How to Get Into Swarthmore College: Admissions Data & Strategies
Swarthmore College is one of the most competitive liberal arts colleges in the country, in the same league with the likes of Williams, Amherst, and Pomona. While lesser-known to the general public than the Ivy League universities, these schools (including Swat) sport single-digit acceptance rates and are a challenge to gain acceptance into even for students at the very top of the high school class who possess near-perfect SAT/ACT scores. While this may come as surprise to anyone who doesn’t follow the latest admissions trends, a quick look at the historical acceptance rate for Swarthmore reveals the following numbers:
- 1980: 40%
- 1990: 32%
- 2000: 24%
- 2010: 16%
- 2020: 9%
To give prospective Swarthmore applicants a better sense of their admissions chances in 2021-22, this blog will touch on the following topics:
- Swarthmore College’s Class of 2025 acceptance rate
- Swarthmore College’s Early Decision acceptance rate
- SAT, ACT, and class rank of accepted Swarthmore College applicants
- Admissions trends for the Class of 2025
- Swarthmore College’s system for rating applicants
- A look at the demographics of current Swarthmore College undergraduates
- The percent of accepted students that attend the Swarthmore College (yield rate)
- Tips for applying to Swarthmore College
- How to assess whether applying to the Swarthmore College is even worth the $60 application fee (for you)
Let’s begin with an examination of the most recent admissions data.
Swarthmore College Acceptance Rate – Class of 2025
Swarthmore received more than 13,000 applications (official stats have yet to be released) for a place in the Class of 2025 and accepted just 1,014. Based on these preliminary numbers, we can estimate that the acceptance rate was somewhere between 7% and 8%. This represents a more selective admissions campaign than the previous year; the Class of 2024 saw 1,054 of 11,630 applicants selected for an acceptance rate of 9.1%.
Swarthmore College Early Decision Acceptance Rate
The most recent Swarthmore College ED acceptance rate data is from the Class of 2024, which saw 994 students apply via binding Early Decision and 237 gain acceptance. This 23.8% acceptance rate is far higher than that of the regular round (7.7%). The final 2020-21 freshman class was comprised of 63% students who applied ED.
Swarthmore College Admissions – SAT, ACT, and Class Rank
For Class of 2024 members, the mid-50% SAT range was 1400-1530. The average SAT score was 1455 and the median score was a 1480. The average Math score (739) was higher than the average reading score (716). The ACT range was 31-34 with an average of 32.5 and a median score of 33. Ninety-three percent of enrolled freshmen finished in the top 10% of their high school class and 100% were in the top quartile.
Admissions Trends & Notes – Class of 2025
- Due to COVID-19 pandemic, Swarthmore was test-optional during the 2020-21 admissions cycle and will remain so during the 2021-22 cycle.
- 65% of admitted Class of 2025 attended public high schools; 25% attended independent schools.
- Students were admitted from 86 nations and all 50 U.S. states.
- Swarthmore is expecting a larger freshman class in 2021-22 of approximately 435 students.
- 93% of those admitted to the Class of 2025 graduated in the top 10% of their high school class.
How Swarthmore College Rates Applicants
Swarthmore College view six factors as “very important” to the admissions process: rigor of high school course load, class rank, GPA, application essays, recommendations, and character/personal qualities. The lone factor designated as “important” was extracurricular activities. At least for this test-optional stretch (2020-21 & 2021-22), standardized test are relegated to mere “considered” status.
Straight from the Swarthmore admissions office: “We work hard to identify a potential ‘match’ between you and Swarthmore. We look for students who are most likely to thrive in our classrooms, living spaces, and campus community.” To dive into a more school-specific examination of how Swarthmore holistically evaluates applicants, the following traits and valued deeply:
- Intellectual curiosity and an enthusiasm for learning
- Creative and proactive problem-solving Generosity toward others
- Civic engagement
- Willingness to work hard and to seek help
- Potential contributions to campus life
- Sustained commitment.
