Better than the Brochures

Swarthmore College wasn’t on my radar in high school. As a high school junior living in Massachusetts, I was more familiar with liberal arts colleges in the New England area. I knew I wanted a small campus, where I would be familiar with the majority of my peers, have smaller classes, and have a chance to get to know my professors personally. I had vaguely read about Swarthmore online and knew it ranked highly academically, but felt that there were comparable colleges closer to home. Still, when my dad insisted we take a road trip to visit Swarthmore, I grudgingly agreed.

As soon as I got out of the car (six hours and at least three family arguments later), I was glad we had made the journey. It was springtime and the arboretum that’s part of Swarthmore’s campus was gorgeous, with flowers blooming in every direction. Although the campus certainly did Swarthmore some favors, I found many more reasons to apply to Swarthmore once I went on a campus tour. 

My tour guide was the most unique student I had met at any of the schools I had toured up until then. He was a Computer Science major — polarly opposite from my interests — but I realized that we had more in common than I thought. He emphasized the student body’s vast interests in diverse subjects.

It became clear to me that liberal arts at Swarthmore meant more than just requiring students to take core courses in different subjects. It allowed students to explore non-traditional academic subjects that they could then creatively intertwine together in their future courses, majors, and–one day–jobs.

My tour guide told us that he had taken a film class that semester with only two other people in the class. He ran us through the rest of his courses, and I was shocked at how many of them sounded like classes I would like to take. For me, that was what sealed the deal on Swarthmore College.

There were opportunities for students to push themselves out of their comfort zones and take small, personalized classes in almost any subject. The students genuinely cared about social justice, science, arts and culture — you name it, and people were studying it and making meaningful connections through it. 

Now, as I’m ¾ of the way through my time at Swarthmore, I can attest to everything my tour guide told me. An overwhelming percentage of the people I know at Swarthmore are double majoring in diverse fields, or even creating their own special majors. I’m majoring in Economics and Environmental Studies and have found multiple summer opportunities and jobs that have allowed me to combine those interests. I’ve also taken many classes I would never have dared to enroll in if I were in high school, from calculus to dance. Plus, my peers and I are deeply involved in upholding social justice and the Quaker values that the College was founded on. For me, that takes shape through Serenity Soular, a collaborative organization of Swarthmore students and North Philadelphia community members to encourage the growth of a green economy through solar power projects in Philadelphia. 

Talking to my tour guide face-to-face three years ago and seeing examples of Swatties doing important work was what I needed to realize that Swarthmore College can’t be neatly summed up in an informational booklet, or on a college ranking website on the internet. It truly is better than the brochures.

About the Author:

Hi, I’m Ananya, a junior from Massachusetts double majoring in Environmental Studies and Economics. In my free time, I love to play the guitar and be outdoors. At Swat, you’ll most likely find me hanging out with the Admissions Office dogs, enjoying a sunny day in the amphitheater, or munching on sushi in Underhill Library.


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