Princeton vs. Swarthmore: Which College is Right for You?

July 15, 2023
By AdmissionSight
Group of students walking in the campus.

Princeton vs. Swarthmore: Which College is Right for You?

Choosing the right college can be daunting, but comparing different institutions’ offerings can help you make an informed decision.  In this article, we’ll look in-depth at Princeton vs. Swarthmore in terms of location, academic programs, student life, campus housing, career services, admissions process, financial aid, campus safety, alumni network, faculty and staff.

By the end of this article, you’ll have a clearer picture of which college best fits your needs.

Princeton vs. Swarthmore: Location and Campus

Princeton University is located in the town of Princeton, New Jersey, a picturesque and historic area rich in culture and arts. The campus itself is a sprawling 500-acre property with a mix of modern and Gothic architecture.

Swarthmore College, on the other hand, is located in the suburbs of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, surrounded by greenery, gardens, and arboretums. The campus is smaller, at 425 acres, with a more classic architectural style. Both campuses offer a beautiful and stimulating environment for students to study and learn.

Princeton University is home to over 8,000 undergraduate and graduate students, with a student-to-faculty ratio of 5:1. The university offers a wide range of academic programs, including engineering, social sciences, humanities, and natural sciences.

The campus is also home to several research centers and institutes, including the Princeton Neuroscience Institute and the Princeton Environmental Institute.

Swarthmore College, on the other hand, is a smaller liberal arts college with a student population of around 1,600. The college has a student-to-faculty ratio of 8:1, allowing for more personalized attention and mentorship.

Swarthmore offers a rigorous academic program with a focus on the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences. The college is also known for its commitment to social responsibility and community engagement, with programs such as the Lang Center for Civic and Social Responsibility.

Princeton vs. Swarthmore: Academics

Princeton is known for its strong emphasis on the undergraduate experience, with one-on-one advising and a diverse range of academic programs. The university is home to over 35 academic departments and offers undergraduate and graduate programs in the sciences, humanities, social sciences, and engineering.

Swarthmore College, on the other hand, is a small liberal arts college that offers a personalized education with an emphasis on interdisciplinary thinking. Swarthmore has over 40 majors and minors, with a strong emphasis on the arts and humanities.

Two students talking on the stairs.

Additionally, Princeton offers a number of unique academic programs, such as the Bridge Year Program, which allows incoming freshmen to defer their enrollment for a year and participate in service projects abroad. The university also has a strong focus on research, with opportunities for undergraduates to work alongside faculty members on cutting-edge projects.

Meanwhile, Swarthmore has a distinctive Honors Program, which requires students to complete a year-long independent research project in their major. The college also offers a number of interdisciplinary programs, such as the Environmental Studies Program and the Peace and Conflict Studies Program, which allow students to explore complex issues from multiple perspectives.

Student Life: Extracurricular Activities, Clubs, and Organizations

Both Princeton and Swarthmore offer a wide range of clubs, organizations, and extracurricular activities for students to pursue. Princeton offers over 350 clubs and organizations, including cultural groups, sports teams, and academic clubs.

Swarthmore has over 100 clubs and organizations, with a strong emphasis on social activism and community service. Students at both colleges have access to a rich and engaging campus life.

At Princeton, students can participate in a variety of sports teams, including varsity, club, and intramural sports. The university has a strong athletic program, with many teams competing at the Division I level. Swarthmore also offers a range of sports teams, including varsity and club sports, with a focus on promoting physical fitness and teamwork.

In addition to clubs and sports teams, both Princeton and Swarthmore offer a variety of extracurricular activities, such as theater productions, music ensembles, and student-run publications.

These activities allow students to explore their interests and develop new skills outside of the classroom. Overall, the extracurricular offerings at both colleges contribute to a vibrant and dynamic campus community.

Campus Housing: Dorm Life at Princeton and Swarthmore

Both Princeton and Swarthmore value a strong sense of community and offer a variety of housing options for students. Princeton has ten residential colleges, ranging from traditional dorms to theme-based housing, and offers a unique system of advising and mentoring.

Swarthmore offers a variety of housing options as well, ranging from traditional dorms to co-ops and theme houses, with a strong emphasis on communal living and social justice.

At Princeton, students have the opportunity to live in a residential college that is tailored to their interests and passions. For example, there is a college for students interested in the arts, one for students interested in international affairs, and one for students interested in entrepreneurship.

Each college has its own dining hall, common spaces, and faculty members who serve as advisors and mentors to the students.

Swarthmore’s housing options also reflect the college’s commitment to sustainability. The college has several eco-friendly dorms, including one that is entirely powered by solar panels. Swarthmore’s co-op housing also allows students to live in a community where they share responsibilities such as cooking and cleaning, fostering a sense of cooperation and teamwork.

