Swarthmore vs Cornell: Which College is Right for You?

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

Young student holding her books in a room.

Swarthmore vs Cornell: Which College is Right for You?

Choosing a college to attend is a significant decision that affects your educational journey and future career prospects. When it comes to picking between Swarthmore and Cornell, you may be unsure which institution will best suit your needs. In this article, we’ll take an in-depth look at Swarthmore vs Cornell and compare them across several critical areas to to help you make the right choice!

Swarthmore vs Cornell: Location

One of the most significant factors to consider when choosing a college is its location. Swarthmore is situated in a suburban area of Pennsylvania, while Cornell is located in Ithaca, a college town in upstate New York. The location of each school will significantly impact your college experience.

Aerial view of Cornell University during day time.

At Swarthmore, you’ll be in a quieter area, close to Philadelphia, with easy access to New York City. The campus is small and surrounded by picturesque scenery, providing a peaceful retreat from the hustle and bustle of city life. Cornell, on the other hand, is located in Ithaca, a vibrant college town with plenty of cultural events, restaurants, and entertainment. Depending on your personal preference, you may find one location more appealing than the other.

Another factor to consider is the climate. Swarthmore experiences all four seasons, with hot summers and cold winters. Cornell, on the other hand, is located in a region known for its harsh winters, with heavy snowfall and freezing temperatures. If you’re not used to cold weather, Cornell’s location may be a challenge for you.

Finally, the location of each school can also impact your career opportunities. Swarthmore’s proximity to Philadelphia and New York City provides easy access to internships and job opportunities in a variety of industries. Cornell’s location in upstate New York may limit your options, but the university has strong connections with companies in the area, particularly in the fields of agriculture and technology.

Swarthmore vs Cornell: Academics

Swarthmore and Cornell are both highly regarded institutions with a strong reputation for academic excellence. Swarthmore is a small liberal arts college that focuses on undergraduate education, known for its rigorous academic curriculum and intellectual community. Cornell, on the other hand, is a large research university that offers undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs across a wide range of fields.

If you’re looking for a more personalized approach to education, with smaller class sizes and individual attention from professors, Swarthmore may be the better choice for you. However, if you’re interested in diverse fields, interdisciplinary majors, and cutting-edge research opportunities, Cornell is a stronger contender.

It’s worth noting that both Swarthmore and Cornell have strong academic programs in the sciences, with Cornell being particularly well-known for its research in fields such as engineering, biology, and physics. Swarthmore, on the other hand, has a strong tradition in the humanities and social sciences, with a focus on critical thinking and interdisciplinary approaches to learning. Ultimately, the choice between these two institutions will depend on your individual academic interests and goals.

Campus Life: The Social Scene at Swarthmore vs Cornell

Campus life is an essential aspect of any college experience, and Swarthmore and Cornell both offer unique social scenes and communities. Swarthmore has a tight-knit community with plenty of opportunities for intellectual discussions and extracurricular activities. There are over 100 student groups on campus, ranging from performing arts to social justice groups.

Cornell, on the other hand, has a much larger student body and a more diverse range of social events and organizations. There are over 1,000 student organizations on campus, and students can participate in everything from sports clubs to Greek life. Cornell is known for its social events and parties, and the town of Ithaca also has a vibrant nightlife scene.

Students dancing wildly in the middle of the dancefloor.

Despite the differences in size and social scene, both Swarthmore and Cornell prioritize creating a welcoming and inclusive environment for all students. Swarthmore has a strong commitment to social justice and activism, with many student groups dedicated to promoting diversity and inclusion on campus. Cornell also has a variety of resources and programs aimed at supporting underrepresented students, including the Office of Academic Diversity Initiatives and the First-Generation and Low-Income Student Center.

Another notable difference between the two campuses is the location. Swarthmore is located in a suburban area outside of Philadelphia, while Cornell is situated in the small college town of Ithaca, New York. This can impact the social scene and opportunities available to students, with Swarthmore students having easy access to the cultural offerings of a major city and Cornell students enjoying the natural beauty of the Finger Lakes region.

