Swarthmore vs Dartmouth: Which College is Right for You?

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

Female student holding her books in front of a building.

Swarthmore vs Dartmouth: Which College is Right for You?

Choosing a college can be a daunting task. With so many options out there, it’s important to find the one that is the right fit for you. Two excellent schools to consider are Swarthmore College and Dartmouth College. Both are highly respected institutions with their own unique features and strengths. In this article, we will compare Swarthmore vs Dartmouth and contrast these two colleges in detail, covering everything from their student bodies and academic offerings to campus culture and financial aid.


Let’s start by taking a closer look at Dartmouth College. Located in Hanover, New Hampshire, Dartmouth is a private Ivy League research university that was founded in 1769. With an enrollment of just over 6,500 students, Dartmouth offers a wide range of undergraduate and graduate programs in fields including engineering, business, and the liberal arts.

View of Dartmouth main building.

One unique aspect of Dartmouth is its strong commitment to undergraduate education. The college operates on a quarter system, which allows for more personalized attention and smaller class sizes. Additionally, all students are required to participate in a “D-Plan,” which allows them to take off-campus terms to pursue internships, research, or study abroad opportunities. This emphasis on experiential learning has helped Dartmouth maintain a reputation as one of the top undergraduate institutions in the country.

Student Body: Swarthmore vs. Dartmouth

When it comes to student body, Swarthmore and Dartmouth have some notable differences. Swarthmore is a small liberal arts college with an enrollment of around 1,600 students. As such, students at Swarthmore enjoy small class sizes and a close-knit community. Dartmouth, on the other hand, has a larger student population and a more diverse range of students. It also has a strong Greek life presence on campus.

Another difference between the student bodies at Swarthmore and Dartmouth is the academic focus. Swarthmore is known for its rigorous academic programs in the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences. Students at Swarthmore are encouraged to explore a wide range of academic interests and are often involved in research projects with faculty members. Dartmouth, on the other hand, has a strong focus on undergraduate business education and offers a variety of business-related majors and programs.

Additionally, the student body at Swarthmore is known for its strong commitment to social justice and activism. Many students are involved in community service projects and advocacy groups on and off campus. Dartmouth also has a strong tradition of community service, but its student body is known for its athletic prowess and competitive sports teams. The college has a strong athletic program and many students are involved in varsity and club sports.

Academics and Curriculum: Swarthmore vs. Dartmouth

Both Swarthmore and Dartmouth are known for their rigorous academic programs. Swarthmore has a strong focus on the liberal arts, with a core curriculum that emphasizes critical thinking, writing, and analytical skills. Dartmouth also has a strong liberal arts program, but it also offers highly ranked programs in fields like engineering, business, and medicine.

University students working on their laptops in a table.

However, Swarthmore has a unique Honors Program that allows students to delve deeper into their academic interests and conduct independent research projects under the guidance of a faculty advisor. This program is highly selective and requires students to maintain a high GPA and complete a rigorous application process. On the other hand, Dartmouth offers a variety of study abroad programs that allow students to gain international experience and broaden their perspectives. These programs range from short-term trips to semester-long exchanges and are available in over 40 countries.

Majors and Programs Offered: Swarthmore vs. Dartmouth

At Swarthmore, students can choose from over 40 majors, ranging from anthropology to computer science to theater. Dartmouth offers over 60 majors and minors in a variety of fields, including economics, neuroscience, and environmental studies. Both schools also offer a variety of interdisciplinary and dual-degree programs.

One notable difference between the two schools is the availability of engineering programs. Swarthmore does not offer any engineering majors, while Dartmouth has a highly-regarded engineering program with majors in fields such as biomedical engineering and mechanical engineering. However, Swarthmore does offer a 3-2 engineering program in partnership with other institutions, allowing students to earn a bachelor’s degree in a liberal arts field from Swarthmore and an engineering degree from a partner school.

