21% of Class of 2018 Apply for Computer Science Major/Minor

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.

84 students of the class of 2018 have applied to the Computer Science department in their sophomore plan. Of the students, 64 applied for a major and 20 for a minor. This is 21% of the entire class of 409 students.

“The growth in the number of students applying for a CS major is extreme, but not unusual,” said Professor Tia Newhall of the computer science department.  

According to the Taulbee Survey, which collects data on computer science PhDs,there has been a roughly two-thirds increase in the number of bachelor degrees in CS nationally since 2010.

Compared to biology, political science, and economics, three of the other most popular majors at Swarthmore, applicants and graduates of computer science have increased dramatically in the recent years.

Declared CS major Rachel Diamond ‘18, the co-president of Swarthmore’s Women in Computer Science group (WiCS), commented on the increasing interest in CS.

CS is so popular now because it has applications in every field. Pretty much everyone is using computer programs to streamline whatever they do, and it is very valuable to be able to actually write a program or design a website that opens up another set of possibilities,” Diamond said.

“The concept of information networks is pretty cool. In my mind societal inefficiencies occur due to systematic failures in communication,” wrote Leon Chen ‘18, who recently applied to be a double major in computer science and mathematics. “Correcting these errors in certain domains seems to be an achievable goal.”

As a student who enjoys taking social science classes, Chen added, he realizes that efforts to enact legislations or create policies take a long time to bear fruit. He speculated that the popularity of CS could be due to the instant gratification it brings about.

“I realized that CS offers a lot of potential to help people,” said WiCS Co-president Gabriela Brown ‘18. Recently she has been designing robots to automate personalized cancer screenings and hopes to continue combining her interest in biology with CS.

As the number of students in CS courses rises, the department will need to hire more faculty to maintain a small student to faculty ratio.

“I think for non basic courses the student faculty ratio is still fine,” said David Levy ‘18, who recently applied for a CS major. “I think the issue would possibly be in the [CS] 21, 31, and 35 classes.”

Lisa Kato

Went to school in Japan from the age of 10 to 18. I play the violin, love to read and watch movies. I am interested in politics and economics and often write for the opinions section and news section.


  1. Have to strongly disagree with the idea that the student faculty ratio is fine for upper level cs courses. Networks last semester was 40 students, Cloud computing and Datacenter networks had about 40, theory of computation has about 35, etc. Graphics was the smallest so far with a little more than 20 students if I recall correctly. The class sizes don’t necessarily take away from the quality of the classes but they are definitely not small.

    • Second that. I’ve never taken a class in the CS department with fewer than 30 people, other than the senior conference, which was a “seminar” with 15 people. The classes are fine, but office hours are stupidly competitive. The student to faculty ratio is definitely not fine.

  2. With all due respect, this article seems to sort of glide right over the fact that jobs for people with Computer Science degrees pay sick money. Seems like that might be a motivating factor.

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