There are a lot of groups and organizations on campus, whether they're varsity sports, club sports, volunteer or activist groups, radio groups, identity focused groups, etc, and they're a great way to meet people. Students tend to be friendly and trusting, leaving items around and leaving doors open. Theater, dance and music performances are highly attended...sports, not so much. The dating scene is absolutely horrendous- people, for the most part, are either hooking up or 'married.' I met my closest friends because we lived in the same dorm my freshman year. Speaking of dorms, the fact that there are no 'freshman' dorms on campus was extremely helpful to me: I got to actually meet upperclassmen, some of whom I became very close to. If I'm awake at 2 am on a tuesday, I'm leaving the library. There are a lot of fun traditions at swarthmore every year: the pterodactyl hunt (I'll leave that to you to research), Screw Your Roommate (set roommate up on a blind date, with a twist: the 'paired' roommates are wearing a set of costumes and have to find each other. for example, my freshman year, I went as Miss Piggy and my date was dressed as Kermit the Frog), the Willets carnival (carnival activities outside Willets dorm), Worthstock (an all day music fest), Kielbasafest, the block party, the Crum Regatta, the Sager Symposium and Genderfuck party, etc. These events really do bring the campus together. The fraternities are friendly places that aren't really like real frats. The brothers are pretty welcoming and never turn anyone away. They just dole out lots of free beer, and hold a few big parties each semester. Not a lot of people go there except to the big parties. There are no sororities. People usually party on Thursdays and Saturdays. Thursday is the best night of the week: Pub Nite. A senior class fundraiser, Pub Nite is a weekly event held in the Paces student-run cafe/party space where the senior officers buy 5 or 6 kegs, and for $4 you can drink unlimited beer from 9-12. People play games, listen to good music (the music is very important and regular pubniters vie for the chance to make the pubnite playlist each week), and eventually as the drunkenness ensues, dance. Off campus, people tend to go into Philadelphia for dinner, or Media for a little bit of closer fun. but the train tickets can be pricey.
Popular groups: It varies, there are two fraternities that are somewhat popular. Among the athletes they are popular. Being an athlete, I feel most parties center around the _____ team. As in, the guys/girls from the _____ team are throwing a party and then everyone goes. Every thursday night is "pub night" at a venue called PACES, which is well attended and extremely fun. You get a pretty eclectic mix at those. Athletic events: not popular, but probably not much worse than a lot of d3 schools. Guest speakers: very popular. Theater: somewhere in between. Dating scene: i've had the same girlfriend since high school but it seems like it's not so hard to find a girl or a guy if you want to. met closest friends: Mostly from the baseball team, and from living with people. I am awake at 2 AM every Tuesday night, usually watching Youtube clips with friends, playing video games, or just shootin' the bull as a feller says. People party: Some people party 3-4 nights a week; others wouldn't know a party if it slapped them across their face. Fraternities: I'm in a fraternity, and it's not even that important to me. There are no sororities. Last weekend: I was sick, unfortunately -- I generally stay on campus during the weekend and it's always a good time. saturday night no drinking: You can always get high, I guess....just kidding. You can find people to see a movie with or go into philly, but most people go out drinking saturday night. Off campus: You can go into Philly but there's really not a whole lot. there's also movie theaters, good eats, and every chain store you could possibly imagine within a five minute drive. You can take the train directly into central philadelphia though. THats pretty nice for the carless.
popular groups: frisbee team, SWIL, random sports, student government. i wasn't really involved in anything besides swim team. students in dorms definitely left their doors open most of the time except when sleeping or if they didn't want to be disturbed. ha, don't make me laugh - no one cares about athletic events except the kids who are on the teams. guest speakers are very popular, theater a little less so. i didn't really date while i was there (i was basically only with one guy) and i'd say people are either hooking up every weekend, completely chaste, or they are practically married. i met some of my friends at spec weekend, and the others randomly from classes (lab partners, etc.). some of them lived on my floor or in my dorm. awake at 2 am - talking to someone, eating ramen, or frantically finishing the images in a neurobiology paper. there are a lot of traditions/events - like showing the graduate to incoming freshmen every year, the big concert/large scale event, and SWIL pterodactyl hunt. if you want you can party every weekend, but most people don't. it's definitely an option. i'd say the frats were/are only important to people on the sports teams - lacrosse and the former football players. i tended to do all kinds of random things on the weekend, but i mostly saw a lot of free movies on campus and hung out with friends in their rooms. of course you can go to the various dance parties and not drink. and there were all kinds of random things like fashion shows and theater pieces and a capella. it's really easy to get to philly too since the train station is right on campus, i went to a lot of concerts and walked around to shop a lot.
