Swarthmore vs Williams: Which College Is Right for You?

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

Female student smiling at the camera.

Swarthmore vs Williams: Which College Is Right for You?

If you are considering attending a liberal arts college, you may be wondering which one is the best fit for you. Swarthmore and Williams are two top-ranked colleges in the US, both known for their exceptional academics and rigorous curriculum. In this article, we will take an in-depth look at Swarthmore vs Williams to help you decide which one is right for you.


Williams College, located in Williamstown, Massachusetts, is a private liberal arts college that was founded in 1793. With a total undergraduate enrollment of about 2,100 students, Williams offers a small, close-knit community where students can get to know their professors and peers on a personal level.

Williams College has a strong commitment to academic excellence and offers over 36 majors and 25 minors. The college has a student-to-faculty ratio of 7:1, which allows for personalized attention and mentorship from professors. In addition to academics, Williams has a vibrant campus life with over 150 student organizations, including a strong athletic program with 32 varsity sports teams. The college also has a beautiful campus with stunning views of the Berkshire Mountains.

Swarthmore vs. Williams: Academics

Both Swarthmore and Williams are known for their excellent academics and challenging curriculum. Swarthmore offers more than 40 majors and minors across various departments, including humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences. Williams offers more than 60 majors and minors, giving students a wider range of options to choose from. However, both colleges offer small class sizes and personalized attention from professors, which can be beneficial for students who thrive in a close-knit academic community.

In terms of academic rigor, both colleges are known for their challenging curriculum, but Swarthmore is generally considered to be more rigorous than Williams. Swarthmore has a reputation for pushing its students to the limit and challenging them to take on complex and demanding projects.

Another notable difference between Swarthmore and Williams is their approach to interdisciplinary studies. Swarthmore encourages students to explore multiple fields of study and offers a variety of interdisciplinary programs, such as the Environmental Studies program and the Peace and Conflict Studies program. Williams, on the other hand, has a more traditional approach to academics and focuses primarily on individual majors and minors. However, both colleges provide opportunities for students to engage in research and independent study, allowing them to delve deeper into their areas of interest.

Student Body Demographics: Swarthmore vs. Williams

When it comes to student body demographics, Swarthmore and Williams have some similarities and differences. Both colleges have a relatively small student body, with Swarthmore enrolling around 1,600 undergraduate students and Williams enrolling around 2,100. However, the student body at Swarthmore is more diverse compared to Williams, with a higher percentage of underrepresented minorities and international students.

Another notable difference between the student bodies at Swarthmore and Williams is the gender ratio. Swarthmore has a nearly equal distribution of male and female students, with 49% male and 51% female. In contrast, Williams has a higher percentage of male students, with 53% male and 47% female.

Despite these differences, both colleges have a strong commitment to creating a welcoming and inclusive environment for all students. Swarthmore has a variety of student-led organizations and initiatives focused on promoting diversity and inclusion, such as the Intercultural Center and the Black Cultural Center. Similarly, Williams has a number of resources and programs aimed at supporting underrepresented students, including the Davis Center and the First Generation Program.

Extracurricular Activities: Which College Offers More Opportunities?

Both colleges offer a wide range of extracurricular activities and clubs, ranging from sports teams and music ensembles to cultural organizations and academic clubs. Swarthmore is known for its strong commitment to social justice and activism and has many student-led organizations dedicated to environmentalism, feminist activism, and social justice. Williams is known for its strong athletics programs, with many students participating in varsity sports and intramural teams. Ultimately, the extracurricular opportunities at both colleges are diverse and extensive, so students are likely to find activities that suit their interests and passions.

However, there are some differences in the types of extracurricular activities offered at each college. Swarthmore has a larger emphasis on the arts, with a variety of theater productions, dance performances, and visual arts clubs. Williams, on the other hand, has a strong focus on outdoor activities, with many students participating in hiking, skiing, and rock climbing clubs.

Additionally, both colleges offer unique opportunities for students to get involved in research and community service. Swarthmore has a number of research programs that allow students to work closely with faculty members on cutting-edge projects in a variety of fields. Williams has a strong community service program, with many students volunteering at local organizations and participating in service trips during school breaks.

a male student doing community work

Housing and Dining Options: Swarthmore vs. Williams:

Both colleges offer a variety of housing options for students, ranging from traditional dormitories to theme houses and off-campus apartments. Swarthmore has a unique residential system called “the matchbox,” where students are randomly assigned to one of three different residential groups based on their preferences and interests. Williams has a similar system, with students being randomly assigned to one of four different residential houses.

two female friends moving in to their new dorm room

In terms of dining options, both Swarthmore and Williams offer multiple dining halls, cafes, and snack bars on campus. Swarthmore is known for offering healthy, organic, and locally sourced food options, while Williams offers a variety of dining options ranging from traditional American fare to international cuisine.

