Swarthmore vs Grinnell: Which College is Right for You?

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

a student writing on her notebook and looking at the camera

Swarthmore vs Grinnell: Which College is Right for You?

Choosing a college to attend can be a daunting task, especially when you are comparing two highly prestigious institutions like Swarthmore and Grinnell. Both of these colleges offer exceptional opportunities for students, but which one is right for you? In this article, we will delve deep into various aspects of Swarthmore vs Grinnell and help you make an informed decision.

Location and Campus Size: Swarthmore vs Grinnell

Swarthmore, located in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania is a small liberal arts college, occupying a campus of 425 acres. In contrast, Grinnell, located in the small town of Grinnell, Iowa occupies a 120-acre campus.

Swarthmore’s campus features numerous Georgian-style buildings built of blue stone and century-old oak trees, which make for a stunning visual experience. The campus also boasts an arboretum with over 4,000 cataloged species of plants.

Grinnell’s campus is equally impressive, with a beautiful central quadrangle surrounded by 60 major buildings and a mix of modern and historic architecture. This small-town campus is great for those who want a quiet and tight-knit campus community.

Aside from their campus size and location, Swarthmore and Grinnell also differ in terms of their student population. Swarthmore has a smaller student body of around 1,600 students, while Grinnell has a slightly larger student population of around 1,700 students. However, both colleges have a low student-to-faculty ratio, ensuring that students receive personalized attention from their professors.

Furthermore, both colleges offer a wide range of extracurricular activities for students to get involved in. Swarthmore has over 100 student-run clubs and organizations, including a student-run theater group and a community service organization. Grinnell also has a variety of student organizations, including a student-run radio station and a social justice advocacy group.

Academic Programs and Majors: Swarthmore vs Grinnell

Swarthmore College has a wide range of academic programs and majors, including literature, engineering, computer science, political science, and many more. Swarthmore offers a variety of interdisciplinary programs, including Black Studies, Gender and Sexuality Studies, and Peace and Conflict Studies.

Grinnell College, on the other hand, is known for its strong programs in computer science, economics, and psychology. In addition to these specialties, Grinnell offers a variety of interdisciplinary programs such as Global Development Studies, Neuroscience, and Policy studies.

Both colleges also have a strong emphasis on undergraduate research, a hallmark of liberal arts education. At Swarthmore, students can conduct summer research under the supervision of faculty members, while Grinnell students can conduct independent research or collaborate with faculty on ongoing projects.

Furthermore, both Swarthmore and Grinnell offer study abroad programs that allow students to gain a global perspective and immerse themselves in different cultures. Swarthmore has partnerships with universities in over 40 countries, while Grinnell offers programs in locations such as China, India, and Spain. These programs provide students with the opportunity to take courses in their major, learn a new language, and engage in community service projects.

Student-Faculty Ratio and Class Size: Swarthmore vs Grinnell

One of the biggest advantages of attending a small liberal arts college is the opportunity for small class sizes and close interaction with faculty. Swarthmore College has a student-faculty ratio of 8:1, while Grinnell has a ratio of 9:1. Both institutions boast class sizes of about 15 students, ensuring that students receive personal attention and guidance from faculty.

Group of students talking in a room.

Additionally, small class sizes allow for more meaningful discussions and debates among students. With fewer students in a class, each individual has the opportunity to contribute and engage in a more collaborative learning environment. This can lead to a deeper understanding of the material and a more enriching educational experience.

Furthermore, the small student-faculty ratio also allows for more personalized advising and mentorship opportunities. Students can develop close relationships with their professors, who can provide guidance and support throughout their academic and professional journeys. This can be especially beneficial for students who are considering graduate school or pursuing careers in academia, as they can receive valuable insights and recommendations from their mentors.

Admission Requirements and Acceptance Rates: Swarthmore vs Grinnell

Admission to Swarthmore and Grinnell is highly competitive, with acceptance rates of 8% and 11%, respectively. Both colleges look for students who are academically talented, well-rounded, and passionate about learning and making an impact on the world. Swarthmore is need-blind in its admission decisions, meaning that financial need is not a factor in the admission process, and meets the full demonstrated financial need of all admitted students. Grinnell College also meets full demonstrated financial need, making it a great option for low-income and first-generation students.

