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Swarthmore vs Bryn Mawr: A Comprehensive Look at Two Top Colleges

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

a female student thinking how to colleges

Swarthmore vs Bryn Mawr: A Comprehensive Look at Two Top Colleges

Are you trying to decide between Swarthmore and Bryn Mawr? Both are exceptional colleges with a lot to offer to students. In this article, we’ll take an in-depth look at Swarthmore vs Bryn Mawr, comparing and contrasting them to help you make the best choice. We’ll start by discussing why we’re comparing Swarthmore and Bryn Mawr.

Introduction: Why Compare Swarthmore vs. Bryn Mawr?

Swarthmore College and Bryn Mawr College are two highly respected liberal arts colleges in the Philadelphia area. Both colleges have excellent academic programs, distinguished faculty, and beautiful campuses. They are known for their rigorous academic offerings and their commitment to social justice and activism. However, there are significant differences between the two colleges that students should be aware of before making a decision.

One major difference between Swarthmore and Bryn Mawr is their size. Swarthmore has a smaller student body, with around 1,600 undergraduate students, while Bryn Mawr has around 1,400 undergraduate students. This can impact the overall campus culture and the types of opportunities available to students. Swarthmore may offer a more intimate and tight-knit community, while Bryn Mawr may provide a more personalized and individualized experience.

Another difference between the two colleges is their approach to undergraduate research. Swarthmore is known for its strong emphasis on undergraduate research, with many opportunities for students to work closely with faculty members on research projects. Bryn Mawr also offers research opportunities, but may not have the same level of emphasis on research as Swarthmore. This can be an important factor for students who are interested in pursuing research as part of their undergraduate experience.

Location and Campus: Swarthmore vs. Bryn Mawr

One of the most significant differences between Swarthmore and Bryn Mawr is their location and campus. Swarthmore is located in a suburban town outside of Philadelphia, while Bryn Mawr is in a more urban area. Swarthmore’s campus is small and surrounded by dense woodland, making it a beautiful and peaceful environment for students. The Bryn Mawr campus is more extensive and located near the city center, making it more convenient for students who want to enjoy all that Philadelphia has to offer.

Bryn Mawr also has a unique campus layout, with many buildings connected by tunnels and bridges, which students can use to navigate the campus during inclement weather. Swarthmore’s campus is more focused on sustainability, with many LEED-certified buildings and a commitment to reducing its environmental impact.

Another difference between the two campuses is the size of the student body. Swarthmore has a smaller student population, with around 1,600 undergraduate students, while Bryn Mawr has around 1,400 undergraduate students. This smaller size allows for a more intimate and personalized learning experience at Swarthmore, with smaller class sizes and more opportunities for one-on-one interactions with professors.

Additionally, both campuses offer a variety of extracurricular activities and clubs for students to get involved in. Swarthmore has a strong focus on athletics, with many varsity sports teams and a state-of-the-art athletic center. Bryn Mawr, on the other hand, has a strong tradition of performing arts, with many opportunities for students to participate in theater, dance, and music performances.

Admissions Process: Swarthmore vs. Bryn Mawr

Both Swarthmore and Bryn Mawr have highly selective admissions processes, with acceptance rates of 8% and 39%. Swarthmore has a slightly lower acceptance rate than Bryn Mawr, but both colleges have similarly competitive entrance requirements and look for students with exceptional academic records and a strong commitment to extracurricular activities and community service.

an anthropology student interviewing an elderly woman

One of the key differences between the two colleges is that Swarthmore is test-optional, meaning that students do not need to submit SAT or ACT scores. Bryn Mawr requires standardized test scores as part of the application process, although they are flexible in their approach and consider other factors, such as extracurricular activities and work experience.

Another difference between the two colleges is their approach to interviews. Swarthmore offers optional interviews for prospective students, which can be conducted on campus or with an alumni interviewer. Bryn Mawr, on the other hand, does not offer interviews as part of their admissions process.

Additionally, Swarthmore and Bryn Mawr have different application deadlines. Swarthmore has an Early Decision deadline of November 15th and a Regular Decision deadline of January 1st. Bryn Mawr has an Early Decision deadline of November 15th and a Regular Decision deadline of January 15th. It is important for prospective students to carefully review the application requirements and deadlines for each college to ensure they submit a complete and timely application.

Student Body Diversity: Swarthmore vs. Bryn Mawr

Both Swarthmore and Bryn Mawr are committed to diversity and inclusion and have diverse student bodies. Swarthmore has a slightly larger student body than Bryn Mawr, but both colleges have a similar percentage of international students, students of color, and LGBTQ+ students. Swarthmore has a higher percentage of students from low-income backgrounds, although both colleges have robust financial aid programs to help students from all backgrounds afford a college education.

