Boston College vs Swarthmore: A Look at Their Differences and Similarities

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

Two students using a gadget while lounging in the grass.

Boston College vs Swarthmore: A Look at Their Differences and Similarities

Choosing a college can be a daunting task, especially when comparing two reputable institutions, such as Boston College and Swarthmore. Both schools offer students a diverse range of academic programs, extracurricular activities, and support systems. However, there are significant differences in location, campus culture, admission processes, and other factors that set them apart. In this article, we will take a detailed look at the differences and similarities between Boston College vs Swarthmore.

Location: The Differences and Similarities Between Boston College vs Swarthmore

One of the primary factors that students consider when choosing a college is location. Boston College is located in the Chestnut Hill neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts. The For many students, Boston is an exciting and vibrant city that offers a wide range of opportunities for internships, cultural events, and entertainment. Swarthmore, on the other hand, is a small liberal arts college located in the suburban town of Swarthmore, Pennsylvania, just a short train ride away from Philadelphia.

While Boston College offers students the excitement of living in a bustling city, Swarthmore provides a more rural environment that is conducive to a traditional collegiate lifestyle. Both schools have a distinctive culture, but the location can play a significant role in setting the tone for student life outside of classroom walls.

Another important aspect to consider when comparing the locations of Boston College and Swarthmore is the accessibility to outdoor activities. Boston College is located near the Chestnut Hill Reservoir, which offers a scenic running and walking trail for students to enjoy.

Additionally, the nearby Charles River provides opportunities for kayaking and sailing. Swarthmore, on the other hand, is surrounded by several state parks and nature reserves, including Ridley Creek State Park and the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge. These locations offer students the chance to hike, bike, and explore the great outdoors.

Campus Culture: A Comparative Study Between Boston College vs Swarthmore

When it comes to campus culture, Boston College and Swarthmore offer vastly different experiences to their students. Boston College is a Catholic institution that values service, faith, and social justice. The school’s Jesuit tradition emphasizes a strong sense of community, inclusivity, and intellectual curiosity. Swarthmore, on the other hand, is a secular institution that values academic rigor, intellectual exploration, and independent thinking.

Students line up while smiling.

Students at Swarthmore have a reputation for being socially and politically engaged, often participating in workshops, events, and demonstrations that address social justice and advocacy issues. Both schools pride themselves on nurturing a strong community, but the type of community that students can expect is quite different.

Another notable difference between Boston College and Swarthmore is the size of their student bodies. Boston College has a larger student population, with over 14,000 undergraduate and graduate students, while Swarthmore has a much smaller student body of around 1,600 students.

This size difference can impact the sense of community on campus, with Boston College offering a wider range of extracurricular activities and social events, while Swarthmore’s smaller size allows for more intimate and close-knit relationships between students and faculty.

Admission Process: Boston College vs Swarthmore

Getting accepted into Boston College or Swarthmore is no easy feat. Both schools have rigorous admissions processes and select only the most qualified applicants. Boston College has an acceptance rate of around 19%, while Swarthmore has an even more competitive acceptance rate of approximately 8%.

Both schools consider a wide range of factors when making admissions decisions, including academic performance, extracurricular involvement, essays, and recommendations. Boston College values well-rounded students who have demonstrated engagement both inside and outside of the classroom. Swarthmore places a premium on academic achievement and intellectual curiosity, often accepting students who have pursued independent research or unique projects during high school.

However, there are some differences in the admission process between Boston College and Swarthmore. Boston College requires applicants to submit standardized test scores, such as the SAT or ACT, while Swarthmore has adopted a test-optional policy. This means that applicants can choose whether or not to submit their test scores, and the admissions committee will not penalize them for not submitting scores.

Additionally, Swarthmore has a holistic approach to admissions, meaning that they consider the whole person and not just their academic achievements. They also have a commitment to diversity and seek to admit students from a variety of backgrounds and experiences.

