Swarthmore vs Bowdoin: Which College is Right for You?

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

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Swarthmore vs Bowdoin: Which College is Right for You?

Are you caught in a dilemma between choosing Swarthmore and Bowdoin? These two colleges have long been a subject of curiosity for high school graduates. The thought of spending four years in a place where you will be groomed academically, socially, and professionally is both exciting and daunting. To help you make the best choice, we have created a comprehensive comparison of Swarthmore vs Bowdoin. Read on to discover which college is right for you.

Introduction: Overview of Swarthmore vs Bowdoin

Both Swarthmore and Bowdoin are highly respected liberal arts colleges with a rich history. Swarthmore College was founded in 1864, and Bowdoin College was founded in 1794, making it one of the oldest colleges in the United States. These two colleges offer a combination of top-notch education and a strong sense of community.

One notable difference between Swarthmore and Bowdoin is their location. Swarthmore is located in a suburban area outside of Philadelphia, while Bowdoin is located in a small town in Maine. This difference in location offers students unique opportunities to explore different environments and cultures. Additionally, both colleges have a strong commitment to sustainability and have implemented various initiatives to reduce their carbon footprint and promote environmental awareness among students and faculty.

Location and Campus: Where are Swarthmore and Bowdoin, and what are their campuses like?

Swarthmore College is located in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania, a small suburban town just outside Philadelphia. The campus is 425 acres of greenery and is easily accessible from the Philadelphia International Airport. Bowdoin College, on the other hand, is situated in Brunswick, Maine, a small town located about 30 miles northeast of Portland. The campus is 222 acres of green forests and picturesque landscapes, with a gorgeous beach nearby.

Despite their differences in location, both Swarthmore and Bowdoin have beautiful and well-maintained campuses. Swarthmore’s campus is known for its arboretum, which features over 4,000 species of plants and trees. The college also has a number of historic buildings, including Parrish Hall, which was built in 1869 and is now home to the admissions office and student center.

Bowdoin’s campus, on the other hand, is known for its stunning coastal location. The college is just a few miles from the Atlantic Ocean, and students can easily access nearby beaches and hiking trails. The campus itself features a number of historic buildings, including the Bowdoin College Museum of Art, which houses over 20,000 works of art from around the world.

Admissions: How to get into Swarthmore vs Bowdoin

Both Swarthmore and Bowdoin are selective colleges with low acceptance rates. The acceptance rate at Swarthmore is 8%, and at Bowdoin, it’s 9%. To be accepted, you need to have a strong academic record, demonstrate intellectual curiosity, and have a passion for learning. Both colleges require rigorous coursework, standardized test scores, letters of recommendation, and personal essays as part of their admissions process.

Students answering a test on a desk.

In addition to the standard requirements, Swarthmore and Bowdoin also value extracurricular activities and community involvement. They want to see that you have made a positive impact in your community and have pursued your interests outside of the classroom. It’s important to showcase your unique talents and experiences in your application, as this can set you apart from other applicants. Additionally, both colleges offer need-blind admissions, meaning that they do not consider an applicant’s ability to pay when making admissions decisions. They are committed to providing access to education for all qualified students, regardless of their financial situation.

Academics: Curriculum, Majors, and Academic Opportunities at Swarthmore vs Bowdoin

Swarthmore and Bowdoin offer a broad range of majors and interdisciplinary programs that cater to the diverse interests of students. Both colleges have a rigorous curriculum and an emphasis on critical thinking, problem-solving, and intellectual growth. Swarthmore is known for its strong programs in the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences, while Bowdoin has a reputation for excellence in environmental studies, government, and economics. Students at both colleges are encouraged to pursue research and independent study opportunities with faculty members.

In addition to their strong academic programs, Swarthmore and Bowdoin offer a variety of academic opportunities outside of the classroom. Swarthmore has a robust honors program that allows students to conduct original research and produce a thesis in their major field of study. Bowdoin offers a unique program called the Coastal Studies Center, which provides students with hands-on experience in marine biology, ecology, and environmental science.

Furthermore, both colleges have a strong commitment to diversity and inclusion in their academic programs. Swarthmore has a dedicated Office of Diversity, Inclusion, and Community Development that provides resources and support for underrepresented students. Bowdoin has a multicultural center that offers programming and support for students of color, LGBTQ+ students, and international students.

Student Life: Activities, Clubs, Sports, and Social Life at Swarthmore vs Bowdoin

Both Swarthmore and Bowdoin have a vibrant student life offering an array of extracurricular activities, clubs, and sports. Swarthmore has over 100 student organizations, including a robust arts program and a thriving community service program. Bowdoin is well-known for its athletics program, which includes 31 varsity sports teams. Both colleges have a strong sense of community with numerous events and activities that foster social connections and engagement.

Additionally, Swarthmore and Bowdoin offer unique opportunities for students to engage in research and academic pursuits outside of the classroom. Swarthmore’s Honors Program allows students to conduct independent research projects under the guidance of a faculty advisor, while Bowdoin’s Coastal Studies Center provides hands-on learning experiences in marine biology and environmental science.

Furthermore, both colleges prioritize diversity and inclusion in their student life programs. Swarthmore’s Intercultural Center offers resources and support for students from underrepresented backgrounds, while Bowdoin’s Multicultural Center hosts events and workshops to promote cross-cultural understanding and dialogue.

