Swarthmore vs Smith: A Comprehensive Look at the Two Colleges

August 29, 2023
By AdmissionSight

Swarthmore vs Smith: A Comprehensive Look at the Two Colleges

Choosing the right college can be a difficult decision. There are a myriad of factors to consider, from location and academic programs to student life and campus safety. In this article, we will take an in-depth look at Swarthmore vs Smith, two highly-regarded liberal arts colleges in the United States, to help you make an informed decision about which college is right for you.

Swarthmore vs Smith: Location and Campus Comparison

Swarthmore College is located in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Philadelphia. The campus spans 425 acres and is known for its beautiful gardens and green spaces. Smith College, on the other hand, is located in Northampton, Massachusetts, a picturesque college town in the western part of the state. The campus is smaller than Swarthmore’s, clocking in at just 147 acres, but is known for its Gothic architecture and stunning botanical garden.

In terms of location, both colleges offer a unique and appealing college experience, with access to nearby cities and natural beauty. However, Swarthmore’s larger campus may provide more opportunities for outdoor activities, while Smith’s smaller campus may offer a more intimate and close-knit community.

Another factor to consider when comparing the two campuses is their proximity to major cities. Swarthmore College is just a 30-minute train ride away from Philadelphia, a bustling city with a rich history and diverse culture. Students at Swarthmore can easily take advantage of all that Philadelphia has to offer, from museums and theaters to restaurants and shopping. Smith College, on the other hand, is located about two hours away from Boston, a city known for its world-class universities, vibrant arts scene, and historic landmarks. While it may take a bit more effort to get to Boston from Smith, the city’s many attractions make it a popular destination for weekend trips.

Finally, it’s worth noting that both Swarthmore and Smith have strong traditions of academic excellence and intellectual curiosity. Swarthmore is known for its rigorous liberal arts curriculum, which emphasizes critical thinking, writing, and research. Smith, meanwhile, is one of the top women’s colleges in the country, with a long history of empowering women to pursue their passions and make a difference in the world. Both colleges attract students who are passionate about learning and eager to engage with complex ideas and issues.

Swarthmore vs Smith: Admission and Acceptance Rates

Both Swarthmore and Smith are highly selective colleges, with acceptance rates of 8% and 30%, respectively. Swarthmore is consistently ranked as one of the top liberal arts colleges in the country, which can make it a highly competitive admissions process. Smith, while also highly regarded, maybe a more accessible choice for some students.

A pencil shading a circle on an answer sheet

Overall, both colleges require strong academic records and extracurricular involvement in the admissions process, but Swarthmore’s prestige may make it a more challenging admission goal to attain.

It’s important to note that admission and acceptance rates are not the only factors to consider when choosing a college. Both Swarthmore and Smith offer unique academic programs, campus cultures, and resources that may appeal to different students. For example, Swarthmore is known for its strong emphasis on undergraduate research and its close-knit community, while Smith is recognized for its commitment to women’s education and its diverse student body.

Additionally, it’s worth exploring the financial aid and scholarship opportunities available at each college. While both Swarthmore and Smith are private institutions with high tuition costs, they also offer generous financial aid packages to eligible students. It’s important to research and compare the financial aid options at each college to determine which one may be the most affordable for you and your family.

Swarthmore vs Smith: The Demographics of Students

Diversity and inclusion have become increasingly important considerations for students and parents when choosing a college. Swarthmore and Smith both prioritize diverse communities, with student populations that are roughly 50% white, 20% Asian, 10% Black or African American, and 10% Hispanic or Latino. Smith has a slightly higher percentage of international students, at 8% compared to Swarthmore’s 5%.

Students listening to a lecture.

Both colleges have active organizations dedicated to diversity and inclusion, including affinity groups and cultural centers. Swarthmore has a Center for Innovation and Leadership and a Black Cultural Center, while Smith has a Multicultural Affairs Office and a Resource Center for Sexuality and Gender.

In addition to these resources, both colleges offer courses and programs that focus on diversity and inclusion. Swarthmore has a Peace and Conflict Studies program that explores issues of social justice and human rights, while Smith has a Women and Gender Studies program that examines the intersections of gender, race, and sexuality. Both colleges also have active student-led initiatives, such as Swarthmore’s Coalition for Immigrant Rights and Smith’s Queer Resource Center.

Furthermore, both colleges have made efforts to increase diversity among their faculty and staff. Swarthmore has implemented a Faculty Diversity Initiative, which aims to recruit and retain faculty from underrepresented groups, while Smith has a Diversity and Inclusion Strategic Plan that includes goals for increasing diversity among staff and administrators.

Swarthmore vs Smith: Academic Programs and Majors Offered

Both Swarthmore and Smith are well-regarded for their strong academic programs, with a focus on undergraduate education. Swarthmore offers over 40 majors and minors across the arts, humanities, and sciences, with notable programs in Engineering, Philosophy, and Economics. Smith offers over 50 majors and minors, including unique programs in Middle East Studies, Jewish Studies, and Book Studies.

