Swarthmore vs Wellesley: Which College is Right for You?

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

Male students holding his books while smiling at the camera.

Swarthmore vs Wellesley: Which College is Right for You?

Are you trying to decide between Swarthmore and Wellesley for your higher education? Choosing the right college can be an overwhelming and challenging task, given the numerous options available. However, with a thorough understanding of the differences between the two schools in terms of academics, student life, admission requirements, cost of attendance, career prospects, and more, you can make an informed decision that best suits your needs and aspirations. This article offers an in-depth comparison of Swarthmore vs Wellesley to help you make the right choice.

Introduction to Swarthmore vs Wellesley

Swarthmore and Wellesley are both highly selective liberal arts colleges known for their rigorous academics, small class sizes, and tight-knit communities. Swarthmore College is located in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania, while Wellesley College is situated in Wellesley, Massachusetts. Both schools have a legacy of producing successful alumni across various fields, including politics, business, science, and the arts.

Swarthmore College was founded in 1864 and has a strong commitment to social responsibility and civic engagement. The college offers over 40 majors and minors, including popular programs in engineering, economics, and psychology. Swarthmore also has a vibrant student life, with over 100 student-run clubs and organizations.

Wellesley College, on the other hand, was founded in 1870 and is known for its strong emphasis on women’s education and leadership development. The college offers over 50 majors and minors, including popular programs in computer science, economics, and political science. Wellesley also has a beautiful campus, with over 500 acres of woodlands, meadows, and gardens.

Swarthmore vs Wellesley: Location and Campus Comparison

Swarthmore and Wellesley are situated in different regions of the United States, making them unique in many ways. Swarthmore’s campus covers 425 acres of land and is located close to both Philadelphia and New York City. In comparison, Wellesley’s campus, which spans 500 acres, is situated in a suburban area outside Boston. Swarthmore’s campus is more centralized, while Wellesley has a spread-out campus with several buildings connected by walkways.

Despite their differences in location and campus layout, both Swarthmore and Wellesley offer a variety of outdoor spaces for students to enjoy. Swarthmore’s campus features a large arboretum with over 4,000 species of plants, as well as several athletic fields and a nature trail. Similarly, Wellesley’s campus boasts a botanical garden, a lake, and numerous walking paths.

Another notable difference between the two schools is their student population. Swarthmore has a smaller student body of around 1,600 students, while Wellesley has a larger student body of approximately 2,500 students. This difference in size can impact the overall campus culture and the types of extracurricular activities available to students. Swarthmore’s smaller size may lead to a more tight-knit community, while Wellesley’s larger size may offer a wider range of clubs and organizations.

Swarthmore vs Wellesley: Academics and Curriculum Comparison

The curriculum at both Swarthmore and Wellesley is centered on a liberal arts education model, which encourages students to develop a broad range of critical thinking, communication, and analytical skills. Swarthmore has a more flexible curriculum with an open curriculum in the first-year program, known as the Fall and Spring Exploration, where students can explore different classes in the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, and engineering. In contrast, Wellesley has a more structured curriculum, with a core set of courses required for graduation in areas such as literature, math, science, and the arts.

Female art students painting in a room.

Despite the differences in their curriculum structure, both Swarthmore and Wellesley offer a wide range of majors and minors for students to choose from. Swarthmore has over 40 majors and minors, including unique programs such as Interpretation Theory and Islamic Studies. Wellesley offers over 50 majors and minors, including interdisciplinary programs such as Environmental Studies and Women’s and Gender Studies.

Additionally, both colleges have a strong emphasis on undergraduate research opportunities. Swarthmore has a dedicated program called the Honors Program, which allows students to conduct independent research in their field of study and write a thesis. Wellesley has a similar program called the Senior Thesis, which requires students to complete a research project in their major during their senior year.

Swarthmore vs Wellesley: Student Life Comparison

The student life experience at Swarthmore and Wellesley is quite varied. Swarthmore is known for its close-knit student body, which is highly active in various clubs, organizations, and extracurricular activities. The college has over 100 clubs and organizations that cover a wide range of interests, from politics to athletics. Similarly, Wellesley has over 200 clubs and organizations, including an extensive network of athletics teams and artistic groups. Wellesley also has a strong tradition of student activism and social justice with various initiatives throughout campus.

However, there are some notable differences between the two colleges. Swarthmore has a unique academic calendar, with a 3-1-2 system that allows students to take intensive courses during the month of January. This provides students with the opportunity to explore new subjects and engage in experiential learning. On the other hand, Wellesley has a more traditional academic calendar, with two semesters and a summer break.

Another difference is the location of the two colleges. Swarthmore is located in a suburban area, which provides students with easy access to Philadelphia and other nearby cities. In contrast, Wellesley is located in a more rural area, which offers a quieter and more secluded campus environment.

