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Exchange Students

Eligibility | Applying | Finances | Pre-Departure | Arrival | Academics | Student Life | Support

The Global Engagement Office (GEO) is excited that you're interested in a semester or year at Swarthmore! This page includes information for prospective and current participants in the Swarthmore Inbound Exchange Program. General information about Swarthmore College can be found on the main Swarthmore website (some of which does not apply to exchange students).

 

Eligibility

The Swarthmore Inbound Exchange Program is open to applicants who attend and have been nominated by one of our partner institutions. Our current partner institutions are Ashesi University, Middlebury College, Pomona College, and the University of Tokyo. 

What if I do not attend a partner institution?

Unfortunately, Swarthmore cannot accept visiting students from non-partner institutions for a semester or year. The relevant policies are available on the Registrar's Office's website.

Which terms can exchange students attend Swarthmore

Swarthmore can only consider a student for a given term if their home school nominated them for that specific term. International exchange students can attend Swarthmore during the fall semester or the full academic year (Swarthmore cannot accept international students for the spring semester only). Domestic exchange students can attend Swarthmore during the fall semester, the spring semester, or the full academic year.

Does Swarthmore have an English language requirement?

Swarthmore requires very strong English language skills. In addition, international exchange students will need to demonstrate English proficiency to be eligible for a J1 visa. 

Does Swarthmore have a GPA requirement?

Successful candidates for the Inbound Exchange Program typically have a minimum 3.0 grade point average on a 4.0 scale.

Does Swarthmore have prerequisites?

Many courses at Swarthmore have prerequisites. Check the prerequisites for any courses of interest. If you have taken equivalent courses to prerequisites at your home school, you might be eligible for Swarthmore courses with those prerequisites (not guaranteed and depends on the instructor's review). 

Are exchange students eligible for courses in any department at Swarthmore?

No. Exchange students cannot take classes in the Computer Science Department and cannot take first-year seminars. Access to honors seminars and other upper-level courses is extremely limited in certain other departments (e.g., Natural Sciences and Engineering departments).  Keep a variety of course options in mind (in multiple departments/programs) in case your top-choice courses do not have availability.

 

Applying

Start planning early! Before you can apply for Swarthmore, your home school must select you as a nominee. Depending on your home school, the nomination process may begin months or more than a year in advance of the term at Swarthmore. If your home school nominates you, Swarthmore will invite you to complete our external application.

When are the Swarthmore deadlines?

Fall Semester or Full Academic Year
Nomination deadline: March 1
Application deadline: March 15

Spring Semester (Domestic Exchanges Only)
Nomination deadline: September 1
Application deadline: September 15

These deadlines may be adjusted to align with home schools' internal timelines (but not to meet individual applicants' needs). In such cases, Swarthmore communicates with the home school to revise the timeline. 

How does the nomination process work?

Home schools generally require students to submit internal applications to be considered for nomination to Swarthmore. The study abroad office at your home school provides instructions about the nomination process (contact them with any questions). At some schools, the nomination process is highly selective.

Nomination by your home school is NOT a guarantee of admission to Swarthmore. Nominees also need to demonstrate their qualifications through Swarthmore's external application.

What application materials should I prepare?

Prepare to submit the following information and materials (after Swarthmore has sent you our external application link):

  • Academic Reference:  You will need to provide contact information for one academic reference. The reference should be a professor who has taught at least one of your classes. In some cases, Swarthmore may contact a reference during our application review process to request a letter of support for an applicant. Unless this happens, the reference does not need to write a letter. We recommend that you contact a professor as early as possible to request permission to list them as your reference.
  • Transcript: Request an official transcript from your home school. You will upload it as part of your application.
  • Image of passport (international applicants) or any official photo ID (domestic applicants)
  • English Test Scores: If the language of instruction at your home school is not English, you're encouraged (but not required) to submit English language test scores (e.g., TOEFL or IELTS).

The rest of the Swarthmore Inbound Exchange application can be completed in our online portal. The online application will require you to provide personal information and write several short essays (wait to begin these responses until you have received the prompts). 

How do I find courses and activities to list in my application?

