The 2014 application season yielded Swarthmore’s largest pool of applicants ever, with 7,885 applications, which was a 42 percent increase over the previous year’s 5,540 applicants.
Vice President and Dean of Admissions Jim Bock ’90 pointed to a number of factors that caused the increase in applications, including a less demanding application process, a fee waiver for low-income students, and more active recruiting among local seniors taking the SAT. Prospective students in past years also had more supplementary writing to do than the most recent applicants.
“We determined that Swarthmore required one more supplemental essay than many of our closest peers and that the maximum word counts on both essays was twice as long,” Bock said in an e-mail. “In addition to dropping one of the required essays, we also embedded our supplemental questions in the Common Application member page.”
The admissions staff designed this year’s application process to collect the same information from students, but with less writing. They also worked to increase accessibility and break down barriers that stand in the way of students applying to a prestigious institution.
“We … offered a fee waiver to low income and underrepresented students in our pool a month earlier than in the past,” said Bock. He also noted the College’s efforts to increase outreach to prospective students.
Admissions staff carried out a “senior search” to reach out to first-time senior SAT test takers within a 150-mile radius of Swarthmore. They have also increased travel around the country over the past two years.
The college has also gotten increased publicity on major news and media platforms over the past year. Swarthmore ranked number three on Forbes’ Top Colleges of 2014. The New York Times also wrote an article about Mountain Justice, a group on campus that advocates for the college to divest from fossil fuel companies, and Buzzfeed covered Aditi Kulkarni ‘17’s Red Lips Project.
In addition to Swarthmore’s recent press coverage, some students base their decisions on their visits to campus.
“I visited it and sort of fell in love with the atmosphere. Everyone has wonderful things to say about the students and education,” wrote Caleb Shapiro ’19. “[I] stayed that night on campus and it was very enjoyable and solidified my decision to apply ED.”
“Swarthmore’s reputation definitely piqued my interest, but I chose to apply mostly because when I visited, it seemed like a really warm, open community,” wrote Max Franklin ’19.
“I visited it over spring break and had mixed but overall positive feelings from it … I was looking for a liberal arts education with a level of rigor but also freedom. There are a number of things that fell together and ultimately made me choose Swarthmore as a college,” wrote Scawtt Ma ’19. Ma added that he also benefited from a fee waiver.
With more applicants than ever to consider, the admissions committee looks forward to picking out Swarthmore’s Class of 2019.