Swarthmore vs Mt Holyoke: Which College is Right for You?

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

Female student holding a laptop while standing next to a white wall.

Swarthmore vs Mt Holyoke: Which College is Right for You?

Choosing a college is a major decision that can have long-lasting effects on your career and personal life. With so many options available, it can be difficult to determine which institution is right for you. If you’re considering liberal arts colleges, Swarthmore and Mt Holyoke are two notable options that are often compared. In this article, we’ll take an in-depth look at Swarthmore vs Mt Holyoke in various areas ranging from academics to student life to help you make an informed decision.

Location and Campus: A Comparative Analysis of Swarthmore vs. Mt Holyoke

Location is an important factor to consider when selecting a college. Swarthmore is located in Pennsylvania, in close proximity to Philadelphia, while Mt Holyoke is situated in Massachusetts, about an hour’s drive from Boston. Both campuses are known for their beautiful, tree-lined grounds and historic architecture that provide a peaceful and inspiring environment in which to study.

Swarthmore’s campus spans over 425 acres and features many small gardens and natural settings where students can relax and recharge. In contrast, Mt Holyoke’s 800-acre campus boasts a botanic garden, several lakes, and nearby hiking trails. Both colleges are committed to sustainability practices, and both have LEED-certified buildings that reduce environmental impact.

One notable difference between the two campuses is the size of the student body. Swarthmore has a smaller student population of around 1,600, while Mt Holyoke has a larger student body of approximately 2,200. This can impact the overall campus culture and the opportunities available to students. Swarthmore’s smaller size allows for a more intimate and tight-knit community, while Mt Holyoke’s larger size provides a wider range of extracurricular activities and events.

Another factor to consider is the surrounding community. Swarthmore is located in a suburban area, with easy access to Philadelphia’s cultural and entertainment offerings. Mt Holyoke, on the other hand, is situated in a more rural area, with a small town nearby. This can impact the social scene and the availability of off-campus activities. However, both colleges offer a variety of on-campus events and activities to keep students engaged and entertained.

Academics: How the Curriculum at Swarthmore vs. Mt Holyoke Differs

Both colleges offer a rigorous liberal arts curriculum that seeks to develop students’ critical thinking, analytical, and communication skills. However, the two institutions have slightly different academic approaches. Swarthmore is known for its emphasis on interdisciplinary studies and encourages students to explore different departments and majors. Students are required to take courses in natural sciences, social sciences, humanities, and the arts, as well as a first-year seminar that exposes them to diverse topics. Mt Holyoke has a broader distribution requirement system that includes classes in the arts, language, history, social science, and science, in addition to a first-year seminar. Additionally, Mt Holyoke places more emphasis on global and multicultural perspectives, and offers a range of language courses and study abroad programs.

Another difference between the two colleges is the size of their classes. Swarthmore has a smaller student-to-faculty ratio, which means that students have more opportunities for one-on-one interactions with their professors. This allows for more personalized attention and support, as well as the chance to engage in more in-depth discussions and debates. Mt Holyoke, on the other hand, has a larger student body, which means that classes may be larger and more diverse. This can provide students with a wider range of perspectives and experiences, as well as the chance to network with a larger group of peers.

Furthermore, Swarthmore and Mt Holyoke have different research opportunities available to their students. Swarthmore is known for its strong research programs in the natural sciences, mathematics, and engineering, and offers students the chance to work closely with faculty members on research projects. Mt Holyoke, on the other hand, has a strong focus on undergraduate research across all disciplines and offers students the chance to conduct research both on and off campus. This can provide students with valuable hands-on experience and the chance to contribute to cutting-edge research in their field of interest.

