swarthmore acceptance rate
“Swarthmore College Bond Hall” by Smallbones is marked with CC0 1.0.

Swarthmore acceptance rate – Introduction

Located outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Swarthmore College is a private liberal arts college. Swarthmore enrollment hovers just under 1,700, making it a very small school. With Swarthmore College ranking as the #4 liberal arts college in the US, it’s no surprise that the Swarthmore acceptance rate and the Swarthmore admissions process are extremely competitive. Even so, Swarthmore boasts a diverse and successful student body and alumni network.

It’s important to understand college acceptance rates as you apply to colleges. In this article, you’ll learn about the Swarthmore College acceptance rate and how it compares to those of nearby colleges. We’ll also give you several tips about Swarthmore admissions and how to get into Swarthmore.

From your GPA to your recommendation letters, there is no shortage of materials to manage during the college admissions process on top of college statistics. Read on for information about the Swarthmore College acceptance rate and Swarthmore admissions process.

What is the Swarthmore acceptance rate?

First, what are college acceptance rates? In short, they are the percentage of students that a college or university admits from the applicant pool. Note that this is not the number of students who ultimately enroll.

Now that we understand acceptance rates, what’s the acceptance rate for Swarthmore? According to US News, the Swarthmore acceptance rate is most selective, at about 8%. We can also check it ourselves: this admissions cycle, Swarthmore College admitted 1,021 students to the class of 2026. We can compare that number to the 14,700 applicants to find the Swarthmore college acceptance rate. That means the latest Swarthmore acceptance rate is actually around 7%, having decreased slightly in the past year.

In fact, the Swarthmore College acceptance rate—like those of many elite colleges and universities—has been dropping for several years. However, this isn’t because Swarthmore admissions is admitting fewer applicants. Rather, their applicant pool has been growing steadily, from fewer than 8,000 in 2016 to the 14,700 that applied to be a part of the Class of 2026. That’s about a 60% increase in applicants in six years! Staying informed of college acceptance rates and trends will help you understand your admissions chances as you gear up to apply to college.

Is Swarthmore hard to get into?

As shown above, college acceptance rates at schools like Harvard and Vanderbilt have been on a downward trend for several years. Not only has the acceptance rate for Swarthmore followed suit, but there has also been a huge uptick in applicants between 2020 and 2021, leading to the lowest Swarthmore acceptance rate ever for the Class of 2026. 

While we can point to lower college acceptance rates nationwide, the high Swarthmore College ranking also indicates that it’s an elite institution. Be that as it may, getting into Swarthmore is by no means impossible. In order to boost your chances, you should know the other factors that make the acceptance rate for Swarthmore so low.

The Swarthmore College enrollment is purposefully low, numbering well under 2,000 students. Accordingly, Swarthmore admissions tries to keep the incoming class small. The Class of 2026, for instance, comprises just 435 students; this is pretty similar to first-year enrollment in the past several years. In other words, there are more and more applicants competing for the same number of spots, driving the Swarthmore acceptance rate down.

Unlike at some other competitive schools, there are no Swarthmore GPA requirements, which may contribute to the large applicant pool and low Swarthmore acceptance rate. Also, the admissions committee has currently waived the Swarthmore SAT requirements due to COVID-19. Nevertheless, Swarthmore admissions stresses that GPA and other marks of academic achievement are important to your application.

Don’t let the high Swarthmore College ranking and low acceptance rate for Swarthmore scare you off—do your research. Next, let’s discuss what Swarthmore admissions looks for in applicants so you can see how you measure up.

What does Swarthmore look for in applicants?

Okay, Swarthmore is prestigious, the Swarthmore College ranking is high, and the Swarthmore acceptance rate is super low. So what does an ideal applicant look like?

