Admissions Office Works Toward Geographic Diversity

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

The Swarthmore Admissions Office is making a push to expand geographic diversity among potential applicants by traveling across the country with representatives from other liberal arts colleges, as well as holding admissions interviews with international applicants over Skype. “We’re trying to actively recruit from as many places as possible,” Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Jim Bock ‘90 said.

However, a student’s place of residence does not actually play a large role in admission decisions. Instead, Bock said, “it’s about the individual and their fit with Swarthmore.” Place of residence may help a student’s application if there is something “about where they’re from that will add to their experience at Swarthmore.”

Despite these efforts to recruit on a broad scale, Swarthmore has a much larger representation from the mid-Atlantic than from other regions of the country. Data provided in the Swarthmore Class of 2015 profile shows that, in 2010, 42 percent of the entire student body were from the mid-Atlantic, while only eight percent were from the Midwest, and seven percent were from the mountain states and southwest combined.

The mid-Atlantic has an especially high representation because students from that area tend to be self-selecting in choosing Swarthmore, according to Bock. This means the yield among these students tends to be higher than among students who live farther from the college, mainly because of the tendency for students to choose colleges closer to their homes.

Damella Dotan ’15, a student from New York City, said “the fact that Swarthmore is relatively close to New York, but not too close, was important” in her decision. However, Dotan says she does not know whether or not the fact that she applied from a nearby urban area harmed or helped her chances for admission.

Some students wish the population on the campus were more representative of the spread of the national population. Danny Cramer ’12, from Denver, CO, said, “It would serve Swat well to get more applications from the mountain west or the southeast.” He went on to say that this could be beneficial to the community because it “might also contribute to the diversity of ideology on campus.” However, according to Cramer, the presence of the international student population is a helpful addition to geographic diversity on campus.

Bock, however, said that, while the admissions office wants to “see representation from everywhere,” it would especially like to see a rise in the international student representation. According to Bock, both of these tasks are challenging because Swarthmore must be selective in admissions. In addition, the financial aid website notes that admission is not need-blind for international applicants, which may effect admissions decisions for foreign students applying for aid. In order to accept more international students and students from less represented areas, the admissions office has to answer the question: “who do we not admit?”


  1. I really hope the admissions office is planning to visit as many Latin American countries as possible. It’s the less represented CONTINENT at Swat. These are the stats I know from the I-20 (I’m a member and have been part of the last 3 orientations for International Students):

    2012: 2 students

    2013: 2 students

    2014: 1 student

    2015: 1 student

    It is quite alarming that a whole continent gets about 1.5 students each year, whereas the other continents get at least 5 or 6. An effort is seriously needed to reach out more to Latin America.

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