While there is no escaping those pesky distribution requirements (2 Writing courses, 1 lab, and courses in the Humanities, Social Sciences and Natural Sciences), there are tons of ways to fulfill them through the multitude of classes. Swatties can even avail themselves of Haverford, Bryn Mawr, and some U Penn courses.
I intend to be a Psychology major, and the department has expressed to me their great acceptance of me taking a variety of general education courses not directly linked to my major. The only time course selection becomes somewhat limited at Swat is on the Engineering track, but then again this sort of pre-profession track rarely lends itself to a liberal arts lifestyle.
Personally, I have found some of my more obscure course selections to be the most satisfying; To fulfill a writing course requirement during my first semester, I took a quirky First Year Seminar called What’s So Funny?: Cultures of American Humor. Despite its name, this was one of the most unique, intellectual, challenging courses I’ve taken! We analyzed the cultural merits of varieties of American humor from Benjamin Franklin to Tina Fey. The seminar-style class, capped at 12 people, also let me have a valuable, non-competitive, give-and-take relationship with my peers and professor.
Even in the larger-level introductory courses, I was surprised that the professors still know each student; once while grocery shopping in the Ville (Swarthmore’s village), I ran into one of my intro biology professors. While this was my least favorite class because of the student “anonymity” I thought existed, and I was certain she would hardly recognize me being one of her other 120 students in the class, she greeted me by name.
As this shows, people hardly stop caring about you outside of the classroom. Nor do students stop caring about academics; Swatties are known for their tenacious personalities when it comes to being informed, value learning as it’s own reward above competition and grade-grubbing, and participate frequently regardless of class size. So it should come as no surprise that studying is an ongoing, rigorous, vital part of a Swattie’s daily life. Expect to spend some weekends holed up in McCabe Library, especially during exam crunch times!
All my professors except my biology professors know my name. We have four biology professors in Introduction to Biology, each one specializing in a different section of biology. My favorite class is probably Linear Algebra honors seminar, which is a first-year seminar (FYS). A first-year seminar is a seminar specifically for first-year students, and it's meant to give freshmen a sense of what upper-level seminar courses will feel like. It's really a great opportunity to take a class other than lecture. FYS's are capped at 12 students, and my math seminar (28S) has only 11 students, and it's great because we all (11 students and the professor) really get to know each other much better. We sit around a giant table and we basically discuss math problems, and the classroom walls are all made up of just blackboard, which is cool. It's great to have that close interaction--I think it makes class much more special than just going to a lecture and taking notes. The math seminar lasts twice as long as other classes--6 hours a week instead of 3. Every Wednesday we meet for those 3 additional hours, and our professor always brings snacks. He actually invited the whole class to his house for dinner, and the dinner will be held in a few weeks, during finals, so that'll be awesome.
My least favorite class is Intro to Biology. I'm really not that interested in the subject material--I was mainly looking for a general background in biology, and I suppose I did get that, but it is a big lecture course (over 100 students) and quite frankly, I find it to be pretty boring. Also, the quality of the professor matters--we have 4 profs in Bio 1, and the boring professors make the lectures boring, and the lively professors who have almost a tangible excitement about the subject make the lectures lively. It's also a very big time commitment, and assignments in Bio 1 take much longer to complete than assigments in my other classes.
Swatties really do have intellectual discussions outside of class, but they're not ubiquitous, I don't think, and I think a lot of people don't want intellectual discussions outside of class to be ubiquitous. Some people (including me) just want a break from academics during meals, and they prefer to talk about their day, and how class has been, and stuff like that. But most of my friends make some kind of intellectual reference at some point during the day.
Students aren't competitive--in fact, it's quite the opposite. You see a lot of collaboration here. Example: students get together to do math homework. Another example: students get together in study group meetings for biology. Students here are very friendly, and they're generally willing to help struggling students. None of my classes so far curve grades, so it really doesn't help your grade if others do worse (which may be the case in classes where exam grades are curved). Students here keep their grades to themselves, and in fact grades are almost never mentioned--I've barely mentioned grades at all here. The unwillingness of students to discuss grades (it's not because they have bad grades, but more because it's a personal thing, and quite frankly, nobody here really cares about your grade) is a welcome improvement in maturity level from high school.
