Brown University vs Swarthmore: Which College is Right for You?

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

Female student using a laptop

Brown University vs Swarthmore: Which College is Right for You?

Choosing the right college can be a daunting task, especially when it comes to selecting between two reputed institutions like Brown University vs Swarthmore College. Both colleges offer excellent educational opportunities and unique campus experiences, making it hard to choose one over the other.

In this article, we aim to provide a comprehensive comparison of the two colleges, covering various aspects such as academics, campus life, faculty profiles, admission requirements, campus safety, diversity, equity, inclusion initiatives, financial aid, and more. By the end of this article, you will be able to make an informed decision about which college is right for you.

A Brief Overview of Brown University vs Swarthmore College

Brown University and Swarthmore College are both premier liberal arts colleges in the United States. Brown University is located in Providence, Rhode Island, and is among the eight Ivy League institutions, known for its academic excellence, world-renowned faculty, and student-centered approach to learning.

Swarthmore College, on the other hand, is located in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania, and is known for its rigorous academic program, diverse community, and commitment to social justice and civic engagement.

Brown University has a long history of producing successful alumni, including eight Nobel laureates, 56 Rhodes Scholars, and numerous Pulitzer Prize winners. The university offers undergraduate, graduate, and professional degree programs in a wide range of fields, including engineering, humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences.

Swarthmore College, on the other hand, is a small, private liberal arts college that emphasizes interdisciplinary learning and encourages students to explore a variety of academic interests. The college has a strong commitment to sustainability and environmental stewardship, and its campus features several green initiatives, including a solar array and a campus farm.

Location and Campus Environment: Brown University vs Swarthmore

Location and campus environment are important considerations when selecting a college. Brown University is located in the heart of Providence, a city that offers a vibrant arts and culture scene and easy access to the beach. The campus itself is spread over 146 acres and includes a mix of historic and modern buildings. Swarthmore College, on the other hand, is located in a quiet suburban setting, with a campus spread over 425 acres of woodlands, fields, and gardens. The campus has a park-like feel, with most buildings designed in the traditional Gothic style.


Despite the differences in location and campus environment, both Brown University and Swarthmore College offer unique opportunities for students. Brown University’s location in Providence allows students to take advantage of the city’s many internship and job opportunities, as well as its diverse cultural offerings. Swarthmore College’s suburban location, on the other hand, provides a peaceful and secluded environment that is conducive to studying and reflection.

View of students walking in front of Brown building.

Another factor to consider when comparing the two colleges is the size of their student bodies. Brown University has a larger student population, with over 10,000 undergraduate and graduate students, while Swarthmore College has a smaller student body of just over 1,600 students. This difference in size can impact the overall campus culture and the level of individual attention that students receive from faculty and staff.

Academics: Curriculum and Degree Programs Offered at Brown University vs Swarthmore College

Both Brown University and Swarthmore College offer a rigorous liberal arts curriculum, with a strong emphasis on interdisciplinary studies and research opportunities. Brown offers a wide range of undergraduate programs, including more than 80 concentrations across various disciplines. Swarthmore offers over 40 different majors and minors across arts, humanities, sciences, and social sciences. Both colleges also offer graduate and professional programs, with Brown having a larger graduate program than Swarthmore.

Brown University is known for its Open Curriculum, which allows students to design their own course of study without any specific distribution requirements. This gives students the freedom to explore their interests and passions and encourages them to take courses outside of their comfort zone.

Swarthmore College, on the other hand, has a more structured curriculum with distribution requirements in various disciplines. This ensures that students receive a well-rounded education and are exposed to a variety of subjects.

In addition to their academic programs, both Brown and Swarthmore offer extensive research opportunities for students. Brown has several research centers and institutes, including the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs and the Carney Institute for Brain Science.

Swarthmore has a strong focus on undergraduate research, with opportunities for students to work with faculty members on research projects in various fields. Both colleges also offer funding and resources for students to conduct independent research projects.

Admission Requirements: How to Get into Brown University or Swarthmore College

Getting into Brown University or Swarthmore College is a highly selective process, with both colleges receiving a large number of applications each year. Brown University considers factors such as academic achievements, extracurricular activities, essays, and letters of recommendation when evaluating applicants.

The admission rate for the class of 2025 was 5.4%, making it one of the most competitive colleges in the country. Swarthmore College has an admission rate of around 9% and considers similar factors as Brown when evaluating applicants.

Group of students studying on a table.

However, both Brown University and Swarthmore College have a need-blind admission policy, which means that they do not consider an applicant’s ability to pay for tuition when making admission decisions.