Academic Programs: Comparing the Different Fields of Study at Boston College vs Swarthmore

Boston College and Swarthmore both offer a diverse range of academic programs, with majors ranging from business and economics to humanities and the sciences. Boston College has a particular focus on the social sciences, with departments such as political science, sociology, and psychology being particularly strong. Swarthmore has a more traditional liberal arts curriculum, emphasizing the importance of a broad-based education in the humanities, social sciences, and sciences.

Both schools offer opportunities for interdisciplinary study and provide students with individualized attention through small class sizes and close relationships with faculty.

View of students using a laptop in a room.

Additionally, Boston College offers a variety of pre-professional programs, including pre-law and pre-med, which provide students with the necessary coursework and resources to pursue careers in these fields. Swarthmore, on the other hand, has a strong emphasis on research and encourages students to engage in independent research projects in their chosen fields of study.

Furthermore, Boston College has a robust international studies program, offering students the opportunity to study abroad in over 30 countries and providing language immersion programs. Swarthmore also has a strong commitment to global education, with a variety of study abroad programs and partnerships with international institutions.

Faculty: A Look at the Teaching Staff at Boston College vs Swarthmore

The faculty at Boston College and Swarthmore are both highly respected in their fields and are known for their expertise, accessibility, and commitment to student success. However, there are some differences in the faculty structures at each school.

Boston College has a larger faculty and is known for its emphasis on teaching excellence, often employing professors who have experience in their respective fields. Swarthmore prides itself on having an exceptionally talented and diverse faculty, with a high percentage of professors holding advanced degrees in their specialties.

Both schools encourage faculty-student collaboration and foster intellectual curiosity that leads to innovative research and scholarship.

Another difference between the faculty at Boston College and Swarthmore is the student-to-faculty ratio. Boston College has a larger student body, which means that the student-to-faculty ratio is higher than at Swarthmore. This can make it more challenging for students to get one-on-one time with their professors. However, Boston College has a robust system of academic advisors who can help students navigate their academic careers and connect them with faculty members who can provide mentorship and guidance.

On the other hand, Swarthmore’s smaller student body and lower student-to-faculty ratio mean that students have more opportunities to work closely with their professors. This can lead to more personalized attention and a deeper understanding of the material. Additionally, Swarthmore’s faculty members are known for their commitment to social justice and activism, and many incorporate these values into their teaching and research.

Student Life: Comparing the Extracurricular Activities at Boston College vs Swarthmore

Outside of the classroom, students at both Boston College and Swarthmore have numerous opportunities to get involved in extracurricular activities and student organizations. Boston College offers a wide range of clubs, including academic groups, student publications, and performing arts organizations.

Swarthmore has a vibrant student life scene, with many students participating in student government, Greek life, and community service initiatives. Both schools have robust athletic programs, with Boston College being a Division I NCAA institution and Swarthmore a Division III member.

Students reading in a bench in the school campus.

Additionally, Boston College has a strong emphasis on service and social justice, with many student organizations dedicated to volunteering and activism. Swarthmore also has a focus on social justice, with a number of student-led initiatives aimed at promoting diversity and inclusion on campus.

Furthermore, both schools offer unique opportunities for students to engage in research and academic pursuits outside of the classroom. Boston College has a number of research centers and institutes, while Swarthmore has a renowned honors program that allows students to conduct independent research projects under the guidance of faculty mentors.

Athletics: A Comparison of Sports Teams at Boston College vs Swarthmore

Athletics are an essential part of the student experience at both schools, but the programs could not be more different. Boston College has a history of athletic success and is best known for its football program, which has been ranked among the top collegiate teams in the country. Swarthmore has a smaller athletic program but is known for its strong emphasis on teamwork and sportsmanship.

Both schools offer a wide range of varsity sports, including basketball, soccer, and lacrosse. Intramural sports are also popular at both institutions.

Despite the differences in size and reputation, both Boston College and Swarthmore prioritize the well-being of their student-athletes. Both schools have invested in state-of-the-art athletic facilities, including fitness centers, training rooms, and playing fields. Additionally, both institutions have dedicated staff members who provide support and resources to student-athletes, including academic advising and mental health services.