Education here is definitely geared to learning for its own sake. You don't learn things that are really practical for jobs, necessarily. It's important to try to get work experience outside of class, and to seek internships and externships. Career Services helps you with that, but you need to really work to find good work experience. Many Swatties end up going to graduate school. I think many people here are just afraid of going off into the work world and "abandoning" school--I am. I don't want to work a boring 9-5 job, where I won't really be contributing that much to the world. I think many people enjoy learning so much that they really don't want to leave it behind.
This is by far my favorite part about Swarthmore. BY FAR.
I was in the Honors programs, where you spend your last two years taking seminars that account for half of your course load each semester. The seminars are essentially graduate-level. In the end you are examined by external professors. The seminars are led by professors, but run by the students. This experience was something that you cannot really get anywhere else, and it's one of the many reasons that grad schools and professional schools love Swarthmore students.
In general, classes are at Swarthmore make you think, and will give you much more depth than at other schools. The only downside would be for those interested in business or more practical things like that.
Yes, it's hard, but it's not too bad. It's really what you make of it. You can take less challenging classes, and you don't have to write a thesis or do the Honors program. You can't be a moron and do well here, but I guess you can't be a moron and get in here.
Academics at Swarthmore are absolutely awesome. All of my professors, past and present, know my name and ask me how my life is progressing every time that they see me. Professors really seem to enjoy getting to know their students in smaller classes, and their enthusiasm about the course material is infectious and really motivates students to get as much out of the course as possible. Class participation is usually very good (except for some 8:30am classes, but for the most part I steer clear of those), and students are good about setting up study groups outside of the classroom to study together for exams. A lot of times students will leave a class still talking about the material, as it is often presented in a very engaging way. I would say that students are conscious of doing well in a course, but that they are not so much competitive with their peers. Since it is a liberal arts college, the education is geared more towards learning for its own sake (and learning how to learn and finding out what interests you most), and not towards getting a job. For these sort of practical life skills, seek out extracurricular clubs that get you more involved in the real world.
Most all professors are extremely interested in their students. They expect a lot out of each student, which can translate into rather copious amounts of work. The greatest educational experience happens outside of the classroom, though, by interacting with such a talented, intellectual, and engaging student body.
Incredibly smart professors who tend to be open to developing close relationships with their students. Great class discussions as long as the professors provide the right direction, which doesn't always happen -- the one thing I'd change about Swat academics would be to add more lecture and decrease discussion time, since we had so much to gain from our professors and less from one another. Everyone studies all the time and people talk about their class material outside class for fun -- I feel like I absorbed half my best friend's course material just from chatting with her every day about whatever she'd found interesting. Classes are purely academic and not geared toward professions. I learned what I needed to know to start out as a journalist from working on The Phoenix, but my work and life and relationships and thoughts are affected every day by what I learned in my classes and from my peers. So my education at Swat was more of a holistic experience, not to sound tacky.
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.
Professors ALL know my name and yes they do spend time outside of class talking to me at office hours, department social events (such as picnics, receptions, ice cream socials, etc.), sporting events, church, community service events, meals, etc. They are great: down to earth, enthusiastic, caring about their students (as whole people, not just as a single-faceted student in a particular class...it is common for them to ask about roommates, family, weekend plans, other courses, etc) and just lots of fun.
Students study every day. We work hard for sure, but you set priorities and do that. I have gone out every weekend. I have friends who have slept for 9 hours or more every night. etc.
Students are NOT competitive. It is a really cooperative environment. It is taboo to talk about specific grades you got. Learning is about furthering your own understanding and the best way to do that is to work together, exchange ideas, etc.
MY favorite and most unique class was "Music of WWII and the Holocaust". It was totally different and I feel like I learned things about how people get through hard times, how different social movements can come together, how those can be expressed through art, etc. It was AMAZING.
I feel like we are geared towards learning here, not getting a job. That said, I have been employed for next year since November. I have been very happy with career services. I had tons of interviews (in business, finance, and consulting) and interviewers had a high regard for Swatties.
Academics at Swarthmore are intense. You will have to spend a lot of hours in the library, but you will also learn interesting things. The classes mostly aren't huge and professors generally know your name and will help you with your assignments if you ask them.
One of the best things about Swarthmore academics is that the first semester of freshman year is pass/fail. It lets freshmen figure out how much time and effort they need to put into academics and lets them have fun for their first semester.