Aside from academic achievements, both Swarthmore and Grinnell also value extracurricular activities and community involvement. Swarthmore, in particular, looks for students who have demonstrated leadership skills and a commitment to social justice. Grinnell, on the other hand, values students who have a strong sense of community and are willing to engage in collaborative projects with their peers.

It is important to note that both colleges have holistic admission processes, which means that they consider each applicant as a whole person, rather than just their grades and test scores. This allows for a more diverse student body, as students from different backgrounds and experiences are given a fair chance to showcase their strengths and potential.

Campus Culture and Student Life: Swarthmore vs Grinnell

Swarthmore and Grinnell both have a strong focus on social justice and activism. Swarthmore is known for its Quaker traditions and commitment to ethical behavior, while Grinnell is known for its commitment to diversity, inclusion, and community engagement. Both colleges have active student organizations and offer a variety of extracurricular activities, such as music, theater, and sports.

A male baseball player is happy after winning a match. He wears unbranded sport clothes.

Swarthmore has a wide range of sports activities, including soccer, tennis, basketball, and field hockey, while Grinnell College boasts a strong athletics program, featuring 20 varsity-level intercollegiate teams. Students at either college can enjoy hiking, biking, and skiing in beautiful natural surroundings.

Aside from sports and extracurricular activities, both Swarthmore and Grinnell 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 faculty members, while Grinnell’s Mentored Advanced Projects (MAPs) program provides students with the opportunity to work closely with faculty members on research projects in their field of study.

Additionally, both colleges have a strong commitment to sustainability and environmentalism. Swarthmore has a student-run organic farm and a LEED-certified science center, while Grinnell has a student-led sustainability committee and a campus-wide composting program. Students at both colleges can get involved in sustainability initiatives and learn about environmental issues through coursework and extracurricular activities.

Career Services and Post-Graduation Opportunities: Swarthmore vs Grinnell

Both Swarthmore and Grinnell offer a range of career services to help students navigate their post-graduate options. Swarthmore has a comprehensive career development center that provides guidance on resume and cover letter writing, job search strategies, and interview skills. Grinnell College has a similar center, which provides personalized career coaching, networking opportunities, and workshops on various career-related topics.

Graduates of both colleges are highly sought after by employers, thanks to their rigorous academic preparation and critical thinking skills. Swarthmore graduates go on to careers in business, law, medicine, and public service, while Grinnell graduates have successful careers in engineering, education, and arts. Many graduates also go on to pursue advanced degrees in fields such as law, medicine, and business.

Unknown person using a laboratory tool.

Additionally, both Swarthmore and Grinnell offer post-graduation opportunities for students to continue their education and gain valuable experience. Swarthmore has a number of fellowship programs, including the Watson Fellowship, which provides funding for a year of independent travel and exploration. Grinnell offers a variety of post-baccalaureate programs, including a Master of Arts in Teaching program and a Post-Baccalaureate Research Education Program (PREP) for students interested in pursuing a career in biomedical research.

Diversity and Inclusion on Campus: Swarthmore vs Grinnell

Both Swarthmore and Grinnell have a strong commitment to diversity and inclusion, creating welcoming and inclusive campus environments for all students, regardless of their backgrounds. Swarthmore has an active diversity office that provides resources and support for underrepresented students. Grinnell has a similar office, which provides mentoring, advocacy, education, and support for students from underrepresented groups.

In addition to the diversity offices, both Swarthmore and Grinnell have a variety of student-led organizations that promote diversity and inclusion on campus. These organizations provide a space for students to connect with others who share similar experiences and identities, and they often host events and workshops to educate the campus community on issues related to diversity and inclusion.

Furthermore, both colleges have made efforts to diversify their faculty and staff, recognizing the importance of having a diverse group of educators and administrators. This not only benefits students from underrepresented groups but also creates a more inclusive and well-rounded learning environment for all students.

Financial Aid and Scholarships: Swarthmore vs Grinnell

Swarthmore and Grinnell are both committed to ensuring access to higher education for all talented students, regardless of their financial background. Swarthmore meets fully demonstrated financial needs for all students and provides need-based scholarships and grants to reduce the burden of tuition and fees. Grinnell College is also committed to meeting the full demonstrated financial need of all students and provides a variety of merit-based scholarships and grants to help students meet their financial obligations.

the term "subsidized loan" written on a small black board

In addition to need-based scholarships and grants, Swarthmore also offers work-study programs to eligible students. These programs provide students with part-time jobs on campus, allowing them to earn money to help cover their educational expenses while gaining valuable work experience.

