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Swarthmore vs Amherst: A Side-by-Side Analysis

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

Three students walking in the campus.

Swarthmore vs Amherst: A Side-by-Side Analysis

Swarthmore and Amherst are two of the most prestigious liberal arts colleges in the United States, offering students a unique and enriching academic experience. While both colleges place a strong emphasis on academic excellence, they have distinct differences that set them apart from one another. In this article, we will compare Swarthmore vs Amherst through a detailed side-by-side analysis, exploring the differences in academics, student life, admission criteria, diversity, sports and extracurricular activities, faculty and staff, career opportunities, student feedback, cost of attendance, alumni support, research opportunities, and social scene.

Amherst

Let’s begin by examining Amherst College. Founded in 1821, Amherst is a private college located in Amherst, Massachusetts, with a total undergraduate enrollment of approximately 1,900 students. The college is known for its small class sizes, rigorous academic program, and vibrant campus life.

Amherst College has a strong commitment to diversity and inclusion, with over 45% of its students identifying as students of color and 14% as international students. The college also offers a need-blind admission policy, which means that a student’s ability to pay for tuition is not a factor in the admission decision. Additionally, Amherst has a strong alumni network, with notable graduates including former U.S. President Calvin Coolidge and Pulitzer Prize-winning author David McCullough.

Academics at Swarthmore vs. Amherst: A Detailed Analysis

When it comes to academics, Swarthmore and Amherst are renowned for their exceptional programs. Swarthmore has a strong focus on the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences, while Amherst offers an extensive range of interdisciplinary majors across the arts, humanities, and sciences. In terms of course offerings, both colleges have a wide range of options available, with Swarthmore offering over 600 courses and Amherst offering over 1,000. Additionally, both colleges have outstanding faculty members who are dedicated to providing students with a challenging and stimulating academic experience.

a college class where the professor is demonstrating and everyone is listening

One of the unique aspects of Swarthmore’s academic program is its emphasis on undergraduate research. The college offers numerous opportunities for students to engage in research projects, both independently and with faculty members. This hands-on experience allows students to apply what they have learned in the classroom to real-world problems and gain valuable skills that will benefit them in their future careers.

On the other hand, Amherst has a strong commitment to diversity and inclusion in its academic program. The college offers courses and programs that explore issues related to race, gender, sexuality, and other forms of identity. Additionally, Amherst has a robust support system in place for students from underrepresented backgrounds, including mentorship programs and resources for first-generation college students.

Student Life: Swarthmore vs. Amherst

While both Swarthmore and Amherst provide students with a rich and varied campus life, there are differences between the two colleges. Swarthmore has a close-knit community that is committed to social justice and activism, while Amherst offers a more laid-back and relaxed atmosphere. The social scene at Swarthmore is centered around student activism and community service, whereas at Amherst, there are more opportunities for sports and outdoor activities.

Another difference between Swarthmore and Amherst is the size of the student body. Swarthmore has a smaller student population, which allows for more personalized attention from professors and a tighter-knit community. Amherst, on the other hand, has a larger student body, which provides more opportunities for networking and a wider range of extracurricular activities.

Additionally, Swarthmore and Amherst have different approaches to academic rigor. Swarthmore is known for its intense academic environment, with a strong emphasis on critical thinking and intellectual curiosity. Amherst, while still academically rigorous, places a greater emphasis on collaboration and interdisciplinary learning.

Admission Criteria: Swarthmore vs. Amherst

When it comes to admission criteria, Swarthmore and Amherst have several differences. While both colleges use a holistic review process that takes into account factors such as grades, test scores, extracurricular activities, and essays, Swarthmore places a greater emphasis on demonstrated interest and personal essays, while Amherst values intellectual curiosity and a strong academic background. In addition, Swarthmore is test-optional, while Amherst requires standardized test scores.

View of students taking an exam.

Another key difference between Swarthmore and Amherst is their approach to diversity and inclusion. Swarthmore actively seeks out students from diverse backgrounds and experiences and places a strong emphasis on creating a welcoming and inclusive community. Amherst also values diversity but focuses more on creating a diverse student body through need-blind admissions and generous financial aid packages. Both colleges are committed to creating a supportive and inclusive environment for all students, but their approaches to achieving this goal differ.