I'm part of The Phoenix, the only campus publication. Make sure whatever extracurricular activity you choose, you really really are passionate about it and it's not just to pad your resume. If you're not passionate about it, you're not going to make it because there's no way you can balance Swat academics with extracurricular activities without going a little insane. I really love my work at The Phoenix and I think, as it is with most other groups, you get to be really close with the groups you work in because they tend to be fairly small and personal. The Phoenix is run by like 15 people, it's not some huge conglomerate like the newspapers at Ivy Leagues. As for Social Life, the main venue to go for some dancing is Paces. It's this kind of tiny room with dim lights, sticky floors and nasty alcohol. Chances of having fun here are about 50-50 depending on the DJ, the amount of people who show up and not seeing anyone you know eating each other's faces. For such a small college, we do have some seriously cool events like TC Boyle coming to read, Margaret Cho's comedy routine or The Roots (!!!) but I do wish they came more frequently. We have music performances at Olde Club pretty often, mostly indie bands I've never heard of because I'm a big music poser and only listen to Top 40. The unfortunate thing is, a lot of events can be really poorly attended because people are busy studying or running off to their activities, which can put a damper on things. But there are always big events that everyone shows up for en masse.
Students are generally over-involved, however, there is no one typical thing a student is involved in. Everyone really has their own things, whether it's varsity baseball, starting a non-profit to provide basic healthcare in Argentina, or being apart of one of Swarthmore's bazillion a cappella groups. Students are up late doing work always. Sharples, the one dining hall at Swarthmore, is where the majority of campus socializing occurs during the week. There are tons of traditions at Swat including an annual make-shift boat race (the Crum Regatta), the annual library race (the McCabe Mile), Skrew your roommate (blind dates and costumes), and more. There are always parties on weekends with or without alcohol (in fact, this weekend, there was a party with a root-beer keg). Additionally, there is always a performance, lecture, sporting event to see on weekends. Swarthmore also will pay for famous acts to come and perform for students. Wanda Sykes, the Roots, Ben Folds, and more have made appearances recently. AND if you get bored with campus happenings, Philly is a quick 20 minute train ride (train at the base of campus) away.
There are no sororities at Swarthmore, though there is a group, LASS, which is a wanna-be sorority. There are 2 frats, Delta Upsilon and Phi Psi, which aren't the center of social life at all-- mostly, they provide alcohol and throw parties. Athletic events are pretty dead, but I think men and women's soccer got attention last fall. The dating scene: If I had to generalize, I'd say that the dating scene tends to lean to extremes. The Swatties who are in relationships seem to be practically married, otherwise random hookups are pretty prevalent. People do date, but "normal", relaxed relationships aren't all that common. Also, like at other colleges, people seem to think that dating for 2 weeks constitutes a relationship. Those who don't drink can still party here. Also, no one will look down on you if you just want to stay in some weekends and watch a movie or catch up on sleep. Philadelphia isn't that far, but most people don't go. Either there's stuff goin g on campus or people have work. Most people don't go more than once or twice a semester, if at all.
The social life is what you make of it. You can party every night if you want, you can study every night if you want. Random occurances happen frequently. There were times when I would find myself on midnight runs or involved in late night games or conversations, or middle of the day adventures. When I was at Swat I did a mix of going out to parties on the weekends, hosting gatherings of people for wine and cheese, hanging out with friends, going into Philly, watching movies. Dorm life is pretty active, though it depends on the dorm. My most active was when I lived in Willets (mainly freshmen and sophomores). We had people frequently streaming in and out of our room. Conversations with Swatties are always an adventure. They float easily back and forth between uber serious, to melodramatically serious, to ridiculously stupid, to superficial, to grossly funny, and back again. I miss the ease of conversation - of floating over topics and depths of conversation.
Sports teams, Earthlust. I'm involved in ultimate frisbee, and the ladies there are nice and so friendly :) SCF also feels like a family to me. Closest friends- usually found in the same dorm that I live in. I never attended athletic events, I've been to a few lectures and I've been to most plays. I can't speak for others though. Hm. The dating scene seems to be semi-lively. Students left their doors open until recent thefts occurred. Awake at 2am, talking with friends, or reading or studying or facebooking or eating. Traditions: screw, large scale events. People party very often. Frats are a place to party for "outsiders", and there isn't an official sorority. Last weekend, I watched a movie, watched a play, went to an SCF gathering and tried to do homework. I almost never drink. You can do all of the above, and go to Philly. I'm rarely off campus, and if I am, it's either for a class, or to go shopping for everyday necessities.
It's primarily an intellectual and activist school. There are athletes and artists, but they are not the focus of the school or student body (though arts definitely rank above athletics in importance, but they all rank under intellectual inquiry, activism, and political involvement). There are no sororities and only 2 or 3 frats that have virtually no one in them and that most people look down on them. Every group on campus throws parties and social events and they are all free - which is amazing. You pay a lot (!) to go to Swarthmore and for books, but it's great (and equalizing) that everything is included in the cost of tuition. So there are plenty of opportunities to socialize and meet people. Most of my friends are people I lived with or met in class, but you eventually meet everyone on campus.
If you want to find a strong frat scene, this is not the place. If you like hanging out with friends over a couple beers, or going to a (relatively tame) dance party, then you should be happy. A good place to find very hard-core sci-fi/fantasy/folk dancing types, although they are a small minority. Swatties tend to over-commit, and have a ridiculous number of extra-curricular activities. Since it's such small place it's easy to get involved in anything. At Swat all you need are two degrees of separation. Some people find that suffocating, as there are fewer people to meet and everyone finds out about your business. Some love the tight-knit community, the experience of entering a party and feeling like everyone there is a friend of yours.