UC Davis vs Swarthmore: A Comprehensive Look at Two Top Universities

August 14, 2023
By AdmissionSight

UC Davis vs Swarthmore: A Comprehensive Look at Two Top Universities

Choosing the right university can be a daunting task, especially when there are many great options available. In this article, we offer an in-depth comparison between two top universities – UC Davis vs Swarthmore – to help you make an informed decision about your future education. We’ll explore everything from location and campus to academics, extracurricular activities, and alumni networks. So, let’s dive in!

Location and Campus: UC Davis vs Swarthmore

Location and campus are important factors to consider when choosing a university. UC Davis is located in Davis, California, and spans over 5,300 acres. The campus boasts modern facilities and is designed to promote sustainability. On the other hand, Swarthmore is located in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania, and covers around 400 acres. The campus is known for its beautiful landscaping and Gothic architecture.

Both universities offer students a comfortable and conducive learning environment. However, UC Davis is more spacious, while Swarthmore is more compact and accessible. It’s worth considering your preference for campus size before making a final decision.

Another factor to consider when comparing the two universities is the surrounding area. UC Davis is located in a suburban area, with easy access to nearby cities such as Sacramento and San Francisco. Swarthmore, on the other hand, is located in a small town with limited options for entertainment and nightlife. This may be a deciding factor for students who are looking for a more vibrant social scene.

Additionally, both universities offer a wide range of extracurricular activities and clubs for students to get involved in. UC Davis is known for its strong agricultural and environmental programs, with opportunities for students to participate in research and community outreach.

Swarthmore, on the other hand, has a strong focus on the liberal arts and offers a variety of cultural and artistic activities for students to explore. It’s important to consider your interests and goals when choosing a university, and to research the opportunities available at each institution.

Understanding the Admission Process: UC Davis vs Swarthmore

Admission to both universities is highly competitive and requires applicants to submit their high school transcripts, SAT or ACT scores, letters of recommendation, and personal essays. UC Davis is a large, public university that accepts around 34% of applicants, while Swarthmore is a small, private college that accepts around 8% of applicants.

College Admission Office sign

Both universities value self-motivation, academic excellence, and extracurricular activities. However, Swarthmore places a stronger emphasis on liberal arts, while UC Davis has a broader range of programs, including agriculture and veterinary medicine. It’s important to note that both universities are test-optional.

If you choose not to submit SAT or ACT scores, you’ll need to focus on building your academic profile and showcasing your talents and interests through your application.

Another important factor to consider when applying to these universities is their location. UC Davis is located in Davis, California, which is a small college town with a strong focus on agriculture and sustainability.

Swarthmore, on the other hand, is located in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania, which is a small suburb of Philadelphia. While both locations offer unique opportunities for students, it’s important to consider which environment would be the best fit for you.

A Look at the Student Life Experience: UC Davis vs Swarthmore

Student life is an integral part of any university experience. UC Davis has a diverse student population of over 39,000 students, including over 5,000 international students. The university offers over 550 clubs and organizations, ranging from professional societies to cultural groups. On the other hand, Swarthmore is known for its tight-knit community of just under 2,000 students.

Both universities offer a variety of extracurricular activities to students. However, UC Davis has more options due to its larger size, while Swarthmore offers a more intimate experience. It’s worth considering your personality and social preferences when choosing between the two.

Another important aspect of student life at UC Davis and Swarthmore is the availability of resources for students. UC Davis has a comprehensive student health center, career center, and counseling services. The university also has a strong focus on sustainability, with initiatives such as the student-run Aggie Reuse Store and the campus-wide composting program.

Swarthmore, on the other hand, has a unique Honors Program that allows students to design their own curriculum and conduct independent research. The college also has a strong commitment to social justice, with a variety of community service opportunities and a dedicated Office of Diversity, Inclusion, and Community Development.

