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.
For me, it was sophomore fall. Coming back to an insane course load, a gaggle of extracurriculars, and a double in Willets after an adventurous summer in New York, I couldn’t help but ask myself if this was really where I wanted to be. While 96% of Swatties that come to campus freshmen year stay until the very end, many of us have at least one moment during our time here where we wonder if we’ll be part of that 4%.
Out of the 94 participants in this week’s survey–who represent all current class years and disciplines–56% said that, yes, they have considered transferring at least once during their time here. Only 34% considered seriously transferring, and then only 9% filled out applications. But still, 56% is still a majority of students, and raises questions as to why students are becoming unhappy.
One of the most surprising results from this week is the absence of any significant findings. Discipline and extracurriculars seemed to have no impact, and students cited a wide variety of factors that caused them to think about transferring, including long distance relationships, financial aid, freshman year roommates, unsafe party culture, and lack of social life. This suggests that, as homogenous as Swat often seems, our experiences are all quite different.
That said, there are two primary takeaways. First is that, unsurprisingly to must of us, stress and mental health are two of the largest contributors to the desire to transfer. 72% of the students who considered it cited stress and almost half cited mental health. While we have grown accustomed to talking about mental health and stress on campus as normal, a large portion of students are questioning whether or not these conditions are safe or healthy, as well they should be.
Also, a number of students mentioned their financial aid as huge factors in the decision to transfer. As The Phoenix brought up this week, and the New York Times a few weeks earlier, Swarthmore does not have a stellar track record with financial aid. The incremental increases in expected parental contribution from year to year, as well as how late the financial aid packages are announced both came up as reasons why students had to seriously consider whether Swarthmore is really worth it.
Of course, it is hard to say whether Swarthmore is unique when compared to similar institutions, and as one anonymous respondent, wrote: “Lots of schools break people–it’d be nice if we could have more thoughtful conversations about transferring (in and out) of Swarthmore. Why is this community non-ideal? How do we push people out despite being a “progressive” institution?”
Anonymous Respondent? I am 100% on your page. Despite the diversity of factors and experiences, it is clear that Swatties are suffering. If over half the students here consider leaving at one point or other, something is wrong. It’s time to open up dialogue and figure out why, and what we can do to change that.
For next week, Swat Visually is asking students to tell us the spaces on campus in which you have felt unsafe and why. Fill out the questionnaire here and look out for the map next week for the results!
Until next week folks,