Group of students talking in a room.

Bryn Mawr also has a unique connection with its sister school, Haverford College, which allows students to take classes, join clubs, and participate in social activities at both colleges. This enriches the student experience and makes both colleges feel like part of a larger academic community.

Additionally, both Swarthmore and Bryn Mawr have a strong commitment to community service and social justice. Students at both colleges are actively involved in volunteer work and advocacy efforts, both on and off campus. Swarthmore has a dedicated community service office that helps students find volunteer opportunities and connects them with local organizations, while Bryn Mawr has a social justice program that offers workshops, events, and resources to support students in their activism.

Academic Offerings: Swarthmore vs. Bryn Mawr

Both Swarthmore and Bryn Mawr have excellent academic programs, with a wide range of majors and minors to choose from. Swarthmore has a slightly larger number of majors to choose from, but both colleges have strong programs in areas such as mathematics, the sciences, humanities, and social sciences. Both colleges also have robust interdisciplinary programs that encourage students to explore different academic fields.

Bryn Mawr also has a unique program called the “9-1-1” program, where students spend nine weeks in intensive study, one week in reflection, and one week in immersion in a real-world context. This program allows students to apply their learning in a practical setting and gain hands-on experience in their chosen field.

Additionally, both Swarthmore and Bryn Mawr offer study abroad programs that allow students to gain a global perspective and immerse themselves in different cultures. These programs range from semester-long exchanges to short-term trips during breaks. Students can choose from a variety of destinations, including Europe, Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Studying abroad not only enhances students’ academic experience but also helps them develop valuable skills such as adaptability, cross-cultural communication, and independence.

Faculty and Staff: Size, Quality, and Expertise

Both Swarthmore and Bryn Mawr have highly qualified faculty and staff committed to excellence in teaching and research. Swarthmore has a slightly larger faculty than Bryn Mawr, but both colleges have a low student-to-faculty ratio, allowing for personalized attention and mentorship. Both colleges also have distinguished professors who are leaders in their fields and regularly publish and present research.

A teacher helping her students in the library

In addition to their highly qualified faculty and staff, both Swarthmore and Bryn Mawr offer a variety of resources and support for students. This includes academic advising, career services, and opportunities for research and internships. Students have access to state-of-the-art facilities and equipment, as well as a wide range of extracurricular activities and clubs. The colleges also prioritize diversity and inclusion, with initiatives and programs aimed at creating a welcoming and supportive community for all students.

Research and Internship Opportunities: Which College Is Better?

Both Swarthmore and Bryn Mawr have excellent research and internship opportunities for students. Swarthmore has a prestigious honors program that allows students to conduct independent research under the guidance of faculty mentors. Students are also encouraged to participate in summer research opportunities and internships to gain practical experience in their chosen field.

Bryn Mawr also has a robust internship program and partnerships with companies and organizations throughout the Philadelphia area. The college also has a Career and Civic Engagement Center, which provides resources and support to help students develop their professional skills and find internships and job opportunities after graduation.

Additionally, both colleges have strong connections with local research institutions and companies, providing students with unique opportunities to work on cutting-edge projects and gain valuable industry experience. Swarthmore has partnerships with institutions such as the Franklin Institute and the University of Pennsylvania, while Bryn Mawr has connections with organizations like the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. These partnerships offer students the chance to collaborate with professionals in their field and make meaningful contributions to ongoing research and projects.

Student Life: Clubs, Organizations, Social Activities

Both Swarthmore and Bryn Mawr have an active student life with a multitude of clubs, organizations, and social activities to choose from. Swarthmore has a strong emphasis on sustainability and activism, with many clubs focused on environmental issues and social justice. Bryn Mawr has a focus on women’s leadership and has many clubs and organizations dedicated to empowering women and promoting gender equality.

Both colleges also have an active social scene, with events and parties happening regularly. Bryn Mawr’s location near Philadelphia allows for more opportunities for off-campus activities, such as concerts, museums, and restaurants.

Additionally, both colleges offer opportunities for students to get involved in community service and volunteer work. Swarthmore has a community partnership program that connects students with local organizations and non-profits, while Bryn Mawr has a community service office that coordinates service projects and events throughout the year. These programs allow students to make a positive impact in the surrounding community and gain valuable experience in the non-profit sector.

Athletics: Sports Programs and Facilities

Both Swarthmore and Bryn Mawr have athletic programs and facilities for students to enjoy. Swarthmore has a Division III athletics program and excellent facilities for sports such as basketball, soccer, and swimming. Bryn Mawr has a smaller athletics program but offers a wide range of club sports and intramural programs for all levels of ability.

