that’s changed so much in 35 years. There was then (and I believe still now) a lot of emphasis on consensus and “individual light” which derives from the Quaker faith. Also a strong focus on egalitarianism (such that all activities are included in the student fee).

Thank you for doing this OP!
Have you decided your major? Does Swathmore feel small? How’s the food scene on campus?

We were hoping that being Quakers would help my son in admissions, but it would probably help more if we actually went to Meeting more than 3 times a year.

They may have officially moved away from the Society of Friends, but a lot of the mission and philosophy feels Friendly to me. Then again when you’re part of a minority religion you get happy about any public manifestation of your faith.

@ninakatarina the leaves have started to change color, but I think will really start turning in about two weeks. I’m looking at the trees outside of my dorm window, and they’ve started showing some red leaves, but overall the trees are still green.

@basil2000 great question! I will say that grad schools know the reputation of Swarthmore. One thing I love about Swarthmore is that due to freshman pass/fail first semester, we are encouraged to branch out and explore things we haven’t explored before. I love how the emphasis isn’t necessarily on the grade, but on learning the content to maximize one’s own understanding and enjoyment of the subject. Personally, I find it to be a breath of fresh air after high school.

I think you may find this interesting:

This link shows the median GPA of Swarthmore students. You can compare the median GPA of Swarthmore with other schools if you scroll to the bottom of this link:

@Muad_dib I am actually involved with the Christian fellowship on campus. If you have any questions about that aspect, please ask. People are tolerant of others’ religious beliefs. In terms of an overall religious atmosphere on campus, I wholeheartedly agree with @donnaleighg and @EyeVeee

@makemesmart no problem! I have not decided my major (yet). I do not have to officially decide until my sophomore spring, which is when all sophomores have to meet with their faculty adviser and write a Sophomore Plan of Study. I am leaning towards chemistry or computer science.

I will say that the faculty have been phenomenal. A current first year Swattie wrote an amazing article in the Phoenix about the accessibility of Swarthmore professors. I love that there is a camaraderie between professors and students.

I think different people will have different feelings about the size of Swarthmore. I like the small size, because it makes everything so convenient and easily accessible.

I think the food is decent. I like that there is a variety of options to choose from, whether it be Kolhberg, Science Center, Essie Mae’s, or Sharples. One can satisfy their late night snack cravings through Essie Mae’s or the Crum Café. When I’m tired of the on campus choices and would like a little variety, I usually go into the Ville. There is an amazing Chinese/Japanese/Thai restaurant that serves really good sushi.

Thank you Kelvin82 for your thoughtful response and for the link. Good to see Swat GPA similar to other schools.

I’m not completely clear on how the pass/fail thing works, specifically for those who are considering a premed route and will need to show grades in the intro bio and chem courses. Do they simply skip taking the prereqs that first semester?

Maybe since many pre-reqs are year long classes they might give the second semester grade for the entire thing? I like that Swat de-emphasizes grades for the first year, adjustment can be hard.

Not sure where but I believe I read that there actually is a Swarthmore letter grade recorded somewhere and it can be accessed and computed into GPA for post graduate education.

I heard financial aid info requests are a sign that you’re admitted. Was this the case for you?