Academics: Comparing Programs and Departments at UC Davis vs Swarthmore

Academics are paramount when deciding on a university. UC Davis offers over 100 undergraduate majors and over 90 graduate programs across four colleges. The university is known for its top-ranked programs in agriculture, biological sciences, engineering, and environmental science. Swarthmore, on the other hand, has just under 40 majors and minors in humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences.

Swarthmore places a strong emphasis on the liberal arts and interdisciplinary learning. While both universities offer high-quality academics, UC Davis has more program options, while Swarthmore provides a more focused education. It’s important to consider your academic interests and goals before making a decision.

Another important factor to consider when comparing academic programs and departments at UC Davis and Swarthmore is the size of the classes. UC Davis is a larger university, with an undergraduate student population of over 30,000, while Swarthmore has a smaller student body of just under 2,000. This means that classes at UC Davis may be larger and more lecture-based, while classes at Swarthmore are typically smaller and more discussion-based.

Faculty and Staff: UC Davis vs Swarthmore

Faculty and staff play a crucial role in the student experience. UC Davis has over 2,800 faculty members, including Nobel laureates and National Academy members. Swarthmore has just under 180 faculty members, with a student-to-faculty ratio of 8:1. Both universities have highly qualified and dedicated staff who support students’ academic and personal growth.

View of a man talking to a teacher.

It’s worth noting that UC Davis has more faculty members and a larger student body, making individual attention harder to come by. Swarthmore’s small size ensures that students receive more personal attention and guidance.

Additionally, both universities offer various resources and support systems for their faculty and staff. UC Davis has a Faculty and Staff Assistance Program that provides confidential counseling and support services for personal and work-related issues.

Swarthmore has a Center for Innovation and Leadership that offers professional development opportunities for faculty and staff to enhance their skills and knowledge. These resources contribute to a positive work environment and ultimately benefit the students’ experience.

Research Opportunities Available at UC Davis vs Swarthmore

Research is an essential component of higher education for many students. UC Davis is a top research university, with over $867 million in research funding and partnerships with various industries and organizations. The university offers undergraduate research opportunities and hosts research centers such as the Center for Integrated Computing and STEM Education.

Similarly, although Swarthmore is a small liberal arts college, it offers students ample opportunities to engage in research in their majors. The college’s honors program requires a senior research project, and many Swarthmore students participate in research alongside the college’s faculty.

Additionally, both UC Davis and Swarthmore offer research opportunities beyond their respective campuses. UC Davis has partnerships with national laboratories such as Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and Los Alamos National Laboratory, providing students with access to cutting-edge research facilities and projects.

Swarthmore students can also take advantage of off-campus research opportunities through programs such as the Philadelphia Area Center for History of Science and the National Science Foundation’s Research Experiences for Undergraduates program.

Extracurricular Activities: What Sets UC Davis Apart from Swarthmore?

Extracurricular activities are abundant at both universities, but UC Davis offers more diversity due to its larger size. The university is home to various music groups, dance teams, and athletic organizations. UC Davis also has a strong Greek life presence, with over 60 fraternities and sororities.

While Swarthmore offers fewer options, it still has an impressive number of clubs and organizations. Student-led groups include the Swarthmore Feminists, the Swarthmore Queer Union, and the Swarthmore Asian Organization, among others.

In addition to the diverse range of extracurricular activities, UC Davis also offers unique opportunities for students to get involved in research. The university has a strong focus on agricultural and environmental sciences, and students can participate in research projects related to these fields.

Students looking happy while standing next to a building.

UC Davis also has a partnership with the nearby Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, providing students with access to cutting-edge research facilities.

On the other hand, Swarthmore has a strong emphasis on community service and social justice. The college offers numerous opportunities for students to get involved in volunteer work and activism, both on and off campus. Swarthmore also has a unique program called the Lang Center for Civic and Social Responsibility, which provides resources and support for students interested in making a positive impact in their communities.