Similarly, Grinnell College offers a range of financial aid options, including loans and work-study programs, in addition to merit-based scholarships and grants. The college also has a commitment to reducing student debt and has implemented a no-loan policy for students with family incomes below a certain threshold.

Alumni Network and Connections

Both Swarthmore and Grinnell have strong alumni networks that provide support and mentorship to current students. Swarthmore’s extensive alumni network includes Nobel Prize winners, Pulitzer Prize winners, Supreme Court justices, and CEOs of major corporations. Grinnell’s alumni network is equally impressive, with graduates in numerous fields, including science, technology, medicine, and politics.

These alumni networks offer a variety of resources to current students, including job and internship opportunities, networking events, and career advice. Swarthmore’s Career Services Office works closely with alumni to provide students with access to these resources, while Grinnell’s Center for Careers, Life, and Service offers a range of programs and events to connect students with alumni in their fields of interest.

In addition to professional connections, alumni networks also provide opportunities for social and cultural engagement. Both Swarthmore and Grinnell host alumni events throughout the year, including reunions, homecoming, and regional gatherings. These events offer a chance for current students to meet and connect with alumni, as well as to learn more about the history and traditions of their respective institutions.

Campus Safety and Security

Ensuring the safety and security of students is a top priority for both Swarthmore and Grinnell. Both colleges have a range of security measures in place, including 24/7 campus security and emergency services. Swarthmore also offers a free shuttle service for students who need to travel late at night, while Grinnell has a safe ride program that provides convenient and reliable transportation for students.

In addition to these measures, both colleges have implemented various safety protocols to prevent and respond to emergencies. Swarthmore has an emergency notification system that sends alerts to students and staff in case of a crisis, while Grinnell has an emergency response team that is trained to handle different types of emergencies.

Furthermore, both colleges have established partnerships with local law enforcement agencies to ensure a coordinated response in case of an emergency. Swarthmore has a close relationship with the Swarthmore Borough Police Department, while Grinnell works closely with the Grinnell Police Department and the Poweshiek County Sheriff’s Office.

Student Housing Options

Both Swarthmore and Grinnell offer a variety of on-campus housing options to students, including traditional dormitories, residential halls, and special interest housing communities. At Swarthmore, students can choose from a variety of living-learning communities that focus on particular themes, including sustainable living, social justice, and diversity. Similarly, Grinnell offers special interest housing options, including environmental studies, international studies, and multicultural affairs.

Young woman unpacking in her dorm room.

In addition to on-campus housing, both Swarthmore and Grinnell offer off-campus housing options for upperclassmen. Swarthmore has partnerships with local landlords to provide off-campus housing options for students who prefer to live off-campus. Grinnell also offers off-campus housing options, including apartments and houses, for students who wish to live off-campus.

Furthermore, both colleges have housing options for students with families. Swarthmore offers family housing options on campus, including apartments and townhouses. Grinnell also offers family housing options, including apartments and houses, for students with families who wish to live on or off campus.

Faculty Research Opportunities

Fostering undergraduate research is a hallmark of liberal arts education, and both Swarthmore and Grinnell College provide numerous opportunities for students to collaborate with faculty on research projects. Swarthmore has a wide range of research opportunities in various fields, including biology, chemistry, physics, statistics, and computer science, while Grinnell offers research opportunities in areas ranging from social justice to economics to neuroscience.

At Swarthmore, students can also participate in the Honors Program, which allows them to conduct independent research under the guidance of a faculty advisor. This program culminates in a thesis, which is a significant contribution to the student’s field of study. Similarly, Grinnell offers a Mentored Advanced Project (MAP) program, which allows students to work closely with a faculty member on a research project of their choice. These programs provide students with invaluable research experience and prepare them for graduate studies or careers in their chosen fields.

Study Abroad Programs

Both Swarthmore and Grinnell encourage their students to participate in study abroad programs, providing opportunities to explore different cultures and gain valuable linguistic and cultural fluencies. Swarthmore has over 120 approved programs, ranging from semester-long to year-long programs. Grinnell offers semester-long programs in several countries, including Spain, China, and Russia.