Housing: Dorms, Apartments, and Housing Options at Swarthmore vs Bowdoin

Swarthmore and Bowdoin both pride themselves in on-campus housing that fosters a community-oriented environment. Swarthmore has a variety of housing options, with most students living in dormitories, while Bowdoin has more than 30 residential houses arranged around a central quadrangle. The residential life programs at both colleges offer numerous activities and study groups to help students adjust to college life.

Additionally, Swarthmore offers a limited number of on-campus apartments for upperclassmen who prefer more independent living. These apartments come fully furnished and include a kitchen, living room, and private bedrooms. Bowdoin also offers off-campus housing options for upperclassmen who wish to live independently, with the college providing resources to help students find suitable housing in the surrounding area.

Male students studying in his dorm room.

Both colleges prioritize creating a safe and inclusive living environment for all students. Swarthmore has a Gender-Neutral Housing program, which allows students of any gender identity to live together in the same room or apartment. Bowdoin has a similar program called Gender-Neutral Housing Clusters, which are designated areas in residential houses where students of any gender identity can live together.

Faculty: Professors, Research Opportunities, and Academic Support at Swarthmore and Bowdoin

Both Swarthmore and Bowdoin have renowned faculties that are committed to student success and academic excellence. Students at both colleges have ample research opportunities, with Bowdoin’s URSA program providing students with funding and support for research projects. Both colleges have dedicated academic support services, including peer tutoring, writing centers, and academic advising, to help students succeed in their academic pursuits.

Additionally, Swarthmore and Bowdoin offer unique opportunities for students to engage with their professors outside of the classroom. Swarthmore’s Honors Program allows students to work closely with a faculty advisor on a year-long research project, while Bowdoin’s Faculty Research Opportunities Program provides students with the chance to assist professors with their research. These programs not only allow students to deepen their understanding of their chosen field but also foster meaningful relationships with their professors.

Career Services: Job Placement Rates, Internships, and Alumni Network at Swarthmore and Bowdoin

Swarthmore and Bowdoin have strong career service offices dedicated to helping students succeed in their career goals. Swarthmore’s Career Center offers career counseling, job and internship search assistance, and numerous networking opportunities for students. Bowdoin’s Career Center provides students with access to numerous summer internships and a robust alumni network that helps graduates find jobs after college.

the words 'interns wanted' written on a clipboard

In addition to the services offered by Swarthmore and Bowdoin’s career centers, both schools have high job placement rates for their graduates. Swarthmore boasts a 95% job placement rate within six months of graduation, while Bowdoin has a 93% job placement rate. This is due in part to the strong relationships that both schools have with employers in various industries, as well as the career preparation and guidance that students receive throughout their time at these institutions.

Campus Diversity: Student Body Demographics, Multicultural Resources, and Inclusivity Initiatives at Swarthmore and Bowdoin

Swarthmore and Bowdoin both have a commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Swarthmore has a diverse student body, with 41% of students identifying as students of color. Bowdoin is also committed to diversity and has various multicultural student organizations and programs. Both colleges have robust resources and initiatives dedicated to creating an inclusive campus environment.

At Swarthmore, the Office of Diversity, Inclusion, and Community Development offers a range of programs and services to support underrepresented students, including mentorship programs, leadership development opportunities, and cultural celebrations. Bowdoin’s Multicultural Center provides a space for students to connect with one another and engage in dialogue around issues of diversity and inclusion.

Both colleges also prioritize hiring diverse faculty and staff members. Swarthmore has a Faculty Diversity and Recruitment Committee, which works to attract and retain faculty from underrepresented groups. Bowdoin has a similar initiative, the Faculty Diversity Committee, which focuses on increasing the diversity of the faculty and promoting inclusive teaching practices.

Cost of Attendance: Tuition, Financial Aid Options, Scholarships for Swarthmore and Bowdoin Students

Both Swarthmore and Bowdoin are expensive institutions with high tuition fees. Swarthmore’s tuition for the academic year is $59,328, while Bowdoin’s tuition is $61,528. Despite the high costs, both colleges offer generous financial aid packages to eligible students. Swarthmore meets 100% of the demonstrated financial need, while Bowdoin meets 100% of the demonstrated need for all admitted students.

financial aid as one of the factors to consider when choosing a college

Additionally, both Swarthmore and Bowdoin offer various scholarships to students based on academic merit, extracurricular achievements, and other factors. Swarthmore offers several merit-based scholarships, including the McCabe Scholarship, which covers full tuition and fees for four years. Bowdoin offers several scholarships, including the Bowdoin Prize for Undergraduate Research, which awards up to $15,000 to students conducting independent research projects. These scholarships can significantly reduce the overall cost of attendance for students who qualify.

Conclusion: Final Thoughts on Choosing between Swarthmore or Bowdoin

Choosing between Swarthmore and Bowdoin can be a tough decision, given their similarities in academic rigor, a strong sense of community, and commitment to diversity and inclusivity. Ultimately, your choice will depend on your specific academic interests, personal preferences, and financial situation. We hope that this comparison has given you a better understanding of the unique characteristics of each college and will aid you in making the best decision.

It is important to note that both Swarthmore and Bowdoin offer a wide range of extracurricular activities and opportunities for students to get involved on campus. Swarthmore has a strong focus on social justice and activism, with many student-led organizations dedicated to these causes. Bowdoin, on the other hand, has a strong emphasis on outdoor activities and environmentalism, with opportunities for students to participate in outdoor excursions and sustainability initiatives. Consider your interests outside of academics when making your decision, as these opportunities can greatly enhance your college experience.


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