This policy ensures that all qualified students, regardless of their financial situation, have an equal opportunity to attend these prestigious institutions. Additionally, both colleges offer generous financial aid packages to help students cover the cost of attendance.

Student Life and Extracurricular Activities at Brown University and Swarthmore College

Both Brown University and Swarthmore College offer a vibrant and diverse student life, with a wide range of extracurricular activities and student organizations to choose from. At Brown, students can join over 500 clubs and organizations, ranging from cultural groups, political groups, and environmental groups, to sports teams and music ensembles.

Swarthmore College offers over 100 student organizations, including cultural groups, political organizations, academic societies, and service-oriented clubs. Both colleges also have a strong commitment to community service and civic engagement, with students actively involved in various community service initiatives.

Additionally, both Brown University and Swarthmore College offer numerous opportunities for students to engage in research and independent study projects. Brown’s Undergraduate Research and Teaching Awards program provides funding for students to conduct research with faculty members, while Swarthmore’s Honors Program allows students to pursue independent research projects in their senior year. These opportunities allow students to gain valuable hands-on experience in their fields of interest and prepare them for future academic and professional pursuits.

Faculty Profiles: Expertise and Research Interests at the Two Colleges

The faculty at both Brown University and Swarthmore College are world-renowned and highly respected in their respective fields. Brown University has over 700 full-time faculty members, 10 of whom are Nobel laureates, and several others are recipients of other prestigious awards and recognitions. Swarthmore College has a faculty size of around 200, with a student-to-faculty ratio of 8:1. The faculty are highly accessible, and most classes are taught by professors rather than teaching assistants.

Brown University’s faculty members are involved in a wide range of research projects, from neuroscience and biomedicine to environmental studies and public policy. The university has several research centers and institutes, including the Brown Institute for Brain Science, the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs, and the Institute at Brown for Environment and Society.

Swarthmore College’s faculty members are also actively engaged in research, with a focus on interdisciplinary collaboration and community engagement. The college has several research centers and programs, including the Lang Center for Civic and Social Responsibility, the Scott Arboretum, and the Swarthmore Project in Theater.

Campus Safety: Statistics, Policies, and Procedures at Brown University vs. Swarthmore College

Campus safety is a crucial consideration for any prospective student and their families. Brown University and Swarthmore College have robust campus safety programs, including emergency alerts, security patrols, and safety escorts.

Brown University has a separate department of public safety, which employs over 130 personnel, including sworn police officers. Swarthmore College has a campus safety department that works closely with local law enforcement agencies to ensure the safety of its students.

View of students walking in the school campus

Despite the similarities in their campus safety programs, there are some notable differences between Brown University and Swarthmore College. For example, Brown University has a larger student body and a more urban campus, which may require a different approach to campus safety than Swarthmore College’s smaller, more suburban campus. Additionally, Brown University has a higher reported incidence of certain crimes, such as theft and burglary, which may impact the types of safety measures that are prioritized.

Both Brown University and Swarthmore College regularly review and update their campus safety policies and procedures to ensure that they are effective and responsive to the needs of their students.

This includes ongoing training for campus safety personnel, as well as opportunities for students to provide feedback and suggestions for improvement. Ultimately, the goal of both institutions is to create a safe and secure environment where students can focus on their academic and personal growth.

Career Services and Alumni Networks: Brown University vs. Swarthmore College

Brown University and Swarthmore College both have a strong alumni network, with graduates making a significant impact in various fields such as politics, business, arts, and sciences. Both colleges also offer comprehensive career services, including counseling, job fairs, internships, and networking opportunities.

Brown University has a dedicated career center that provides customized support to students and has partnerships with several leading companies and organizations. Swarthmore College offers robust career development services, including career exploration resources and networking opportunities.

Additionally, Brown University and Swarthmore College have a variety of resources available to students interested in pursuing graduate studies. Brown University offers a Graduate School Exploration program, which provides students with information and resources to help them make informed decisions about pursuing advanced degrees.

Swarthmore College has a dedicated Office of Fellowships and Prizes, which assists students in applying for prestigious fellowships and scholarships to support their graduate studies.

Financial Aid and Scholarships: Brown University vs. Swarthmore College

Both Brown University and Swarthmore College offer generous financial aid programs to ensure that all students have access to excellent educational opportunities, regardless of their financial backgrounds.

