Swarthmore College Top Questions

What should every freshman at your school know before they start?


If I had one piece of advise to give a student making the transition to college it would be to not drink alcohol during orientation or the first weekend of the semester. Students often get excited about college night life, which is understandable. Don’t worry, you will have plenty of opportunities! During orientation and the first weekend of college, you will meet many new faces and begin to create extremely important relationships that will last over the next four years. Although substance did not interfere with my creation of relationships, I saw it happen amongst my piers. Substances can hinder developing relationships in two ways. The first occurs when a student gets too drunk at a party and does things he or she would never do sober. Although judgement is frowned upon, it is difficult to ignore terrible drunk first impressions. The second, and equally troublesome instance, occurs when a student creates friends but only feels welcome while drunk. Now, I am not saying to not go out, as it is a great opportunity to meet new people. Instead, my advice is to stay away from alcohol and give yourself a chance to create meaningful and long lasting relationships.


Relax, relax, relax! My advice would be to not stress about college admissions. There are students who are unhappy at their "dream schools" and students who love their "safety schools." It's less about the name of the school and more about the experience. I would tell myself to get involved early, but not overdo it. Sleep is important but hard to come by in college. It's more important to have a few close friends as a support group than dozens of friends. It's also more important to be committed to a couple sports or clubs than to be involved in many. I would tell myself to start thinking, but not stressing, about the future early. The four years fly by and it is important to think about potential majors early. However, it is important to take a few classes in something new. Take a dance class or a poetry class or perhaps even join a new club. I would tell myself to try new things but also recognize when I need a break from campus. Mostly, I would tell myself that college is a privilege and to enjoy every moment. Not everyone is so lucky.


I would tell myself that Swarthmore is not what everyone told you college would be. Your roommate will be your best friend, not someone you should be cautious about. I would tel myself to not be so homesick. Enjoy being away and that you had the opportunity to do so. I would tell myself not to be so shy. People are eager and want to make friends, and it's ok to go out and have a good time. You don't always have to be in the library studying. I would tell myself to relax and that I don't have to rush and take three science courses and a seminar the first semester. There is plenty of time to do the pre-med requirements, and most students at Swarthmore end up taking a year off before attending medical school anyway. I would also tell meself to not be afraid to speak up in class because everyone has something to share during discussions and that my opinions are just as important.


In order to explain what I would tell my high school self I need to explain a bit of my experience after high school. I decided to take time to travel and explore life after high school. I spent some time commercial crabbing to fund my travels. Over three seasons worth of fishing gained me over $15,000. Most of this went to multiple road trips into Mexico and then an apartment when I settled down to attend college. I now realize that if I had invested even a few thousand dollars that I could have greatly helped my first couple of years of paying for college. Even though I would not have traded my experiences for anything I believe I should have made that investment. So essentially I would have to tell myself that I should follow my heart; just save some money for college along the way.


If i could back in time to my high school senior year and give myself advice, it would be to search for ways to help my parents pay for my education. As a senior in high school I was never too sure of where I would be going with my life or how my first year of college would go. After living through my first year away from home I have learned the struggles my parents have been through in order to maintain being in school. I wish I could have been more helpful to them by finding better ways to help them pay instead of stressing them out with payments. I would have told myself to save up as much money as I could have instead of spending it on needless things. This is one of my biggest regrets and although I might not be able to go back into time and change it, there is no reason as to why it is still not to late to help my parents out.


Don't be so hesitant to join clubs due to fear of adjusting. Be confident, you're smarter than you think and the high level of intelligence around you should not prevent you from adding to discussions or participating in class. Try to plan out your course load for the next four years because there will be a lot of overlapping courses you'll be interested in. Try to sleep a bit too, it's important. I know this is not where you want to go but don't fret, you'll make some amazing connections and ties if you open yourself up a bit to vulnerability and uncomfortable situations. Make sure you're priorities are lined out from the beginning--it could be clubs, sports, academics or social life... just know what you want to focus on and think about how that will affect the other things you do. Don't get down on yourself for a less than satisfactory grade on a paper or quiz,--the professors can be a great resource if you seek them out. Also, don't let your pride get in the way of seeking help-- it will save you from struggling later on.