Additionally, both colleges offer financial aid and scholarships to support students who wish to study abroad. Swarthmore has a dedicated office to assist students in finding funding opportunities, while Grinnell offers need-based financial aid for study abroad programs. These resources make it possible for students from all backgrounds to participate in these life-changing experiences.

Internship Opportunities

Swarthmore and Grinnell offer numerous internship opportunities to help students gain practical work experience and insights into various industries. Swarthmore has partnerships with many organizations, allowing students to secure internships in industries ranging from nonprofits to healthcare to finance. Grinnell also has a variety of partnerships across the country, providing students with access to internships in industries such as art, media, and education.

View of students working on a painting.

Internships are an excellent way for students to gain hands-on experience in their field of interest. They provide an opportunity to apply classroom knowledge to real-world situations and develop professional skills. Swarthmore and Grinnell recognize the importance of internships and have established programs to support students in securing and completing internships.

Additionally, both colleges offer resources to help students find internships that align with their career goals. Career centers at Swarthmore and Grinnell provide guidance on resume and cover letter writing, interview preparation, and networking. They also host career fairs and employer information sessions to connect students with potential internship opportunities.

Graduate School Placement Rates

For students interested in pursuing graduate studies, both Swarthmore and Grinnell have excellent placement rates. Swarthmore graduates attend some of the most prestigious graduate programs in the world, including Harvard, Yale, and Stanford. Grinnell graduates have similarly high placement rates in master’s and Ph.D. programs in numerous fields, including art, economics, and engineering.

Additionally, both colleges offer resources and support for students applying to graduate programs. Swarthmore has a dedicated office for graduate school advising, where students can receive guidance on the application process, funding opportunities, and more. Grinnell offers workshops and seminars on topics such as writing personal statements and preparing for graduate school interviews. These resources can be invaluable for students navigating the often complex and competitive world of graduate admissions.

Student Success Stories

Both Swarthmore and Grinnell have exceptional success stories, with graduates making significant contributions to various fields. Swarthmore alumna founded Teach for America, while other alumna won the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physics. Other notable alumni from Swarthmore include the founder of the “I Have a Dream” Foundation and a bestselling author and journalist, while Grinnell alumni include actresses and musicians.

Aside from these well-known alumni, both Swarthmore and Grinnell have many other graduates who have achieved great success in their respective fields. For example, Swarthmore alumna is a renowned marine biologist who served as the head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration under President Obama. Grinnell alumnus is a physician and anthropologist who co-founded the international healthcare organization Partners in Health.

Furthermore, both colleges have a strong tradition of producing leaders in social justice and activism. Swarthmore alumna Angela Davis is a prominent civil rights activist and scholar, while Grinnell alumnus David Harris is the CEO of the National Jewish Democratic Council and a leading advocate for progressive causes.

Faculty Accomplishments and Awards

Swarthmore and Grinnell have exceptional faculty who are leaders in their fields and recipients of numerous awards and accolades. Swarthmore faculty have received numerous awards, including the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, and the MacArthur Fellowship. Similarly, Grinnell faculty have been recognized for their contributions across numerous disciplines, receiving prestigious awards such as the Grawemeyer Award, the National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship, and the National Science Foundation Career Award.

In addition to these individual awards, both Swarthmore and Grinnell faculty have also been recognized for their contributions to their respective fields through their research and publications. Many faculty members have published books, articles, and research papers in top-tier academic journals, and have been invited to present their work at conferences and symposia around the world. Their research has contributed to the advancement of knowledge in a wide range of fields, from the humanities to the sciences, and has helped to shape the intellectual landscape of their disciplines.

Campus Sustainability Initiatives

Both Swarthmore and Grinnell College are committed to environmental sustainability, implementing numerous programs to reduce their carbon footprint. Swarthmore has a variety of sustainability initiatives, including a goal to achieve carbon neutrality by 2035, and a bike-share program to promote sustainable transportation. Similarly, Grinnell has a variety of sustainability programs, including a campus garden, a solar panel array, and a zero-waste initiative.

In conclusion, both Swarthmore and Grinnell College are exceptional institutions that offer unparalleled opportunities for undergraduate students. While each college has its unique strengths and characteristics, ultimately, the decision of which college to attend depends on your personal values and goals. We hope this comprehensive comparison has provided you with the information you need to make an informed decision.

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