Faculty and Teaching Style: Swarthmore vs. Dartmouth

One of the benefits of attending a smaller school like Swarthmore is the opportunity to work closely with professors. Swarthmore has a student-to-faculty ratio of 8:1, and classes are taught exclusively by professors (not teaching assistants). Dartmouth also has a strong commitment to teaching, with a student-to-faculty ratio of 7:1 and a mix of tenured professors and visiting faculty.

However, the teaching style at Swarthmore and Dartmouth differs. Swarthmore emphasizes a liberal arts education, which means that students are required to take courses in a variety of subjects. This approach encourages critical thinking and a well-rounded education. Dartmouth, on the other hand, has a more traditional approach to education, with a focus on undergraduate research and experiential learning opportunities.

Another difference between the two schools is the size of the classes. Swarthmore has an average class size of 12 students, which allows for more individual attention and participation. Dartmouth’s average class size is slightly larger, at 18 students, but still provides opportunities for discussion and engagement with the material.

Research Opportunities: Swarthmore vs. Dartmouth

Both Swarthmore and Dartmouth are research-focused institutions that offer a variety of opportunities for undergraduate students to get involved in research projects. Swarthmore has a strong focus on undergraduate research, with over 90% of students completing a research project at some point during their time at the school. Dartmouth’s undergraduate research program is equally robust, with opportunities in fields like chemistry, biology, and engineering.

However, there are some differences in the research opportunities offered by these two institutions. Swarthmore’s research projects tend to be more interdisciplinary, with many projects involving collaboration between students and faculty from different departments. Dartmouth, on the other hand, has a strong emphasis on experiential learning, with many research projects involving fieldwork and hands-on experience. Additionally, Dartmouth has a number of research centers and institutes that offer specialized research opportunities in areas like neuroscience and environmental studies.

Internship and Career Services: Swarthmore vs. Dartmouth

Both Swarthmore and Dartmouth have robust career services offices that help students connect with internship and job opportunities. Swarthmore’s career services center offers resources such as resume reviews, interview preparation, and access to job and internship databases. Dartmouth’s career services center offers similar resources, as well as connections to the school’s extensive alumni network.

However, there are some differences between the two schools’ career services. Swarthmore’s career services center focuses on helping students explore their interests and passions and offers guidance on how to align those with potential career paths. On the other hand, Dartmouth’s career services center emphasizes networking and building professional connections, with a strong emphasis on preparing students for careers in finance and consulting.

Campus Culture and Social Life: Swarthmore vs. Dartmouth

The campus culture and social life at Swarthmore and Dartmouth are quite different. Swarthmore is known for its intellectual and politically progressive community, and its students enjoy a wide range of cultural and artistic opportunities. Dartmouth has a more traditional campus culture, with a strong focus on sports and Greek life.

Students leaning on a wall while looking at a laptop.

At Swarthmore, students are encouraged to engage in social justice activism and community service. The campus has a strong commitment to sustainability and environmentalism, with many student-led initiatives focused on reducing waste and promoting eco-friendly practices. In contrast, Dartmouth’s social scene revolves around fraternities and sororities, which host many of the campus’s parties and events.

Despite these differences, both Swarthmore and Dartmouth offer a variety of extracurricular activities and clubs for students to get involved in. Swarthmore has a thriving music scene, with several a cappella groups and a student-run radio station. Dartmouth has a strong tradition of outdoor recreation, with opportunities for hiking, skiing, and other outdoor activities in the nearby mountains.

Athletics and Recreation: Swarthmore vs. Dartmouth

Sports are a big part of campus life at Dartmouth. The school is home to 35 varsity sports teams, as well as intramural and club sports. Swarthmore does not have a varsity football team, but the school does offer a variety of intercollegiate and intramural sports teams. Both schools also offer a wide range of recreational opportunities, including fitness centers and outdoor programs.