Our application requires students to list courses of interest at Swarthmore. The College Bulletin contains all courses ever taught at Swarthmore (click course titles to view descriptions, prerequisites, and available terms). We encourage you to consider courses in a variety of departments/programs. You may NOT list courses that include the codes CPSC or FYS. You must list at least four courses (a full course load at Swarthmore) and may list additional options in case your top-choice courses do not have availability. The course list in your application is used for informational purposes—the actual registration process takes place after students have been admitted. Swarthmore CANNOT guarantee registration for your listed courses.

You're also invited to share Swarthmore activities of interest. You can view a list of student activities on the Office of Student Engagement's website.

What does the application review process look like?

Applications go through a thorough review process, which usually takes 2-6 weeks. International exchange applications are reviewed by our Admissions Office, and domestic exchange applications are reviewed by the Global Engagement Advisory Committee. Admissions decisions are released to students via email.

Reviewers are interested in why you want to study at Swarthmore, as well as your academic and personal preparation for the exchange. They look for evidence that you have researched Swarthmore and found opportunities relevant to your academic and extracurricular interests. Reviewers assess the writing skills demonstrated through your application. In addition, they check whether courses in your academic areas of interest will be available to you.

 

Finances

If you're offered admission to Swarthmore, you will receive an Expected Costs Letter shortly thereafter. This letter breaks down the costs that Swarthmore will cover and the costs that you will be billed by Swarthmore (if any). Your home institution will inform you separately of the costs that they will bill.

How does billing work?

Tuition and fees depend on the type of exchange agreement that your home school has with Swarthmore College. All exchange students are billed for their home school's tuition and are not charged for Swarthmore tuition. Students from most partner institutions (currently Ashesi, Middlebury, and Pomona) also pay room and board fees to their home school, and will not be billed by Swarthmore for housing or meals.

Students from schools where the exchange agreement only includes tuition (currently UTokyo) will not pay room and board fees to their home institution. These students will be billed by Swarthmore for housing and meals. The room and board fees billed by Swarthmore correspond to the cost of room and board for outbound Swarthmore exchange students at UTokyo (and are usually lower than the fees on the main Swarthmore website). The exact fees that Swarthmore will bill each student is listed in their Expected Costs Letter.

All exchange students must enroll in Swarthmore's Student Health Insurance Plan (SHIP) and are billed for this plan, unless they have alternative insurance that allows them to waive SHIP.

What costs are "included" for exchange students?

Swarthmore is a cash-free campus, which means that most expenses on campus are included in the fees listed in your Expected Costs Letter. While on campus, you will not be charged additional fees for courses, campus events, student organizations, or certain campus services (e.g., laundry and printing).

How does the Textbook Affordability Program (TAP) work?

The Textbook Affordability Program (TAP) is available to exchange students. Students who attend Swarthmore for one semester will receive half the amount of TAP credit listed on the website, while full-year students will receive the full amount of credit. TAP funds cover required textbooks for students' courses (e.g., textbooks). Wait to purchase textbooks until you have arrived on campus and finalized your course registrations.

How much money will I need at Swarthmore?

Students should anticipate some out-of-pocket expenses while at Swarthmore. These expenses may include but are not limited to school supplies, personal items (clothing, bedding, souvenirs, etc.), a phone plan, off-campus activities (eating out, entertainment, etc.), and independent travel. The Expected Costs Letter includes the estimated cost of supplies and other expenses (this amount is not billed by Swarthmore, but you should budget for these out-of-pocket expenses). 

Can I work at Swarthmore?

Some exchange students may decide to apply for a campus job. Inbound exchange students are eligible for campus jobs provided they meet all Swarthmore requirements for student employment. International students must contact the International Student Center to share their intent to work and receive information about specific requirements (e.g., setup of U.S. bank accounts and Social Security Numbers). After arrival, students can apply for positions and complete requirements for campus employment via JobX.

 

Pre-Departure

Admitted students must complete pre-departure requirements through both Swarthmore and their home school. Various offices at Swarthmore contact exchange students to provide guidance on the visa process, registration procedures, and other preparations. Students should check email regularly for instructions (including their Swarthmore email once it has been set up).

