High Depression Rate at Swarthmore?

<p>I'm a junior in high school, and recently I brought up my interest in Swarthmore with my guidance counselor. He told me that Swarthmore had a student body with "one of the highest depression rates in the country" and then made some comment about how this was at least partly a result of academic rigor, and that I should consider other places instead. The reason Swarthmore has been my top choice so far is because it seemed liked a place where academics are very challenging but the student body still places an emphasis on balance and well-roundedness. Can any current Swarthmore students or parents of students confirm or deny my counselor's opinion? This really concerned me because I have dealt with depression in the past and I'm scared of ending up at a school where many people are depressed/there is a depressing environment. All that aside, of what I've read/heard about Swarthmore, it still sounds completely amazing! I really hope what my counselor said isn't true.</p>

<p>It's true that there are depressed students at Swarthmore, students who are stressed to the point of being unhealthy and students who struggle with other mental illnesses. Certainly not everyone, but some people, yes. Whether it's significantly more than at other colleges, I don't know. </p>

<p>Swarthmore can be a stressful place, but there is also a culture of support and acceptance to be found. CAPS, the Counseling and Psych Services center, offers free therapy to students and has a fairly good reputation for being welcoming, understanding and helpful. In addition, there is a student group called Speak2Swatties that runs peer counseling and mental health awareness. </p>

<p>Some Swatties do work themselves hard and live with a lot of stress, and the culture of the school definitely allows for that to happen (and some people thrive on it). You need to do active work and critical thinking in your first months at Swat to figure out the level of commitment and stress that is healthy and sustainable for you--and if you're willing to do that and not get swept up in what "everyone else" (ie, some of your peers) is doing, you'll find plenty of like-minded people. </p>

<p>So I would say that overall, Swarthmore is stressful, but that if you're committed to academic rigor and working to maintain a healthy balance in your life, and you're not a perfectionist, you <em>can</em> have a great four years here.</p>

<p>There is a joke / t-shirt slogan at Swarthmore that says something like: "Academics, friends, sleep: pick two." Though other schools may have similar sayings, it is particularly apt for Swarthmore; many students can only fully realize two of the three choices, and for many the choice that gets left behind is sleep. Whether Swarthmore has more depression than other academically challenging colleges I have no idea. I do know that it is possible to have a great time at Swarthmore, be successful academically, have friends and a social life. But from my experience and that of my 2 kids who have been Swatties, I would venture to guess that few Swarthmore students get 8+ hours of sleep each and every night of the semester.</p>

<p>I am unaware of any data to suggest higher depression rates at Swarthmore- by reputation, some of the unhappiest schools (and also high pressure/rigorous) include U Chicago, MIT and Cornell. Some of the happiest are Carlton and Pomona. Swatties are generally a fairly happy bunch.</p>

<p>willstardust,
Your guidance counselor probably doesn't know a lot about Swarthmore. I'd love to know where such statistics are published. Are there depressed students at Swat? Undoubtedly. Are there more depressed students at Swat than at any other powerhouse academic school? I'll bet not.</p>

<p>I speak from the experience of a parent having a Swat grad and a current freshman. Is my freshman stressed out? Absolutely! Depressed? Absolutely not! Would you like to know why he is stressed out? He's taking two lab sciences amongst his four courses, is on an athletic team, sings in an a cappella group, plays in the orchestra and has two small campus jobs. He doesn't have enough time to sleep and is finally coming to the realization that he's got to cut back on something. He loves Swat. :)</p>

<p>I know a smart kid who went to Swarthmore. He was very social in hs and wanted to switch out of Swarthmore within a few months to a public university. He didn't end up switching, but speaks resentfully about his school. That's all the information I can give, hope it helps^</p>

<p>^ i hardly believe the above comment will be helpful. perhaps in the context of providing obscure, anecdotal evidence -- similar to the unfounded claims made by the OP's counselor that cause the OP to post here in the first place.</p>

<p>i know a kid who goes to brown who's a total jerk and very social. not that smart. he got to brown and hates it and wanted to switch out, but didn't. but still talks about how much he hates brown.</p>

<p>....was that helpful?
nope.</p>

<p>My daughter is a soph at Swat. Yes, the work load is tough (Huffington Post "Most Grueling School in America"). There is no grade inflation (hence the book store t-shirt: "anywhere else it would have been an "A"). However, the students seem to reach out to help and support one another.</p>

<p>I'm sure there are (as in every school) some depressed students. I believe your ill advised advisor confused depressed and stressed. My personal experience, I have seen my daughter stressed but like other posters pointed out - not always.</p>

<p>Swatties seem to love the challenge of the rigor, and (at least my daughter) tend to participate in so many activities they to get overwhelmed occassionally.</p>

<p>They have lots of fun as well with campus wide traditional "silly" events.
Check the student activities web page to see.</p>

<p>I have met many Swatties and they just exude passion and a gusto for life. They are a very friendly bunch and once you're a Swattie you're a Swattie for life.</p>

<p>My daughter couldn't be happier! She has tons of wonderful friends, is constantly doing something awesome and is proud to be a Swattie.</p>

<p>Good luck!</p>

<p>As of 2011, college depression rates are higher than they've ever been in the past. This is a general trend across American campuses on the whole. I don't know of any good source that compares depression rates among colleges, and I doubt such a thing exists.</p>

<p>I am interested in your son re: his athletic team, juggling academics while trying to have a social life. D is headed there next weekend for an offical to play a varsity sport. Does the school help the athletes balance the academic gruel in any way?</p>

<p>maidenMom, in addition to a junior son who has casually participated in momof3's son's sport (though not in the same committed - or talented! - way), I have a recent grad who played one year of two varsity sports, followed by three years of just one. They both take/took part in numerous other activities, including part-time jobs, volunteer commitments, clubs, and plenty more. And both had/have active, happy social lives - and great friends. Certainly, they both had/have periods of stress, but one was a very happy Swattie and one still is. I'd echo much of what other parents have said, above, particularly the "stressed? yes; depressed? absolutely not" notion, and the idea that
[quote]
Swatties are generally a fairly happy bunch.