Another notable difference between the two schools is their approach to recruiting. Boston College has a highly competitive recruitment process, with coaches actively seeking out top high school athletes from around the country. Swarthmore, on the other hand, prioritizes recruiting students who are a good fit for the school academically and socially and who also happen to be talented athletes. This approach has led to a more diverse and inclusive athletic program at Swarthmore.

Alumni Network: How Does the Alumni Community Differ between Boston College and Swarthmore?

The alumni communities at Boston College and Swarthmore are vast and active, with many graduates retaining strong ties to their respective alma maters. Boston College has a particularly active alumni network, with graduates working in a wide range of fields, including finance, law, and the arts.

Swarthmore graduates are known for their dedication to social justice causes and often work in fields such as non-profit organizations, education, and environmental advocacy. Both schools provide ample opportunities for students to connect with alumni, providing opportunities for networking and professional development.

However, there are some notable differences between the alumni communities of Boston College and Swarthmore. Boston College alumni tend to be more geographically dispersed, with a significant number of graduates living and working in major cities across the United States and around the world. In contrast, Swarthmore alumni are more likely to remain in the Northeastern United States, with many staying in the Philadelphia area where the college is located.

Career Opportunities: Analyzing the Post-Graduation Prospects for Students of Boston College vs Swarthmore

Graduating from either Boston College or Swarthmore opens doors to a wide range of career opportunities. Both schools have strong career centers that offer support in job search, resume building, and interview preparation. Boston College graduates often find careers in the business and finance sectors, while Swarthmore graduates often work in education, science, and technology.

Group of students talking in a table with a laptop.

Post-graduate studies are also a popular option for graduates from both schools, with many students pursuing advanced degrees in fields such as law, medicine, and public policy.

However, there are some differences in the post-graduation prospects for students of Boston College and Swarthmore. Boston College has a strong alumni network, which can be beneficial for graduates seeking job opportunities. On the other hand, Swarthmore has a reputation for producing graduates who are highly skilled in critical thinking and problem-solving, which can be attractive to employers in a variety of fields.

Another factor to consider is the location of the schools. Boston College is located in the heart of Boston, which is a hub for many industries, including finance, healthcare, and technology. Swarthmore, on the other hand, is located in a suburban area outside of Philadelphia, which may offer different job opportunities and a different quality of life for graduates.

Cost of Attendance: Comparing the Affordability of Studying at Boston College vs Swarthmore

The cost of attending Boston College or Swarthmore can be a major concern for prospective students and their families. Boston College is a significantly larger institution with a higher student population, so it may be able to offer more scholarships and financial aid opportunities than Swarthmore. Nevertheless, Swarthmore is known for meeting 100% of demonstrated need of all students who are admitted. Boston College offers both need-based and merit-based aid, while Swarthmore is need-based only.

Both schools have similar annual costs, with tuition, fees, and room and board averaging around $70,000 per year. However, the financial aid packages offered by each school can greatly reduce the out-of-pocket cost for qualifying students and families.

It is important to note that the cost of attendance is not the only factor to consider when choosing between Boston College and Swarthmore. Both schools have unique academic programs, campus cultures, and extracurricular opportunities that may appeal to different students. Additionally, the location may play a role in the decision-making process, as Boston College is located in a major city while Swarthmore is situated in a suburban area. Prospective students should carefully weigh all of these factors before making a final decision on where to attend college.

Student Body Diversity: An Examination of the Diversity on Campus at Both Schools.

Boston College and Swarthmore both have diverse student bodies, but the approaches to diversity and inclusivity are somewhat different. Boston College prides itself on being inclusive and welcoming to students of all backgrounds, emphasizing the responsibility of all students to embrace differences and contribute to the school’s culture of acceptance.

Group of students involve in a club raising their hands.

