Swat '07 Will Try to Answer Q's

I have avoided getting involved in the "Nancy Reagan" thread and will try to take some of the better ideas from the principals involved. My Swat student is home on break and I told him a bit about the ongoing "discussion" on that thread. He has agreed to try to answer questions while he is home and I hope that since he will return to school in less than two weeks as a second semester honors program junior will give him some "standing" in nancy reagan's eyes to answer some prospective students questions. He will be answering under my screen name, so he will identify himself as my son when answering. The only thing he requests is that you not ask him "chances" questions!</p>

<p>A big thanks to you and your son for doing this. It means a lot!</p>

<p>1) Are there sufficient campus resources in comparion to a larger uni? eg library, labs, tech equipment, arts facilities</p>

<p>2) With a small population size, do you ever feel restricted in terms of peer diversity and meeting new people?</p>

<p>3) How is Swarthmore's orchestra/instrumental program?</p>

<p>4) Can you describe Swarthmore's overseas opportunities?</p>

<p>5) How is an undergrad education at Swarthmore different from a uni in terms of preparation for a professional job or graduate education? </p>

<p>6) What do people at Swarthmore do for fun?</p>

<p>Thanks for your time. Swarthmore seems like a fantastic school to me and I would love to have a more competent understanding of what it's like there. I hope you are enjoying things so far.</p>


<p>I visited Swarthmore, and liked it. However, I thought that the town itself was very small. Are there any businesses and restaurants besides the ones found at the foot of campus, and does the size of the town ever feel limiting?</p>


Are there any businesses and restaurants besides the ones found at the foot of campus.


<p>Yes. About a half mile due north of campus is a major commercial retail strip along the Baltimore Pike with a shopping mall, Starbucks, Target, Best Buy, and a bunch of restaurants. It's easy walking distance, but there is also a city bus route that runs through campus and past all these stores.</p>

<p>Although this is one of the questions asked of a current Swat student, I think an alum who has gone on to grad school might be better placed to answer this particular one.</p>

<p>I think there are 2 important differences between a Swat undergraduate education and that obtained at a large university. </p>

<p>First of all, all classes are taught by professors, even the into classes. So no 300+ person classes led by TAs who don't speak comprehensible English. And the 8-1 student/faculty ratio means that you will have many classes with very few students, which puts a large emphasis on discussion and ability to verbally defend one's views (and no place to hide in anonymity in the back row).</p>

<p>The second difference is in the academic intensity of Swat. This provides excellent preparation for graduate school. I know I felt my first year in grad school ("Harvard of the West") was pretty easy compared with Honors at Swat, and I got far higher grades in grad school than I did at Swat. I have heard similar comments from more recent Swat graduates.</p>

<p>In terms of preparation for professional employment that does not involve graduate school, well Swarthmore is a liberal arts college. While it does have engineering in addition to the liberal arts, my sense is that the engineers from Swat do not have the depth of specialized training that engineers from large universities get. But they are literate, understand the humanities, and can communicate extremely well. Swat is not the place to go if you are thinking of being an accountant or architect with your BA -- they don't have those or other pre-professional degrees like an undergraduate degree in business.</p>

<p>Thanks so much for volunteering to answer questions in a new thread. I hope others catch on to this thread's existence.</p>

<p>do you know anything about the music department? specifically the instrumental music program? I've searched on the website, so I know about the performance opportunities etc, so I'm more hoping for information on lessons and the general popularity of the music community within the school as a whole.</p>

<p>I talked to Bernadette Dunning from the music department when I was there for Discovery Weekend. If you're good enough, there is a program called Music 48 where you can take subsidized private lessons from a teacher outside of Swarthmore. One student even travelled to Juilliard once a month for lessons. She'd probably be able to answer all of your questions. For me, Williams was ahead of Swarthmore because of the strength of W's music program, but after hearing about Music 48, Swarthmore is more appealing to me.</p>

<p>Swarthmore's also appealing to me because the director of the wind ensemble and chamber groups is a horn player like me. Ensures some amazing horn parts. hehe</p>

<p>When I vivsted and talked with the head of the music department and also the coordinator for all of the music department and both said that the oppurtunities are really great. As you might know, if you're good enough and try out, Swat will pay for private lessons, and you can even take lessons from professors at Curtis in Philly, again if you are qualified. The facilities are also very nice, and the music building looked to be very new and state-of-the-art. Heh, I see that someone just answered your question before me, I'll leave it at that.</p>


<p>I am the current Swarthmore student, and I will be doing my best to answer questions on the board here.</p>


<p>1) I think that in general, the campus resources compare reasonably well to those at a larger university. I'm not much of a lab sciences person, but our science building is brand new, and the labs are gorgeous; however, as I have not taken anything aside from intro-level chem and physics, I can't tell you firsthand how the facilities are for upper level work. Our theater and concert hall are both state-of-the-art facilities. Bear in mind that at a large university, the existence of facilities does not necessarily mean that undergrads actually get to use them.</p>