How do I apply for a visa (if needed)?

International exchange students need a J-1 visa to attend Swarthmore. The International Student Center (ISC) emails admitted students instructions to submit required information, which they will use to create the DS-2019 form (a J-1 visa requirement). Once you have received the DS-2019, you can use it for your visa appointment at an embassy near you. You must follow the ISC's instructions carefully and promptly to ensure timely entry into the U.S.

How do I access my Swarthmore email and other accounts?

A few months before your arrival, you will be emailed your Swarthmore username and Banner ID number. You will use this information to create your Swarthmore password. Once you have set up your account, you can use it to log into your Swarthmore email (and other Google apps), MySwarthmore (portal for various administrative services), Moodle (learning management system for your courses), Eduroam (campus WiFi), and other campus digital services.

How do I complete health requirements?

Inbound exchange students must complete health requirements for new students following these instructions. In the Student Health Portal on MySwarthmore, complete all listed forms (if you intend to waive Swarthmore insurance, make sure to submit your insurance information). The requirements are due by the date listed on the linked page (for fall or full-year exchange students) or as soon as possible after acceptance (for spring-only domestic exchange students).

How am I assigned housing and a meal plan?

Admitted exchange students are assigned housing automatically. They are placed in one of Swarthmore's residence halls and generally have one or more roommates. If students have special housing requests, they should contact GEO as early as possible (special arrangements cannot be guaranteed).

Exchange students are automatically enrolled in the SWAT meal plan (which includes unlimited meals at our Dining Center). To select a different meal plan, students should follow instructions sent to their Swarthmore email prior to their term at Swarthmore.

What if I need accommodations?

If you need housing, academic, or other accommodations, inform the Global Engagement Office as early as possible. If availability of accommodations would influence your decision to attend, let us know your before you apply (accommodation requests will NOT impact Swarthmore's admissions decision). GEO will pass on your information to Student Disability Services, then SDS will follow up with you to schedule an intake appointment. If possible, prepare documentation of your needs in advance of your meeting (e.g., confirmation of accomodations at your home institution). Swarthmore cannot guarantee the same accommodations that your home school provides and evaluates requests based on our own guidelines.

What should I bring to Swarthmore?

Clothing: Temperatures at Swarthmore fluctuate, so we recommend that you bring layers. Swarthmore can become very cold and snowy during the winter!

Electronics: Prepare to purchase a physical or electronic SIM card that will work with your phone or a new U.S. phone. Students can access public computers at Swarthmore, but most choose to bring their own laptop. If you're coming from abroad, check whether you need a power adapter to plug in your devices in the U.S. (and bring one if necessary).

Bedding: Swarthmore does not provide bedding, so you'll need to bring or buy your own sheets, blankets, pillows, etc. (beds are twin x-long). If you order bedding to be shipped to Swarthmore, note that it should arrive within a week of your move-in date and can only be picked up at the Post Office during regular business hours.

Additional Guidelines on What to Pack

What if I want to bring a car to campus?

If you wish to keep a car on campus, you must apply for a parking permit as far in advance of your arrival as possible. If you receive a permit, you can park on campus following these guidelines. If your permit is not approved, you may not bring a car to campus.

 

Arrival and Orientation

We look forward to welcoming admitted students to campus! Exchange students can expect a unique experience at Swarthmore — the College hosts 2-4 exchange students out of a total enrollment of more than 1,600 long-term students. Despite their shorter time on campus, exchange students have many opportunities to adjust to campus life and meet the community.

When can I arrive and depart?

International exchange students must arrive in time for the International Student Orientation. Domestic students must arrive the weekend before classes start, after residence halls have opened for all students. Swarthmore staff will contact you about your exact required arrival date. Communicate with us about your estimated time of arrival so that someone at Swarthmore can meet you upon arrival, guide you to your room, and give you an ID card (which will give you access to Swarthmore buildings, meals, etc.).

You must depart after you have completed all final examinations. If you need to book your return trip before Swarthmore's final exam schedule is released, plan to depart after the examination period ends and before residence halls close to all students except seniors (exact dates/times are available on our academic calendar).