Swarthmore admissions looks for demonstrated academic achievement across both GPA and standardized test scores. The average admitted student has scored above 1430 on the SAT or 33 to 35 on the ACT. So far, this is all par for the course for an institution with something like the Swarthmore College ranking.

swarthmore college acceptance rate

Beyond numbers and scores, an ideal applicant enjoys challenges and is highly curious across disciplines. Swarthmore admissions cultivates a community of enthusiastic learners and problem solvers. In your Swarthmore application, you’ll want to highlight your intellectual curiosity and love of learning. Swarthmore College prides itself on wide-ranging intellectual rigor and expects its applicants to show they’re ready to handle it.

In addition, Swarthmore admissions looks for students who will contribute to the community on and off campus. Quakers initially founded Swarthmore. Although the college has no religious affiliation, the Quaker egalitarian philosophy still inspires Swarthmore’s campus culture today. As a result, the Swarthmore admissions committee evaluates applicants’ interest in civic engagement or community building. Furthermore, an ideal applicant will demonstrate a solid commitment to their activities, not just surface-level participation.

Keep in mind that no one factor will make or break an application: a 1200 SAT score won’t automatically disqualify you, and you can still get in if you’ve never run for student government. And don’t think that the low Swarthmore College acceptance rate wipes out your chances of admission. Swarthmore College’s holistic admissions process means academic and extracurricular achievements are seen together.

Haverford, Bryn Mawr, and Swarthmore College acceptance rates: Comparing tri-college consortium schools

Not only Swarthmore, but also the nearby colleges of Haverford and Bryn Mawr were founded by Quakers. That common origin is clear in the Tri-College Consortium program that links the schools today. Through this program, students at any one school can participate in social and academic life at the other two. That is to say, classes, lectures, and parties are open to all Tri-Co students. In light of that, let’s look at the other Tri-Co schools and their acceptance rates in comparison to the acceptance rate for Swarthmore.

Haverford acceptance rates

Firstly, Haverford College is also a small, private liberal arts college, located about 11 miles away from Swarthmore’s campus. It stands at #18 on the US News National Liberal Arts Colleges list. Compared to Swarthmore enrollment, Haverford’s is slightly smaller at just over 1,400 students. Like Swarthmore, Haverford has several Division III sports teams, including America’s only varsity cricket team.

According to US News, the Haverford College acceptance rate is 18%. However, if we look at Haverford’s latest data on their incoming class, we can see that of 5,658 applicants, only 805 were admitted. So the latest admit rate is actually about 14%. In the same fashion as above, the Haverford College acceptance rate has dropped significantly just in the past year. Even so, it’s nearly double that of the Swarthmore acceptance rate.

Again, don’t let that scare you. Haverford College’s smaller applicant pool may work to your benefit. At the same time, it’s not a slam dunk just because Haverford ranks lower than the Swarthmore College ranking and exceeds the Swarthmore acceptance rate. If you’re thinking of applying to Haverford, head on over to our How to Get Into Haverford guide for more information!

Bryn Mawr acceptance rates

Secondly, Bryn Mawr College is—you guessed it—another small, private liberal arts college. It’s also 11 miles away from Swarthmore College, and only a mile from Haverford College. Unlike the other Tri-Co schools, Bryn Mawr is a women’s college. Compared to the Swarthmore College ranking, Bryn Mawr sits at #31. Because of its relative closeness to Haverford, Bryn Mawr has additional ties to the latter, referred to as the Bi-College Consortium.

US News puts Bryn Mawr College’s acceptance rate at 39%—much higher than the acceptance rate for Swarthmore. About 3,400 people applied in 2021, giving it the smallest number of applicants within the Tri-Co. If you identify as a woman and want a liberal arts college experience, Bryn Mawr could be good to add to your college search.

Once again, in light of the Tri-College Consortium and wealth of similarities among these three colleges, all are good choices. While comparing schools, remember that although college rankings and college acceptance rates can be useful metrics, they aren’t everything. Determining schools that best fit you and that your profile matches is the most important part of the process. Is Swarthmore College good for you? If so, read on for a taste of the Swarthmore admissions process.

Swarthmore acceptance rate and the Swarthmore admissions process

We’ve seen that Swarthmore admissions is very competitive, made evident by the low Swarthmore College acceptance rate. With that in mind, it’s crucial that your Swarthmore application stands out. In this section, we’ll cover the basics of the Swarthmore admissions process and how to navigate the low acceptance rate for Swarthmore.