Brown University offers need-blind admission, with 100% of demonstrated financial need met through grants and scholarships. Swarthmore College also offers need-based financial aid, with around 58% of its students receiving need-based grant aid. Additionally, both colleges offer various scholarships and loan programs to assist students in meeting their financial needs.

At Brown University, students can also apply for work-study programs, which provide part-time employment opportunities on campus to help cover their educational expenses. Swarthmore College offers a similar program called the Federal Work-Study Program, which provides part-time jobs for eligible students to earn money to pay for their education.

Furthermore, both colleges have financial aid counselors who are available to assist students and their families in navigating the financial aid process. These counselors can help students understand their financial aid packages, explore additional funding options, and provide guidance on managing their finances while in college.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Initiatives at Brown University vs. Swarthmore College

Brown University and Swarthmore College both have a strong commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, with several initiatives and programs designed to promote a more inclusive and welcoming campus environment.

Brown University has a dedicated office of diversity and inclusion, which provides training, resources, and support for students and faculty from diverse backgrounds. Swarthmore College has several diversity and equity programs, including the Black Cultural Center, the Intercultural Center, and a range of diversity and inclusion training programs.

View of a students talking.

One notable difference between the diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives at Brown University and Swarthmore College is the approach to recruitment and retention of diverse faculty. Brown University has implemented a faculty diversity initiative, which aims to increase the representation of historically underrepresented groups among faculty members.

This initiative includes targeted recruitment efforts, mentoring programs, and support for professional development. Swarthmore College, on the other hand, has a faculty diversity committee that focuses on developing strategies to attract and retain diverse faculty members. Both approaches are important in creating a more diverse and inclusive academic community.

Campus Tours and Visits: Brown University vs. Swarthmore College

If you’re considering applying to Brown University or Swarthmore College, visiting the campus is the best way to get a feel for the college and its culture. Both colleges offer campus tours and information sessions for prospective students and their families, which typically include visits to dorms, classrooms, and other campus facilities. You can also attend lectures, meet with faculty members and current students, and participate in various campus events.

During your visit, it’s important to take note of the campus environment and the student body. Brown University is known for its open curriculum, which allows students to design their academic path, while Swarthmore College is known for its rigorous academic program and commitment to social justice.

Both colleges have a diverse student body, with students from all over the world and from a variety of backgrounds. Additionally, Brown University is located in Providence, Rhode Island, a vibrant city with a thriving arts and culture scene, while Swarthmore College is located in a suburban area outside of Philadelphia.

Student Testimonials: Why Students Chose Either Brown University or Swarthmore College

Several students have shared their experiences of attending Brown University or Swarthmore College, providing valuable insights into why they chose one college over the other.

Many students appreciate the strong faculty-student relationships at Brown University, which allow for personalized learning opportunities and mentorship. Swarthmore College students praise the college’s rigorous academic program and the close-knit community of students and faculty.

One student who chose Brown University over Swarthmore College cited the university’s location in Providence, Rhode Island as a major factor. They enjoyed the vibrant city atmosphere and the many opportunities for internships and networking.

Group of students walking while holding her books.

Another student who chose Swarthmore College over Brown University appreciated the college’s commitment to social justice and activism. They felt that Swarthmore’s emphasis on community service and civic engagement aligned with their values.

Overall, both Brown University and Swarthmore College offer unique and compelling reasons for students to choose them. Whether it’s the personalized learning opportunities at Brown or the commitment to social justice at Swarthmore, students can find a college that aligns with their interests and values.

Conclusion: Which College is Right for You? Factors to Consider When Making Your Decision

Choosing between Brown University and Swarthmore College ultimately depends on your personal preferences and goals. Both colleges offer an excellent education, a vibrant campus life, and numerous opportunities for personal and intellectual growth.

Consider factors such as location, academic offerings, campus environment, campus safety, financial aid, and diversity initiatives when making your decision. Ultimately, the right college for you is one that aligns with your passions, values, and aspirations and prepares you for a successful and fulfilling career and life.

It is also important to consider the alumni network of each college. The connections and resources available through alumni can be invaluable in finding internships, jobs, and other opportunities after graduation. Research the alumni networks of both Brown University and Swarthmore College to see which one aligns with your career goals and interests.

If you’re set on getting into a world-class college but aren’t sure how to make it happen, we can help! AdmissionSight is a leading college entrance expert with over a decade of experience helping students just like you get into the schools of their dreams.

At AdmissionSight, we focus on offering a wide range of services, all aimed at helping students perfect their applications to catch the attention of admissions officers. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation and learn more about what we offer.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Sign up now to receive insights on
how to navigate the college admissions process.