What should I know about the Swarthmore Calendar?

Carefully review all dates on our Academic Calendar for your term at Swarthmore. Swarthmore housing is NOT available to exchange students before the arrival and departure dates above (i.e., during winter or summer break). During the mid-semester fall or spring break, you will not have classes — you may either leave Swarthmore or stay in Swarthmore housing during that week (meals will not be available). 

How do I get to Swarthmore?

Students are responsible for their own transportation to campus. The main Swarthmore address is 500 College Ave, Swarthmore, PA, 19081, USA. If possible, we recommend that you arrive at your assigned residence hall, so that you don't need to carry luggage a long distance (specific residence halls are searchable on Google Maps and other navigation apps).

By flight: The closest airport to Swarthmore is Philadelphia International Airport (PHL). We recommend that you take an Uber or Lyft from the airport to campus (taxis are available but usually are more expensive). 

By train or bus: The closest Amtrak train station is William Gray III 30th Street Station. If you're coming from a train or bus station in Philadelphia, you can take the SEPTA Regional Rail to Swarthmore Station (right on campus) via the Media/Wawa line, or you can take an Uber or Lyft.

By car: If someone is giving you a ride, they can drop you off then park in Benjamin West Visitor Parking. If you're driving to campus, you must park in the student lot listed on your permit.

Stay in close communication with Swarthmore staff about your arrival plans, so that someone can meet you and give you access to your room when you arrive.

How do I navigate the campus?

You can find buildings on our campus map or ask around!

Do exchange students have an orientation?

International exchange students participate in the International Student Orientation, which covers a range of topics and provides opportunities to meet other new international students. Domestic exchange students participate in a brief orientation with GEO during move-in weekend, which includes a campus tour and an overview of resources and expectations.

How can I meet the Swarthmore community?

The Swarthmore community strives to be collaborative and inclusive, and many students, faculty, and staff are happy to be approached. However, most community members do not expect exchange students on campus, so you might need to be proactive about introducing yourself as a new exchange student. Swarthmore organizes many start-of-term events where you can meet peers. For example, there's an Activities Fair at the start of each semester, where you can meet representatives of many student organizations and sign up for clubs. 

What policies do I need to follow?

Exchange students must follow the same policies as Swarthmore students. It's your responsibility to understand and abide by the policies in the Swarthmore Student Handbook. Violation of a Swarthmore policy may have consequences up to and including dismissal from the Inbound Exchange Program.

You also must review and comply with all of your home school's policies for study away participants.

 

Academics

Swarthmore is known for its liberal arts curriculum and academic rigor. Classes tend to be small and interactive — students often receive individualized attention and are expected to participate in discussions. Work is assigned throughout the semester and is a significant daily time commitment. Classes are as engaging as they are challenging — students think critically about course content and develop new perspectives on their subjects of interest.

How do I register for classes?

Exchange students register for fall courses during the registration period for first-year and transfer students, shortly before classes start (the academic calendar contains the dates of pre-registration for new students). Exchange students register for spring courses during the pre-enrollment period for all spring students (during the fall semester). In advance of the registration period, students meet with a Swarthmore academic advisor. We also recommend that you review registration guidelines for new students. Once the registration period begins, students can pre-register for classes via this registration link.

What if I'm denied registration for a class?

Exchange students are sometimes denied registration for courses with Swarthmore prerequisites. If you contact instructors to provide documentation of equivalent courses you have taken, some instructors may reconsider denials. Other times, students are denied registration because courses have reached capacity. If you cannot register for certain courses, you must add other courses.

How do I add or drop a class?

After the registration period ends, students must follow a different process to add or drop a class. Carefully follow the Registrar's Add/Drop Procedure. Students may usually add or drop a class until the Friday of the second week of classes.

Can I register for a Tri-Co or Penn class?

We usually recommend that exchange students only take Swarthmore classes, given the short time you'll be on campus. However, if you're highly interested in a class at Bryn Mawr, Haverford, or the University of Pennsylvania, you may register for up to one class per semester at one of these institutions. You should only list Swarthmore classes in your Swarthmore Inbound Exchange application. You must remain registered for a full course load at Swarthmore until you have finalized registration for a Tri-Co or Penn class.

