5 Must-Know Swarthmore Traditions

First Collection

First Collection is the first Swarthmore tradition that students get to experience. A callback to our Quaker heritage, First Collection is a time for quiet reflection and getting to know your classmates. On the last day of orientation, the night before classes start, the entire first year class gathers in the amphitheater. Once there, the Dean of First Year Students poses certain questions to the students. These queries are designed to encourage deep, reflective thinking amongst the first year class. After these questions are asked, the entire amphitheater sits in silence, and anyone is allowed to stand up and share their responses to these questions candidly. First Collection is a chance for students to come together, hear from each other, speak to each other and most importantly, sit quietly for a while, and think.

The Primal Scream

The last night of reading week, right before exams start bright and early the next morning, there’s only one thing to do if you’re a Swattie and that’s scream. At 11:30 p.m. that night, students are served breakfast in Sharples by different faculty members, including the deans and even President Valerie Smith. After enjoying this late night snack, at the stroke of midnight, there’s a brief moment of silence as everyone puts down their food and stands up (on tables, chairs and anywhere there’s room!). Then, a scream comes from the lungs of every student: it’s a way to show solidarity and to have one last bit of fun before exams and winter break.

Screw your Roommate

During this classic Swarthmore tradition, roommates secretly match each other up with dates. Instead of telling each other who they will be matched with, they dress each other up in one side of a paired costume. The roommates must then go to Sharples, identify their match and have a (hopefully not awkward) Sharples date. Costume pairs range from ketchup and mustard to R2-D2 and C3-PO. Swarthmore students being intellectual (nerdy) kids, we have even come up with some more esoteric ideas like the sin and cosine functions or Calvin and Hobbs (the philosophers, of course).

Uncle Sam and Lady Liberty sitting down for a romantic Screw Date

Whether you have a date yourself or simply have the immense pleasure of watching Swatties try to flirt, Screw Your Roommate is a great time for everyone. After dinner, there’s a big party for everyone to either forget about their date or get to know them better. All in all, SYR is a must-experience Swarthmore tradition.


The weekend after the end of classes, in the beautiful courtyard of Worth Hall, you’ll find students jamming out at Worthstock! Hosted by our Large Scale Events committee, Worthstock is Swarthmore’s biggest music festival. Student bands take over the stage all day and get to share their music with the school. At the end of the day an artist like SABA, Buddy, or Ghostface Killah closes the night out with a huge performance. Worthstock is definitely the biggest and most exciting social event on campus.

Rose at Commencement

One final tradition happens at the end of your time here at Swat. On the morning of graduation, seniors are lead through Bond Rose Garden. As a way to take a piece of Swarthmore with them, Arboretum employees help seniors pick a single rose to wear on their gowns.

Seniors are able to pick any one of the over 200 different species of roses growing in the garden. The rose-picking ceremony is the last stop seniors take before graduating and saying goodbye to Swat, where they experienced all of these traditions and many more.


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