College Bulletin 2022-2023 
    May 18, 2024  
College Bulletin 2022-2023 [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

3 Admissions

Inquiries concerning admission and applications should be addressed to the Vice President and Dean of Admissions, Swarthmore College, 500 College Avenue, Swarthmore PA 19081-1390 or Office telephone: 610-328-8300 or 800-667-3110.

3.1 General Statement

In the selection of students, the College seeks those qualities of character, social responsibility, and intellectual capacity that it is primarily concerned to develop. It seeks them not in isolation but as essential elements of the whole personality of candidates for admission.

Selection is important and difficult. No simple formula will be effective. The task is to choose those who give promise of distinction in the quality of their personal lives, in service to the community, or in leadership in their chosen fields. Swarthmore College must choose its students on the basis of their academic achievement and commitment to intellectual inquiry as well as their individual future worth to society and of their collective contribution to the College.

It is the College’s policy to have the student body represent not only different parts of the United States but also many foreign countries; public, independent, and religiously affiliated schools; and various economic, social, religious, ethnic, and racial backgrounds. The College is also concerned to include in each class the sons and daughters of alumni and members of the Society of Friends.

Admission to the first-year class is normally based on the satisfactory completion of a 4-year secondary school program. Under some circumstances, students who have virtually completed the normal 4-year program in 3 years will be considered for admission, provided they meet the competition of other candidates in general maturity as well as readiness for a rigorous academic program. Home-schooled students should make every effort to complete the application with information that is appropriate to their experience. It is useful to note that Swarthmore is looking for the same information about a candidate as is required from a student with more traditional secondary schooling. Students who have already completed a college degree, or higher, are not eligible for admission to Swarthmore College.

All applicants are selected on the following evidence:

  1. Record in secondary school.
  2. Recommendations from the school principal, headmaster, or guidance counselor, and from two academic teachers.
  3. Standardized testing results for either the SAT or the ACT. SAT Subject Tests are not required for admission, but will be considered if submitted.
  4. Applicants considering a major in engineering are encouraged to take the SAT Math level 2 Subject Test.
  5. A brief statement about why the student is applying to Swarthmore.
  6. Co-curricular and extracurricular activities.

Applicants must have satisfactory standing in school and standardized tests as well as strong intellectual interests. The College is also interested in strength of character, promise of growth, initiative, seriousness of purpose, distinction in personal and extracurricular interests, and a sense of social responsibility. The College values the diversity that varied interests and backgrounds can bring to the community.

3.2 Preparation

Swarthmore does not require a set plan of secondary school courses as preparation for its program. The election of specific subjects is left to the student and school advisers. In general, preparation should include the following:

  1. Accurate and effective use of the English language in reading, writing, and speaking.
  2. Comprehension and application of the principles of mathematics.
  3. The strongest possible command of one or two foreign languages. The College encourages students to study at least one language for 4 years, if possible.
  4. Substantial coursework in history and social studies; literature, art, and music; and mathematics and the sciences. Variations of choice and emphasis are acceptable, although some work in each of the three groups is recommended.

Those planning to major in engineering should present work in chemistry, physics, and 4 years of mathematics, including algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and calculus.

3.3 Application Process

An application to the College may be submitted through either the Regular Decision or one of the Early Decision plans. Applicants follow the same procedures, submit the same supporting materials, and are evaluated by the same criteria under each plan.

The Regular Decision plan is designed for those candidates who wish to keep open several different options for their undergraduate education throughout the admissions process. Applications under this plan will be accepted at any time up to the Jan. 1 deadline, but the application should be submitted as early as possible to create a file for the candidate to which supporting material will be added.

The Early Decision plans are designed for candidates who have thoroughly and thoughtfully investigated Swarthmore and other colleges and found Swarthmore to be an unequivocal first choice. On applying to Swarthmore College, Early Decision candidates may not file an early decision application at other colleges, but they may file early action/regular applications at other colleges with the understanding that these applications will be withdrawn upon admission to Swarthmore.

Any Early Decision candidate not admitted will receive one of two determinations: a deferral of decision, which secures reconsideration for the candidate among the Regular Decision candidates, or a denial of admission, which withdraws the application from further consideration. If one of these determinations is made, the applicant is free to apply to other institutions.

Application under any plan must be accompanied by a nonrefundable application fee of $60 or fee waiver (which must be approved by the secondary school counselor). Timetables for the plans are the following:

Fall Early Decision
Application deadline Nov. 15
Notification of candidate by Dec. 15

Winter Early Decision
Application deadline Jan. 1
Notification of candidate by Feb. 15

Regular Decision
Application deadline Jan. 1
Notification of candidate by April 1
Candidate reply date May 1

Under certain circumstances, admitted students may apply in writing to defer their admission for one year or two years for students participating in mandatory military service for their home country. These requests must be received by May 1 and approved in writing by the dean of admissions, and students must confirm their plans for the year by June 1. The dean of admissions may choose to review other requests on a case-by-case basis. Students granted deferment may neither apply to nor enroll at another degree-granting college/university program.

Swarthmore College places strong emphasis on academic achievement and personal character. An offer of admission to Swarthmore College is dependent on a student maintaining his or her standard of academic achievement before enrolling at the College. An offer of admission is also dependent on a student’s continued demonstration of character and high standards for personal conduct. Lapses in either category may be grounds for rescinding an offer of admission.