Diversity on Campus: A Comparative Study of Swarthmore vs. Amherst

Diversity is an important factor to consider when choosing a college. Swarthmore and Amherst have similar demographics, with both schools having a student body that is predominantly white. However, Swarthmore has a higher percentage of international students and students of color, while Amherst has a higher percentage of first-generation students. Both colleges offer a range of resources and support for students from underrepresented backgrounds.

It is important to note that both Swarthmore and Amherst have made efforts to increase diversity on their campuses in recent years. Swarthmore has implemented a need-blind admissions policy for international students and has actively recruited students from underrepresented backgrounds. Amherst has also made strides in increasing diversity, with initiatives such as the First-Generation Initiative and the QuestBridge program, which provides support for low-income and first-generation students. Despite these efforts, both schools acknowledge that there is still work to be done to create a truly inclusive and diverse campus community.

Sports and Extracurricular Activities: Swarthmore vs. Amherst

Both Swarthmore and Amherst offer a wide range of sports and extracurricular activities. Swarthmore has a strong focus on athletics, with 23 varsity sports teams, while Amherst has a more laid-back approach to sports. In terms of extracurricular activities, Swarthmore has over 200 student clubs and organizations, including a vibrant performing arts scene, while Amherst has a smaller but equally active club scene and a strong arts program.

male and female tennis players playing in the court

Despite Swarthmore’s emphasis on athletics, Amherst has a strong tradition in certain sports, such as basketball and football, and has produced several professional athletes. Swarthmore, on the other hand, has a strong tradition in cross country and track and field and has won several national championships in these sports.

Both schools also offer unique extracurricular opportunities. Swarthmore has a student-run organic farm, where students can learn about sustainable agriculture and participate in community service projects. Amherst has a student-run investment fund, where students can gain hands-on experience in finance and investment management.

Faculty and Staff: A Comparative Study of Swarthmore and Amherst

Both Swarthmore and Amherst have outstanding faculty members who are dedicated to providing students with a rigorous and challenging academic experience. However, there are differences between the two colleges when it comes to faculty and staff. Swarthmore has a smaller student-to-faculty ratio, with approximately 8 students per professor, while Amherst has a higher student-to-faculty ratio of approximately 7:1. Additionally, Swarthmore has a strong focus on undergraduate teaching, with its professors teaching all classes, while Amherst has a larger graduate program and fewer classes taught by professors.

Another difference between the faculty and staff at Swarthmore and Amherst is the level of diversity. Swarthmore has made a concerted effort to increase the diversity of its faculty and staff, with over 40% of its faculty identifying as people of color. In contrast, Amherst has faced criticism for its lack of diversity among its faculty and staff, with only 20% identifying as people of color.

Furthermore, Swarthmore has a unique program called the Faculty-Student Research Program, which allows students to work closely with professors on research projects. This program provides students with valuable research experience and allows them to form close relationships with their professors. Amherst does not have a similar program, but it does offer opportunities for students to work with professors on research projects through its honors program.

Career Opportunities for Graduates: How Do Swarthmore and Amherst Compare?

Career opportunities for graduates are an important consideration when choosing a college. Swarthmore and Amherst are both known for producing successful graduates who go on to pursue rewarding careers in a wide range of fields. Both colleges have strong career centers and alumni networks that provide students with valuable networking and career development opportunities.

View of a man smiling at the camera while doing a thumbs up.

However, there are some differences between the two colleges when it comes to career opportunities. Swarthmore has a strong focus on the liberal arts and encourages students to explore a variety of fields before settling on a career path. This can be beneficial for students who are unsure of what they want to do after graduation, but it may also mean that Swarthmore graduates take longer to establish themselves in a specific career.

On the other hand, Amherst has a more pre-professional culture and offers a number of specialized programs in fields such as business, finance, and law. This can be advantageous for students who have a clear idea of what they want to do after graduation and want to gain practical experience in their chosen field while still in college.

Student Feedback: What Do Current Students Have to Say About Swarthmore and Amherst?

Student feedback is an important factor to consider when evaluating a college. Both Swarthmore and Amherst have positive student reviews, with students praising the quality of academics, campus life, and student support services. Swarthmore students noted the college’s strong sense of community and commitment to social justice, while Amherst students praised the college’s academic rigor and supportive faculty.