You can submit the Swarthmore application through the Common Application or the QuestBridge Application. Obviously, you need the usual materials for a college application—your personal statement, recommendation letters, and activities. In addition, Swarthmore admissions requires two essays of up to 250 words that respond to two prompts.

For now, there are no Swarthmore SAT requirements. Due to the ongoing impact of COVID-19, the Swarthmore application is test-optional until fall 2025. Furthermore, there are no minimum Swarthmore GPA requirements. If you don’t have a perfect 4.0 GPA—or if your school doesn’t give GPAs—you can still apply with no negative impact on your Swarthmore application.

Swarthmore admissions also offers optional interviews for applicants. With the acceptance rate for Swarthmore already so low, don’t worry about being at a disadvantage without an interview. Interviews are completely optional and do not make you more eligible for admission.

Financial aid and Swarthmore merit scholarships

The Swarthmore application also requires you to apply for financial aid. Financial need will not hinder your chances at Swarthmore enrollment. Swarthmore admissions is need-blind, so your demonstrated financial need has no impact on your Swarthmore application. Although the Swarthmore acceptance rate is low, that is not due to student need

swarthmore college acceptance rate

There are a handful of Swarthmore merit scholarships available, including the McCabe Scholars program and the Philip Evans Scholars award. There is no separate application or information needed for these Swarthmore merit scholarships. All Swarthmore applications are considered as part of the admissions process. Both of the programs mentioned provide extensive mentorship and additional opportunities for students in addition to financial assistance. Being selected as a McCabe Scholar is especially helpful, as the annual reward is at least the full cost of tuition. 

Comparing Swarthmore acceptance rates: Early Decision vs. Regular Decision

It may surprise you to learn that the Swarthmore acceptance rate is much higher for Early Decision applicants. If you need a refresher, Early Decision applications are submitted and evaluated earlier. You must attend the school that accepts you; of course, this means you can only apply to one school ED.

Of the 984 students who applied to Swarthmore Early Decision in fall 2021, 234 of them were admitted. That’s a Swarthmore acceptance rate of nearly 25%—much higher than the general 8% Swarthmore College acceptance rate. If you’re set on Swarthmore and want to maximize your chances of overcoming the low Swarthmore College acceptance rate, consider applying early.

In addition to a higher Swarthmore College acceptance rate when applying early, another benefit is the deadline. At most other schools, the Early Decision and early action deadlines are, well, earlier; usually, applications are due by November 1. In contrast, the Swarthmore application has two Early Decision rounds. The fall round is due November 15, with decisions released on December 15; the winter round is due January 1, with decisions coming out by February 15. Both rounds count as Early Decision—they are binding and have a smaller applicant pool. They also have that much higher Swarthmore College acceptance rate.

Swarthmore acceptance rate – Final Thoughts

No two ways about it: the Swarthmore acceptance rate is pretty low. Indeed, the Swarthmore College ranking is high for a reason. At the same time, the low Swarthmore acceptance rate is also typical of elite institutions seeing more applicants recently. But don’t let the numbers discourage you. With no Swarthmore SAT requirements or Swarthmore GPA requirements, you can let your personality shine through in your essays.

Swarthmore is part of the Tri-College Consortium with Haverford and Bryn Mawr Colleges, two other well-known liberal arts colleges. Tri-Co students can take classes at other Tri-Co schools, so Swarthmore courses are open to all. With Haverford and Bryn Mawr’s higher acceptance rates, they may be a good fit for your academic and extracurricular resume. Although they place lower than the Swarthmore College ranking, remember that ranking is just one factor in your college search.

It’s absolutely possible to craft a standout Swarthmore application and beat the Swarthmore acceptance rate this admissions cycle. Good luck!

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This article was written by Gina Goosby. No matter what stage you are at in your college search, CollegeAdvisor.com is here to help. To get one-on-one advising with an Admissions Expert, create your free account or schedule an advising consultation by calling (844) 343-6272.