Additionally, Swarthmore has a student-run coffeehouse called Essie’s, which offers a cozy atmosphere for students to study and socialize. Williams has a similar student-run cafe called The Log, which also hosts live music performances and other events.

Furthermore, both colleges have programs in place to accommodate students with dietary restrictions or preferences. Swarthmore has a vegan and vegetarian co-op called Paces, while Williams has a Kosher kitchen and a gluten-free station in their dining halls.

Swarthmore vs Williams: Cost of Attendance

Both Swarthmore and Williams are private colleges, which means that they can be expensive to attend. However, both colleges are committed to providing financial aid to students who need it, and offer a variety of scholarships, grants, and loans to help offset the cost of attendance.

The total cost of attendance at Swarthmore for the academic year is $77,354, while the total cost of attendance at Williams is $77,300. However, these costs can vary depending on factors such as financial aid awards and housing options, so it’s important to do your research and speak with a financial aid advisor before making a decision.

It’s worth noting that both Swarthmore and Williams have high graduation rates, which can be a factor in the overall cost of attendance. Students who graduate on time are able to enter the workforce or pursue graduate studies sooner, which can help offset the cost of their education in the long run.

Additionally, both colleges offer a wide range of academic programs and extracurricular activities, which can provide students with valuable experiences and skills that can help them succeed in their future careers. From research opportunities to internships to study abroad programs, there are many ways for students to get involved and make the most of their college experience.

Admissions Process: What You Need to Know for Swarthmore and Williams

Both Swarthmore and Williams have highly competitive admissions processes, with acceptance rates hovering around 10-15%. To apply to either college, students must submit a common application, transcripts, test scores, and essays. Both colleges are test-optional, meaning that students can choose whether or not to submit SAT or ACT scores as part of their application.

various books on act and sat

Both colleges also offer early decision and regular decision application rounds, and encourage students to apply as early as possible to increase their chances of being admitted. However, it’s important to note that acceptance rates for early decision applicants tend to be higher than for regular decision applicants.

In addition to the standard application materials, Swarthmore and Williams also require letters of recommendation from teachers or other mentors. These letters should speak to the student’s academic abilities, personal character, and potential for success at the college level. It’s important for students to choose recommenders who know them well and can provide specific examples of their strengths.

Both colleges also offer opportunities for students to visit campus and meet with admissions representatives. Swarthmore offers on-campus interviews for interested students, while Williams hosts information sessions and campus tours throughout the year. These visits can be a great way for students to get a sense of the campus culture and community, and to demonstrate their interest in the college.

Campus Resources and Support Services: A Comparison of Swarthmore and Williams

Both Swarthmore and Williams offer a variety of resources and support services to help students succeed academically, personally, and professionally. Both colleges have strong academic advising programs, career centers, and counseling services, as well as resources for students who need academic accommodations or support.

A woman taking a book on the top shelf.

One way that Swarthmore stands out is through its honors program, which allows students to pursue independent research projects and work closely with faculty mentors. Williams has a similar program called the Williams College Research Program, which allows students to work with faculty members on research projects and scholarly activities.

Another area where Swarthmore excels is in its community engagement programs. The college has partnerships with local organizations and non-profits, providing students with opportunities to engage in service projects and internships that benefit the community. Williams also has community engagement programs, but they are not as extensive as those offered by Swarthmore.

On the other hand, Williams has a strong athletic program, with a wide range of varsity and club sports available to students. The college has state-of-the-art athletic facilities and a dedicated coaching staff, providing students with opportunities to compete at a high level and stay active and healthy. Swarthmore also has athletic programs, but they are not as extensive as those offered by Williams.

Alumni Networks and Career Services at Swarthmore vs. Williams

Both Swarthmore and Williams have strong alumni networks and career services programs, which can be beneficial for students who are looking to network and find job opportunities after graduation. Swarthmore’s alumni network is particularly strong in areas such as social justice, environmentalism, and the arts, while Williams’ alumni network is strong in areas such as finance, law, and consulting.

However, Swarthmore’s career services program offers more personalized attention to students, with career advisors who work closely with students to help them identify their career goals and develop a plan to achieve them. In addition, Swarthmore’s career services program offers a wide range of workshops and events throughout the year, including career fairs, networking events, and alumni panels.

On the other hand, Williams’ career services program has a strong focus on internships, with a dedicated internship coordinator who works with students to help them find and apply for internships in their field of interest. Williams also has a robust alumni mentorship program, which pairs students with alumni in their desired field for one-on-one mentorship and career advice.

Scholarship Opportunities at Swarthmore and Williams Compared

Both Swarthmore and Williams offer a variety of merit-based and need-based scholarships to students who need financial assistance. Swarthmore offers approximately $62 million in financial aid each year, while Williams offers approximately $67 million in financial aid each year.