Swarthmore places an emphasis on creating a diverse and inclusive community through programs, events, and initiatives that address social justice and equity issues. Both schools are committed to fostering an inclusive environment where students can learn, grow, and thrive.

However, despite their commitment to diversity, both schools still face challenges in creating truly inclusive environments. At Boston College, some students have reported feeling excluded or marginalized due to their race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation. Swarthmore has also faced criticism for not doing enough to address issues of racism and discrimination on campus.

Both schools recognize the need to continue working towards greater inclusivity and are actively taking steps to address these challenges.

Research Opportunities: Boston College vs Swarthmore

Both Boston College and Swarthmore offer students ample opportunities for research and scholarship, with extensive resources and facilities available to support students’ academic endeavors. Boston College has established research centers in areas including finance, natural science, social science, and humanities. Swarthmore encourages student research across disciplines and provides avenues for funding and other resources needed for top-level work.

However, there are some differences in the research facilities provided by these two schools. Boston College has a larger research budget and more specialized equipment, which allows students to conduct more complex experiments and studies. Swarthmore, on the other hand, has a smaller student-to-faculty ratio, which means that students have more one-on-one time with professors and can receive more personalized guidance on their research projects.

In addition, Boston College has a strong emphasis on interdisciplinary research, with many opportunities for students to collaborate across departments and fields. Swarthmore, on the other hand, places a greater emphasis on independent research, with students encouraged to pursue their own interests and passions in their academic work.

Support for International Students: Boston College vs Swarthmore

Both Boston College and Swarthmore are welcoming to international students, and both schools provide extensive resources and support services for these students. These services include language support, cultural programming, and other programs designed to help international students acclimate to life in the United States.

Boston College has a larger international student population, and the school’s International Student Services office is well-equipped to provide a range of support services. Swarthmore has a dedicated Office of Multicultural Affairs that supports students from underrepresented backgrounds.

In addition to the support services mentioned above, both Boston College and Swarthmore offer opportunities for international students to connect with each other and with the broader campus community. Boston College has a Global Living and Learning Community where international students can live together and participate in cultural events and activities.

Swarthmore has a Global Voices program, which brings together international and domestic students for discussions and events focused on global issues. These programs help international students feel more connected to their school and community and provide valuable opportunities for cultural exchange.

Graduation rate – Which school has a higher graduation rate?

The six-year graduation rate for Boston College is approximately 92%, while Swarthmore’s six-year graduation rate is approximately 94%. Both schools have high retention rates and pride themselves on ensuring that the vast majority of enrolled students graduate on time.

However, it is important to note that graduation rates can vary depending on the program or major. For example, Swarthmore’s engineering program has a higher graduation rate than its humanities program. Similarly, Boston College’s nursing program has a higher graduation rate than its business program.

Students holding their graduation caps.

Factors such as academic rigor, student support services, and campus culture can also impact graduation rates. Both Boston College and Swarthmore have strong academic programs and offer resources such as tutoring and career services to support their students. Additionally, both schools have a strong sense of community and pride, which can contribute to a positive campus culture and ultimately lead to higher graduation rates.


Overall, both Boston College and Swarthmore are exceptional institutions that offer students a diverse range of academic programs, extracurricular activities, and support services. While there are significant differences in location, campus culture, and other factors that set them apart, there is no one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to choosing a college.

One factor that may influence a student’s decision is the size of the school. Boston College has a larger student body, with over 14,000 undergraduate and graduate students, while Swarthmore has a smaller student body of just over 1,600. This may impact the sense of community and the level of individual attention that students receive from faculty and staff.

Another important consideration is the availability of resources for students. Both Boston College and Swarthmore offer a range of support services, such as academic advising, career counseling, and mental health services. However, the specific resources and level of support may vary between the two schools. Prospective students should research and compare the resources available at each institution to determine which school can best meet their needs.

Ultimately, the decision should be based on students’ individual needs, interests, and goals. By providing a comprehensive look at the differences and similarities between Boston College and Swarthmore, this article aims to help prospective students make an informed decision about which school is the right fit for them.

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