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The Swarthmore Bucket List

Student blows bubbles on Parrish Beach

This list, curated by current and past students, is about what they did, should have done, or wished they had done before they graduated from Swarthmore. Admittedly, the list is on the contemporary side, but some things don’t change even as the classes do. We hope you’ll find comfort in the items that sound familiar to you—and smile at the ones that do not.

  • Play misery poker: “I’ll see your two seminar papers and raise you one lab report and a dance performance.”
  • Go to a professor’s house for dinner.
  • Problematize everything.
  • Publish a paper.

  • Make friends with the evening shuttle drivers.

  • Use the word “hegemony.” All the time.
  • Make s’mores at a bonfire at Crumhenge.
  • Wander Philadelphia on a Friday night. Bump into classmates.
  • Wait in line 10 minutes for the pasta bar every Wednesday and Sunday night for four years
  • Lie in the grass during the Worthstock concert the weekend after classes end each spring.
  • Dance in Terpsichore, a dance recital in which students choreograph pieces for other students. No experience required.
  • Go to First and Last Collection in the amphitheater. Appreciate closure.
  • Be clueless about what you want to do after you graduate, except in an abstract, “save the world” kind of way.
  • Snuggle with friends at an outdoor movie night on Parrish Beach.
  • Sail—or sink—your homemade boat at the Crum Regatta.
  • Read Foucault.
  • Try to get eight hours of sleep one night a week.
  • Pass the swim test.
  • Eat a Phoenix sandwich while reading The Phoenix.
  • Learn that it’s OK to get an A- (or a B+ or a B).
  • Be inspired by the class mottos carved in stone around campus.
  • Stop by “The House” for snacks and spoken word at the Black Cultural Center.
  • Soak up the sun on “the beach.”

Known as “the beach,” the lawn in front of Parrish Hall is a common hangout for students, especially in sunny weather.

  • Shamelessly score free condoms from Worth Health Center.
  • Get to know staff members and hold up the line in Sharples chatting with them.
  • Eat sushi at the Science Center Coffee Bar.
  • Leave a party or performance early to do homework.
  • Volunteer in Chester, just a couple of miles from campus.
  • Interview a candidate for a teaching position at the College.
  • Drop everything at 4:30 p.m. and go to practice.
  • Read, write, or dream about “deconstruction.”
  • Fall onto the ice, or slap the puck into the net, at a Motherpuckers game.
  • Attend a new play in the Frear Ensemble Theater, a “black-box” experimental studio.
  • Be in a three-hour seminar that runs more than four (or five or six) hours.
  • Let out a “primal scream”—along with everyone else on campus—during Midnight Breakfast in Sharples on the first day of finals.
  • Randomly run into other Swarthmore students and alums in exotic locales around the world.
  • Freak out about your high housing lottery number.
  • Ask for an extension on a paper.
  • Ask for an extension on the extension. 
  • Get “screwed” at the Screw Your Roommate blind-date dance.
  • Borrow a Sharples tray and sled down the hill from the bell tower.
  • Wield foam bats for the Pterodactyl Hunt.
  • Take an honors seminar whether you’re in the Honors Program or not.
  • Study abroad during your junior year.
  • Buy 14 candy bars and five chai lattes on the last day of finals to use up your meal points—or get friends to buy them for you after you run through your points during the fourth week of the semester.
  • Cheer on the Garnet at a Haverford–Swarthmore basketball game.

With 22 varsity teams and more than 300 All-Americans in its history, Swarthmore’s athletics program is part of a long and storied tradition.

  • Take a course in a department you never thought you could excel in.
  • Go skinny-dipping in the Crum Creek.
  • Join one of several a cappella groups.
  • Have a picnic in the Dean Bond Rose Garden. Wonder, “Who was Dean Bond?”
  • Bring your paper to a student Writing Associate (WA) to get “WA’d.”
  • Play your favorite music and gossip into the microphone on your own WSRN show. 
  • Pull an all-nighter to finish (start?) tomorrow’s paper, due at 10 a.m. Skip your 10:30 a.m. class to sleep.
  • Point out the “inherent contradictions” in an author’s argument.
  • Learn the Renato Pizza person’s life story.
  • Go to a physics colloquium, or a lunchtime concert, or a lecture by a returning alum, just because you can.
  • Chalk the sidewalks around campus with socially responsible propaganda.
  • Go to Jamboree, a three-hour a cappella concert held each semester, because you have a friend in each of the eight groups performing.
  • Re-evaluate your basic assumptions about the world.
  • Be awakened by the buzzer signaling closing time in McCabe Library.
  • Sing by yourself (or with friends) in the bell tower.
  • Read Plato.
  • Take a dance class for academic credit: African, kathak, contact improvisation, tap, taiko, ballet, modern, or flamenco.
  • Sleep through the town fire horn, aka the Fire Moose.
  • Do something good for the world.
  • Be mistaken for a prospective student during Disco Swat.
  • Serve as a class valet or drive a golf cart during Alumni Weekend.

Student drives golf cart during alumni weekend

Every summer, more than 1,000 alums and their families gather on campus to celebrate their reunions during Alumni Weekend.