Be excited. Greet people. Buy a notebook for keeping track of people's names!


Stop being such a sheep! Don't just blindly go to college because that's what's expected of high school graduates these days. Think about things first, take a gap year, figure out what you love, and grow up a little. College is an exceptionally wonderful experience, but one you need to be ready for. If you go into it feeling forced-- just going through the motions to get a piece of paper to hang on your wall-- it will never provide you the social, academic, and personal growth it otherwise would. The most important thing is being happy with who you are, what you're studying, and your direction in life; without confidence and optimism, you will slip into a downward spiral and graduate feeling completely unaccomplished and unsatisfied. Do what YOU really want to do, do what makes YOU smile when you wake up every morning. No, it might not make Dad happy, but the only person you're living this life for is yourself, and you only get one chance, so stop worrying about everyone else, and just DO it. Oh yeah... and PLEASE don't check off ?Sci-fi/Fantasy Lover? on your roommate form.


Enjoy your fun and easy life!!!! HAHA


Daniel, as you in the future, I beg you to take that year off and assess your life goals clearly before gallavanting off to school. You need to be more secure in yourself and what you want. This step in your life carries more wait than you realise. You are taking the first critical steps that will determine who you are as a person. These are very trying years, and you have to be mentally and emotionally strong. At this very point in your life, you are unstable, brash and impulsive. You must prepare for these people because they are unlike anyone you have ever met, they will take you and break you in your vulnerable state, but they will lift and exalt you when you return astute and collected.


Visit, Visit, Visit. How else can you know whether you will be happy at a place unless you know what it feels like to be there. Think about this: you will live, sleep, eat, socialize, study, work, and do a whole host of other activities in this area for the next approximately 18, 816 hours. That's a lot of hours. You need to know what kinds of students go to the school, what they care about, what they want to do with their lives, what they after class, how they do in class. And when you do visit, try to do an overnight visit. When you get away from the parents, professors, and tourguides: then, you will see whether people really like the school or not. In order to make the most out of college, ask yourself this question every day: when I am 50, and I look in the mirror, what will I wish I had done with my life, what experiences will I want to have experienced. Then go out and do it. You're the only person who can. Not your parents, not your friends, not your professors. College is fun: enjoy it!


Find a college that fits you. How the college "rates" academically doesn't mean nearly as much as everyone seems to think, as you can easily succeed with a degree from any half-way respectable school. However, the college experience will be lacking if you do not take to its social aspect. Few of us get to choose what the social life of our high schools are. Now you have the chance to make that choice for your college education. Don't waste it. Find the place that you fit academically, and that fits you socially.


If you possibly can, visit schools and have interviews on campus. Also, speak to students.


Visit! If you can see yourself there, then that is the place for you. Know what you want experiences you would like to have in college. Know what the academic, social, and career options/goals you want. Most important besides visiting, be open to change. You may think you want to be a forensic chemist going in, but may find that political science speaks more to your mode of thinking.


Make sure you visit Swarthmore, take a tour and stay over night if you can to make sure the atmosphere is right for you. Political activism is very big at Swarthmore, as is reverse cultural trends such as promoting homosexuality and race by putting it RIGHT IN YOUR FACE. I'm neither homophobic nor racist, but after a while such militant accept-us-and-everything-we-say-or-else-you're-a-terrible-person becomes grating. The liberal stance works both ways for Swarthmore, as the drug and alcohol policies are virtually non-existant. I have drank and played beer pong on main walkways as tours have navigated around us. People have smoked pot openly on the steps of Parrish, the main administrative building. Swarthmore is not that small of a school--1400 enrolled, if I remember correctly--but after the first month or so of freshman year it will seem smaller because students self-segregate. Many Swatties don't do anything but study. Most of the crowd that goes to frats are athletes, which is good & bad, as you will probably get along with them as they are normal, but there is not exactly a ton of athletes.


