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Swarthmore College

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What are the academics like at your school?

The classes are tiny and never taught by TA's, so the professors know your name and remember who you are. I had great relationships with professors. They were supportive and interested in their students. Not all profs know how to teach, but that's true everywhere. I now work a several large elite colleges and I see the difference between those schools and Swat - the professors really don't (can't) have a relationship with all the students in larger schools. That said, a relationship with professors isn't necessarily the most important thing. Sometimes the course offerings felt too limited at Swat. You can take classes at Penn, Haverford, and Bryn Mawr, but it's kind of a pain to get to them. Students study all the time and feel guilty whenever they are not studying. It's very competitive. The best part of Swarthmore may be the conversations you have outside of class - everyone, even in different departments, is getting the same kind of education, asking the same kinds of questions, being forced to abandon their old ways of viewing the world and learn about a post-modern view of the world, and everyone wants to talk about that all the time. I still keep in touch with some of my professors at Swat. I saw them outside of class, they had students over to their homes for end of semester parties (sometimes for class itself). Swarthmore is an intellectual school, they aren't trying to prepare you for jobs, they are trying to prepare you to be a certain kind of person in the world (and to become an academic). Everything at swat is infused with a political mission, to make you good global citizens who think about and problematize everything, every decision. Though you are not being overtly prepared for a job you do come out of school with valuable skills that you can apply to most work situations - you can write, speak articulately, formulate new ways of approaching problems, etc.

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It's pretty easy to get to know and develop relationships with professors at Swarthmore. But that said, the "good" professors' classes fill up and are often overcrowded, making the often-touted "small classes" nonexistent. There is also no shortage of professors who are mediocre at best. In the honors program, it is possible to take 2-10 person seminars, but in some departments (like English and Political Science, for example) unless you are in the honors program it is nearly impossible to take those seminars or any other small class within the department for that matter. The requirements for graduation aren't too rigorous- 3 maths/sciences/engineering classes (one with a lab component), 3 humanities and 3 social sciences. Students study a LOT, but McCabe the library is a fairly social space. The science library, Cornell, is depressing but a lot of science students go there. The students at Swat are not competitive at all- everyone is working on different things and developing their own programs of study and is focused on achieving their full potential, not beating anyone else. The school fosters this and doesn't calculate GPA or class rank. Outside of the classroom, students often have intellectual conversations. Sometimes we also take a humorous attitude towards often studied ideas like postmodernism, heteronormativity and 'the patriarchy,' which we can do because we fully understand them. Most students will have dinner at a professor's house before graduating. The education is geared towards learning for its own sake, and many Swarthmore seniors fear living in a box on the sidewalk after graduation. That said, I feel I've had a significantly easier time getting internships because of the name of my school, and I'm only a sophomore.

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yeah, most of my professors knew my name, i wasn't close with all of them. my favorite class ever was probably evolution or my food class. my least favorite might have been statistics or developmental psychology. i studied constantly but it seemed like people had varying work patterns. some people procrastinated constantly, some worked all the time, some just blew everything off. class participation was definitely very involved, i can remember only one class where everyone was apathetic, and that was the professor's fault. oh, you can't shut a student up about intellectual crap, so the answer to that is yes. hmm, i'd say individual students were competitive but it was generally acknowledged that you were competing against yourself and your own expectations. i took one class that had only TWO PEOPLE in it - literature of dissent. that was pretty awesome and unique. i was a special double major in psychology and biology, i now wish i had just majored in bio and done a lot more neuro. the psychology dept. isn't very good. a lot of our professors had optional study sessions or such and i went to those a lot. i think swat's academic requirements are fine. i'd say the education is more for education's sake than about providing practical background, but a lot of employers want an employee with the varied background and writing skill that comes from a liberal arts education.

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Professors and students are so incredibly close here at Swarthmore. I've gone to a few professors' houses to cook and have class over dinner (Just like they said in the brochure!) They all know my name and it's not unusual for students to call professors by their first name. Some classes have even just 8 people. Good for discussion, bad for trying to pretend you did your reading. Discussion is a big part of Swarthmore classes, and it's great here because the classes are small enough so that you'll feel comfortable participating regularly. I've had some classes that were so amazing I would basically walk out the door and have my head explode with all the insight and information I gleaned from that one class. Professors here truly love the material they're teaching, even if it's Faulkner for the 80 billionth time, they literally get excited. One professor actually clapped his hands in glee once during discussion when a particularly salient point was made. The thing is, it's true, Swarthmore academics are really rigorous. I've definitely been in some dark places when finals or midterms collided together. Realize that you need to budget your time wisely or suffer the consequences. And at times, you're going to have to sacrifice your free time and extracurricular activities. And sometimes, bathing.

