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How Are Admissions Essays Viewed at Swarthmore College?

This article was written based on the information and opinions presented by Daniel Sheeran in a CollegeVine livestream. You can watch the full livestream for more info.

 

What’s Covered

 

 

Why Application Essays Matter for the Swarthmore Admissions Process

 

In a normal admission year at selective schools, essays are the single most important personal component of your application. They constitute about 30% of your admissions decision. 

 

The bulk of an application consists of objective and quantifiable data. Test scores, the number of Advanced Placement (AP) classes on a transcript, GPA, and class rank are all easy to categorize. Even demographics and the number of clubs listed can end up being impersonal. 

 

Since Swarthmore College promotes practicing holistic admissions, it considers all aspects of an applicant fully. Traditionally, it places a higher level of emphasis than similar colleges on the essay as a way to distinguish applicants from one another and make the process more human centered. 

 

More information about Swarthmore College’s 2022-2023 essay prompts is available here

 

How Essays Can Help a Swarthmore Application

 

A good essay will show an admissions officer what they have in common with an applicant and can provide the reader with reasons to overlook any of their concerns. 

 

For applicants with confusing or weak parts of their application, such as a possible dip in grades for a particular year or a lack of extracurricular activities, the essay is a great opportunity to explain the situation and offer context, focusing on the personal element behind the event. 

 

The Swarthmore essays are about expressing who an applicant is as a person: what dreams they have, what their aspirations are, and what unique things they may have experienced. Writing about these themes and how they relate to extracurriculars or a desired area of study can be beneficial and offer admissions officers a glimpse into how an applicant could contribute to their campus. 

 

What to Avoid in a Swarthmore Admissions Essay

 

Just as essays can bolster an application, they can also be major hindrances. In certain instances, a bad essay can result in an otherwise qualified applicant being rejected. So, it’s important not to give the reader any reason to disqualify an application. 

 

Essays that do not align with a student’s image, as based on other application data, are particularly problematic for admissions officers. Any kind of discord between material like GPA and test scores when compared to the essays can cast doubt on the applicant. 

 

It may indicate insincerity in the essay or a lack of genuine connection to the school, and it can also raise doubts about an essay’s author. If a student has an “A” in English, for example, but their essay is poorly written, the entire application seems suspect. Suspicions of plagiarism would surely impact an admissions decision. 

 

It is also helpful to avoid overly cliché topics or themes. Valedictorians, for example, may want to avoid discussing being top of their class in their essays. Although it may qualify someone to be admitted from a numerical standpoint, it does not distinguish them from other candidates with similar accomplishments. 

 

For more advice, check out CollegeVine’s guide on “How to Write the Swarthmore College Essays.”


Short Bio
At CollegeVine, experts host weekly livestreams on college admissions topics, including application advice, essay writing tips, and college information sessions. To register or check out more livestreams, visit www.collegevine.com/livestreams.