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.
An open letter to Prospective Students hanging out on the metaphorical fence between Swarthmore and XYZ school(s):
I have typed and deleted this “open letter” three times now. But as I type this for the fourth time, I still have stage fright. So, I think I’m going to just imagine myself talking to my seventeen year old brother and rambling about what Swarthmore is like.
Right, so here it goes. Swat is overwhelming . . . in a lot of ways. I once journaled that going to Swarthmore is like watching an IMAX movie. Like a regular movie, except you’re basically experiencing sensory overload. Swat is like that, but mentally, physically, emotionally, and whatever other way you can think of (sexually? Ha!). But, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing– I do like watching IMAX movies, after all.
What I’m getting at is that Swarthmore College is an interesting place, to say the least. Your course load will kick your ass, but the nice thing is that it’s also going to be kicking your friends’ asses, too. As Swatties, we’re all in this together (High School Musical, anyone?). We cry together (sometimes literally) and rejoice together. We often find ourselves doing work that we really, really care about. Nothing makes me happier than when a friend asks if she can read her paper out loud to me because she’s worked absurdly hard and is proud of her work. And, it’s cool knowing that my friends are going to be there to support me when I obnoxiously ask them to read every one of six drafts of the article I’ve been working on.
Something else that you should know is that Swat is tiny. I’m not just talking about the fact that it takes only about 12 minutes to get across campus; I’m talking about the fact that everyone knows everyone’s business. I have a folder of photos titled “embarrassing blackmail photos” saved on my laptop (I’m joking) (no, I’m not). There’s this hilarious phenomenon called the Swat Swivel that occurs when one is about to gossip about another and stealthily (sometimes not-so-stealthily) looks over their shoulders to make sure they’re not around. You’re going to run into people you don’t always want to see. . . EVERYWHERE. You either get really good at not being awkward around them. Or, you get really good at avoiding them (me!). But, everyone gets it, and it’s more hilarious than anything…most of the time.
Most of your professors are going to be cool as hell. They get that being a Swattie can be difficult at times. You’ll probably refer to a lot of them by first names behind their backs and then accidentally do it to their faces only to realize that they were cool with it to begin with. You’ll probably curse during class discussions. They probably will, too. Class discussions can be hard to warm up to, but I promise you’ll get the hang of it. Being surrounded by smart people all the time is definitely one of the more intimidating parts of being here. But, it gets easier; you get more comfortable and confident . . .trust me. It might take a while, but you will. (Find me and we can pinky promise this.)
Here’s something that I didn’t really think was going to matter to me that much until I spent these past two semesters here, and I still sometimes find myself taking for granted. Swatties are “quirky” or whatever word they’re using to stereotype us nowadays. Really what that translates to is that at Swat, you can really be yourself. (I’m trying to say this as earnestly as possible without sounding like some ridiculous Odyssey Online article.)
Here, I feel comfortable walking back from a long day of studying and breaking into song with some friends (HELLO IT’S ME, anyone?) I’m not embarrassed when I decide that planking and owling need a revival and spend the evening with snapchat fever instead being studious and responsible (good one, I know!). I can ugly laugh in Sharples without people glaring at me (most of the time).
No matter where you end up, you’re going to find happiness in things that you aren’t going to find in any of those million of staged pamphlets that you’ve been force fed. That being said, Swat may not be the place for you. And, that’s OKAY! I can’t tell you what is going to make you happy/fulfilled/etc. – not even if you decide to come to Swarthmore College. But, keep in mind that even in my struggles here, even in my angst-ridden conversations and qualms about this school, I have found a home. Maybe you’ll find a home here, too. And, you know what Dorothy says about home . . .