Student Life: What to Expect at Swarthmore vs. Mt Holyoke

When it comes to student life, Swarthmore and Mt Holyoke are both known for their inclusive and supportive communities that foster a sense of belonging and engagement. At Swarthmore, students can choose from over 100 clubs and organizations that cater to their diverse interests, ranging from political activism to the arts to sports. The college also has a strong tradition of student governance, and students have a say in shaping campus policies and initiatives. Similarly, Mt Holyoke offers a range of extracurricular activities, including over 140 clubs and organizations, community service opportunities, and varsity and club sports. In addition, Mt Holyoke has a strong residential campus culture, with around 97% of students living on campus. This creates a close-knit community where students can build lasting friendships.

a group of people celebrating

Both Swarthmore and Mt Holyoke also prioritize mental health and wellness for their students. Swarthmore has a counseling and psychological services center that offers individual and group therapy, workshops, and other resources to support students’ mental health. Mt Holyoke has a similar center that provides counseling services, as well as a wellness center that offers programs and activities focused on physical and emotional well-being. Both colleges also have a variety of resources and support systems in place to help students navigate academic and personal challenges, ensuring that they have the tools and support they need to thrive during their college years.

Extracurricular Activities: A Comparison of Clubs and Organizations at Swarthmore and Mt Holyoke

Both colleges offer a diverse range of clubs and organizations that cater to students’ interests and passions. At Swarthmore, there are many options for students interested in activism and social justice, such as the Swarthmore Queer Union, Feminist Voices, and Multicultural Organization of Swarthmore. There are also a variety of performance groups, including cappella groups, dance groups, and theater organizations. Mt Holyoke has a similarly active student body, with organizations ranging from cultural clubs like the Asian Students Association and Black Student Association to academic clubs like the Economics Society and Neuroscience Society. Both colleges also have strong athletics programs, and offer opportunities for intramural and club sports, in addition to varsity sports teams.

Male sprinters waiting for the go signal.

However, there are some differences between the extracurricular offerings at Swarthmore and Mt Holyoke. Swarthmore has a larger emphasis on community service and volunteerism, with organizations like the Swarthmore Community Outreach Program and the Swarthmore Environmental Action Club. Mt Holyoke, on the other hand, has a strong focus on leadership development, with clubs like the Student Government Association and the Leadership and Public Service Program. Additionally, Mt Holyoke has a unique tradition called “Lantern Night,” where first-year students receive lanterns and are welcomed into the college community by alumnae. This event is a beloved tradition and a highlight of the extracurricular calendar at Mt Holyoke.

Housing Options: Where Will You Live at Swarthmore and Mt Holyoke?

At Swarthmore, all students are guaranteed on-campus housing for four years, and housing options vary from traditional dormitories to suite-style apartments. Students can choose to live in a single, double, or triple room, and there are gender-neutral housing options available. Mt Holyoke has a similar housing guarantee and offers a range of housing options, including traditional residence halls, apartments, theme houses, and language houses. International students can also participate in the Global Living program, which pairs them with American students in shared living spaces.

Two Yale roommates gather together in their dorm.

Additionally, both Swarthmore and Mt Holyoke offer housing options for students with specific needs or preferences. Swarthmore has designated quiet housing for students who prefer a more peaceful living environment, as well as substance-free housing for students who choose not to live with roommates who use drugs or alcohol. Mt Holyoke has a variety of theme houses, which are living spaces centered around a particular interest or identity, such as the Women of Color House or the Queer Resource Center House.

It’s important to note that while both colleges guarantee on-campus housing, there may be some exceptions or limitations. For example, Swarthmore’s housing guarantee does not apply to students who take a leave of absence or study abroad for a full academic year. Mt Holyoke’s housing guarantee only applies to students who enter as first-year students or transfer students and does not extend to students who take a leave of absence or study abroad for a full academic year.

Faculty and Staff: A Look at the Teachers and Professors at Swarthmore vs. Mt Holyoke

Both colleges have a highly qualified and diverse faculty that is dedicated to providing students with a world-class education. Swarthmore has a student-to-faculty ratio of 8:1, which allows for close interaction between students and professors. Faculty members are engaged in cutting-edge research, and many have received national and international recognition for their scholarly work. Similarly, Mt Holyoke has a low student-to-faculty ratio of 10:1 and boasts faculty members who are active scholars and leaders in their fields. The college also has a strong commitment to promoting diversity among its faculty and staff, with over 25% of faculty members identifying as persons of color.

Furthermore, both Swarthmore and Mt Holyoke have a number of staff members who work tirelessly behind the scenes to ensure that the colleges run smoothly. From administrative assistants to facilities managers, these individuals play a crucial role in supporting the academic mission of the colleges. Many staff members have been with the colleges for years, and have developed close relationships with students and faculty alike. Their dedication and hard work are an integral part of the vibrant communities that exist at both Swarthmore and Mt Holyoke.