At Dartmouth, the athletic facilities are top-notch, with a state-of-the-art indoor track and field facility, a hockey arena, and a football stadium. The school also has a strong tradition of excellence in skiing, with its own skiway and a nationally-ranked ski team. Swarthmore, on the other hand, has a smaller campus and fewer athletic facilities, but the school places a strong emphasis on wellness and offers a variety of fitness classes and wellness programs.

While both schools have a strong athletic culture, they differ in their approach to sports. Dartmouth places a greater emphasis on varsity sports and has a highly competitive athletic program, while Swarthmore values participation and inclusivity in sports and emphasizes the importance of sportsmanship and teamwork. Ultimately, both schools offer a rich and diverse range of athletic and recreational opportunities for students to explore and enjoy.

Tuition, Financial Aid, and Scholarships: Swarthmore vs. Dartmouth

The cost of attendance at Swarthmore and Dartmouth is quite high, but both schools offer robust financial aid programs to help offset the cost. Swarthmore has a need-blind admissions policy, which means that the school will meet 100% of the demonstrated financial need for all admitted students. Dartmouth offers a similar need-blind policy, as well as a variety of scholarships and grants.

It is important to note that the cost of attendance at both Swarthmore and Dartmouth can vary depending on a student’s individual circumstances. For example, students who live off-campus may have lower expenses than those who live on campus. Additionally, students who have dependents or other financial obligations may have higher expenses. It is important for students to carefully consider their individual financial situation when comparing the cost of attendance at these schools.

Both Swarthmore and Dartmouth also offer work-study programs to help students earn money to offset the cost of attendance. These programs allow students to work part-time on campus or in the local community, and the money they earn can be used to pay for tuition, fees, and other expenses. Work-study programs can be a great way for students to gain valuable work experience while also reducing their financial burden.

Admission Requirements and Process: Swarthmore vs. Dartmouth

Both Swarthmore and Dartmouth are highly selective colleges, with acceptance rates of  8% and 6%. The admissions requirements and application processes for both schools are rigorous, with a strong emphasis on academic achievement and extracurricular involvement.

Female student facing her interviewer in a room.

However, there are some differences in the admission requirements and process between the two schools. Swarthmore places a greater emphasis on essays and personal statements, with multiple prompts that allow applicants to showcase their writing skills and personal experiences. Dartmouth, on the other hand, requires applicants to submit two teacher recommendations and one counselor recommendation, in addition to the standard application materials.

Another difference is in the standardized testing requirements. Swarthmore is test-optional, meaning that applicants can choose whether or not to submit SAT or ACT scores. Dartmouth, on the other hand, requires all applicants to submit either SAT or ACT scores, as well as two SAT Subject Test scores in different subjects.

Alumni Network and Post-Graduate Success: Swarthmore vs. Dartmouth

Both Swarthmore and Dartmouth have highly respected alumni networks and strong records of post-graduate success. Swarthmore alumni are known for their achievements in fields like academia, law, and the arts. Dartmouth alumni have a similarly impressive record of success, with notable alumni including former U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and billionaire investor Peter Thiel.

However, there are some differences in the types of industries where Swarthmore and Dartmouth alumni tend to excel. Swarthmore graduates often find success in non-profit organizations, government, and education, while Dartmouth alumni are more likely to pursue careers in finance, consulting, and technology. This may be due in part to the fact that Dartmouth has a strong business program and is located in close proximity to major financial centers like New York City and Boston.

Conclusion: Which College is the Better Fit for You?

So, which college is the better fit for you? Ultimately, the decision will depend on a variety of factors, including your academic interests, personal preferences, and financial situation. Both Swarthmore and Dartmouth are excellent schools with their own unique strengths. We hope this article has helped you make a more informed decision as you navigate the college admissions process.

It’s important to remember that while college rankings and prestige can be important, they are not the only factors to consider when choosing a college. It’s also important to think about the campus culture, extracurricular opportunities, and location. Take the time to visit each campus, talk to current students and professors, and get a feel for the overall atmosphere. Remember, the college you choose will be your home for the next four years, so make sure it’s a place where you feel comfortable and supported.


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