  • Mix up Old Tarble with Tarble Pavilion with Upper Tarble with Tarble Commons.
  • Get used to seeing more signs on plants than on buildings.
  • Check your mailbox after class on the way to Sharples.
  • Write, deliver, or receive a Ninjagram and enjoy a Valentine’s Day full of mystery, intrigue, and suspense.
  • Be clueless about whether you’re qualified for a summer internship, but write an awesome cover letter for it anyway.
  • Adhere by the “Swat Seven” and show up late to everything.
  • Create a student activities group.
  • Hoard the 10 p.m. snacks offered in McCabe Library.
  • Walk backward while giving an admissions tour.
  • Do an externship with an alum over winter break. Realize once a Swarthmore student, always a Swarthmore student.
  • Exhibit your work in the student-run Kitao Gallery.
  • Hang out in Parrish Parlors at night and wait for people to offer you leftover food.
  • Traverse the Cobb Salad Specialty Bar at Sharples for one reason only: avocado.
  • Huddle in the bleachers as you cheer on the Garnet at a home game.
  • Have a late-night conversation over wine and snacks from Essie’s.
  • Go out for dim sum and bubble tea in Chinatown.
  • Finally understand the difference between the two Lang centers.
  • Get a hug from Phineas the Phoenix.

Phineas the Phoenix in bleachers high fiving fan

Between meals at Sharples and walks in the Crum Woods, Phineas roosts in the cupola of Parrish Hall, reads, checks his Facebook profile, and on occasion, spontaneously combusts.

  • Start a tradition—like Sunday dinner—with your friends, and stick with it for four years.
  • Make a waffle or two at Sharples. Then put some ice cream on it (even if it’s only Tofutti because that’s all that’s left).
  • Believe you can change the world.
  • Meet with a new friend in your philosophy class. Ask each other the Big Questions. Come up with no answers.
  • Go to a concert in Philadelphia, and miss the last train to Swarthmore. Pay for an Uber because it’s too cold to navigate the subway and bus systems.
  • Form half of a "Quaker matchbox" couple.
  • Watch The Graduate.
  • Narrow down the list of the 27 classes you want to take next semester.
  • Walk through Crum Woods after the first snow.
  • Go to a Boy Meets Tractor or Vertigo-go show and cry/laugh.
  • Play in the annual prom dress rugby game.
  • Whip out your old scarves, or high-tops, or beret, or knee-high socks that nobody thought were cool in high school and rock them.
  • Wonder what it’s like in the steam tunnels that run underneath campus.
  • Lay on the grass under the first flowering trees of spring and marvel at the wonder of being outside.
  • Go to an open-mic event and be blown away. Prepare your first poem for next month’s slam.
  • Catch up on your fantasy novels in the secret sci-fi library.
  • Participate in a Mary Lyon nerf gun war—and run out of foam ammo at the crucial moment.
  • Tell somebody you have never met that you loved their performance, or presentation, or idea, or shirt.
  • Enjoy fireworks on Parrish Beach during Commencement Weekend.
  • Freak out when one of your favorite writers/musicians/dancers/scientists speaks/performs on campus.
  • Climb Clothier Tower during Senior Week to ring the bells.

Students at top of bell tower

Students survey the campus from the top of Clothier bell tower during Senior Week festivities.

  • Cheer on your friend in the Battle of the Bands, whether they win or not.
  • Wait in line for an hour and half for Rhythm n Motion’s biannual show knowing it will be totally worth it.
  • Spend way too long looking through old yearbooks and letters in Friends Historical Library.
  • Talk to people with whom you radically disagree.
  • Cite your homework as the best part of your weekend, and mean it.
  • Try to remember that all the flowering plants and trees in the spring are beautiful as you blow your way through your third box of tissues.
  • Earn the respect of a tough professor—with hard work and patience.
  • Go to the middle of Magill Walk at night, turn around, and look back at a path lined with fuzzy lights and Parrish Hall, sitting majestically at the top, all lit up.
  • Buy samosas every week at the Kohlberg Coffee Bar. Blow through all your dining points two months before the semester ends.
  • Go to a professor’s office hours. End up staying for two hours, forgetting why you went in the first place.
  • Play with the dogs that live in the Campus & Community Store.
  • Find an empty seminar room in Kohlberg Hall for a place to finish cranking out a late-night paper.
  • Take a nap in one of the armchairs in the Underhill Music and Dance Library.
  • Pass/fail some classes with no regrets.
  • Find out there is a Nobel Peace Prize in McCabe Library’s basement—thank you, Peace Collection!
  • Watch the sun set over the campus.

Sunset near Clothier Tower

Swarthmore’s campus, one of the most beautiful in the world, is almost heart-stoppingly gorgeous, with its mix of expertly curated gardens, expansive lawns, intriguing woods, and inviting playing fields.

  • Stay up until 3 a.m. studying in the Science Center commons.
  • Apply for summer funding to work for social justice with nonprofit organizations, grassroots advocacy groups, and public service agencies.
  • Make a mass exodus to Philly or Media during Restaurant Week.
  • Write the longest paper you’ve ever written, and then, after complaining about it for months, tell your friends that “it was nothing.”
  • Wish you had been a student when Odetta, Leadbelly, and Woody Guthrie performed on campus.
  • Sing in the gospel choir—or just come watch a performance.
  • Share an Adirondack chair … with four of your friends.
  • Post a meme that gets more than 100 likes on Swarthmore Memes for Quaker Teens.
  • Take the shuttle to Media for dinner with your friends or take it to the movie theater in Marple Township and relax in their reclining chairs.
  • Make a spontaneous midnight trip to Wawa.
  • Have a friend take your headshot in the amphitheater. Update your LinkedIn.
  • Form lasting friendships with College staff members through the Learning for Life program.
  • Learn something new every day.