Swarthmore vs Wellesley: Admission Requirements and Processes Comparison

Both schools have a highly selective admission process, with acceptance rates at around 8% for Swarthmore and 16% for Wellesley. Swarthmore and Wellesley require similar application materials, including transcripts, standardized test scores, essays, and recommendations. However, Swarthmore has an optional interview whereas Wellesley does not. Both colleges prioritize diversity and inclusivity in their admission processes and seek to admit students who have demonstrated academic rigor, leadership, and community involvement.

It is important to note that Swarthmore and Wellesley have different approaches to evaluating applicants. Swarthmore takes a holistic approach, considering not only academic achievements but also personal qualities and potential contributions to the campus community. On the other hand, Wellesley places more emphasis on academic achievements and intellectual curiosity. Additionally, Swarthmore offers an Early Decision option for applicants who are certain that Swarthmore is their top choice, while Wellesley does not have an Early Decision option. It is important for prospective students to carefully consider the admission requirements and processes of each school before applying.

Swarthmore vs Wellesley: Cost of Attendance Comparison

The cost of attending Swarthmore and Wellesley is similar, with both schools being classified as expensive colleges. Swarthmore’s tuition and fees for the academic year came to approximately $59,000, while Wellesley’s tuition and fees came to approximately $61,000. Both schools offer financial aid packages to eligible students, including need-based aid, merit scholarships, and work-study programs.

A notebook fit for financial aid.

It is important to note that the cost of attendance at both Swarthmore and Wellesley includes not only tuition and fees, but also room and board, textbooks, and other expenses. According to the schools’ websites, the estimated total cost of attendance for the academic year is approximately $78,000 for Swarthmore and $81,000 for Wellesley. However, it is worth exploring the various financial aid options available to students, as both schools are committed to making their education accessible to students from diverse backgrounds.

Career Prospects Comparison

Graduates from Swarthmore and Wellesley are highly sought after by employers across various fields, including tech, finance, government, and the arts. Both schools have strong career centers that offer resources and support to prepare students for internships, networking opportunities, and job searches. Swarthmore’s Career Services offers a wide range of services, including career-specific advising, workshops, and employer engagement opportunities. Similarly, Wellesley’s Career Education provides students with various resources, including job postings, on-campus recruiting, and career-related events.

Additionally, both Swarthmore and Wellesley have strong alumni networks that provide graduates with valuable connections and career opportunities. Swarthmore’s alumni network spans various industries and includes notable figures such as Nobel laureates and Pulitzer Prize winners. Similarly, Wellesley’s alumnae network is extensive and includes prominent figures such as former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and journalist Diane Sawyer. These networks offer graduates a valuable resource for networking and career advancement.

Campus Facilities and Resources Comparison

Both schools have excellent campus facilities and resources, including libraries, fitness centers, student centers, and research labs. Swarthmore’s campus includes extensive facilities, such as an 80-acre ecological preserve, an arboretum, and a performing arts center. Students also have access to the Swarthmore College Peace Collection, one of the most significant collections of literature on peace and social justice movements in the world. Similarly, Wellesley’s campus includes the Davis Museum, which houses an extensive collection of contemporary art, a music center, and various research centers, including the Albright Institute for Global Affairs.

Moreover, Swarthmore College has a state-of-the-art science center that houses cutting-edge research facilities and laboratories. The college also has a renowned engineering program that offers students hands-on experience in designing and building innovative solutions to real-world problems. Additionally, Swarthmore’s campus is home to the Lang Performing Arts Center, which hosts a variety of performances, including theater, dance, and music.

a group female ballet dancers performing at a stage

On the other hand, Wellesley College has a beautiful botanical garden that spans over 22 acres and features a wide variety of plant species. The college also has a robust environmental studies program that focuses on sustainability and conservation. Furthermore, Wellesley’s campus includes the Knapp Social Science Center, which houses research centers and institutes dedicated to studying various social issues, such as gender, race, and inequality.

Notable Alumni from Swarthmore and Wellesley

Both Swarthmore and Wellesley have produced notable alumni. Aside from these famous names, there are many other notable alumni from Swarthmore and Wellesley. For instance, Swarthmore has produced several Nobel laureates, including economists and physicists. Wellesley has also produced several Pulitzer Prize winners, such as journalist and poet.

Furthermore, both colleges have a strong tradition of producing leaders in various fields. Swarthmore alumni have gone on to become CEOs of major corporations, such as Intel and American Express, while Wellesley alumni have held high-ranking positions in government,

Extracurricular Activities Comparison

Swarthmore and Wellesley offer a wide range of extracurricular activities, including sports teams, clubs, and volunteer organizations. Swarthmore is known for its strong athletics program, with both Division III swimming and soccer teams winning national championships. Additionally, Swarthmore has numerous volunteer organizations, such as the Swarthmore Buddies Club, which pairs college students with local children for mentorship, and the Swarthmore Student Government organization, which oversees student life on campus. Similarly, Wellesley has over 20 NCAA Division III athletic teams and a strong tradition of community service through various volunteer organizations such as Habitat for Humanity and the Wellesley College Service Trip program.