You can study anything that you find interesting. For example, my first semester I took a seminar called "Women and Popular Culture." We did everything from read Uncle Tom's Cabin to watching Bridget Jones' Diary. I even wrote a paper on Desperate Housewives! At the same time, though I learned a lot about theory, feminism, and media.
You can expect your professor to know your name by the second week of class - even in classes that are larger than the norm. It is also common for students to babysit faculty children.
As for the academics - yes, swarthmore is a lot of work. Professors expect output and they will assign plenty of work. You can guarantee that you will leave Swarthmore knowing how to write well, research, and to think, even if your Swat education doesn't put you on the fast track of the career path.
The academics are intense; however, it isn't competitive. The majority of students here don't care about their rank or who made the highest grade on a final. Although students here are constantly on the go, whether it be studying or doing some extracurricular activity, there are so many great resources to use for every possible need. Personally, my two favorite resources are my professors and my friends. Something that is hard to get at other schools is the fact that all of my professors know my name. Students at bigger universities rarely get to develop a one on one relationship with their professor. As for the other resource, friends, it is nice to know that while you are suffering through a paper or a problem set, you can guarantee that everyone else is working just as hard.
These are what the college really has to offer. If you want to learn and learn a lot, come here. If you want to have a lot of spare time, or want the typical college social live, don't come here.
The academics at Swarthmore are really rigorous. Though it is hard, professors and departments offer a ton of help and guidance. Small classes let students get to know their professors really well, and I have even been to several of my professors houses. The academics are flexible, and we only follow a distribution requirement that is fairly easy to fill, even for a non-science person like my self.
I love my major departments (I am Education and Psychology). Every student I know who takes and Education class falls in love with the education department here, the professors are just amazing.
Sometimes Swarthmore classes can become really overwhelmingly intellectual and seem disconnected from real life but class discussions are generally very interesting and thought-provoking.
top notch education
Academics are definitely challenging at Swarthmore, but in a good way. My professors know my name. Studying is a must and most students do it quite often. There's a lot expected from the students, but only because the students are quite capable. The focus at Swat is definitely on education but also on development of self.
The academics here are great for me. But keep in mind, I was looking for a place where i would be learning 20 hours a day, in class, outside of class, having discussions with my friends. This includes not only academic learning, but life skills, frisbee strategies, card games, and how to have fun as well.
I have yet to meet a competetive student. The work load is pretty rough here, and so when you're ahead, you help out others, and they return the favor when you're behind.
The professors are readily available and open to you.
The professors make an effort to learn the students' names and make us comfortable about speaking our minds. Class participation is common and intellectual conversations definitely continue outside the classroom. Students are competitive in the sense that they want to improve and do well. I have yet to hear someone asking about somebody else's grades though, Swarthmore students really don't compete against each other. The academic requirements are great because they make you take a variety of classes in the spirit of liberal arts, while at the same time they don't force you to take lots of classes you're not interested in. Also the fact that the first semester of freshman year is pass/fail (meaning that you don't get a letter grade) encourages you to explore subjects you never thought you would study, which you might end up liking a lot, like my East European Prose seminar.
Hard, yet incredible. Great academics.
The coolest part about academics at Swarthmore is that in general, the professors really care about their students. Especially in the smaller classes, professors try really hard to be available and to get to know their students. Having a class dinner at your professors house is actually pretty common.
We're always working, always studying, and always trying to meet deadlines. I'm into the natural sciences, and it's been some of the most brain-taxing stuff I've ever had to deal with, but once I got a taste of what I could do with this newfound information, I was hooked. The CompSci department rocks. It's small (7 full-time professors) and they're all remarkably approachable. Academics certainly goes outside the classroom..you really can't get away. But we like that..that's why we came
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.
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.
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.
Swarthmore has a very unique academic environment. The largest classes are about 100 people, usually intro biology, chemistry, and psychology. But after that, classes get a lot smaller, for example I have a three-person seminar this semester. All the professors in my department know my name, whether I've had a class with them or not. The departments are generally small, which can be both good and bad. The course options, while generally really interesting, are really limited. Either they are broad survey courses, or very specific and possibly not very applicable to real life. Most classes are geared toward learning for its own sake and the propagation of academia, rather than preparing for a job. That's especially true in the sciences.