Admission Requirements: What Do You Need to Get into Swarthmore or Mt Holyoke?

Admission to Swarthmore and Mt Holyoke is highly competitive, and both colleges seek to admit students who demonstrate academic excellence, intellectual curiosity, and a commitment to making a positive impact on the world. Swarthmore’s admission process is highly holistic, taking into account factors such as academic record, standardized test scores, extracurricular activities, essays, and recommendations. The college also practices need-blind admissions, which means that a student’s financial need does not play a role in the admission decision. Mt Holyoke similarly evaluates students based on their academic and personal achievements, extracurricular involvement, and leadership potential. The college also practices need-blind admissions and meets 100% of demonstrated financial need for admitted students.

SAT practice test notebook sitting on a table.

In addition to the academic and personal achievements, both Swarthmore and Mt Holyoke also value diversity and inclusivity. They seek to admit students from a wide range of backgrounds, cultures, and experiences, and encourage applicants to share their unique perspectives and identities in their application materials. The colleges also offer various resources and support systems to ensure that all students feel welcomed and included on campus.

Furthermore, both colleges have a strong commitment to community service and social justice. They encourage students to engage in volunteer work, activism, and advocacy, and provide opportunities for students to make a positive impact on their local and global communities. Swarthmore and Mt Holyoke also offer various academic programs and initiatives that focus on social justice issues, such as gender studies, ethnic studies, and environmental studies.

Tuition and Financial Aid: How Much Does It Cost to Attend Swarthmore or Mt Holyoke?

Attending Swarthmore or Mt Holyoke is a significant financial investment, but both colleges offer generous financial aid packages to make the cost of attendance more manageable. For the academic year, Swarthmore’s comprehensive fee is $77,354, which includes tuition, fees, room, and board. However, the college meets 100% of the demonstrated financial need for admitted students, and also offers merit-based scholarships. Similarly, Mt Holyoke’s comprehensive fee is $75,678 for the academic year, but the college is also committed to meeting 100% of the demonstrated financial need for admitted students. Additionally, Mt Holyoke offers merit-based scholarships and other forms of financial assistance.

Stack of books with a pink piggy bank resting on top of them.

It’s important to note that the cost of attendance may vary depending on individual circumstances, such as the student’s residency status, family income, and other factors. Both Swarthmore and Mt Holyoke have online net price calculators that can provide an estimate of the actual cost of attendance for each student. It’s recommended that students and their families use these calculators to get a better understanding of the financial commitment required to attend these colleges.

Alumni Network: Which College Has a Stronger Network of Graduates?

Both Swarthmore and Mt Holyoke have strong alumni networks that are actively involved in mentoring and supporting current students. Swarthmore has a diverse alumni community that includes Nobel laureates, Fulbright scholars, and prominent leaders in various fields. The college’s Career Services office also provides resources for students to connect with alumni and access job and internship opportunities. Similarly, Mt Holyoke has a robust alumnae network that spans over 70 countries and includes notable figures such as Gloria Steinem and Frances Perkins. The college’s Alumnae Association offers programs and events that enable students to connect with alumnae and also runs a mentorship program that pairs students with alumnae in their fields of interest.

However, there are some differences in the way the alumni networks operate at these two colleges. Swarthmore’s alumni network is more focused on career development and professional networking, with a strong emphasis on connecting students with alumni who work in their desired fields. On the other hand, Mt Holyoke’s alumnae network places a greater emphasis on community building and social connections, with events and programs that bring alumnae together for networking and socializing. Both approaches have their benefits, and it ultimately depends on the individual student’s goals and preferences when it comes to alumni engagement.

Internship Opportunities: Which College Offers Better Internship Opportunities?

Both Swarthmore and Mt Holyoke prioritize providing students with opportunities to gain practical experience through internships and other experiential learning opportunities. Swarthmore has a Career Services office that assists students in finding internships, research positions, and other career-related experiences, both on and off campus. The college also has several signature programs, such as the Lang Center for Civic and Social Responsibility and the Swarthmore Summer Scholars Program, which enable students to engage in meaningful projects and internships. Mt Holyoke similarly has a Career Development Center that provides students with resources and guidance on securing internships, as well as several programs, such as the Lynk Universal Application Funding (UAF) program and the Global Initiatives program, that provide funding for students to pursue internships and other opportunities both domestically and internationally.