For U.S. citizens, permanent residents, undocumented, or DACA-eligible students applying as first-year or transfer students, admission to Swarthmore is determined without regard to financial need. See information concerning financial aid .

3.4 Interview

An admissions interview with a representative of the College is an optional part of the first-year application process. Prospective first-year applicants should take the initiative in arranging for this interview. On-campus interviews are available to rising seniors from June through early December. Students are encouraged to complete the interview before submitting an application to the College. Those who can reach Swarthmore with no more than a half-day’s trip are urged to make an appointment to visit the College for this purpose. Other students may contact the Admissions Office in the fall of their senior year to request a meeting with an alumni representative in their own area. The deadline to request an alumni interview is in late November each year. Applicants for transfer may interview with an alumni representative. Transfer interviews are optional, may be requested in the winter, and must be completed by the transfer application deadline of April 1.

Arrangements for on-campus interview appointments for prospective first-year applicants, off-campus alumni interviews, or for transfer interviews can be made through the admissions website. 

3.5 Advanced Placement

Enrolled first-year students with special credentials may be eligible during the first semester for advanced placement (placement into courses with prerequisites) and/or credit toward graduation from Swarthmore (32 credits are required), however, credit is normally only available for high-scoring work in certain Advanced Placement (AP) examinations of the College Entrance Examination Board, certain higher-level examinations of the International Baccalaureate, or certain other foreign certifications (such as British A-Levels or the German Abitur). Sometimes placement or possibly credit might be awarded for courses taken at another college. Every effort is made to place students at the appropriate level, but no department is required to give placement or credit for special credentials. All placement or credit decisions are made on a subject-by-subject basis by the individual Swarthmore departments. Credit for examination credentials is available only for examinations taken before matriculation at Swarthmore. Credit is denied or revoked if a student chooses to take a course at Swarthmore that the Swarthmore department says essentially repeats the work covered by the credit. Departmental AP-credit policies are posted on the registrar’s website under “Policies.”

Departments may set additional requirements. For instance, matriculated students may be required to take a Swarthmore placement examination to validate their previous work.

Swarthmore normally does not grant degree credit for college work done prior to starting school at Swarthmore (including the summer before Swarthmore) but advanced placement into courses with prerequisites may be possible. Students who wish to have courses taken at another college considered for either advanced placement or credit must be prepared to provide as needed an official transcript from the institution attended as well as written work (papers, examinations); syllabi; and reading lists for the coursework to be evaluated by the department concerned. Transcripts are evaluated by the registrar; grades must be straight C or better for credit, but departments make the placement or credit decisions. Any such requests for placement or credit must be made within the first year at Swarthmore.

In some cases, students may qualify for advanced standing and may become juniors in their second year. To qualify for advanced standing, a student must do satisfactory work in the first semester, obtain 14 credits by the end of the first year, intend to complete the degree requirements in 3 years, and signify this intention when she or he applies for a major during the spring of the first year.

3.6 International Admissions

The College is deeply committed to a strong international presence on campus. The application process is the same as for U.S. citizens and permanent residents of the United States with the following exceptions:

  1. While financial aid awards are loan free, admission is not need-blind. Applicants may be asked to submit additional financial documentation. Applying for financial aid places the student in the most selective subgroup of the total application pool regardless of the parental contribution.
  2. Demonstrated proficiency in English is required of those for whom English is not their first language. This may be in the form of a standardized test for non-native speakers of English, such as TOEFL or IELTS, or superior academic achievement in a school where English is the language of instruction. Although not required, an interview on campus, via an online platform, or with a College admissions representative overseas is considered to be very helpful.
  3. Required standardized tests (SAT or ACT) are waived for those who live in countries where such testing is unavailable. In countries where testing is available, applicants are strongly advised to make test arrangements early and to have scores reported directly to Swarthmore College by the appropriate application deadline, or to self-report scores on their application.
  4. It is the applicant’s responsibility to guarantee the authenticity of all submitted credentials. This includes notarized translations of official documents and certified school transcripts signed by the appropriate school staff member.
  5. The College does not accept transfer applications from foreign nationals who require financial aid.

3.7 Applications for Transfer

The College welcomes well-qualified transfer applicants. Applicants for transfer must have had an outstanding academic record in the institution attended and must present transcripts for both college and secondary school work, including an official statement indicating that the student is leaving the institution attended in good standing. Students who have completed the equivalent of two or more semesters of university-level work must apply for transfer admission. Admission status for students who have completed less than the equivalent of two semesters of university-level work will be decided on a case-by-case basis. Results of the SAT and ACT are optional for transfer applicants.

Four semesters of study at Swarthmore College constitute the minimum requirement for a degree, two of which must be those of the senior year. Applications for transfer must be filed by April 1 of the year in which entrance is desired. Swarthmore does not have a midyear transfer application process. Need-based financial assistance is available for transfer students who are U.S. citizens, U.S. permanent residents, or undocumented or DACA-eligible students who have graduated from a U.S. high school or earned a high school equivalency diploma in the United States. Transfer applications are not accepted from foreign national students who require financial aid.

Transfer applicants are notified of decisions by mid May. Students who have already completed a bachelor’s degree, or higher, are not eligible for transfer admission to Swarthmore College.