How to Get Into Swarthmore College: Admissions Stats + Tips
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- How Hard Is It to Get Into Swarthmore?
- Average Academic Profile of Accepted Swarthmore Students
- What is Swarthmore Looking for?
- How to Improve Your Chances of Getting into Swarthmore
From its unique Honors Program to its membership in the Tri-College Consortium with Bryn Mawr College and Haverford College, Swarthmore College offers plenty of opportunities to students. The college was founded in 1864 by the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) and today is one of the most prestigious liberal arts schools in the United States.
Rigorous academics, a host of extracurricular activities, and numerous other programs are just some of the reasons why so many students apply to Swarthmore — and why it’s so selective. So, are you destined to be a Swattie?
How Hard Is It to Get Into Swarthmore?
Swarthmore is classified as most selective, with a 9% admissions rate. Of the 11,630 students who applied, only 1,054 were admitted. Thirty-three students were admitted off the waitlist in the 2020–2021 cycle.
Swarthmore’s ultra-low admissions rate may seem intimidating, but your own chances of acceptance depend on the strength of your individual profile. CollegeVine’s free admissions calculator will help you better understand your odds, using your grades, test scores, extracurriculars, and more. You’ll also receive free tips for improving your profile!
Average Academic Profile of Accepted Swarthmore Students
Swarthmore does not disclose information on average GPA, but students should aim to take the most challenging classes available and get all As if possible.
For the class of 2025, the middle 50% SAT score range was 1400-1530 (68% submitting), and the ACT range was 31-34 (40% submitting).
With 36% of the incoming class submitting their class rank, 93% were in the top 10% of their high school class, and 100% were in the top quarter.
What is Swarthmore Looking for?
Swarthmore is similar to other highly selective liberal arts colleges, such as Williams College and Amherst College, in that they heavily weight essays in the admissions process, as well as teacher recommendations. Meanwhile, interviews are strictly informational and not used to evaluate applicants.
According to the college, Swarthmore looks for:
- Intellectual curiosity and an enthusiasm for learning
- Creative and proactive problem-solving
- Generosity toward others
- Civic engagement
- Willingness to work hard and seek help
- Potential contributions to campus life
- Sustained commitment
- Open-mindedness in general and to the liberal arts writ large.
“There is no formula for admission to Swarthmore,” the college says. “We do not admit students based on a single factor or one admissions dean’s opinion. Each admission decision is the result of a thorough, committee-based, holistic, contextual, and highly selective application evaluation.”
It’s also important to note that Swarthmore will review your application accounting for the full context of your background, experiences, and opportunities. That means, for example, if you haven’t had access to AP courses at your high school, you will not be penalized, as long as you took the most challenging courses available to you.
How Swarthmore Evaluates Applications
According to Swarthmore’s 2020–21 Common Data Set, the college ranks these factors as “very important”:
- Rigor of secondary school record
- Class rank
- Academic GPA
- Application Essay
- Character/personal qualities
Meanwhile, this is “important”:
- Extracurricular activities
These factors are “considered”:
- Standardized test scores
- First generation
- Alumni/ae relation
- Geographical residence
- State residency
- Religious affiliation/commitment
- Racial/ethnic status
- Volunteer work
- Work experience
This is “not considered”:
- Level of applicant’s interest
How to Improve Your Chances of Getting into Swarthmore
1. Achieve a high GPA while taking the most challenging classes available
While Swarthmore doesn’t publish the averaging high school GPA for incoming students, given its selectively, it’s clear that academics are certainly a priority. This is also evidenced by the fact that nearly all students (93%) were in the top 10% of their graduating high school class.
Extremely selective schools like Swarthmore use the Academic Index to ensure that applicants meet their minimum academic standards before reviewing their additional qualifications. That means it’s critical for you to have strong grades and test scores. You should also be taking the most challenging curriculum available to you.
If your GPA is lower, and you’re earlier on in your high school career, check out our tips for increasing your GPA. If you’re a junior or senior, it will be harder to increase your GPA, so the easiest way to increase your Academic Index is to get a higher test score.
2. Aim for a 1530 SAT and 34 ACT
While any scores within the middle 50% SAT (1400-1530) and ACT (31-34) ranges is fine, you should aim for scores near the 75th percentile. Swarthmore superscores your results, so it’s in your best interest to take the test 2-3 times.
Given the current COVID-19 test-optional policies, we still recommend taking the SAT and/or ACT if it’s safe for you to do so. We also suggest submitting your scores if they are at or above the 25th percentile for students at Swarthmore (1400 for SAT and 31 for ACT).
Get recommendations on whether or not to apply test-optional using our free Chancing Engine.
Want help improving your SAT/ACT score? Check out these free CollegeVine resources:
- How to Get a Perfect 1600 Score on the SAT
- How to Get a Perfect 36 Score on the ACT
- More SAT Info and Tips
- More ACT Info and Tips
3. Cultivate at least one or two Tier 1-2 extracurriculars (find your “spike”)
Extracurriculars are another critical part of your application, helping show the adcom your engagement outside of the classroom. You should develop a “spike,” or specialization around 1-2 similarly themed areas.
Some of these will be Tier 3-4 activities, the ones Swarthmore encounters routinely, such as club participation. But you should also have at least one or two Tier 1-2 activities, too. These might include winning a prestigious, national award, starting a successful business, or conducting nationally recognized research. Here are more examples of impressive ECs for college.
4. Write engaging essays
Swarthmore places strong emphasis on your essays in the admissions process. This is an opportunity to share the more personal aspects of your academic and life journey — the experiences that have shaped you, the intellectual risks you’ve taken, and your interest in the college.
It’s also a chance to share more of your personality with the adcom. Transcripts and test scores give them an idea of who you are as a student, but your essays will help them see the fuller picture of who you are as a person.
5. Apply Early Decision
Swarthmore offers two Early Decision plans. While the college doesn’t publish its ED acceptance rate, students usually have a better chance of being accepted when they do apply ED, even accounting for profile strength. Still, remember that this decision is binding, meaning that you must attend Swarthmore if you are admitted under the plan, and keep in mind the limitations of applying ED in general.
6. Secure strong teacher recommendations
Swarthmore places strong emphasis on teacher recommendations in the admissions process. The school asks for two academic-subject teacher evaluations, and you should ask ones who know you particularly well. That means that while you should certainly ask someone who teaches a subject that is strong for you, you should also consider who understands you personally as well as in a student capacity.
How to Apply to Swarthmore
Early Decision I
Early Decision II
- Common Application, Coalition Application, or QuestBridge Application
- Swarthmore College supplement
- $60 application fee or fee waiver
- School report
- School counselor recommendation
- High school transcript
- Midyear grades
- Two academic-subject teacher recommendations/evaluations
- Self-reported or official standardized test scores (currently optional)
- Interview (optional)
Learn more about Swarthmore