Swarthmore vs Cornell: Student Body

Both colleges have diverse student bodies with students hailing from all 50 states and over 100 countries. However, Swarthmore is known for having a more homogeneous student body overall, with a higher percentage of white students (62%) compared to Cornell (48%).

Cornell has a more diverse student body, with a larger percentage of international students and underrepresented minorities. If you’re looking for a diverse campus community, with a range of perspectives and experiences, Cornell may be the better choice for you.

It’s important to note that while Swarthmore may have a higher percentage of white students, the college has made efforts to increase diversity and inclusivity on campus. Swarthmore has implemented programs and initiatives to recruit and support underrepresented students, including the Swarthmore Summer Scholars Program and the Black Cultural Center. Additionally, the college has a strong commitment to social justice and activism, with many student-led organizations dedicated to promoting diversity and equity on campus and beyond.

Athletics: The Role of Sports in the Campus Culture at Swarthmore vs Cornell

Athletics can play a significant role in the campus culture and spirit of a college, and both Swarthmore and Cornell have active athletic programs. Swarthmore participates in NCAA Division III sports, with a range of teams including basketball, soccer, and swimming. However, athletics is not a significant focus of campus culture, and games and events are typically not well-attended.

Young woman swimming in a pool.

Cornell, on the other hand, is known for its passionate student body and strong sports culture. Cornell participates in NCAA Division I sports, with 37 varsity teams across different sports. If you’re interested in collegiate sports as a spectator or participant, Cornell may be the better choice for you.

Despite the differences in campus culture surrounding athletics, both Swarthmore and Cornell offer opportunities for student-athletes to excel. Swarthmore has a strong tradition of academic excellence and its athletes are no exception. In fact, Swarthmore has had numerous student-athletes named to academic honor societies and recognized for their achievements both on and off the field.

Cornell also values academic success among its student-athletes and has a range of resources available to support them. These resources include academic advising, tutoring, and study halls to help student-athletes balance their academic and athletic commitments.

Swarthmore vs Cornell: Extracurricular Activities

Extracurricular activities can provide a way to explore your interests, develop new skills, and connect with like-minded individuals. Both Swarthmore and Cornell offer a range of extracurricular activities, clubs, and organizations.

Swarthmore has over 100 student organizations, ranging from performing arts to social justice groups, and a strong focus on community engagement and service. Cornell, on the other hand, has over 1000 student organizations, with a focus on academic, athletic, and cultural groups. Whatever your interests, you’re likely to find a group or activity that suits you at either institution.

Unidentified person using musical instruments.

It’s worth noting that while Cornell has a larger number of student organizations, Swarthmore’s smaller size allows for a more intimate and close-knit community within each group. Additionally, Swarthmore’s location in a suburban area provides unique opportunities for outdoor activities and environmental initiatives, while Cornell’s location in a college town offers a vibrant social scene and access to a wider range of resources. Ultimately, the choice between the two institutions will depend on your personal preferences and priorities when it comes to extracurricular involvement.

Swarthmore vs Cornell: Cost of Attendance

The cost of attendance is also an essential factor to consider when choosing between colleges.

However, both institutions offer generous need-based financial aid packages, which can make attending either institution more affordable for students with financial needs. It’s essential to consider your financial situation and the potential aid options available to you before making a final decision.

Another factor to consider when comparing the cost of attendance at Swarthmore and Cornell is the cost of living in the surrounding areas. Ithaca, where Cornell is located, has a lower cost of living compared to Swarthmore’s location in the Philadelphia suburbs. This means that students attending Cornell may have lower living expenses, such as housing and food, compared to students attending Swarthmore. However, it’s important to research the cost of living in both areas and factor it into your decision-making process.

Admissions Process: What You Need to Know About Applying to Swarthmore or Cornell

Applying to college can be a stressful and challenging process, and Swarthmore and Cornell each have different admissions requirements and processes to consider.