Some of the most popular jobs on campus are babysitting or dog-walking for professors. Students study a lot, but its usually because they want to really understand the material. A lot of classes are discussion based, and students can be very assertive in sharing their variety of opinions and experiences. Most classroom discussions finish outside the classroom, I've learned about political science and history that I have never taken a class on from conversations with my friends. Going through the dining hall you'll hear people talking about anything from Kant and physical chemistry to who hooked up with who last Friday.
Academically, Swarthmore is perfect. Professor not only know you by name they actually care about you and your life. Class participation is always great, students are not competitive in the traditional sense. All Swatties do is partake in intellectual conversations outside of class, often times with professors. Education here is geared toward learning for it's own sake, we are a liberal arts college. Students are constantly working and studying, the academic requirements at Swarthmore are set fairly high, but it's manageable.
Tough in the sciences. Really smart students everywhere, but grading is a joke in comparison to the sciences. Hard to ace in hard sciences and engineering, but also hard to fail. in social sciences and humanities, it's easy to ace classes and professors have no respect for dead lines.
Most Profs get to know their students. students not competitive about grades. no gpa, class rank, or honor roll. demanding work load can't fall behind. most classes are discussion based, only a few lecture classes. average class size about 15-20 or even less the high up in a department. liberal arts distribution requirement not hard to meet.
Swarthmore is tough. Lots of reading/problem sets, tough grading, advanced material, all that stuff. We spend A LOT of time studying – maybe 3-5 hours a day on average, including class time. It's usually fulfilling, though, if you can get through it. There are some excellent professors here, who put teaching before research and who put a lot of time and effort into being interesting, helpful, available, and fair.
Two of the most common conversation themes are 1) interesting/ridiculous/terrifying things that came up in class, and 2) how screwed we are thanks to the paper that is due tomorrow on that interesting/ridiculous/terrifying thing.
Students are almost always cooperative, not competitive, with each other. If you want to make money, you should have gone to UPenn or somewhere, with better connections and easier classes. Our $12000 BA's usually go for getting a professorship or a subsistence wage job with some nonprofit somewhere. (Exaggerated, but surprisingly close to the mark.)
Academics are hard, it is not unusual to have over five hundred pages of reading a week, plus a problem set, plus a paper. You really have to prioritize. The profs are really really available outside of class, regardless of their skill as a professor. Some are good and some are bad, but SAM's and upper classmen definitely can help in this matter. I have taken classes from intro stat to classical mythology to contemporary art. the requirements are fairly easy to fulfill, even though, as a humanities major, that lab class was a pain. The learning is DEFINITELY geared toward learning, and NOT getting a job.
When I first came to Swat I was overwhelmed by the amount of work. I thought to myself, "I am going to die with all this reading." But it's really just a matter of knowing your limits and pacing yourself. You get adjusted quickly. And when everyone else is working hard around you, you feel good about getting work done.
Professors are generally considerate and the small class sizes are wonderful. I have yet to have a prof who doesn't know my name by the second week of the semester.
They are fairly intense as I said earlier. Since the school's so damn small you always stand out in your tiny classes. Me, I just like to do my readings and assignments really well, miss class, and catch up on my sleep. I hate the idea of having to squeeze in maybe 6 hours of sleep every night so that I can do 7 hours of homework the next day with another 3 hours of class. That just sucks. I'd be a total wreck if I had to do that everday. I really need 8 or more hours but attending class all the time makes that impossible. So, I miss a lot and I lose participation points, but I still do all my work and understand the material. I just don't want to go to another 50 minute review session followed by two more classes that go over the exact same things in the readings and be burned out for four years everyday. So, if you want to be anonymous and miss class this is the wrong place. Like right now I am in a class only 1 person! It sucks. The Japanese professors are so anal about attendence too.
Classes are small, intense, and interesting. Everyone is intelligent and most people care about the material, which leads to dynamic classroom discussions. There's a big emphasis on teaching for the professors, and they are generally eager to talk to students. Some are more helpful than others, but just about all of them want to help. It is common for a professor to invite a class to their house for dinner at the end of a semester.
Students tend to be very supportive of each other, and work together a lot, whether it's working out a math problem or talking out ideas for a philosophy paper.
I have had mixed emotions about classes. It is evident that the professors know what they are talking about, but some are not able to articulate their knowledge in an enrapturing way. The readings for class are always intriguing. The education system is supposed to be an individualistic experience, meaning it is designed to give you as much as you put in. If you want to learn you will and if you don't want to learn, then you won't. I think that goes for the same for any college.