Forestry student checking on trees.

Aside from athletics and volunteer organizations, Swarthmore also offers a variety of clubs and student-run organizations. The Swarthmore College Democrats and Republicans clubs provide opportunities for students to engage in political discussions and activism, while the Swarthmore College Feminists club advocates for gender equality and hosts events such as Women’s History Month celebrations. Additionally, Swarthmore has a thriving arts scene, with student-run groups such as the Swarthmore College Orchestra and the Swarthmore College Jazz Ensemble.

Similarly, Wellesley has a strong focus on the arts, with a variety of student-run groups such as the Wellesley College Shakespeare Society and the Wellesley College Choral Society. In addition to athletics and community service, Wellesley also offers a variety of academic clubs and organizations, such as the Wellesley College Debate Society and the Wellesley College Investment Club. These groups provide opportunities for students to explore their interests and develop skills outside of the classroom.

Diversity and Inclusion on Campus

Both Swarthmore and Wellesley are committed to diversity and inclusion on campus. Swarthmore has a diverse student body, with approximately 45% of students self-identifying as students of color, and has various organizations like the Black Cultural Center and the Queer Resource Center that cater to underrepresented and marginalized groups. Similarly, Wellesley has a strong commitment to diversity and inclusion, with various dedicated student centers and six cultural theme houses that provide a safe and supportive environment for students from diverse backgrounds. Furthermore, Wellesley has several initiatives aimed at increasing diversity and inclusivity on campus, such as the Albright Institute’s Women’s Leadership Program, which empowers women to become leaders in various fields through mentorship and skill development.

In addition to the student organizations and centers, Swarthmore also offers courses and programs that focus on diversity and inclusion. For example, the Intercultural Center offers workshops and training on topics such as cultural competency and allyship, while the Black Studies Program provides a comprehensive understanding of the experiences and contributions of people of African descent. These courses and programs not only educate students on diversity and inclusion but also provide a platform for students to engage in meaningful discussions and take action toward creating a more inclusive campus.

Similarly, Wellesley has a strong commitment to promoting diversity and inclusion beyond its campus borders. The college partners with local organizations and schools to provide mentorship and educational opportunities for underrepresented youth in the community. Additionally, Wellesley’s Office of Intercultural Education hosts events and programs that bring together students from different backgrounds to engage in dialogue and celebrate diversity. Through these initiatives, Wellesley is not only creating a more inclusive campus but also contributing to a more equitable society.

Faculty and Class Size Comparison

The faculty and class sizes at Swarthmore and Wellesley are small, with a low student-to-faculty ratio. Swarthmore has an average class size of 12 students and a student-to-faculty ratio of 8:1, while Wellesley has an average class size of 12 students and a student-to-faculty ratio of 8:1. With such small classes, students receive personalized attention from professors, allowing for meaningful class discussions and deep engagement with course material.

Additionally, both Swarthmore and Wellesley have highly qualified faculty members who are experts in their respective fields. Many of these professors are actively engaged in research and scholarship, which allows them to bring cutting-edge knowledge and insights into the classroom. This creates a dynamic learning environment where students are exposed to the latest developments in their fields of study.

Group of students working on a mannequin.

Furthermore, the small class sizes at Swarthmore and Wellesley foster a strong sense of community among students. With fewer students in each class, students have the opportunity to get to know their classmates and form close relationships with them. This sense of community extends beyond the classroom, with many extracurricular activities and events that allow students to connect with each other and build lasting friendships.

Popular Majors at Swarthmore and Wellesley

Both schools offer a wide range of majors, with some being more popular than others. At Swarthmore, popular majors include economics, biology, psychology, and engineering. At Wellesley, popular majors include English, biology, economics, and political science.

However, both schools also offer unique and specialized majors that are not as well-known but still highly regarded. Swarthmore offers a major in Interpretation Theory, which combines philosophy, linguistics, and literary theory to analyze how meaning is created and interpreted. Wellesley offers a major in Environmental Studies, which focuses on the intersection of science, policy, and social justice in addressing environmental issues.

Conclusion: Choosing the Right College for You

Choosing the right college can be a daunting task, but by understanding the differences between Swarthmore and Wellesley in terms of academics, campus life, admission requirements, cost, and more, you can find a school that aligns with your personal and academic goals. Ultimately, it is up to you to decide which school is the best fit for you and your individual needs.

With that being said, whether you choose Swarthmore or Wellesley, you are sure to receive a top-notch liberal arts education with a supportive community of faculty, staff, and students who will help you grow both personally and academically.

It is important to remember that choosing a college is not just about academics and campus life, but also about the location and surrounding community. Swarthmore is located in a suburban area outside of Philadelphia, while Wellesley is located in a suburban area outside of Boston. Consider which location would be a better fit for you and your interests.

Additionally, both Swarthmore and Wellesley offer a variety of extracurricular activities and clubs for students to get involved in. Take some time to research the different options and see which school offers activities that align with your interests and passions.


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