Young woman working on a table with different flags.

However, there are some differences between the two colleges when it comes to internship opportunities. Swarthmore is located near Philadelphia, which provides students with access to a wide range of internship opportunities in various industries, including finance, healthcare, and technology. On the other hand, Mt Holyoke is located in the Pioneer Valley, which is known for its strong arts and culture scene. This means that students at Mt Holyoke may have more opportunities to intern with arts organizations, museums, and other cultural institutions.

Additionally, both colleges have strong alumni networks that can help students secure internships and other career-related experiences. Swarthmore alumni are known for their success in fields such as finance, law, and academia, while Mt Holyoke alumni have made significant contributions in areas such as social justice, public service, and the arts. This means that students at both colleges have access to a wide range of alumni who can provide guidance and support as they navigate their career paths.

Career Services: What Kind of Career Services Can You Expect from Swarthmore and Mt Holyoke?

Both Swarthmore and Mt Holyoke are committed to supporting students’ career aspirations and helping them prepare for successful post-college careers. Swarthmore’s Career Services office provides a range of resources such as resume and cover letter reviews, mock interviews, and career counseling. Additionally, Swarthmore has a strong alumni network that offers job and internship opportunities, as well as mentorship and networking opportunities. Mt Holyoke similarly has a comprehensive Career Development Center that offers individualized advising, career workshops, and employer events. The college also has several programs, such as the Career Development Center Ambassadors program and the Lynk-UAF program, that enable students to gain career-related experience and build their professional skills.

Diversity and Inclusion: How Do Swarthmore and Mt Holyoke Compare in Terms of Diversity?

Diversity and inclusion are important values at both Swarthmore and Mt Holyoke, and both colleges prioritize creating a welcoming and supportive campus environment for students from all backgrounds. At Swarthmore, around 20% of the student population identifies as domestic students of color, and the college has several affinity groups and programs, such as the Office of Diversity, Inclusion, and Community Development, that aim to foster intercultural understanding and dialogue. Similarly, Mt Holyoke has a diverse student body, with around 26% of students identifying as domestic students of color. The college also has several programs and initiatives, such as the Multicultural Community and College Life Office and the Bias Response Team, that promote equity and inclusion on campus.

Campus Safety: A Comparison of Campus Safety Measures at Swarthmore vs. Mt Holyoke

Campus safety is a top priority for both Swarthmore and Mt Holyoke, and both colleges have implemented a range of measures to ensure students’ well-being. Swarthmore has a well-staffed campus safety department that provides 24-hour service and also offers training and educational programs on topics such as sexual assault prevention and emergency preparedness. The college also has a Responsible Community @ Swarthmore program that encourages responsible drinking and partying. Similarly, Mt Holyoke has a campus safety department that is staffed around the clock and also offers educational programs and training on topics such as self-defense and emergency response. The college also has a Bias Response Team that addresses incidents of prejudice and discrimination.

Student Testimonials: A Look at What Current Students Have to Say About Their Experience at Swarthmore vs. Mt Holyoke

Ultimately, the best way to get a sense of what it’s like to attend Swarthmore or Mt Holyoke is to hear from current students. Student testimonies can provide valuable insights into the campus culture, student life, academic curriculum, and more. Here are a few examples of what current students have to say:

“Swarthmore is a wonderful place to be challenged academically, interact with socially conscious and politically active students, and have the flexibility to design one’s own path towards the future.” – Swarthmore student

“Mt Holyoke is a place where I can express myself authentically and without fear of judgment. I feel confident that I’m receiving an education that will inspire me and challenge me to be my best.” – Mt Holyoke student


Choosing between Swarthmore and Mt Holyoke can be a difficult decision, as both colleges offer exceptional academic programs, engaging student life, and supportive campus environments. Ultimately, the decision comes down to factors such as personal preferences, academic interests, and career goals. We hope this article has provided you with a comprehensive comparison of the two colleges in areas ranging from location to diversity to career services, and that it has helped you make an informed decision. Whatever you choose, we wish you the best of luck in your college journey!


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