Swarthmore has a highly selective admissions process, with an acceptance rate of 8%. The application requires a personal statement, supplemental essay, transcripts, and test scores.

Cornell is also a highly selective institution, with an acceptance rate of 9%. The application requires transcripts, test scores, a personal statement, and several additional essays.

A woman opening a letter in a table.

It is important to note that both Swarthmore and Cornell have holistic admissions processes, meaning that they consider a variety of factors beyond just test scores and grades. They also consider extracurricular activities, letters of recommendation, and demonstrated interest in the school. It is recommended that applicants take the time to research each school and tailor their application to highlight their strengths and fit with the institution.

Career Opportunities: Comparing the Career Services Available to Students at Swarthmore and Cornell

Career opportunities are a crucial consideration when choosing between colleges, as they can impact your post-graduation prospects and job prospects. Swarthmore and Cornell both offer a range of career services and resources to help students prepare for their future careers.

Swarthmore has a career services office that provides individual career coaching, interview preparation, and access to job and internship postings. Swarthmore also has a strong alumni network, providing graduates with connections and opportunities in a range of fields.

Cornell’s career services office offers similar resources, including career coaching, resume and cover letter reviews, and on-campus recruiting events. Cornell has an extensive alumni network, providing graduates with connections and opportunities in a range of fields and industries.

However, there are some differences between the career services offered by Swarthmore and Cornell. Swarthmore’s career services office is known for its personalized approach, with career coaches working closely with students to identify their strengths and interests. In contrast, Cornell’s career services office is known for its large-scale events and job fairs, which can be overwhelming for some students.

Another difference is the availability of resources for students interested in entrepreneurship. Swarthmore has a dedicated program for students interested in starting their own businesses, providing mentorship, funding opportunities, and access to a network of successful entrepreneurs. Cornell also has resources for entrepreneurship, but they are more dispersed across different departments and programs.

Alumni Networks: The Role of Alumni in Supporting Graduates from Swarthmore and Cornell

Alumni networks can also play a significant role in your post-graduation career prospects and opportunities. Both Swarthmore and Cornell have active alumni networks and resources to support their graduates.

Swarthmore’s alumni network is known for its strong community and commitment to social justice, providing graduates with access to job opportunities, mentorship, and networking events. Cornell’s alumni network is extensive, with over 250,000 living alumni worldwide, providing graduates with connections and career opportunities across a range of industries and fields.

Additionally, alumni networks can also provide graduates with valuable resources and support for personal and professional development. Swarthmore’s alumni network offers a variety of programs and services, such as career counseling, resume reviews, and alumni workshops on topics such as leadership and entrepreneurship. Cornell’s alumni network also provides resources for personal and professional growth, including access to online learning platforms and career development webinars.

Furthermore, alumni networks can also serve as a source of inspiration and motivation for graduates. Swarthmore’s alumni network includes notable figures such as Nobel laureates, Pulitzer Prize winners, and prominent activists, who serve as role models for current students and recent graduates. Similarly, Cornell’s alumni network includes successful individuals in various fields, such as business, politics, and entertainment, who can inspire and guide graduates in their career paths.

Campus Facilities: Comparing the Quality of Campus Facilities at Swarthmore and Cornell

Campus facilities can significantly impact your college experience, and both Swarthmore and Cornell have excellent facilities to support students’ academic and extracurricular pursuits.

Swarthmore has a small, picturesque campus with modern academic buildings, research facilities, and a new Science Center. The campus also includes a community garden, arboretum, and a range of residential dorms. Cornell has a much larger campus, with numerous academic buildings, research facilities, and specialized centers, including the Cornell Plantations and the Sibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. Cornell’s campus also includes a range of residence halls, dining options, and athletic facilities.

Students walking in the hallway of the school.

