International Students

These are the questions asked most frequently by international applicants. If you have a specific question not answered below, please contact us at international@swarthmore.edu. To request additional information, please share your contact information with us on our request for information page.

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How many international students does Swarthmore College have?

Of Swarthmore's 1500+ student body, close to 13% are international students or U.S. citizens and permanent residents who have graduated from secondary schools abroad.


Is financial aid available to foreign students?

Financial aid is available to foreign students who are applying as freshmen. None is available for transfers, so the College does not accept transfer applications from foreign students who require aid. Financial aid is exclusively need-based, and the financial aid award will include some combination of grant (scholarship), and campus work experience. About half the total student body is on financial aid, and about one half of the international students are on financial aid.

It is very important to complete the financial aid documentation required by our Financial Aid Office in a timely fashion. No special applications for scholarship aid are necessary because our financial awards are need-based, not merit-based.


Is admission need-blind for foreign students?

No, it is only need-blind for U.S. citizens and permanent residents. However, if accepted, the College will meet your demonstrated need, up to and including full tuition, room and board, books, supplies and transportation.


What kind of international student organizations are present on campus?

There are several student-run international student groups at Swarthmore. The largest, and often the most vocal, is the International Club, which boasts over 120 members. Other groups which are active on campus include: SAO (Swarthmore Asian Organization), Deshi (Swarthmore South Asian Organization) , SOCA (Swarthmore Students Of Caribbean Ancestry), Enlace (Hispanic/Latino Organization), SASA (Swarthmore African Students Association), and PRO (Pacific Rim Organization).

Activities of such groups include organizing cultural presentations on campus, promoting cultural togetherness, encouraging diversity, and educating other students about their own cultures. They also sponsor social activities on weekends to which the entire student body is invited - dance lessons are usually included!

The Admissions Office hires one international student intern each year to assist international recruitment efforts and to serve as a liaison between the International Club and the Admissions Office.


What kind of support is available to foreign students once on campus?

The International Students Advisor is officially responsible for much of the on-campus support available to international students, but other offices provide the same caring support that is available to all "Swatties." This includes a 24-hour, 7-day-per-week staffed health center including psychological services and access to several local hospitals, academic support, religious/spiritual guidance, etc. The faculty and staff have a long tradition of informally supporting all international students.

Before the official freshman orientation, the College invites international students to a special program that introduces them to the U.S. (how do I open a bank account?) and to one another (exactly where is Mauritius?).


What do international students do after graduating?

Everything and anything, just like other "Swatties"! They may go to graduate school, take time off, or find jobs (inside or outside the U.S.). The Career Services Office, as well as the incredibly well-connected faculty, personally assist each student with his/her future plans.


What kind of employment opportunities are available on and off campus?

On campus, students can work regular hours at any one of the libraries, the bookstore, the computing center, in the Admissions Office or the Alumni Office, etc. In addition, there are also a wide variety of short-term jobs that students can do on an ad hoc basis. In order to work off campus, students need employment authorization from the U.S government. Once this is obtained, a student can work anywhere inside the U.S. over the summer or winter breaks, but not during the school year.

The College also facilitates internship applications for international students. Some of these are paid positions and others offer living stipends. The Swarthmore Foundation offers grants to students who engage in social service projects. Externships which usually involve "shadowing" a Swarthmore alum can be an exciting way to spend spring break.


How long does it take to adapt to life at an American university or college like Swarthmore?

Adaptation to life at Swarthmore depends on each individual. Some people adjust immediately, while others take a little longer. But, the non-competitive, highly inclusive culture encourages an easy transition.

Many international students prefer this strong sense of community because they know people care about them as individuals. It's hard to "fall through the cracks" at Swarthmore.


What about credit for international exams that I have taken?

At Swarthmore, credit is decided by individual departments in consultation with the registrar. Generally, students who have done well on their IB Higher Level exams (6, 7), British "A" Levels (A), French Baccalaureate (15+) or Advanced Placement exams (4,5) receive credit and/or advanced placement from most departments. more


Can I use the Common Application form to apply to Swarthmore?