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Academics is the main focus of Swarthmore. Swarthmore (save engineering or perhaps pre-med or some of the sciences) does not provide techincal job training, but it teaches you how to think and how to write. I didn't realize how important this was until I left Swarthmore and entered into the job market. What is normal in terms of effort or expectation at Swarthmore is often above and beyond what is expected in the job market. When I entered Swarthmore, I expected that due to the smallness of the school I would find a professor that I connected with and who would be a mentor/friend. I was disappointed for the first couple of years when I did not find that in my own department. By the end of senior year, however, I made connections with three really amazing professors, all outside of my department of study, but who became the sort of mentor and friend that I had been looking for. I realized, then, that I had not really taken advantage of the availability of professors in my earlier years. I wasn't the type of student who frequently went to the professor for help unless I really needed it but that didn't have to mean that I couldn't get to know my professors.

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yes, they all learn your name. Favorite class was probably history of the future with Burke. Least favorite: stat for econ with hollister. students study: my friends probably an hour a day, unless there's a paper due, though this is much, much less than the average. I think students are less competitive than they are at big universities where classes are huge and curved, there are lots of pre-meds, classes are more impersonal, etc. most unique class: im in a class called contemporary japanese visual culture right now. Major: I'm econ/poli sci. the poli sci department is so strong, i have not had a poli sci professor that I didn't really like. The econ department is one of the weaker ones here, though there are some good profs. Profs outside of class?: I don't, other people do. Academic requirements: Swat's academic requirements are less stringent than any other college I know of. They want you to take whatever classes you feel like taking. Learning for its own sake, but it's great for both. Econ, bio, and engineering majors definitely outnumber english and philosophy majors. And a lot of the english majors go to law school or something like that.

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Academics are very intense. You will be expected to work very hard - harder, in fact, than in my PhD program. Many people find it stressful. My theory is that this is to a large extent the result of self-selection. The admissions department finds a bunch of really intense students, throws them together, and they go a bit crazy. I would not, however, describe it as being at all competitive. People are internally motived to work hard, and do so, but they also help each other and support each other in a really nice way. There are a lot of nice people at Swarthmore. My classes were very rewarding. The highlights for me were the honors seminars, which had 10 or fewer students and lasted from 1:15 to 5 or 6. I also had some of my best experiences in random electives with great teachers. The professors are as a rule extremely helpful and accessible. They're at Swarthmore because they want to teach.

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The professors know their students, even those that they may not have had in their classes. Some professors teach better than others, but that's a given on all campuses. Professors are not required to take courses on education and pedagogy, as far as I know. I've had a lot of flexibility in driving my own education, I've written papers on topics that I have chosen, and I've grown a lot through my coursework, which is often reinforced by my extracurricular involvements. I see professors at non-curricular events too, which is nice. The education at Swarthmore is geared towards learning for its own sake, but that can also be tremendously advantageous for getting a job if you know how to spin it. Ethnic studies, film and media studies, and queer (or gender and sexuality) studies are lackluster here, but there are student-driven initiatives working for them.

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Professors know my name. In my biggest lecture class of about maybe about 100 kids, the teacher knew all of us by name by the second meeting. I don't know if she sat and studied names or something but that was pretty cool. Class participation is common--sometimes too common. Sometimes I want to hear the teacher talk, not some student's opinion. If I want to know his opinion, I'll ask him outside of class. That happens a lot and you hear people talking about academia outside of class all the time--in addition to the best tv show ever (Battlestar Galactica) and how to play with Pikachu in the new Super Smash Brothers Brawl. The education seems to be aimed at learning for the sake of learning, not for a job. Which is good because most people (I think) go off to earn graduate degrees.

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Professors know my name, but perhaps not after I'm out of their classes for a while. Favorite class- so far, adolescence and FYS ways of seeing and telling. Least favorite- almost everything I took first semester of Freshman year, stat, french 12, intro philosophy (lies, bullshit and bias)...but it's all good now. Participation- common. Intellectual conversations- yes. Competitive- just some. but most are very over-achieving. Unique class- I love adolescence, but don't know if it's unique or not. Major- undecided, but definitely will incorporate education. Prof outside of class- no. Academic requirements- don't like the departmental distribution of credits... Education at Swat- learning for its own sake.

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