<p>The library is probably the biggest exception. Frankly, considering the size of the endowment (quite large), the school does not put enough money into the libraries, particularly the main library, McCabe. The school's collection (over 1 million volumes) is fairly large for our size, but only a fraction of the size of the libraries at the Ivies, where collections might be on the order of 10 million volumes. However, Haverford and Bryn Mawr's library systems are linked to ours, and we get next day delivery on books from both other campuses (in certain areas, their collections are more extensive than ours, and vice versa). Furthermore, we are part of PALCI (Pennsylvania Academic Library Consortium Inc.), which allows you to search the catalogs and request materials from many other schools in the state, including Penn and Pitt, and materials tend to arrive in under a week. For truly in depth research, there's also the Interlibrary Loan office, and they can get you just about anything with a few weeks' notice. Lastly, you can take a twenty minute train ride to get into Penn and you can go into the libraries there with a Swarthmore ID (although you can't check materials out; you have to go through PALCI to do that).</p>

<p>2) Absolutely not. I think people sometimes get caught up in a numbers comparison game, and so 1450 students seems incredibly small. However, IMHO, that's a lot of people, and I have never felt that I already know everybody I'd like to meet. I've been to the school for two and a half years now, and I have not felt restricted at any time. Most of my friends feel the same way I do, although I also have some friends who think the school is too small. If I had to guess, I would say I could put face to name for about half of my class, and significantly less on the other class years. For me, that isn't too small, but you really have to decide this one for yourself.</p>

<p>3) The orchestra is pretty good for an undergraduate orchestra. The biggest limitation is student body size (it can't be selective enough to be really good... on the other hand, you're far more likely to get in than at a larger school), and time. If everybody in the orchestra practiced consistently outside of thursday night rehearsals, they'd probably be better, but they're not bad as it is. In terms of the instrumental program, it depends on the instrument. They have partial and full scholarships, merit-based, for instrumental lessons; this is through the Music 48 program. There are piano and vocal (and possibly violin) teachers who work on campus; for most other instruments you'll have to travel into philadelphia or elsewhere for lessons. The travel can be a drag. If you're reasonably competent on your instrument, you'll get at least a 1/3 scholarship. For more advanced students, there are 2/3 schoarships, and a limited number of Garrigues scholarships available. (The Garrigues scholarships pay for the full cost of 10 lessons plus transportation each semester). You can really take lessons from anybody; so far as I know, there are no limits to the amount that the dept. will pay for lessons. If you have a 2/3 subsidy, and your lessons cost $120 each, they'll pay $80. The Garrigues scholarships are the only ones which pay for transportation. I should mention that incoming freshmen will probably get lower subsidies in their first semester, (most first semester freshmen get 1/3 subsidy, and a few get a 2/3 subsidy; you can't get a Garrigues scholarship until at least your second semester). The dept. will most likely bump your subsidy up if you perform reasonably well at juries.</p>

<p>4) I haven't done study abroad; I've heard mostly good things about the study abroad office, but I don't really have any knowledge to answer this.</p>

<p>5) I think dadx3 covered this one pretty well. Swarthmore is a liberal arts college; it's for people who want to learn in general, more than people who are looking for job training. It gives a good background to go on to graduate work, but there are no pre-professional degrees, i.e. there are no pre-law, pre-med, business, etc. majors. However, there are pre-law and pre-med programs, so you certainly can fulfill the requirements to go on to law school or med school, but that won't be your major at Swat.</p>

<p>6) It is really hard to give a general answer to this question. It really depends on the person. Some people travel into Philly frequently for concerts/dinner/shopping/etc., some people mostly hang out on campus (there are always private and public parties on friday and saturday nights). Just about every weekend, there are special events on campus, whether it be concerts, theater productions, dance concerts, or symposiums. If there are any other current or past students hanging around, feel free to jump in and add to this.</p>

<p>I know there are a couple of other questions hanging around, and I will try to come back later tonight to answer those.</p>

<p>Wow, that was far more comprehensive than I expected! Thank you for spending time on the details. You make a very convincing argument on behalf of Swarthmore. </p>

<p>Having seen the campus only through online photos and the student made DVD they sent by mail, I figured on a visit sometime in the next few months. Do you know if prospective students are allowed to shadow a Swat student overnight?</p>

<p>I spec'd for 2 nights (thurs. morning to sat. evening) and there were other specs there doing the same. (I think all or most were athletes, however, so I'm not 100% sure)</p>


<p>Thanks for the heads up. I'll be sure to check it out.</p>

<p>Thank you for the very comprehensive answers above about Swarthmore. They will be extremely helpful for prospective students.</p>