Sports Programs: Comparing Athletic Programs at UC Davis vs Swarthmore

Athletics programs play a significant role in student life on campus. UC Davis offers 25 varsity sports and competes in the Division I Big West Conference. The university’s teams are known as the Aggies and have achieved great success over the years, winning 84 NCAA titles.

On the other hand, Swarthmore is a Division III school that competes in the Centennial Conference. The college has ten varsity sports teams, known as the Garnet. Despite its size, Swarthmore has seen great success in various sports and is known for its robust intramural program.

UC Davis has a strong focus on providing opportunities for female athletes, with 13 of their 25 varsity sports being women’s teams. The university also offers a variety of club sports and intramural programs, allowing students of all skill levels to participate in athletics.

Meanwhile, Swarthmore has a unique approach to athletics, with a focus on the holistic development of student-athletes. The college emphasizes the importance of balancing academics and athletics and encourages athletes to pursue a wide range of interests outside of their sport.

Social Scene on Campus: A Comparison of Student Culture at UC Davis vs Swarthmore

The social scene is an essential aspect to consider when looking at universities. UC Davis is known for its lively social scene, with frequent on-campus events and parties. Greek life is also prevalent on campus.

On the other hand, Swarthmore has a more relaxed social scene, with fewer parties and a more intellectual focus. Many students engage in small-group activities such as board games or film screenings, and the college hosts several events that promote intellectual discussion.

Despite the differences in social scenes, both UC Davis and Swarthmore offer opportunities for students to get involved in extracurricular activities. UC Davis has over 800 student organizations, ranging from cultural clubs to sports teams. Swarthmore also has a variety of student-run clubs and organizations, including a student-run theater group and a community service organization.

Another factor to consider is the location of the universities. UC Davis is located in a college town with easy access to nearby cities such as Sacramento and San Francisco. Swarthmore, on the other hand, is located in a suburban area outside of Philadelphia. While both locations offer unique opportunities for students, the location of the university can greatly impact the social scene and overall college experience.

Cost of Attendance: Which University is More Affordable?

The cost of attendance is a crucial factor for many students when choosing a university. UC Davis’ in-state tuition is approximately $14,000 per academic year, while out-of-state students pay around $44,000 per year. Swarthmore’s tuition is around $58,000 annually.

Paper headline with College text in torn dollar bill

Both universities offer scholarships and financial aid to eligible students. UC Davis also offers in-state tuition to all California residents who meet specific criteria. Swarthmore is a highly selective college, and its financial aid policies are need-based. It’s worth noting that while Swarthmore has a higher tuition rate, it also has a smaller student body, which means that financial aid may be more accessible to eligible students.

It’s important to consider other expenses beyond tuition when comparing the cost of attendance between universities. UC Davis has a lower cost of living compared to Swarthmore, which is located in a more expensive area.

Additionally, Swarthmore has a mandatory meal plan for all students, which can add to the overall cost of attendance. On the other hand, UC Davis offers a variety of housing options, including off-campus apartments, which can be more affordable for students. It’s important to factor in these additional expenses when making a decision about which university is more affordable.

Career Prospects for Graduates of UC Davis vs Swarthmore

Career prospects and post-graduation support are essential considerations when choosing a university. UC Davis has a robust career center that provides students with job and internship opportunities, career counseling, and resume workshops. The university has a strong reputation in the agriculture and environmental science industries, and many students go on to find success in these fields.

Similarly, Swarthmore has a dedicated career services office that helps students with career planning, resume critique, internships, and job search strategies. Swarthmore graduates are well-regarded in various industries, such as academia, finance, and law.

However, it is important to note that the career prospects for graduates of UC Davis and Swarthmore may differ based on the chosen field of study. For example, UC Davis has a highly-ranked veterinary medicine program, which provides graduates with excellent job opportunities in the animal health industry. On the other hand, Swarthmore’s strong liberal arts curriculum prepares graduates for a wide range of careers, including those in the non-profit sector and creative industries.