One of the unique features of Swarthmore’s campus facilities is the McCabe Library, which houses over 1.2 million volumes and provides access to a wide range of digital resources. The library also offers a variety of study spaces, including group study rooms, quiet study areas, and a 24-hour study space during exam periods. In addition, Swarthmore’s campus facilities include a state-of-the-art performing arts center, which hosts a variety of concerts, plays, and dance performances throughout the year.

Cornell’s campus facilities also include a number of impressive resources for students, such as the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, which is a world-renowned research center for the study of birds and their habitats. The university also has a number of specialized research centers, including the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future and the Cornell Center for Materials Research. In addition, Cornell’s campus facilities include a variety of recreational spaces, such as an indoor climbing wall, a golf course, and a boathouse on Cayuga Lake.

Faculty Quality: How Do the Professors Compare Between Swarthmore and Cornell?

The quality of faculty can significantly impact your education and academic experience. Swarthmore and Cornell both have distinguished faculty members and a commitment to teaching excellence.

Swarthmore has a student-faculty ratio of 8:1 and Cornell has a student-faculty ratio of 9:1, ensuring individual attention and close collaboration opportunities. The faculty are committed to teaching, and many are leading researchers in their fields. Cornell has a similarly strong faculty, with a commitment to both research and teaching.

However, there are some differences in the faculty at Swarthmore and Cornell. Swarthmore has a smaller faculty size, with a total of 187 professors, compared to Cornell’s 1,616 professors. This means that Swarthmore professors may have a more personalized approach to teaching and may be more accessible to students outside of class. On the other hand, Cornell’s larger faculty size allows for a wider range of courses and research opportunities.

Research Opportunities: The Availability of Research Opportunities for Undergraduates at Swarthmore vs. Cornell

Research opportunities can provide valuable hands-on experience and exposure to cutting-edge research in your field. Both Swarthmore and Cornell offer undergraduate research opportunities, but the programs differ significantly.

Swarthmore has a strong research program, with opportunities for students to work with both faculty and graduate students on independent or collaborative research projects. Cornell has a much larger research infrastructure, with many opportunities for students to get involved in research across a range of fields, including biology, engineering, and social sciences.

At Swarthmore, research opportunities are often integrated into the curriculum, with many courses offering research components or independent study options. This allows students to gain research experience while also fulfilling academic requirements. In contrast, at Cornell, research opportunities are often separate from coursework and require students to seek out and apply for positions on their own.

However, Cornell’s larger research infrastructure also means that students have access to more resources, such as state-of-the-art equipment and facilities, as well as a wider network of researchers and potential collaborators. Swarthmore’s smaller size and more intimate community, on the other hand, may provide students with more personalized attention and mentorship from faculty members.

Campus Safety: Comparing Safety Measures on Campus at Swarthmore and Cornell

Campus safety is a crucial consideration when choosing a college, and both Swarthmore and Cornell have measures in place to ensure the safety and security of their students.

Swarthmore has an on-campus police department and a 24-hour emergency hotline, along with a range of safety and security measures. Cornell also has an on-campus police department, emergency management services, and safety initiatives addressing issues such as sexual assault, hate crimes, and bias-related incidents.

However, there are some differences in the safety measures implemented by Swarthmore and Cornell. Swarthmore has a smaller campus and a lower crime rate compared to Cornell, which is located in a larger city. Swarthmore also has a system of blue light emergency phones located throughout the campus, which can be used to quickly contact campus security in case of an emergency. On the other hand, Cornell has a comprehensive safety app that provides students with real-time safety alerts, a virtual safety escort, and a direct line to campus police.

Conclusion: Which College is Right for You?

Choosing between Swarthmore and Cornell ultimately comes down to your personal preferences, goals, and academic priorities. Swarthmore offers a personalized, liberal arts education with a tight-knit community, while Cornell provides a larger, diverse campus with a range of opportunities across numerous fields. Consider the factors discussed in this article, including location, academics, campus life, athletics, extracurricular activities, cost, admissions, career opportunities, alumni networks, campus facilities, faculty quality, research opportunities, and campus safety, to make an informed decision about which college is right for you.


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