For all its eccentricities, strengths, and flaws, I really love Swarthmore. It is a quirky, nerdy, beautiful place full of amazing people —some of whom I’ve met already, others whom I’m excited to one day meet. It’s true, Swat is not for everyone: it’s a combination of exquisite niches that will either make you absolutely fall in love with it or hate it. So, I talked a bit with some of my friends here at Swat and compiled a list of things we all wish we knew, or feel like Specs should know, before coming to Swarthmore.
It’s small size can be either one of its greatest strengths or greatest weaknesses. The college’s small size fosters an incredibly close-knit sense of community. Since everyone knows everyone, we all look out for each other, and we see each other everyday! However, this also means that you see all the people you’d rather not see everyday. Being a small campus also means that if you like to have things bustling 24/7, this is not the place for you. That’s not to say Swatties don’t make their own fun. From guitar circles to plays to Lang study breaks (free food!), there is usually always something to do on campus, even if it doesn’t seem like it most of the time.
It’s as much work as people say. It’s true that Swatties are huge nerds. Only a huge nerd would choose to go to a school with so much damn work. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the constant feeling of “it’s study time” for the majority of the day. However, if you really love the work you’re doing, then it’s usually worth it.
Swarthmore’s not perfect, but there’s a large space for activism. As liberal and forward-thinking as people make Swarthmore out to be, this place has some problematic aspects. However, these usually serve to show the resolve and persistence of activism among students on this campus as they stand up against the issues they have with the college and its administration.
Swarthmore will change you. You will discover things about yourself you never knew, some good some bad – some in between. This is an intense environment full of fascinating people. Don’t come expecting to leave the same person you came as.
This campus is on a hill— and you never get used to it.
You’ll sleep everywhere. When you’re only getting a solid 5 hours of sleep per night, you’ll make up for it in creative ways. Not only will you partake in the infamous McCabe nap, but you’ll find yourself falling asleep in an array of unique locations. I’ve probably fallen asleep in almost every academic building on campus (yes, that includes in and out of classes).
It’s not hard to make friends. Seriously, just go for it. Swatties may be notoriously awkward, but that’s part of what takes the pressure off. It’s super easy to grab a meal with someone you don’t really know well, so just ask! Swatties are interesting and friendly people so you shouldn’t miss out on the opportunity to meet more of them.
It’s not as radical and weird as it used to be. The Swarthmore I heard of had orgies on Parish Beach and an annual Crunkfest (“A tradition that involved public nudity, hallucinogenic drugs, and public sex all taking place on Swarthmore’s campus” to quote a 2016 article in the Phoenix). However, as the administration has cracked down on various activities the craziness of Swarthmore’s past is less visible on campus. I have hope that with the collective effort of current Swatties and the incoming class of 2021, we can dare to make Swat wild again.