Applying to college can be one of the most nerve-wraking experiences of your life, and there are bound to be a lot of people telling you what to think. Always remember that you are the one making the decision. No one but you can tell what school is right for you, so always listen to yourself. It is often difficult to verbalize exactly what about a school feels right or wrong to you, but usually you know. Follow that feeling, and don't let anyone tell you that it's wrong becuase it's not quantifiable. That being said, always make educated decisions and do your research; know what is important to you and don't give up looking for that. Be idealistic in looking for a college, but pragmatic when you choose. Another important thing to remember is that people are flexible; chances are you'll be happy at a couple different schools, not just one. So if you don't end up at your "dream school," don't worry and keep an open mind. You'll probably love whatever school you're at. After all, the school chose you. Once you're there, love every moment.


It isn't about which college you like the best, but about which college fits the best.


Visit the school and talk to students -- see if you remind them of a "typical" student, or one who would enjoy it. Sit in on a class -- tour a variety of schools and know which kind you prefer (liberal arts v. larger, north v. south, big on athletics and school spirit v. not so much). I think finding out that type thing is really important, because the differences between schools within these categories, though significant, is negligible compared to, say, the differences between schools in different categories. Read all the guides and student review books/ websites. Research, talk, evaluate, compare!


Start searching as early as possible (at the end of sophmore year in high school). Don't choose a school simply because of financial aid reasons. And if you aren't sure exactly what you want to go to school for then I would highly suggest taking a year off between high school and college to get to know YOU before you start the college path. Most importantly, travel abroad! As many places as you can go! And be active in college. Serving as the President of some random committee might seem like a waste of time now, but it will p ay of later when future employers see that you have leadership and management skills. Most of all, enjoy college and make the most out of it.


Talk to your guidance councelors.


Talk to real students and not just tour guides, and don't pick a school just because it gives you alot of money. Those packages are really deceptive.


When considering schools, don't worry overly much about the numbers and statistics associated with them. Especially in the upper tier of colleges (all of which have excellent academics), these differences are insignificant; no one cares if your school was 4th or 5th in Chemistry after you graduate. Instead, concentrate on finding a school that has the kind of people and the kind of atmosphere you'd like to be a part of. Visit the schools, and visit some classes if you have the chance. Talk to some students and see if they are the kind of people you'd like to be with for the next four years. Chances are, you'll find one or two schools where you feel at home almost immediately; where the people are welcoming and friendly and where you feel like you fit right in with your peers. Those are the schools you are going to want to consider, because those are the places where you'll make the truest friends and have the greatest experiences - both of which will be with you for the rest of your life.


After nearly a year and a half at my present college, I've realized that there are two questions that the student needs to ask his or herself before selecting colleges. Those questions are, "What do I want to study?" and "Do I know what my true interests are?" If you know what you want to study, then pick the schools with the best programs in your field of interest, and then narrow down the schools realistically, considering your gpa, SAT scores, size preference, location, etc. Skip to the next question if you can't answer the first. If you know what your true interests are, then pick a school based on those interests. If you are like the hundreds of thousands of students who can't answer either question, don't panic. In order to make the most of your college experience, you need to select the school which will give you the most space and flexibility to find yourself, and that is going to depend on the kind of environment in which you best thrive. Speak to students at schools and gauge the range of modes of existence and lifestyles those students have. Can you see yourself there?


Make sure that you think long and hard about your final decision. Also, make sure that you visit the school at least once during a time that is not explicitly for prospective students (when the campus is 'normal'). When considering the best place for you, do not convince yourself that something that is really important to you is actually not that important. Don't tell yourself that you can live without [blank] for four years, because for years is longer than you think, and the college experience will ultimately be more stressful than you expect. Make sure you give yourself a chance to find your passion. If changing your major will require you to graduate a year late, than compensate with your experience and extracurriculars, because ultimately your major may not be as important as your experience.


visit the school and don't focus too much on rankings


Parents, allow your students to look at all schools and explore financial aid options. Many great schools have wonderful financial aid programs. I was able to attend Swarthmore for less than 50% of its regular cost. Students, make sure you do your research about what you want and how schools match up with that. Also, if possible visit schools when students are there and attend the admitted students weekend.


Rank what is most important to you, the qualities of the schools, not the schools themselves. Then rank each college within that quality, and generally it is made clear what you want!