- Open-mindedness in general and to the liberal arts writ large
Swarthmore College Demographics
Let’s look at the demographics of Swarthmore College undergraduate student body. The states that saw the greatest number of applicants accepted into the Class of 2025 were:
- New York
- New Jersey
- North Carolina
The regional representation among the undergraduate student body is as follows:
- Mid-Atlantic: 37%
- West: 16%
- International: 13%
- Southeast: 10%
- Midwest: 9%
- New England: 8%
- Southwest: 5%
- Mountain States: 2%
The greatest percentage of international students come from the following countries:
- China: 24%
- India: 7%
- South Korea: 6%
- Mexico: 6%
- United Kingdom: 4%
- Japan: 3%
In terms of ethnic identity, the breakdown is as follows:
- White: 39%
- Asian: 16%
- Hispanic: 12%
- African American: 7%
- Two or More Races: 6%
A look at the gender split reveals that university enrolls a roughly even number of men and women.
- Men: 50%
- Women: 50%
Members of the incoming Class of 2024 attended the following types of high schools:
- Public: 65%
- Independent: 25%
- Parochial: 10%
- International: 10%
Swarthmore College’s “Yield Rate”
Swarthmore College’s yield rate—the percentage of accepted students who elect to enroll, divided by the total number of students who are admitted is 35%. This places them behind other top liberal arts schools which have the following yields: Williams College (46%), Pomona College (54%), and Amherst College (39%).
Tips for Applying to Swarthmore College
If you plan on joining the 13,000+ Swarthmore College hopefuls for the next admissions cycle, you should know the following:
- If Swarthmore is your top choice, you’ll want to strongly consider applying ED by November 15. The Regular Decision deadline falls in the first week of January, but the acceptance rates are significantly lower in this round.
- This school does offer both virtual fellow interviews with an admissions officer as well as alumni interviews but not neither are required. For tips on how to ace your college interview, check out this blog.
- Swarthmore College does not consider “demonstrated interest” so you will not be judged on whether or not you made a campus visit, contacted an admissions officer, etc.
- You can apply through the Common Application or Coalition Application.
- You’ll need to submit a Mid-Year Report in late February so remember to keep those grades up throughout your senior year of high school.
- Make sure to dedicate sufficient time and effort to the supplemental essay prompts offered by Swarthmore College. In the 2020-21 cycle, the directions and three choices were as follows:
In addition to the Common Application’s personal statement (you can choose one of seven essay prompts), we ask you to submit no more than 250 words in response to a short answer question. For the 2020-2021 admissions cycle, students will be asked to choose one of the following three questions:
- Swarthmore students’ worldviews are often forged by their prior experiences and exposure to ideas and values. Our students are often mentored, supported, and developed by their immediate context—in their neighborhoods, communities of faith, families, and classrooms. Reflect on what elements of your home, school, or community have shaped you or positively impacted you. How have you grown or changed because of the influence of your community?
- We are inspired by students who are flexible in their approach to learning, who are comfortable with experimentation, and who are willing to take intellectual risks that move them out of their comfort zone. Reflect on a time that you were intellectually challenged, inspired, or took an intellectual risk—inside or outside of the classroom. How has that experience shaped you, and what questions still linger?
- Why are you interested in applying to and attending Swarthmore?
College Transitions’ Swarthmore College Essay Tips
In terms of prompt selection, pick the prompt that most allows you to express a core part of your personality that may not be evident elsewhere in the application. Whether that is a) a community b) an intellectual challenge or c) an answer to the question “Why Swarthmore?” There is simply no wrong choice here.
If you select the third option, be sure to check out our blog: Mastering the “Why this College?” Essay.
Should I Apply to Swarthmore?
Seventy-seven percent of those accepted into Swarthmore possessed an SAT score of 1400 or better; 89% earned an ACT score of 30 or higher (this does not include the last application cycle when the school became temporarily test-optional). Just about everyone finished at or near the top of their high school class. If you check these boxes then you’ll certainly be a competitive applicant at Swarthmore, but those with additional attributes and talents will fare best.
Any student applying to a school of Swat’s caliber also needs to also have a proper mix or “target” and “safety” schools on their college list. More on creating a balanced college list can be found here.
Dave has over a decade of professional experience that includes work as a teacher, high school administrator, college professor, and independent educational consultant. He is a co-author of the books The Enlightened College Applicant (Rowman & Littlefield, 2016) and Colleges Worth Your Money (Rowman & Littlefield, 2020).