The academics are INTENSE - you've got to love it, or you'll be miserable. For me, really hard classes were what I wanted and I've never been happier. I should mention as well that even though I am taking Swat's equivalent of 20 credit hours, I do have enough free-time, I just have to manage my time well to get it. The school also has a lot of support systems if you need help with your paper, a lab, a language, study skills - really whatever. People are also really cooperative, here - we all want each other to do well and help each other out, rather than competing. Most of us love what we are doing and want to share it, talk about it, and explain it to other people, so we have some really fun conversations. I talk about my poly-sci class in my Christian group, my biology in my poly-sci class, whatever. In many of my classes I feel like I learn as much from my peers as from the prof. It's really wonderful. I talk to people and sound like a walking ad for the school. :-)
The classes here are great. Many people come here because of the great science and engineering departments, which is rare for a liberal arts college. People here do a lot of studying, but it's easier to do since everyone else is also working very hard. You hear a lot of intellectual conversations and lectures on campus, which are always very interesting. Although everyone's smart, there is not much competition and no one really talks about their grades or scores. I feel like I will walk away from Swarthmore with a well rounded knowledge, prepared for whatever field I decide to go into.
I think that the professor has known my name in every class that I have taken. My favorite classes thus far have been the honors seminars because the small sizes allow for greater, in-depth conversations and understanding. Students at Swarthmore definitely have intellectual conversations that are spurred by the interesting topics that come out in classes. Economics is one of the biggest departments at Swarthmore and is one of the most organized as well. I like the professors that teach in the department to the extent that they are great professors who are willing to go to lengths to divulge their knowledge to the students. I think that Swarthmore's academic requirements are pretty easy to fulfill but at the same time help to raise well-rounded, intellectually stimulated people.
Most people learn for learning's sake and to get good grades. Most of what we learn is hardly directly applicable to our lives in the general work force, unless you are considering a career in academics.
The professors are really great. Most make an effort to know your name and most professors try to get to know you as an individual and not just as a student. I once had a professor ask me about one of my extra-curricular activities after they had read an article/seen my picture in the school newspaper. I had no idea that the teacher even knew my name, let alone knew who I was. That was a very comforting moment and I felt like my professor truly cared. Also most professors push you to become independent, self-motivated thinkers and that is such a valuable lesson that I will definitely use post-Swat.
Swarthmore's small size results in lots of small classes and interaction with professors. Seminars are widely available to freshmen and to upperclassmen, and allow in-depth study of interesting topics. In my major, I've had classes with all of the professors in the department, and am on a first-name basis with all of them.
Students love to participate at Swarthmore and the professors are very approachable. The teachers really want you, for the most part, to succeed at everything that you do.
Most of the professors here make an effort to know who you are, and to encourage discussion. A lot of the intro classes are really big and so participation and discussion can be difficult, but the higher level seminars are small and professors begin to treat you more as colleagues than as students. Most professors are pretty good about making themselves available outside the classroom too.
Students do have intellectual conversations outside of class, but not always. I think people are generally interested in talking to their friends about whatever it is they're studying, and friends are interested in listening.
Swat academics are tough. Really tough. Overall, they're also of excellent quality, which makes it better. I love the biology department, and the new Arabic section in the department of Modern Languages is exciting and has some really fabulous professors. The small size of the school does mean that course offerings are sometimes limited, both in topics and in timing, but at least the difficulties that these problems cause are distributed relatively fairly between the lower and upperclassmen.
First year seminars are a must for freshmen, and small discussion classes are the best of what Swat has to offer. There really are no easy A's at Swat, but the natural science division is definitely more difficult as a whole. Your poli sci prof may happily hand out C's, but you're not in danger of failing. Orgo offers no such assurances.
To be honest, I learn more just from talking with my fellow Swatties than I ever do in class. I'm constantly amazed at what everyone is researching, writing about, or just reading on blogs. And people here >care< about subjects that the rest of the world dismisses as merely academic or intellectual. From what I've seen, even if you manage to sleep through class, it's impossible to graduate from Swarthmore without doing some serious thinking.
Hard. But it's true that students are not competitive with each other, generally.
Education at Swarthmore is geared more toward learning for its own sake, but sometimes this really annoys me when there's no practical application whatsoever.