Additionally, Swarthmore students appreciate the college’s emphasis on interdisciplinary learning, which allows them to explore a variety of academic fields and gain a well-rounded education. Amherst students also value the college’s diverse student body, which fosters a rich cultural exchange and promotes a global perspective.

Furthermore, both colleges offer ample opportunities for extracurricular involvement, with a wide range of clubs, organizations, and athletic teams available to students. Swarthmore students can participate in everything from Capella groups to community service projects, while Amherst students can join clubs focused on everything from debate to environmental activism.

Cost of Attendance: Comparing the Expenses of Swarthmore vs. Amherst

The cost of attendance is a significant consideration when choosing a college. Swarthmore and Amherst have similar costs of attendance, with Swarthmore’s tuition and fees totaling $59,328 per year and Amherst’s totaling $64,100 per year. Both colleges offer generous financial aid packages and scholarships to help offset the cost of attendance.

However, it is important to note that the cost of attendance goes beyond just tuition and fees. Other expenses such as room and board, textbooks, and personal expenses can vary between the two colleges. Swarthmore’s room and board costs $18,026 per year, while Amherst’s costs $16,750 per year. Additionally, Swarthmore requires all students to have health insurance, which adds an additional $2,500 to the cost of attendance. It is important to consider all of these expenses when making a decision about which college to attend.

Alumni Network Comparison: Which College Offers Better Post-Graduation Support?

Alumni networks are important sources of support and networking opportunities for graduates. Swarthmore and Amherst both have strong alumni networks, with graduates going on to pursue successful careers in a wide range of fields. However, Swarthmore has a smaller alumni network, while Amherst has a larger and more established network.

Despite the size difference, Swarthmore’s smaller alumni network allows for more personalized and intimate connections between graduates. Swarthmore alumni often report feeling a strong sense of community and support from their fellow alumni, which can be especially valuable in niche industries or fields. On the other hand, Amherst’s larger network may offer more diverse career opportunities and connections, but it may be more difficult for graduates to form meaningful relationships with other alumni.

Research Opportunities at Swarthmore and Amherst College Compared

Research opportunities are an important consideration for students who are interested in pursuing graduate studies or careers in research. Both Swarthmore and Amherst offer a range of research opportunities across a wide range of disciplines, with students collaborating with faculty members on cutting-edge research projects.

However, there are some differences between the research opportunities at Swarthmore and Amherst. Swarthmore has a strong emphasis on undergraduate research, with a high percentage of students participating in research projects and presenting their findings at conferences. Amherst, on the other hand, has a larger graduate program and more research funding, which allows for more extensive and specialized research projects. Additionally, Amherst has a strong focus on interdisciplinary research, with opportunities for students to collaborate across departments and fields.

The Social Scene – How do the students at each college differ?

The social scene at each college is characterized by its unique culture and community. Swarthmore has a more politically active and socially conscious student body, with students organizing protests and community service projects. Amherst, on the other hand, has a more laid-back and relaxed atmosphere, with students participating in sports and outdoor activities. Both colleges have a range of social events and activities, with students forming close bonds and lifelong friendships.

View of fraternity member holding each other.

Another factor that distinguishes the social scene at these colleges is the role of Greek life. Swarthmore has a strict policy against fraternities and sororities, which has led to a more inclusive and diverse social scene. Amherst, on the other hand, has a significant Greek life presence, with many students joining fraternities and sororities and participating in related events.

Furthermore, the location of each college also plays a role in shaping the social scene. Swarthmore is located in a suburban area, which provides students with easy access to Philadelphia and its vibrant cultural scene. Amherst, on the other hand, is situated in a rural area, which encourages students to explore the natural beauty of the surrounding region and engage in outdoor activities such as hiking and skiing.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Swarthmore and Amherst are both outstanding liberal arts colleges that offer students a unique and enriching academic experience. While they share many similarities, they also have distinct differences that set them apart from one another. By examining these differences in detail, students can make an informed decision about which college is the best fit for them.

One major difference between Swarthmore and Amherst is their location. Swarthmore is located in a suburban area outside of Philadelphia, while Amherst is located in a small town in western Massachusetts. This difference in location can greatly impact a student’s experience, as it affects the surrounding community, access to resources, and the overall atmosphere of the campus. It is important for students to consider their personal preferences and priorities when deciding which location is the best fit for them.

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