Alumni Networks: UC Davis vs Swarthmore

Alumni networks are valuable resources for graduates, offering career guidance, mentorship, and networking opportunities. UC Davis has a large and active alumni association, with over 250,000 alumni worldwide. The association hosts various events and programs, such as regional alumni chapters and career mentoring programs.

Swarthmore’s alumni network is small but powerful. The college has produced various notable alumni, including eleven Rhodes Scholars and three Nobel laureates. Alumni offer mentoring opportunities and career advice through the college’s alumni network and regional alumni clubs.

UC Davis alumni association also offers various benefits to its members, such as discounts on travel, insurance, and entertainment. The association also provides opportunities for alumni to give back to the university through volunteering and fundraising initiatives.

On the other hand, Swarthmore’s alumni network is known for its strong sense of community and support. Alumni often come together to support each other in various ways, such as providing financial assistance to those in need or offering career opportunities to recent graduates.

Student Diversity: Comparing the Cultural Climate of UC Davis vs Swarthmore

Student diversity and inclusivity are essential factors in creating a supportive campus environment. UC Davis has a diverse student population, with students from various racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic backgrounds. The university is committed to promoting diversity through initiatives such as the UC Davis Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity and the LGBTQIA Resource Center.

Group of students walking in the campus.

Similarly, Swarthmore values diversity and inclusivity. The college hosts various events and workshops that promote understanding and cooperation among students from various backgrounds. The college has a multicultural center that offers support and advocacy services for students from underrepresented groups.

However, there are some differences in the way that UC Davis and Swarthmore approach student diversity. UC Davis has a larger student body, which can make it more challenging to create a sense of community among students from diverse backgrounds.

Swarthmore, on the other hand, has a smaller student body, which allows for more intimate interactions and a closer-knit community. Additionally, Swarthmore has a higher percentage of international students, which adds to the diversity of the student body and provides unique perspectives in the classroom and beyond.

Sustainability Initiatives on Campus: UC Davis vs Swarthmore

Sustainability is a crucial factor to consider when choosing a university. UC Davis is known for its commitment to sustainability and has various programs and initiatives that promote eco-friendliness, such as the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden and the UC Davis Sustainable Transportation Program.

Swarthmore is also committed to sustainability and has installed solar panels implemented green building standards, and has established a sustainability committee that seeks to reduce the college’s carbon footprint.

In addition to these initiatives, UC Davis has also implemented a zero-waste program that aims to divert 90% of campus waste from landfills by 2020. This program includes composting, recycling, and waste reduction efforts. UC Davis also has a student-run bike-sharing program that encourages sustainable transportation on campus.

Similarly, Swarthmore has a student-led sustainability group called the Green Advisors, who work to promote sustainable practices on campus. The college also has a sustainable food program that sources food locally and supports sustainable agriculture. Additionally, Swarthmore has a goal to achieve carbon neutrality by 2035 and has implemented various energy efficiency measures to reach this goal.


In this article, we’ve explored the various factors that make UC Davis and Swarthmore unique. Both universities offer excellent academic programs, extracurricular activities, and supportive campus environments. Ultimately, the right university for you depends on your academic interests, career goals, and personal preferences. We hope that this article has provided you with valuable insights to help you make an informed decision about your future education.

Gen Z College Students

It’s important to note that while UC Davis and Swarthmore share many similarities, they also have their own distinct cultures and communities. UC Davis is known for its strong emphasis on agriculture and environmental sustainability, while Swarthmore is renowned for its commitment to social justice and activism.

Additionally, UC Davis is a large public university with a diverse student body, while Swarthmore is a small, private liberal arts college with a tight-knit community. These differences should also be taken into consideration when deciding which university is the best fit for you.

If you’re set on getting into a world-class college but aren’t sure how to make it happen, we can help! AdmissionSight is a leading college entrance expert with over a decade of experience helping students just like you get into the schools of their dreams.

At AdmissionSight, we focus on offering a wide range of services, all aimed at helping students perfect their applications to catch the attention of admissions officers. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation to learn more about what we offer.


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