<p>I would like to clarify something mentioned above about large lecture classes at universities. I attended a large university and have a son who currently is attending one (my other son is at Swarthmore):</p>

<p>Generally, in our experiences, the large introductory lecture classes at these 2 large universities are very often taught by professors, and meet 2-3 times a week. The discussion sections, which are smaller (15-25 students) meet 1-2 times a week and are led by graduate students. Additional lab sections tend to have about 25-30/lab, and are led by graduate students. These parameters can differ by department, as to who teaches the lectures. The professors generally teach the large lectures to maximize the number of students who can be taught by him/her.</p>

<p>I received an excellent education at a large public university, and both my sons have been happy with their choices.</p>

<p>If you look on the admissions website, there should be information there for overnight visits. I applied ED to Swarthmore, but I did an overnight before applying (and I'm not an athlete by any stretch of the imagination). I would highly recommend visiting if you are seriously considering Swat, and unless policies have changed in the past few years, official overnights are permitted Sun.-Thurs. If you're overnighting, you'll be assigned a student host. You should try to meet students and get as many opinions as possible, since it's really your only opportunity to talk to a lot of Swatties in a short period of time. You also ought to sit in on at least one, preferably two classes. Almost all the professors are good about letting specs sit in on classes (unless they're having an exam that day or something).</p>

<p>On a side note, for seniors, there is an admitted students visiting "weekend" (which happens to be during the week), which will be in April, and it's good to attend if you're deciding between several schools.</p>

<p>Once again, this is the current student replying. (The last momof3sons reply was also me).</p>

<p>At the bottom of campus is what is known as the "Ville". Highlights include the Co-op (a small supermarket that can be somewhat pricey, but is extremely convenient), Renato's (pizzeria), Cheng Hing (Chinese food), a laundromat (only necessary for students living off-campus), two dry cleaners, the post office (the college has a separate post office in Parrish, the central building on campus, where students receive mail), and a number of specialty boutiques, (florist, bookshop, music store, etc.). If you walk north on Chester Road (Route 320), you will come out to the Baltimore Pike. The Springfield Mall is a good sized mall located at the corner of 320 and the pike, and is less than a mile from campus. Other stores in easy walking distance (10-20 minutes) include Target, Bed Bath & Beyond, Genuardi's (a supermarket), Borders, and a number of restaurants (Bertucci's, Panera, Coldstone, John Harvard's, Charlie Brown's, and some local eateries). Target and Bed Bath and Beyond are furthest from school. They are probably a mile and a quarter from the middle of campus. However, on Sunday and Tuesday evenings, there is a shuttle van that runs from 7-9 if I'm not mistaken, which leaves from campus and stops at Genuardi's, Target, and Bed Bath and Beyond if you don't want to walk. I enjoy the walk, so I don't take the shuttle, but it's available.</p>

<p>In the other direction (south on 320), there are some small strip malls including a little Italian restaurant, a Chinese restaurant, Goodwill, CVS, a cheesery type market, etc. These are all a mile or a little more south of campus, fifteen to twenty minutes walking time.</p>

<p>If you have a car, there are virtually unlimited possibilities within a ten-fifteen minute drive (and King of Prussia, the second largest mall in the country, is only half an hour away).</p>

<p>Hope this helps everybody!</p>

<p>I'm curious about the realities of Swarthmore students taking courses at Penn. From everything I know thus far, the interpersonal and intellectual climate at Swarthmore sounds like an ideal match for my son. However, the breadth of course offerings available at Penn is better suited to meeting some of his more esoteric academic interests. I know Penn and Swarthmore offer the option of cross-registration, but do you think there's a realistic way to tap into the best of both worlds?</p>

<p>Hi, this would be the student again. Yes, you can cross-register for classes at Penn. I have friends who have done so, including some who have taken multiple classes at Penn. However, the train from Swarthmore to Penn takes twenty minutes or so, and only runs once an hour. Sometimes the train and class schedules match up well, and sometimes they don't. At one point, I was considering taking a class at Penn, but it happened to be a language class meeting every day, and it basically would have ruled out taking any classes at Swarthmore. (Class and transportation would have blocked out the 9:30, 10:30, and 11:30 class blocks MWF, and the 11:20 and 1:15 class blocks T/Th.)</p>

<p>My case was a little extreme because the class met every day, but for some classes Penn is certainly a real option. Swat reimburses for public transportation costs on SEPTA.</p>


<p>I found this Live Journal discussion interesting:</p>

<p><a href="http://www.livejournal.com/community/swarthmore/106250.html%5B/url%5D"&gt;http://www.livejournal.com/community/swarthmore/106250.html&lt;/a&gt;&lt;/p>

<p>It's several Swarthmore students and a Penn student exchanging varied impressions of classes at Penn.</p>