Carefully follow registration instructions for the relevant institution. To take a Penn class, you will need to stay in the PA area for the entire period when Penn classes are in session (which may include dates outside when Swarthmore housing is available and require special arrangements).

Where do I access information about my courses?

Information about each of your Swarthmore classes is available on the Swarthmore Moodle page. Each course page should show up on Moodle by the time classes start or soon after you've added the course. Use Moodle to view syllabi and topics, access readings, submit assignments, and complete other online course requirements.

How can I adjust to classes at Swarthmore?

If you have questions about a class, contact the professor. Swarthmore faculty do not usually expect new students after freshman year and may not be aware when you need support with adjustment to their class. Your professor will better be able to support you when you explain to them that you’re new to Swarthmore as an exchange student. If you continue to experience difficulties with a class, we encourage you to seek additional academic support.

What academic policies should I understand?

You must abide by all academic policies at Swarthmore AND your home school's academic policies for study away participants. Pay particular attention to the following policies:

Course Load: Students must register for 4 Swarthmore credits (which usually means 4 classes). Your home school must send GEO written permission for you to carry more or fewer credits (including to drop or withdraw from a course). Students may NEVER carry more than 5 credits or fewer than 3 credits.

Credit/No Credit: Exchange students may NOT declare Credit/No Credit (CR/NC) for any course unless their home institution has sent GEO written permission for them to do so. Unless a student's home school allows an exception, all courses must be taken for a grade.

Incompletes: Exchange students must complete all coursework before the end of their term at Swarthmore. Incompletes are not permitted.

How is my transcript issued?

A month or two after your term at Swarthmore ends, GEO will send your transcript to your home school. The study abroad coordinator at your home school will then transfer your credits following their own procedure. Any time after your transcript is ready, you can also request a copy for yourself via the National Student Clearinghouse (for a small fee).

 

Student Life

Exchange students benefit from College housing and an abundance of dining locations and campus spaces. There are always many events and activities going on both at Swarthmore and off-campus — you will find no shortage of ways to spend your free time!

What will my residence hall be like?

You will live in a one of Swarthmore's residential communities. Unless you have been approved for an accommodation, you will likely share a room with one or more roommates. The Resident Assistant in your hall can answer any questions you may have about Swarthmore housing and connect you with others in your hall. 

How do meals at Swarthmore work?

You can use your Swarthmore meal plan at any of our campus dining locations and even at several restaurants and stores in the town next to campus! The amount you can spend at each type of dining location depends on the specific meal plan that you select. You can swipe your Swarthmore ID card at any available dining location to use your meal plan.

What student organizations are available? How do I sign up?

You can view a list of student organizations on the Office of Student Engagement's website. We encourage you to attend the Activities Fair at the start of the semester to meet student representatives of organizations and sign up! You can also email ose@swarthmore.edu to request contact information for a certain organization. Many organizations are always looking for new members and would welcome you at any time!

What events can I attend?

Throughout the semester, Swarthmore organizes many events open to all students (parties, study breaks, speakers, shows, etc.). You can check your Swarthmore email, browse the College events calendar, and/or follow the Office of Student Engagement (OSE) Instagram for information about upcoming events. Here are some Swarthmore traditions that take place almost every year.

What campus spaces can I use?

Swarthmore has several libraries where you can study, work on group projects, and borrow books and other academic resources. Elsewhere on campus, you have access to a wide array of study spaces and lounges in locations such as your residence hall, academic buildings, and Sharples Commons.

What athletic facilities can I use?

Swarthmore has many athletic facilities, such as a gym (the Matchbox Fitness Center), a pool, tracks, and tennis courts. Make sure to visit mySwarthmore to complete the Athletic Facilities Waiver (Personal Information section) so that you can access these facilities.

Where can I go off-campus? What transportation is available? 

Downtown Swarthmore (known as "the Ville") is within walking distance of campus and has several restaurants, coffee shops, and stores. The Campus & Community Store, which sells textbooks, school supplies and Swarthmore-themed souvenirs, is between campus and the Ville.

