- Major: Engineering
- Gender: F
- High School: Union-Endicott
- Transfer Student: N
The best thing about Swarthmore, is definitely the people. I have met so many people that just amaze me by how much they have already accomplished in their lives as well as how much potential I see in them. The students I have met are so intelligent and interesting as well as genuinely good people that, idealistic as it might sound believe that a better world is possible. I think the size of the school is just right. People's reactions vary from, "Swarth what?" to "Wow, that is an incredibly good school." Being an engineering student, especially as a junior and senior, you spend most of your time in Hicks, but also Sharples or any one of the multiple libraries. The town or "the Ville" as it is colled is not really a college town. It is a very small suburb that is very quaint, but has most of the basics like places for take out, a small co-op grocery, a weekend farmer's market, etc..., but Philadelphia is only a 30 hour train ride away. The deans that I have met have seemed very interested and responsive to student opinions, but there is a disconnect between what the administration professes is the mission and goal of the college and actual actions that are implemented. I am studying abroad currently so I do not know what the most current controvery is, but a discussion topic that has come up a lot is the need to develop an ethnic studies program at the college. I think there is a lot of school pride amongst current students as well as alumni of Swarthmore. However, it does not manifest itself in the usual venues. Sporting events are not a huge deal at Swarthmore for the most part, unless you are on an athletic team or have a good friend on the team, most people do not go to watch games on a regular basis. The people are the best part of Swarthmore as well as the most unusual. There are definitely a lot of quirky people to say the least at Swarthmore, but that is really embraced. It is strange sometimes because you can get so engrossed in "Swat culture" that it really feels like you are in a bubble, and I think that sometimes we all need to leave the bubble or take a break from it for a while. I will always remember the Tri-College Summer Diversity Workshop, which is a pre-orientation program run by the Tri-College Consortium consisting of Swarthmore, Haverford, and Bryn Mawr Colleges. The program offers around 85 pre-freshmen to participate in a week-long series of workshops about different issues related to diversity in race, religion, gender and sexuality. I learned so much from that experience, made some of my best friends in college, and it helped push me to become a more socially and politically active person. The most frequent student complaints usually revolve around, as with most schools, the cafeteria food, library hours that are too short, or having too much reading and work to do. We like to call it misery poker, which is especially common before mid-terms and finals.
Professors definitely know your name because with the exception of general requirement courses, most courses are around 20 people or less. My favorite class that I have taken at Swarthmore was a first year seminar about the History of Food in America. It was a really interesting historiography based course that focused on looking at the development of America through different food trade, agriculture, and the effects it had on people and society. My least favorite class was probably my engineering class on Engineering Probability, which was really a statistics class in disguise. Students study a lot I would have to say compared to what I have seen at many other colleges and universities. Class participation is very common and encouraged. Swarthmore students are constantly engaging in intellectual conversations outside of class. Many of them are initiated by organizations, but many of them are also just spontaneous. I should be careful not to generalize too much, but for the most part students are much more collaborative than competitive. The most unique class I have taken thus far has probably been my History of Food class because we combined discussions with a research project that involved writing down your own family recipe, writing about one specific food item, and making a recipe using that food item as the main ingredient. My major is engineering, and all of the engineering professors I have had so far are very supportive of students. They definitely make efforts to assist students and to be available. However, one of my major gripes with the department, which I think they are trying to correct now, is a lack of mentors. I think if a really strong mentorship program was enacted in it would help a lot of students through some of the most challenging courses as well as with the overall difficulty of taking a lot of natural science, mathematics and engineering courses in conjunction with each other as well as trying to have a social life! Most of the time I have spent with professors outside of class has been in office hours, which may or may not count as class. But, I know many students who have developed really close relationships with one or two professors and have worked on projects or research with those professors as well as who have gone to their professors houses for extra help or for seminar dinners. Swarthmore has challenging but not unreasonable academic requirements for the most part. I think education at Swarthmore is geared at making people good critical thinkers who can succeed in academia or in the professional world. One thing with engineering at Swarthmore is that it is very generalist so someone looking to major in a specific field of engineering should probably choose a school that excels in that particular field. But, for students interested in studying engineering as well as getting the liberal arts background should definitely look into Swarthmore.
I have really enjoyed being part of the Swarthmore Asian Organization, which I guess would fit into a "racial group" on campus. But most of the groups on campus try to be very multi-dimensional, and I think there is a move to try and promote greater collaboration between many different groups. Open discussions is definitely something that students strive for although it doesn't always happen. Sometimes it does feel sort of difficult to be openly religious at Swarthmore because it feels like you are in a minority. However, I have never noticed any strong religious tensions on campus. There are multiple LGBT groups on campus that a good number of students participate in, and there is a lot of discussion about how people outside of specific groups can still be good allies. I think one of the main problems that students at Swarthmore have is a sort of self-segregation, where people get really comfortable spending time only with people that are the most similar to them in a multitude of ways, culturally, religiously, etc. Students who are not willing or have never experienced a very liberal environment would probably feel out of place. During Sager week for example, which is organized by mainly the LGBTQ groups on campus, many freshmen have expressed shock at the sexually explicit chalkings or the discussion topics. Students wear a variety of styles, but I would not call Swarthmore a very high maintenance or trendy designer kind of campus. Different types of students do interact, but it really depends on the individual. Four tables? There are definitely a few tables that are generally perceived to be tables that specific athletic teams sit at, one for students of color, and sometimes specifically black students, or the Mary Lyons (sort of the Psi Phi crowd) table. Most Swarthmore students are from the Northeast States, California, or Pennsylvania. Swarthmore tries to be need-blind with financial aid, but it is still a really expensive college to attend, and most students come from middle to upper middle class families although certainly not exclusively. There is a significant proportion of the student body that is politically aware, but politically active is another matter. I would say that most students are predominantly leftist in their views. Most students do not talk about how much they'll earn one day, and it is almost taboo to be perceived as someone who is concerned mainly with wealth, but students do care about being successful. (Check out the alumni records for example.)
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