Intellectual conversations are everywhere, in the dining hall, walking around campus. But the classes are so interesting. Bio 2, for example, is like a show every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
The academics are challenging. The professors expect quality work and effort from their students. The professors are also williing to put quality effor into their students. All of my professors know my name. I frequent their office hours as much as I need it and I have found they make great efforts to be available to help. Coming in with questions the professors are always willing to assist. In my math class last semester, I came in needing some help. My prof decided he would make me into a math major. I came in and sat down with my econ prof last semester to discuss my paper and she helped me go through the whole process. I quite frequently have conversations with my philosophy professor that extend well beyond the material to larger questions the readings evoke for me. This one-on-one attention is possible mostly by the small class sizes. I am in a history seminar of three students. My largest classes have about 40 students. This makes conversations great and the material accessible.
Professors here definitely know your name! One of my professors had all of our names memorized for the first day of class - he looked us all up on the student directory available to professors and made an effort to be able to recognize us!
The classroom environment at Swarthmore is really nice. I feel that when i'm in class, I can express my opinions clearly and openly. All the professors encourage participation. Most swatties carry these intellectual conversations outside of the classroom, which can sometimes be wierd, but its all good.
There is a incredible level of intimacy between students and professors. You can be sure that at Swarthmore, you will be able to get very personal and unique recommendation letters from more than one teacher.
I'm only a freshman, so I don't have a very wide picture of what the academics are like here. I do take a lot of science classes, though, and I can say that most of the professors are top-notch. The workload, by the way, is what you make of it. It all depends on what classes you take, and how anal you are about grades (if you take a lot of science classes, be prepared to work your ass off to get an A).
All the professors know my name. My favorite class is Intro to Asian American Literature with Mani- she is amazing. My least favorite class that I've taken has to be orgo. Students study every minute of the day- if they don't, they feel guilty about not studying. Class participation is common. Swarthmore students have [pompous] intellectual conversations outside of class. Students are competitive mostly with themselves, and not usually with each other. I am a biology major. The biology department is like a family- they are absolutely wonderful. Mani's class is the most unique/brilliant class I've taken. Swarthmore's academic requirements are really flexible. The education is definitely geared towards learning for its own sake, not getting a job.
Yes, professors know my name.
Students study often, late into the night, it's almost necessary.
Class participation is common in almost all classes, and even moreso in Literature, Sociology/Anthropology, and History classes. Heated debates are common and easily ignited.
yes, swarthmore students do have intellectual conversations out of class, which is usually very nice; to be able to do so on a peer level, totally without academic reason, is something i see as a positive thing....although, again, heated debates are easily ignited once a certain topic is broached and a certain line is crossed.
Students generally are not competitive, although there are select few who are overly paranoid about others not working as hard as they are, and will attempt to insure that you are not gaining an undeserved advantage by adamantly refusing to share a few chemical properties of three compounds for a pre-lab assignment. this is not typical.
Many do spend time with professors outside of class, for example, afternoon tea every friday with a physics professor.
Swarthmore's academic requirements are, for sure, intense and rigorous, but for sure, not impossible.
The largest class I've ever taken at Swarthmore was Intro to Psych and about 100 people were in it. My second day of class, the professor knew my name.
I wanted to come to Swarthmore because I wanted to be surrounded by peers that took academics seriously, and I have been disappointed in that regard at Swarthmore. If you envision college being something substantially different than about academics, Swat's probably not the place for you. People devote Saturday and Sunday afternoons to working, and when someone leaves a conversation, it's inevitably with, "I've got work to do". This academic focus definitely spills over into the social life, where I have experienced many wonderful conversations about politics, morality, and current affairs in addition to the more banal things people everywhere talk about. The great thing about Swarthmore is that you can have both really banal conversations about celebrities or who's dating whom, but no one looks at you askance if you start talking about this book you're reading for class that has raised some really interesting questions for you.
One aspect of Swarthmore that I was looking forward to but have been slightly disappointed in is class participation. I was looking forward to not being the only person who was interested in having class discussions, but I have found that there are plenty of times that awkward silences fall. I think that this is largely because people are afraid of saying something stupid, so they don't say anything at all. But that doesn't change the fact that the majority of my classes have been discussion based and/or the professor has really encouraged participation, which is plentiful, it just has its lulls at times too.
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