Both colleges offer opportunities for independent research and study abroad, and boast high post-graduate success rates, with a significant number of students continuing on to graduate or professional school.

A young woman shaking the hand of an unidentified person in a lab.

However, Swarthmore has a distinct advantage in its Honors Program, which allows students to pursue an in-depth, interdisciplinary course of study in their major field. This program culminates in a thesis project, which is often a significant piece of original research or creative work. The Honors Program is highly selective and competitive but offers a unique opportunity for students to engage in advanced scholarship and gain valuable experience for graduate school or professional work.

Swarthmore vs Smith: Extracurricular Activities and Student Life

College is more than just academics, and both Swarthmore and Smith provide ample opportunities for students to get involved in extracurricular activities and student life. Swarthmore has over 100 student-run organizations, including a student government association, a radio station, and a variety of cultural and social clubs. Smith has a similar amount of student organizations, including a student government association, a newspaper, and a variety of athletic and cultural clubs.

Both colleges also offer a range of on-campus events and traditions, such as Swarthmore’s annual Crum Regatta and Smith’s Mountain Day.

Additionally, both Swarthmore and Smith have a strong emphasis on community service and social justice. Swarthmore has a dedicated community service office that connects students with local organizations and provides opportunities for service trips. Smith has a similar office, as well as a social justice education program that offers workshops and events on topics such as race, gender, and sexuality.

The Cost of Attendance: Tuition, Fees, and Financial Aid Differences

The cost of attending college can be a significant factor in the decision-making process, and both Swarthmore and Smith are private colleges with high sticker prices. Swarthmore’s tuition and fees for the academic year are $59,328, while Smith’s tuition and fees are $58,768. However, both colleges provide a significant amount of financial aid to students, with Swarthmore awarding over $50 million in financial aid annually and Smith awarding over $55 million.

Both colleges are committed to meeting 100% of the demonstrated need for admitted students, making them accessible to a wide range of students, regardless of financial background.

View of a notebook placed on a notebook with the words financial aid written on it.

It’s important to note that the financial aid packages offered by Swarthmore and Smith differ in their composition. Swarthmore’s financial aid package consists primarily of grants and scholarships, which do not need to be repaid, while Smith’s package includes a combination of grants, scholarships, and work-study opportunities. This means that students at Smith may need to work part-time during the academic year to help cover their costs, while students at Swarthmore can focus solely on their studies.

Alumni Network and Career Services: Which College Provides Better Opportunities?

For many students, attending college is about preparing for a future career, and both Swarthmore and Smith provide resources and opportunities for post-graduate success. Swarthmore has an active alumni network, with notable graduates including astronaut Sally Ride and Nobel Prize-winning economist Amartya Sen. The college also boasts a strong internship program, with over 80% of students completing at least one internship before graduation.

Smith has an equally impressive alumni network, with notable graduates including poet Sylvia Plath and former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. The college also provides strong support for students interested in pursuing careers in the arts, with resources such as the Smith College Museum of Art and the Poetry Center.

However, Swarthmore also offers a unique program called the Career Services Pre-Professional Program, which provides specialized advising and resources for students interested in pursuing careers in law, medicine, and other professional fields. This program includes workshops, networking events, and one-on-one advising with experienced professionals in the field. Additionally, Swarthmore has a strong reputation for producing successful graduates in fields such as finance, consulting, and technology, with alumni working at top companies such as Goldman Sachs, McKinsey & Company, and Google.

Campus Safety and Security Measures in Place

Campus safety and security are important considerations for both students and parents. Swarthmore and Smith both have safety measures in place, such as 24-hour campus security and emergency response protocols. Swarthmore also has a Public Safety Advisory Committee, which works to engage with the campus community and promote safety awareness.

Smith has a similar Public Safety Office, as well as a campus-wide Emergency Notification System and a Walk Home program, which provides students with safe transportation on campus after hours.

In addition to these measures, both Swarthmore and Smith have implemented new safety protocols in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes mandatory mask-wearing, increased cleaning and sanitation of high-touch areas, and social distancing guidelines in classrooms and common areas. Both campuses also have testing and contact tracing programs in place to monitor and prevent the spread of the virus among students, faculty, and staff.

Sports Teams and Athletic Programs: Which College Has a Better Track Record?

For students interested in sports and athletics, both Swarthmore and Smith have strong programs and a history of success. Swarthmore is a member of the NCAA Division III athletics, with 23 varsity teams and a strong focus on intramural and club sports. The college is home to the only Cricket field in the United States and regularly hosts regional and national tournaments.