Princeton vs. Swarthmore: Career Services

Princeton and Swarthmore both offer exceptional career services that support students in exploring career paths and securing internships and job opportunities. Princeton’s Career Development Center offers access to various resources, including individual advising, internship, workshops, and career fairs.

Swarthmore’s Career Services team provides students with individualized attention, including access to alumni networks and internship opportunities.

Additionally, both universities have partnerships with various companies and organizations, providing students with exclusive job and internship opportunities. These partnerships also offer students the chance to gain hands-on experience in their field of interest and build valuable connections within their industry.

View of students walking in the campus.

Furthermore, both universities have a strong emphasis on career readiness, offering courses and programs that teach students essential skills such as resume writing, interviewing, and networking.

Diversity: A Comparison of Student Body Composition

Both Princeton and Swarthmore strive to create diverse and inclusive communities. Princeton has a diverse student body, with 22% international students and a strong commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Swarthmore has a long-standing commitment to social justice and has a diverse student body, with 18% international students, and a strong representation from underrepresented groups.

Despite their similarities in promoting diversity, there are some differences in the student body composition between Princeton and Swarthmore. Princeton has a larger student body, with over 8,000 undergraduate and graduate students, while Swarthmore has just over 1,600 students.

Additionally, Princeton has a higher percentage of students from low-income backgrounds, with 20% of students receiving Pell Grants, compared to Swarthmore’s 14%. However, Swarthmore has a higher percentage of students who identify as LGBTQ+, with 10% of students identifying as such, compared to Princeton’s 7%.

Overall, both institutions are committed to creating diverse and inclusive communities, but their student body compositions differ in some ways.

Princeton vs. Swarthmore: Admissions

Both Princeton and Swarthmore may differ in their acceptance rates, but they have highly competitive admissions processes. Applicants to Princeton must submit the Common Application, along with standardized test scores, transcripts, and essays.

Swarthmore has a similar application process and requires that students submit an essay, transcript, and test scores. Both institutions value academic excellence, extracurricular engagement, and intellectual curiosity in their admissions decisions.

It is important to note that both Princeton and Swarthmore offer need-based financial aid to admitted students. In addition, both institutions have a commitment to meeting 100% of demonstrated financial need for all admitted students.

This means that students who are admitted and demonstrate financial need will receive a financial aid package that covers the full cost of attendance, including tuition, room and board, and other expenses.

It is recommended that students interested in applying to either institution research the financial aid options available and submit all necessary financial aid forms along with their application materials.

Princeton vs. Swarthmore: Financial Aid

Both Princeton and Swarthmore are committed to making their universities accessible to all students, regardless of their financial circumstances. Both colleges offer need-based aid packages that cover tuition, room, and board.

Swarthmore recently announced that it will be tuition-free for families earning less than $60,000, making it an affordable option for many families. Princeton also offers a wide range of scholarships, grants, and loans to support students in their academic pursuits.

Scholarship form placed on s laptop in a table.

In addition to need-based aid, both Princeton and Swarthmore also offer merit-based scholarships to students who demonstrate exceptional academic achievement or talent in a particular area. These scholarships can cover a significant portion of tuition and other expenses, making it easier for students to attend these prestigious universities.

Furthermore, both colleges have programs in place to help students manage their student loan debt after graduation. Princeton’s Loan Repayment Assistance Program provides financial assistance to graduates who work in public service or non-profit organizations.

At the same time, Swarthmore’s Loan Repayment Assistance Program offers similar support to graduates who pursue careers in public interest law or government service.

Campus Safety: Crime Rates on Campus

Both Princeton and Swarthmore have strong campus safety programs that prioritize the well-being of their students. The crime rate at both institutions is relatively low, with Swarthmore experiencing no cases of sexual misconduct in the past few years. Both colleges have a strong commitment to creating a safe and secure campus environment for all students.

Princeton’s Department of Public Safety offers a range of services to ensure the safety of its students, including a 24/7 emergency response team, a campus shuttle service, and a safety app that allows students to report any suspicious activity quickly.

Additionally, the university has implemented a number of safety measures, such as increased lighting and security cameras, to deter crime on campus.

Swarthmore’s Public Safety Department also provides a variety of resources to students, including a safety escort service, self-defense classes, and a campus-wide emergency notification system. The college has also established a Sexual Assault and Harassment Prevention and Education (SHAPE) program, which offers education and support to prevent sexual misconduct on campus.

