Swarthmore Acceptance Rate Rises to 7.46% for Class of 2028 Amid Changing Admissions Landscape

On Friday, March 22, Swarthmore released its admissions decisions for the class of 2028. The college received 13,065 applications in this year’s cycle and admitted 975 prospective students, equating to a 7.46% acceptance rate for the college, slightly above last year’s acceptance rate of 6.84%. The college expects to yield a final class of 2028 of 415 students. Last year, for the class of 2027, Swarthmore received 14,287 applications and admitted 969 applicants. 

In an admissions department release, Vice President and Dean of Admissions Jim Bock ’90 remarked, “We are humbled by the number of extraordinary students who applied to Swarthmore. Their exceptional academic, creative, and athletic achievements, along with their commitment to the common good, are nothing short of inspiring.”

34% of the admitted students would be among the first generation in their families to attend college. 68% attend public or charter schools, 25% attend private independent schools, 7% attend parochial schools, and 1% are home-schooled. The students come from all 50 U.S. States and 84 nations.

The admissions decisions come at a time when college admissions policy in the U.S. is constantly changing and under endless scrutiny. In 2023, the Supreme Court ruled against the use of race-based affirmative action programs at U.S. colleges and universities. The ruling has thrown into question the ability of colleges and universities to ensure racial diversity in their student bodies and forced them to adapt away from practices that had been in place for decades.

Asked about how Swarthmore would adapt to the change, Bock commented, “Because we practice holistic, committee-based admissions, thankfully the way in which we read and evaluate applications did not have to undergo a total overhaul.” 

He added, “We began a thorough review of our admissions practices to ensure that the decision-making process would fulfill the College’s mission while fully complying with the SCOTUS decision. Prior to the Supreme Court decision, we updated our supplemental essay prompts and added an optional video response.”

Because of the race-neutral policy by which the college must abide by, admissions data is not yet available about whether the class of admitted students reflects any shift in racial demographic makeup following the Supreme Court’s ruling. 

In addition to the future of racial diversity in higher education, the role of standardized testing in admissions has been widely discussed. In the wake of the COVID pandemic, the vast majority of the country’s four-year colleges and universities, including Swarthmore, decided to make the use of standardized tests — the SAT or ACT — optional for students in their applications. The widespread change upended college admissions and has been the subject of much research and debate in the years since. In the last few months, universities such as Dartmouth College, Yale University, and Brown University have announced a return to the requirement of standardized testing for applications to the schools. Other universities, such as the University of Chicago and Columbia University, announced they will not be reinstating the tests, and more have yet to decide their long-term plans. Swarthmore falls into the latter category. 

“The College will remain test optional at least through the ’24-’25 admissions cycle,” Bock shared when asked about the college’s future with standardized testing. “Swarthmore is currently in year four of a five-year pilot with test-optional admissions,” referring to the test-optional period first announced in the heat of the pandemic. 

Bock said admissions is looking at “longitudinal” data on retention rates and academic performance, and hopes to have a decision by this fall. 

“Swarthmore remains committed to its mission of attracting a diverse population of students from a variety of backgrounds and experiences. Our outreach and mission have not changed, but some of the tools with which we make decisions have been updated in accordance with the law,” Bock said. “Our longtime partnerships with organizations like QuestBridge, Coalition for College, Leadership Enterprise for a Diverse America (LEDA), EMERGE, and College Match among others have helped us to continue to recruit and attract diverse and talented students.”

5 Comments

  1. Why was there an 8.5% decrease in applications between 2023 and 2024? Amherst College also had fewer applications, but Colby College applications increased significantly. Why?

  2. # applications to WASP over the last three years is steady, at around 50000 a year. Only real gainer here seems to be Pomona, Williams is back to where it was after a drop last year and Swat is on a slow decline in interest. This has no bearing on the class, as in any case they all take in so few. However it does reflect the reality of low WASP name recognition. Some say “yeah, but where it matters, in Grad Schools and amongst elite employers, they know WASP, so what if your neighbour has not heard of it”. But this is giving a free pass to the administration and faculty who have simply not made these colleges exciting. When your college is more in the news for activism than education, when your college T-Shirt tells the story of arduous academics rather than an enjoyable college experience, when your story is that per capita you send as many into PhDs as the best universities vs creating inventors, entrepreneurs, famous college dropouts, is it a wonder that more applicants are not excited? These are wonderful institutions for undergrad education, but they really need to do more to drive up name recognition amongst an important constituency for any college, high schoolers and their parents.

    • Why? Colleges don’t all need to compete to be Harvard or Stanford. Swarthmore is what it is– a very academically rigorous school that self-selects for students who are very interested in a rigorous academic experience. Swarthmore students do lots of things– go into business, go to professional school, get Ph.Ds and go into academia or research, go into government, etc.

      They do some more than others. Swarthmore is never going to get the kid determined to become the next Google founder over Stanford, or the kid who wants to be Goldman Sachs’ CEO over Harvard. There’s no reason to pretend that that’s what the school is or wants to be.

      • I wasn’t comparing Swat to Stanford or Harvard. I was comparing it to its peers- Amherst and Colby. However, I will concede that my original posting was not entirely accurate. Amherst actually saw an increase in apps this year compared to last year as well as Williams and Colby. This does not detract or change the validity of my original question. It actually bolsters it.

        I generally agree with Aristocles’ response.

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