Swarthmore shuttles can take you to several locations on campus and near campus. Make sure to review these tips if you plan to use campus shuttles. Available shuttles include the Garnet Shuttle (transportation to dorms far from campus), the Target-Giant Shuttle (transportation to a nearby mall and/or supermarket), and the Media Shuttle (transportation to a larger neighboring town).

Philadelphia, a large and lively city, offers restaurants, stores, and entertainment. Many Swarthmore students appreciate their proximity to an urban location — Philly is only a 25-35 minute train ride from campus! You can take the SEPTA Regional Rail to Swarthmore Station (right on campus) via the Media/Wawa line.

How can I use The Dash?

The Dash, a convenient site for Swarthmore students, is updated on a daily basis. Check The Dash each day for hours of campus services, menus at campus dining venues, upcoming evens, transportation times, links to campus digital services, and more!

 

Support and Resources

As the only students new to Swarthmore in their class year, exchange students are likely to benefit from individualized support with integration into campus. Please do not hesitate to reach out to any Swarthmore staff for assistance. We encourage you to share any questions or concerns as soon as they arise, so that there's time to improve your experience.

Who can I contact with general questions?

You can direct any (non-emergency) question or concern to the Global Engagement Office. We will direct you to those on campus who can best assist you.

  • Email: geo@swarthmore.edu
  • Phone: 610-328-7827
  • Location: Cunningham House (dome next to Scott Arboretum that faces College Ave)
  • Hours: Monday-Friday, 8:30am-12pm and 1-4:30pm
Who should I contact in an emergency?

In an emergency, contact Public Safety. We recommend that you add their emergency number, 610-328-8333, to your contacts. This way, you can call them quickly if need be. Public Safety can assist you 24/7 and provides immediate assistance with any type of on-campus emergency.

What medical services are available?

Exchange students have access to all services offered by the Student Health and Wellness Center. Please call 610-328-8058 to schedule an appointment. Note that if you use a different insurance plan from Swarthmore's, you may need to be reimbursed for certain services.

What mental health services are available?

Exchange students have access to all services offered by Counseling and Psychological Services. Follow instructions on their website to access an initial appointment.

Where can I go for academic support?

If you need support in a specific class, you're encouraged to communicate with the professor. You can email the professor or stop by their office hours. In some cases, students may request a tutor for a class (usually when recommended to do so by a professor or advisor).

If you have any general academic questions, you can also contact your assigned Academic Advisor. After your initial meeting about course selection, you can stay in contact with your advisor about your academic progress throughout your term at Swarthmore.

If you receive academic accommodations, Student Disability Services is available to offer related support.

If you would like support as you work on any written assignment, you can schedule an appointment with the Writing Center. The Writing Center can help you develop the writing skills expected at Swarthmore.

How can my Student Dean help me?

Your assigned Student Dean can provide holistic support as you navigate academics and student life on campus. If any academic, personal, medical, or other challenges impact your experience at Swarthmore, feel free to reach out to your Student Dean.

Can I seek support related to my identities?

The Office of Inclusive Excellence offers resources related to each student's personal identities. Through the relevant Center, you can speak with staff or peers about race and ethnicity, culture, religion, first-generation/low-income, gender and sexuality, and more. 

Who can I go to for support as an international student?

You can contact the International Student Center (ISC) for support as an international student. The ISC can assist with visa questions and cultural adjustment, among many other services for international students.

How can I resolve technology or OneCard issues?

Because Swarthmore's information systems were designed primarily for four-year students, exchange students may run into unexpected issues. If you have problems with technology (e.g., WiFi, printing, or campus digital services), please use the ITS Service Portal. If your OneCard (Swarthmore ID card) does not work for meal swipes or denies access to a campus building (that other students can enter), please stop by the OneCard Office.

When should I reach out to my home school?

On-site Swarthmore staff can usually best assist you with any questions or concerns you have while on-campus. However, if you have a question related to your home school's study away policies, or if no offices at Swarthmore can support your needs, please contact your home school.