Frequently Asked Questions

Q.When and how should I apply for financial aid consideration?

A. If you are applying:

Fall Early Decision--apply by November 15th
Winter Early Decision--apply by January 15th
Regular Decision--apply by February 15th
Transfers--by April 30th

Q. What percentage of students who demonstrate financial need does Swarthmore College aid?

A. At Swarthmore, 100% of those who demonstrate need for our help are offered our help; students are offered all that they need, based on our analysis of the family's financial situation.

Q. How much financial aid will I receive?

A. In order to make a Swarthmore  education available to qualified students, we have designated in excess of $33 million for Swarthmore Scholarships for the coming year. During the 2014-2015 academic year about 52% of our students received Swarthmore Scholarship and our average financial aid award was $43,250. Swarthmore Scholarships range from $1,000 to $63,050.  The amount we offer you will depend on our review of your family's financial information.

Q. What grades or activities do I need to be eligible for Swarthmore Scholarship help?

Grades and activities, etc., will affect Swarthmore's admission decision but will not influence our financial aid decision. Each year, your family will apply for our support by providing a completed financial application.  Our financial aid decision will consider this financial information and be based solely on your family's current financial situation.

Q. Does Swarthmore College offer any merit-based scholarships?

A. Although most of our scholarship funds--99%--are distributed solely on the basis of a family's financial situation, each year a few special awards take into consideration students' merits as well as their needs. Please visit our Special Scholarships page.

Q.  What is the income maximum for financial aid eligibility?

A.  There is no income maximum since income alone is not the only consideration. We consider income, tax liability, family size, medical expenses, standard living expenses, where you live in the country (some areas are more expensive than others), your parents' assets, their ages, whether they have protection for their retirement years, etc. So many factors make each family's financial situation unique that we cannot make our judgments on income alone.

Q.  I heard that admission decisions and financial aid decisions are made separately at  Swarthmore. Why then do you ask on the admission application if I am interested in financial aid?

A.  At Swarthmore our admission decisions and financial aid decisions are made completely separately -- a process called "need-blind" admission.

Your checking "yes" to the question about your interest in our need-based financial aid program merely helps us to start a financial aid application folder for you and allows us to know which students to remind about incomplete financial aid applications and which students need financial aid decision letters included with the admission decision letters.

Q.  If I ask for financial aid consideration will I lessen my chances for admission?

A.  No. At Swarthmore, admission decisions and financial aid decisions are made independently. It is a policy called "need-blind admissions".

There is one exception: Since our aid to foreign national students is limited, we make offers of financial aid to only about 20 new foreign national students each year.

Q.  Will I receive more financial aid if I apply for admission in the early decision cycles or in the regular decision cycle?

A.  Our financial aid award will be based only on a family's demonstrated need. Timing of admission is not a factor. Thus, any financial aid decision we make in the winter would be the same as a decision made in the spring.

Q.  When will I be notified about my financial aid decision?

A.  If your application is received by our suggested guideline, you will receive a financial aid decision along with the admission decision.

Q.  My parents are divorced (or are separated or were never married) and one parent is unwilling to submit any information to the financial aid office or to contribute towards my Swarthmore expenses. What can I do?

A.  In fairness to all, the College must expect that parents will pay all they are able, and we must assess each parent's ability after reviewing complete financial documents from each household. The College cannot afford or justify ignoring a parent's ability to help you nor can we adjust our decision to reflect only what a parent is willing to provide.

You might explain to the unwilling parent that we will not share his/her information. Further, by providing information, he/she is in no way obligated to contribute to your Swarthmore education. Rather the information is used merely to measure the amount the College can offer you in aid. Although we cannot increase our scholarship aid to fill the gap if a parent declines responsibility, you may be able to borrow more. If yours is a special situation, please write us a brief and detailed letter of explanation

Q.  I'm having trouble getting my forms in on time for the February 15th deadline. May I still apply for financial aid?

A.  Yes. We ask that your application be complete by mid February so that you will have a financial aid decision along with your admission decision. We will consider your application if it is late but we cannot promise that you will have a financial aid decision before the May 1st enrollment deadline. We cannot estimate financial aid decisions or use prior year tax and income documents so if aid will be important to your enrollment decision, please apply on time.

Q.  What if I receive an outside scholarship after my financial aid award has been decided? Does that affect my financial aid award?

A.  About $850,000 in such outside awards comes to the College each year so we expect you, too, may be receiving such outside aid. Since your demonstrated need will be met, any additional aid must replace a portion of our award to you. For recipients of outside scholarships first determine the type of outside scholarship:

  • Entitlements such as federal grants, employer tuition grants and state scholarships will replace our Swarthmore Scholarship dollar for dollar.
  • Outside scholarships are incorporated in the following manner:
    • Swarthmore's policy is to apply the outside scholarship amount first toward reducing a student's expected summer earnings expectations (up to $2,000 for first-year students and up to $2,500 for returning students).  Should the outside scholarship exhaust the summer earnings expectation, the student's campus job opportunity funding would then be reduced (up to $1,960 for all students).  Beyond that, any outside scholarship dollars would replace Swarthmore Scholarship, dollar for dollar.  Outside Scholarships cannot replace parental contribution.

For example, if a first-year student with a $2,000 summer earnings expectation receives a $2,500 outside scholarship after we have met the student's demonstrated need with an award consisting of a $49,410 Swarthmore Scholarship and a $1,960 campus job opportunity, our revision would look like this:

Aid Type Original Award Adjusted Award
Swarthmore Scholarship $47,450 $47,450
Campus Work Opportunity $1,960 $1,460
Outside Scholarship $0 $2,500
Total Financial Aid Award $49,410 $51,410

Explanation:  The first $2,000 of the $2,500 outside scholarship reduced the $2,000 of the first-year student's summer earning expectation (not illlustrated here).  The remaining $500 of the $2,500 outside scholarship reduced the Campus Work Opportunity from $1,960 to $1,460.  Note that this does not preclude a student from working on campus and still earning up to the original $1,960 in Campus Work Opportunity. 


Another example if the student above were a returning student (sophomore, junior, or senior) with a $2,500 summer earnings expectation and receives the same $2,500 outside scholarship:  After we have met the student's demonstrated need with an award consisting of a $49,410 Swarthmore Scholarship and a $1,960 campus job opportunity, our revision would look like this:

Aid Type Original Award Adjusted Award
Swarthmore Scholarship $47,450 $47,450
Campus Work Opportunity $1,960 $1,960
Outside Scholarship $0 $2,500
Total Financial Aid Award $49,410 $51,910

Explanation:  The full $2,500 of the $2,500 outside scholarship reduced the entire $2,500 of the first-year student's summer earning expectation (not illlustrated here).  There is no remaining outside scholarship to reduce the Campus Work Opportunity, so it remains at $1,960.  The end total financial aid award is increased by the full $2,500.


Note:  Conversely, adjustments made to include merit-based outside scholarship in our aid award will be reversed if for some reason you end up not receiving the anticipated outside scholarships.

Q.  My federal Student Aid Report says that you may be able to make my corrections electronically, can you?

A.  Follow the instructions on the Student Aid Report to make any corrections you might have and submit them directly to the U.S. Department of Education since we won't make any corrections electronically until May and only if you enroll at Swarthmore.