On the field, student athletes are getting ready to run

Smith is also an NCAA Division III school, with 14 varsity teams and a focus on building a strong and supportive athletic community. The college also offers a wide range of fitness and wellness programs for students, including Yoga and Pilates classes.

However, while both colleges have impressive athletic programs, Swarthmore has a slightly better track record in terms of overall success. In the past decade, Swarthmore has won multiple conference championships and has had several individual athletes compete at the national level. Additionally, Swarthmore’s athletic facilities are top-notch, with a recently renovated fieldhouse and a brand-new outdoor track and field complex.

Faculty and Teaching Styles at Swarthmore vs Smith

One key aspect of the college experience is the relationship between students and faculty. Both Swarthmore and Smith have a low student-to-faculty ratio, with an average class size of 12. However, the teaching styles and faculty members at each college have distinct differences.

Swarthmore is known for its rigorous academic programs and demanding professors, who push students to excel. The college also has a notable Honors program, which allows students to pursue intensive and independent research projects.

Smith, on the other hand, places a high value on student-centered teaching and mentoring. The college has a Teaching and Learning Center, which provides resources and support for faculty members, as well as a well-regarded student-run tutorial program.

Another notable difference between the faculty at Swarthmore and Smith is their research focus. Swarthmore professors are often highly regarded in their fields and frequently publish research in academic journals. This emphasis on research can translate into more theoretical and abstract classroom discussions. In contrast, Smith professors often prioritize teaching over research and may have a more practical approach to their subject matter. This can result in more hands-on and applied learning experiences for students.

Research Opportunities for Students at the Two Colleges

Research is an important part of the undergraduate experience at both Swarthmore and Smith. Swarthmore has a strong emphasis on research and scholarship, with over 80% of students participating in faculty-led research projects. The college also offers research grants and fellowships to support independent research.

Smith also offers ample research opportunities, with over 50% of students participating in independent study projects during their time at the college. The college also hosts an annual SURF (Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship) program, which supports student research over the summer months.

Additionally, both colleges have partnerships with nearby research institutions, providing students with access to cutting-edge facilities and resources. Swarthmore has collaborations with institutions such as the University of Pennsylvania and the Franklin Institute, while Smith has partnerships with the Five College Consortium and the nearby Mount Holyoke College.

Student Reviews and Testimonials on Swarthmore vs Smith Experience

As with any college decision, it can be helpful to hear from current and former students about their experiences. Student reviews and testimonials can provide valuable insight into the pros and cons of attending a particular college.

Overall, students at both Swarthmore and Smith speak highly of their experiences at their respective colleges. Swarthmore students appreciate the challenging academic environment and a strong sense of community, while Smith students value the supportive and inclusive campus culture.

However, some Swarthmore students have expressed concerns about the intense workload and pressure to succeed, which can lead to high levels of stress and burnout. On the other hand, some Smith students have mentioned feeling isolated or disconnected from the larger community, particularly if they are not involved in certain extracurricular activities.

It’s important to keep in mind that every student’s experience is unique, and what works well for one person may not be the best fit for another. It’s always a good idea to visit campuses, talk to current students and faculty, and do your own research to determine which college is the best fit for you.

Future Prospects for Students Who Attend Swarthmore or Smith College

Attending college is an investment in your future career and life goals. Both Swarthmore and Smith provide a strong foundation for students to succeed post-graduation.

Swarthmore’s graduates are highly sought after by top employers and graduate programs, with a high post-graduation employment rate and a significant number of alumni pursuing advanced degrees. Smith’s graduates also enjoy a high post-graduate success rate, with graduates pursuing careers in a wide range of fields, including the arts, education, and social justice.

Additionally, both Swarthmore and Smith offer extensive career development resources to their students, including career counseling, job and internship fairs, and networking events. Swarthmore’s Career Services Office provides personalized career coaching and hosts over 100 employer events each year. Smith’s Lazarus Center for Career Development offers career counseling, workshops, and networking opportunities, as well as a database of job and internship listings.


Choosing the right college is a challenging decision, but it is important to find the school that best fits your unique needs and goals. Swarthmore and Smith are two excellent liberal arts colleges, each with their own strengths and advantages.

By considering factors such as location, admissions process, diversity and inclusion, academic programs, extracurricular activities, cost, alumni network, safety, faculty, research opportunities, and student reviews, you can make an informed decision about which college is the best choice for you.

It is also important to consider the culture and community of the college. Swarthmore and Smith have different campus cultures, with Swarthmore being known for its intellectual and rigorous academic environment, while Smith is known for its strong sense of community and social activism. It is important to visit each campus and talk to current students to get a sense of the campus culture and community.

Additionally, it is important to think about your long-term goals and how each college can help you achieve them. Swarthmore has a strong focus on undergraduate research and has produced many successful alumni in fields such as science and technology. Smith, on the other hand, has a strong focus on women’s education and has produced many successful alumni in fields such as social justice and the arts.


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