Both colleges also offer scholarship programs for underrepresented minority students, first-generation college students, and students with exceptional talents and abilities. It’s important to check with each college’s financial aid office to see which scholarships and grants you may be eligible for.

In addition to the scholarships mentioned above, Swarthmore also offers a number of research and internship opportunities for students. These opportunities allow students to gain hands-on experience in their field of study and can be a valuable addition to their resume. Williams, on the other hand, has a strong focus on international study programs and offers a variety of scholarships and grants for students who wish to study abroad. Both colleges have a strong commitment to providing financial assistance to their students and offer a range of resources to help students navigate the financial aid process.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Initiatives at Swarthmore and Williams Compared

Both Swarthmore and Williams are committed to promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion on campus, and have implemented a variety of initiatives to support underrepresented and marginalized students. Swarthmore has a diversity, equity, and inclusion office that offers programming and resources for students of color, LGBTQ+ students, and other marginalized groups. Williams has a similar office, as well as a diversity and access initiative that supports first-generation and low-income students.

View of students raising the flags of their country while smiling for a picture.

Despite their similarities, there are also some differences in the diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives at Swarthmore and Williams. For example, Swarthmore has mandatory diversity, equity, and inclusion training for all incoming students, while Williams does not have a similar requirement. Additionally, Swarthmore has a student-led affinity group program that allows students to create and lead groups based on their identities and experiences, while Williams does not have a formal program for student-led affinity groups.

Campus Safety Measures at Swarthmore vs. Williams

Both Swarthmore and Williams have campus safety measures in place to ensure that students feel safe and secure while on campus. Swarthmore has a campus safety department that provides 24/7 security, emergency response, and crime prevention services. Williams has a campus safety and security department that works closely with local law enforcement agencies to ensure the safety of students and faculty.

However, there are some differences in the specific safety measures implemented by each institution. Swarthmore has a system of blue light emergency phones located throughout campus, which allows students to quickly call for help in case of an emergency. In addition, Swarthmore requires all students to complete a mandatory sexual assault prevention program during their first year. Williams, on the other hand, has a campus-wide alert system that sends out notifications via text, email, and social media in case of an emergency. Williams also has a student-run Safety and Security Committee that works to address safety concerns and promote awareness on campus.

Student Life Experience at Swarthmore vs. Williams

Ultimately, the college experience is more than just academics and extracurriculars – it’s about the culture and community that you become a part of. Swarthmore and Williams offer different but equally vibrant student life experiences, with different strengths and weaknesses.

Swarthmore is known for its social justice activism, academic rigor, and intellectual community. The campus is small and intimate, and students are encouraged to engage in passionate discussions and debates with their peers and professors. Williams is known for its strong athletics programs, beautiful campus, and close-knit community. Students participate in a variety of extracurricular activities and enjoy the scenic beauty of the surrounding area.

One notable difference between the student life experiences at Swarthmore and Williams is the availability of off-campus opportunities. Swarthmore is located just outside of Philadelphia, a major city with a rich cultural scene and numerous internship and job opportunities. Students at Swarthmore have easy access to the city and can take advantage of its resources. In contrast, Williams is located in a more rural area, with fewer off-campus opportunities. However, the college does offer its own unique programs, such as the Williams-Mystic Program, which allows students to study marine science and maritime history in Mystic, Connecticut.

Academic Programs Offered by Both Colleges

Both Swarthmore and Williams offer a variety of academic programs that are highly regarded in the liberal arts community. Some of the academic programs that both colleges offer include:

  • English
  • History
  • Mathematics
  • Philosophy
  • Political Science
  • Psychology
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Computer Science
  • Environmental Studies
  • Economics
  • Art History
  • Theater
  • Music

Both Swarthmore and Williams offer a rigorous and challenging academic environment with numerous opportunities for students to explore their interests and passions. Ultimately, the decision of which college to attend comes down to a variety of factors, including academic interests, personal preferences, and financial needs. We hope that this article has helped you gain a better understanding of both colleges and will help you make an informed decision that is right for you.

In addition to the academic programs listed above, both Swarthmore and Williams offer unique and specialized programs that cater to specific interests. For example, Swarthmore offers a program in Peace and Conflict Studies, which explores the causes and consequences of conflict and ways to promote peace. Williams, on the other hand, offers a program in Cognitive Science, which examines the nature of the mind and how it processes information.

Furthermore, both colleges have strong research programs that provide students with opportunities to work closely with faculty members on cutting-edge research projects. Swarthmore’s Undergraduate Research Program, for instance, offers funding and support for students to conduct research in a variety of fields, from biology to economics. Williams’ Science Center, on the other hand, houses state-of-the-art research facilities and equipment that enable students to engage in hands-on research in fields such as physics and chemistry.

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