[/quote]
</p>

<p>More specifically re the athletics/academics balance, my sense was that both of my daughter's coaches were keenly attuned to the academic demands of their team members. They knew the kids and were always available to them. And I know that the college handbook spells out the process, very clearly, for coping with academic v athletic conflicts. </p>

<p>The school helps all students balance their academic demands, really. Support and help are available in the dorms, from trained peers, and from most if not all professors. Ultimately, I think for both of my kids, the sport itself helped them balance everything else. The time-management skills apply all the way around, and the field (or fieldhouse) is a great place to work off other stresses.</p>

<p>Harriet: this makes me happy to hear - we visited campus without a tour over the summer and D really loved it - IT IS BEAUTIFUL and super great for her desired major, Biology, and close to a vibrant city....... very happy we are getting closer to the big decision!! Narrowed down to four schools and only one after this to see for the first time on an official. LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL - yippie.</p>

<p>I wonder if OP is finding much encouragement in this thread. But what is ironic are the parents posting denials. Certainly understandable that we might have some fandads/fanmoms here. The counselor, one assumes, knows the OP better than anyone else here does. Does the counselor have inside info about Swat? Can anyone on this board say definitively no? I have two former students who are at Swat. One is now a junior and one is a senior. The senior had some academic struggles but is very happy and well adjusted. The junior is an academic standout but not altogether happy. Both agree it is hard to keep up with the stress and workload. I know of many more at my school who chose not to go to Swat because of these concerns. The Huff Po article was based on something, it seems.</p>

<p>Yes. I've seen articles and reports from the counseling/psych services at Swarthmore. Their counseling rates are pretty much in line with their peers around the country. Nothing terribly unusual. They have an outstanding counseling and health services program with more access than most of their peer schools. The amount of counseling services available at top schools now is a major change from a generation ago.</p>

<p>There is certainly no statistical evidence whatsover to suggest that Swarthmore has one of the "highest" depression rates. </p>

<p>Make no mistake. Swarthmore is a championship caliber golf course played from the back tees. If a student does not expect to be challenged academically, they really should not go to Swarthmore. There are easiser places to coast. It's a hard school. The expectations are for a very rigorous level of academics. You can graduate with your B+ GPA at Swarthmore, but you'll have to have to be engaged, work hard, participate in small class discussions, and do decent work. A lot of college students aren't looking for that and Swarthmore is probably not for them.</p>

<p>Having said that, I do not believe there is another college in the United States that matches Swarthmore's academic and student support systems -- the peer writing center, the science study groups, the 24/7 health center, the student academic mentors, and so forth.</p>

<p>Most kids at Swat are going to be driven, high-achieving, self-critical types. Having said that, if that is your nature, it's a great place to be. My Type A Swattie works incredibly hard--he has to and so do all his friends--but does a lot of fun things too. And he says it's the first place he's lived where he feels like a regular/average person. So in a way, he feels more relaxed and social than he did when he was at the top of the pile in HS, because there are so many people who relate to him and get his jokes and his energy level.</p>

<p>My daughter was just home for her first fall break. Like many parents, I had a lot of anxiety over the beginning of her college life. Mainly, I was very concerned about the academic stress level she would have to endure and whether or not she will fit in socially. I am very pleased to say that I shall not have any such concerns going forward. </p>

<p>My daughter is a very conscientious student. It is of her nature to not do less than perfect in anything she does. And she works hard at it. Therefore, my foremost concern sending her to Swarthmore was that she may bring on too much stress to herself due to the acedemic rigor. As she reports, she does spend fair amount of time studying, but the environment is so supportive, she does not feel stressed at all. The fellow students are very helpful and the professors are available literally at all times. From what she can see at this point, students are intellectually intense but not academically stressed, herself included.</p>

<p>On the social front, I was a little bit concerned becuase my daughter is by no means a nerdy, quirky person nor a loud social activist. She is just an average fun loving person with a lot of intellectual curiousity, a lot of compassion and very low-key. I worried if she would feel left out. Well, she had no trouble at all finding a wonderful group of friends in this very short amount of time. She also reports that the RAs do an extraordinary job arranging study breaks and activities to make it very easy for them to meet new people and make new friends. She already has friends from all years.</p>

<p>This is reassuring to me, as I am a nerd but not an activist.</p>

<p>One of my kids is an athlete at Swat and the balance is perfect. The school is a ton of work but now that she is a junior and has numerous job offers she is so grateful for the Swarthmore education. The weather has been a lot to handle but as she put it, "There is no place to transfer to. Any other school would be a step down academically"
The benefit of the team is that they are her family. The older kids give good class selection advice and you are automatically surrounded by people with great time management skills. Most of the athletes at Swat know each other. My child is not a political activist at all.</p>

<p>rowkid- ^^^a great post and very true. Time management is very crucial at Swat. I'm sure my sophomore will come home and sleep for Thanksgiving, probably in between doing homework. ;) He's gone from a person who "needed his sleep" in high school to managing on six hours a night. In order to keep up with his athletic team and other extra-curricular commitments as well as keep up with his schoolwork to the high standard he's set for himself, something had to give, and that was sleep! He's also not an activist.</p>

<p>A Friend is happy at Swat.</p>