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FAQ For Parents

What is FERPA?

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is a U.S. federal law that ensures that after a student turns 18, their educational records remain private and cannot be shared with anyone without written consent. Under FERPA, Swarthmore College cannot share with you or any family member information about your student without their consent. Students can fill out a FERPA consent form at, which allows but does not compel the college to communicate with you about your student’s records.

The best way to know how your student is doing is to talk to them. Keep in touch with them and ask them about their classes, life in the U.S., etc. If you have an emergency or other threatening concern about your student, do not hesitate to contact the Dean of Students Office. 

How does my student get a social security number?

Social Security numbers (SSN) are assigned to those who are authorized to work in the U.S. for the purpose of reporting wages to the government and to determine eligibility for Social Security benefits. If your student obtains a job on-campus, they would then be eligible to apply for an SSN. Students will learn about regulations of on-campus employment as well as SSN and taxes during international orientation.

How does my student obtain health insurance?

Medical care in the United States is expensive. All international students at Swarthmore are required to have at least a minimum level of health insurance coverage. You can find out more about insurance requirements and providers at Student Health and Wellness.

What should my student do if they get sick while on campus?

If a student is not feeling well and needs to visit a doctor, they can make an appointment at an on-campus health center. Appointments and walk ins are available, students can call or check the hours. There is medical help by phone when the office is not open as well. For emergencies they can call Public Safety.

I am concerned about my student’s safety while at the university. What advice can I give my student regarding staying safe on campus?

Swarthmore's Public Safety Department operates 24/7/365 and is fully committed to providing a safe and healthy campus for the entire community.  Public Safety is the first contact and first responder for all campus emergencies.


How can my student improve English skills?

The Writing Center provides a variety of services and has multilingual writing associates to help with assignments and general improvement.

In addition, encourage your student to get involved with student organizations and interact with domestic students in class and in their residence halls.