On the field, student athletes are getting ready to run

Bryn Mawr also has a unique Athletic Center, which includes a fitness center, pool, gymnasium, and studio for yoga, dance, and other activities. The center is open to all students and provides a welcoming and inclusive space for physical activity and recreation.

Additionally, both colleges have outdoor recreational spaces for students to enjoy. Swarthmore has a large field for sports such as ultimate frisbee and flag football, as well as a track for running and field events. Bryn Mawr has a beautiful campus with walking paths and a pond, which is a popular spot for picnics and relaxation.

Furthermore, both colleges have partnerships with local fitness centers and sports clubs, providing students with even more opportunities to stay active and engaged in their communities. These partnerships offer discounted rates and special programs for college students, making it easier for them to pursue their fitness goals and interests.

Campus Safety and Security: Which College Is Safer?

Both Swarthmore and Bryn Mawr have a commitment to campus safety and security and have robust programs and policies in place to ensure the safety of their students. Swarthmore has a campus safety department that patrols the campus 24/7, and the college has implemented safety measures such as camera systems, emergency phones, and safety escorts. Bryn Mawr also has a campus safety department and provides safety escorts and emergency response systems to students.

In addition to these safety measures, Swarthmore has implemented a comprehensive sexual assault prevention program that includes education and training for students, faculty, and staff. The college also has a confidential reporting system for survivors of sexual assault and harassment. Bryn Mawr has a similar program in place, with a focus on prevention and support for survivors.

Both colleges also have partnerships with local law enforcement agencies to ensure a quick and effective response to any safety concerns. Swarthmore has a close relationship with the Swarthmore Borough Police Department, while Bryn Mawr works closely with the Lower Merion Police Department.

Alumni Network: Career Opportunities, Mentoring, and Support

Both Swarthmore and Bryn Mawr have active alumni networks that provide support, mentorship, and career opportunities to students and graduates. Swarthmore’s alumni network is particularly strong and active, with many graduates going on to successful careers in fields such as law, medicine, and business. Bryn Mawr also has a robust alumni network and provides career resources and networking events to students and graduates.

Additionally, both Swarthmore and Bryn Mawr’s alumni networks offer opportunities for students and graduates to connect with each other and with professionals in their fields of interest. These connections can lead to internships, job shadowing, and other valuable experiences that can help students launch their careers. Alumni also frequently return to campus to speak with current students about their career paths and offer advice and guidance. Overall, the alumni networks at Swarthmore and Bryn Mawr provide a valuable resource for students and graduates as they navigate their professional journeys.

Cost of Attendance: Tuition, Room & Board, Financial Aid

Both Swarthmore and Bryn Mawr are private colleges with high tuition costs. Swarthmore’s tuition for the academic year is approximately $59,000, while Bryn Mawr’s tuition is approximately $59,000. Both colleges provide robust financial aid programs to students, and the majority of students receive some form of financial aid, including scholarships, grants, and work-study opportunities. Swarthmore is committed to meeting 100% of demonstrated financial need, and Bryn Mawr has a need-blind admissions policy, meaning that a student’s ability to pay is not taken into account in the admissions process.

Scholarship form placed next to a pile of books.

It is important to note that the cost of attendance at these colleges goes beyond just tuition. Room and board expenses can add an additional $15,000-$20,000 per year, depending on the type of housing and meal plan chosen. However, both Swarthmore and Bryn Mawr offer a variety of housing and dining options to fit different budgets and preferences. Additionally, students can save money by taking advantage of on-campus resources, such as free events and activities, discounted transportation, and access to academic and career services.

Conclusion: Which College Is the Better Choice?

So, which college is the better choice? The answer ultimately depends on your personal preferences and goals. Swarthmore and Bryn Mawr are both excellent colleges with many strengths, and each one has a unique campus culture and community.

If you prefer a small, suburban campus with a focus on sustainability and activism, Swarthmore may be the right choice for you. If you’re looking for a more extensive, urban campus with a strong commitment to women’s leadership and gender equality, Bryn Mawr may be the better choice. Both colleges offer exceptional academic programs, qualified faculty, and a commitment to diversity and inclusion, which are essential factors to consider when choosing a college.

Ultimately, the best way to determine which college is the right choice for you is to visit both campuses, talk to current students and faculty, and get a sense of the campus culture and community. With careful consideration and research, you can make an informed decision that will set you on the path to academic and personal success.

It’s important to note that while Swarthmore and Bryn Mawr have their unique strengths, they also have some similarities. Both colleges are part of the Tri-College Consortium, which means students can take classes and participate in activities at Haverford College, in addition to Swarthmore and Bryn Mawr. This provides students with a broader range of academic and social opportunities and allows them to build connections with students from other colleges.

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