Athletics: Sports Teams and Facilities at Princeton and Swarthmore

Princeton has a strong Division I athletic program, with 37 varsity sports teams. The Princeton Tigers are known for their excellence in sports, with many alumni going on to excel in professional sports.

Swarthmore, on the other hand, has a strong Division III athletic program with a focus on student-athletes who excel in both academics and sports. Both colleges offer state-of-the-art facilities and resources for student-athletes.

Princeton’s athletic facilities include the Jadwin Gymnasium, which houses a 13,000-seat arena for basketball and volleyball games, as well as a 50-meter pool for swimming and diving competitions.

The university also has a brand new football stadium, Powers Field at Princeton Stadium, which can seat up to 27,773 spectators. Swarthmore’s athletic facilities include the Lamb-Miller Fieldhouse, which has a 200-meter indoor track, a 25-yard swimming pool, and a weight room. It has also a new soccer and lacrosse field, Clothier Field, with a state-of-the-art turf surface.

Princeton vs. Swarthmore: Alumni Network

Princeton and Swarthmore have strong alumni networks that offer a range of benefits to graduates. Princeton has a large alumni network with many prestigious and successful individuals in various fields.

Swarthmore’s alumni network is also strong, focusing on grassroots social activism and community engagement. Both institutions offer networking opportunities, mentorship programs, and resources for careers and job placement.

Additionally, Princeton and Swarthmore alumni networks provide continued education and professional development opportunities. Graduates can attend workshops, seminars, and conferences organized by the alumni associations to enhance their skills and knowledge in their respective fields.

Two women are talking while walking in the hallway.

These events also provide a platform for alumni to connect with each other and build professional relationships.

Furthermore, both institutions have alumni chapters in various cities across the world. These chapters organize social events, community service projects, and networking opportunities for alumni living in those areas. This allows graduates to stay connected with their alma mater and fellow alumni, regardless of where they live or work.

Faculty and Staff: Professors, Mentors, and Resources Available

Princeton and Swarthmore both have renowned faculties that are committed to teaching and learning. These faculties offer personalized attention to their students, with a strong emphasis on mentorship and advising. Both institutions offer a range of resources, including research opportunities, writing centers, tutoring, and more to support students in their academic pursuits.

Additionally, both Princeton and Swarthmore have dedicated career centers that provide students with guidance and resources to help them navigate their post-graduation plans. These centers offer career counseling, resume and cover letter reviews, networking events, and job and internship listings.

Students can also take advantage of alumni networks and mentorship programs to connect with professionals in their desired fields.

Prestige and Reputation: A Comparison of the Two Colleges

Princeton and Swarthmore are both highly regarded institutions with a long-standing tradition of academic excellence. Princeton regularly ranks among the top universities in the world, with a strong reputation for its undergraduate program and research output. Swarthmore is also highly regarded, with a strong reputation for its liberal arts curriculum and intellectual inquiry.

Despite their similarities, there are some notable differences between Princeton and Swarthmore. One major difference is their size. Princeton has a larger student body and offers a wider range of academic programs, while Swarthmore has a smaller student body and a more focused curriculum.

Additionally, Princeton has a larger endowment and more resources, which allows for more research opportunities and better facilities.

Princeton is located in a suburban area in New Jersey, while Swarthmore is in a suburban area outside of Philadelphia. This difference in location can impact the student experience, as Princeton students may have more access to the cultural offerings of nearby cities. In contrast, Swarthmore students may have a more secluded campus experience.

Princeton vs. Swarthmore: Student Success Stories

Graduates of Princeton and Swarthmore have excelled in a wide range of fields, from academia and research to business and the arts. Many successful individuals credit their education at these institutions for their professional and personal success.

Graduates of Princeton and Swarthmore often cite personalized attention, strong mentorship, and interdisciplinary thinking as critical factors in their success.

In conclusion, Princeton and Swarthmore offer exceptional educational experiences with unique strengths and offerings. Choosing the right college depends on your individual interests, needs, and preferences. We hope this article has provided you with a comprehensive overview of both institutions and a better understanding of which college might best fit you.

a female student smiling in front of the camera and carrying her stuff

One notable success story from Princeton is that of Jeff Bezos, the founder and CEO of Amazon. Bezos graduated from Princeton in 1986 with electrical engineering and computer science degrees. He has since become one of the wealthiest people in the world, and his company has revolutionized the way we shop and consume media.

Similarly, Swarthmore has produced many successful graduates in social justice and activism. Notable alumni include Angela Davis, a prominent civil rights activist and scholar, and Ayanna Pressley, a U.S. Congresswoman and advocate for progressive policies.

Swarthmore’s commitment to social responsibility and community engagement has inspired many of its graduates to pursue careers in public service and advocacy.


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