Yes. In fact, the Common Application is the only application form used at Swarthmore. You can access the Common Application at www.commonapp.org and read more about Swarthmore's application requirements by visiting our Apply to Swarthmore page.


Are there any special tests or requirements for international students?

Apart from submitting certification of your family's finances, demonstrating excellent English skills (the TOEFL is recommended but not required) and securing a valid U.S. visa, there are no special requirements. You should take the SAT I and two SAT II tests if available in your country. It is expected that students will be enrolled in the most challenging secondary school option (e.g. A-levels) available in their country's educational system. You will complete the same academic requirements to graduate as any other Swarthmore student.


What is the level of academic intensity at Swarthmore compared to other colleges?

Swarthmore is a highly selective American undergraduate school, so the entering students are among the most academically able and motivated in the world. It is a college where intellectual curiosity is strongly valued, but where the learning style is collaborative, not competitive. You can spend four years here without anyone asking you what grade you received in a course!

Swarthmore College is recognized for the least grade inflation among undergraduate institutions in the U.S. Graduate schools and potential employers recruit actively at Swarthmore because of their respect for the rigorous academic program here.


What kinds of attitudes should one bring to an American university or college like Swarthmore?

Open-mindedness and flexibility are at the top of the list. At times, international students can seem very conservative and view U.S. customs as very liberal. At other times, U.S. students seem very parochial to those who have lived abroad. The important thing to note about this kind of "culture shock" is that with an open mind, you can appreciate social, cultural and ethnic differences without negating your own values or background.


What do people do at Swarthmore apart from studying?

Swarthmore is a self-contained campus where one need not leave campus very often. Every weekend, many all-campus parties, athletic events, performances, conferences, movies, and informal coffee house-type conversations are held, and entry is free to all students.

There is a 25-minute direct train line to Philadelphia which is a transportation hub for the East Coast. New York and Washington, D.C. are less than two hours away. Philadelphia International Airport is about 15 minutes away by car.


How committed to work are Swarthmore students?

Students at Swarthmore work very hard, especially those majoring in engineering or completing pre-med requirements. However, this amount of work is comparable to the amount of work in all other highly selective colleges, and it may seem more interesting due to the interactive classroom environment. 


How "global" is Swarthmore?

Swarthmore students actively seek global perspectives in both their academic and personal lives - hence the warm ambiance for international students. Approximately 40% of Swarthmore students study abroad at some point in their undergraduate years. People at Swarthmore tend to be issue-oriented, caring deeply about what is happening in other countries in the world.  


Is there a typical Swarthmore student?

It is difficult to stereotype "Swatties" because each is a unique individual in a community where differences are appreciated, but common characteristics are intellectual passion, self-motivation, personal integrity, concern for others, creativity, and energy. Swatties like to have fun and seek a healthy balance between their academic and social lives.  



What about transfers?

Swarthmore admits a small number of transfer students each year for September enrollment only. International students who have matriculated at another university (in the U.S. or abroad) who require financial aid are not eligible for transfer to Swarthmore, even if they are willing to forego the credit they have already earned elsewhere. All foreign national transfer applicants must document complete financial independence for their total time at Swarthmore and must document all courses taken for credit or non-credit at ALL secondary and tertiary educational institutions prior to enrollment at Swarthmore.  



What about document and test score authenticity?

It is the applicant's responsibility to provide authentic documentation of all credentials. School transcripts must be original and certified with a school seal or a high-quality copy must be both certified and signed by the head of school and/or college advisor. Recommendations should be written on official school letterhead, and all official translations should be attached to the original document. SAT scores should be sent directly to Swarthmore College from the Educational Testing Service. In cases where complying with such requirements would cause excessive financial burden to the family, we will accept a high-quality copy of test results that has been certified with the school seal and signed by the head of school and/or college advisor.