It is extremely important to know yourself and what YOU want, not what other people tell you is best. Because ultimately, what other people think has no effect on the mini-roadtrips you will take, the sports games you will go to where you will try to decide whether to paint your chest in your school colors and freeze in November. Given the right environment, people bloom in college. Think about size. Do you like knowing everyone on campus or being able to be anonymous? Visit unofficially so you can see how it feels there and whether you would be comfortable there. On a more practical note, do consider money. Debt may not seem like that big of a deal to you now, but it builds up quickly, and can lead to college being less enjoyable. Sometimes it is worth it to go somewhere cheaper, or with more financial aid (though some seemingly expensive schools can give amazing financial aid). And when you get there, don't be so rigid about what you want out of the experience that you miss opportunities to experiment. Some of the most rewarding classes are unexpected, as are some of the most interesting friendships.


VISIT THE COLLEGE. Nothing is more important than stepping onto the college's campus, talking to current students, and imagining how it would feel to spend 4 years of your life in that environment. I read dozens of articles, statistics, reviews, about one college in particular, and I was absolutely determined to go there without even visiting. But from the very minute I stepped foot on campus, all my expectations were shattered. The feel just wasn't right. By visiting colleges first, you can also learn much about yourself--things no guidebook could ever tell you. Visit the college. Period.


When I stepped onto Swarthmore's campus I knew immediately that it was the right school for me. The people were interesting and people that I wanted to spend the next 4 years of my life with. I think you need to really think about what you want and then go look at schools. A school will "click."


I chose Swarthmore after many campus visits and overnight stays at a host of different institutions. This, for me, was the best way to go about the college selection process because it allowed me to find my "fit" in the most organic, natural way possible. Given how prominently one's 'college experience' figures into the grand arch that is one's life, the veritable existential crisis one goes through when choosing a school cannot be understated. Under such circumstances it is hard to "follow your heart" or "go with your instincts," especially when it seems that statistics are screaming the obvious superiority of school X over schools A,B, and C. With all that said, though, I think that finding one's fit is the best way to go. Discovering and choosing a school that really speaks to you, strikes a chord with you, or just has a "je ne sais quoi" appeal to it, and then going with that inclination, paves the way for a college experience in which you are engaged daily, and in a substantive way--not just by the classroom experience, but by the much more important stuff that goes on outside the classroom as well.


Visiting the college is super important. I reccomend spending the night and sitting in on classes. By visiting you can get a good sense of the atmosphere on campus and how you would fit into that atmosphere. Remember that college isn't only about carrer prep but also about finding out who you are and what would make you happy in terms of a carrer and a life style. You are not going to be the same when you come to school as you are when you graduate, you won't even be the same after your first semester, so be sure to find some place that you will be happy despite these changes.


Look around a lot. Try different kinds of schools, even if you think you know what you want, and do overnight visits. While you're on the visit, see what people do with their time, what they're interested in, how they feel about their school. Don't go somewhere because it's where your parents want you to go, or because you have friends already going there; go somewhere where you like the people, where you think you'll fit in. Don't compromise on academics if that's what's important to you, but then again, don't go based solely on reputation about academics, either -- you may well get a better academic experience at a small, less well-known school than at a "brand-name" school. Look at the course book, sit in on classes. Even if you're absolutely sure you want to do a certain major or kind of major, pick a school where you won't be stuck interacting only with people doing the same thing: exposure to people with different interests is key. In the end, trust your gut -- it's ultimately about finding a place that feels right to you.


The advice that I would give to parents worrying about how their children do in choosing a college and, maybe even more so, how they handle their new life once they're there, is the same as I'd give to the students themselves, which is to say that these things have a way of working out. There's no such thing as a perfect fit, and while it's understandable to worry, people have a way of making their way wherever they go, especially those who have the initiative to be going to college in the first place. There will always be problems with any school, so as long as you can commit to a decision and go into it without too much trepidation, there's likely little to fear. Of course, for parents this means staying out of the decision as much as possible - guidance is all well and good, but this is a decision that children need to make for themselves in order to make it. Conversely, for students, know that your parents have been around longer than you, and that some things they say might just help in your decision.


Please think about the fact that the school you attend will take your money and your time for the next four years. Anything that makes you the least bit uncomfortable during a visit, will make you hate your school after 4 years.