When Jemille Duncan ’26 attended the late-night ice cream social for new students, he noticed classmates huddled in conversation. While they could easily have been chopping up Stranger Things or Beyoncé, the topics instead were politics and STEM.
“These are definitely my kind of people,” thought the Gates Scholar and McCabe Scholar from Philadelphia.
“I chose Swarthmore because I want to moor myself in academia,” adds Duncan. “I’m looking forward to the challenging course load, the growth that comes with those challenges, and taking this journey with equally serious and talented individuals.”
He’s in good company. Swarthmore, which begins its 154th year of instruction on Aug. 29, welcomed 435 first-year students and three transfer students to campus last week. The students were selected from the most diverse pool of applicants in the College’s history.
“We continue to be inspired by the immense talent, intellect, engagement, potential, and commitment of the students who choose to enroll at Swarthmore from all corners of the world,” says Jim Bock ’90, vice president and dean of admissions.
“This group of students was able to balance rigorous programs of study while still caring for siblings and grandparents; working multiple jobs to support their families; and participating in community service, playing sports, debating, or writing articles for the newspaper,” adds Bock. “This class also found time to share their voices to promote social justice for the common good. We are excited to see how this newest class will make an impact on campus and beyond."
The first-years quickly got to know one another last week. After moving into their residence halls, they took part in communal ice-breaker activities on Parrish Beach, and delighted in Philly Food and open mic nights. They also took part in what have become beloved traditions at Swarthmore, such as the plant giveaway from the Scott Arboretum and First Collection, among other highlights.
“Their excitement to be on the Swarthmore campus is palpable,” says Tomoko Sakomura, professor of art history and dean of students. “I’ve been inspired by their open embrace of orientation activities.”
Members of the incoming class represent 43 states as well as the District of Columbia, Guam, and Puerto Rico. Twenty-five percent are dual citizens, permanent residents, or non-U.S citizens, representing nearly 50 countries all across the globe.
“I am so grateful to meet our new international population each year,” says Jennifer Marks-Gold, assistant dean and director of international student programs. “These international students and Americans living abroad offer perspectives through their own cultural lenses that may not be presented otherwise, inside and outside the classroom.”
These students were among the first on campus in mid-August, to take part in an international student orientation program led by Marks-Gold and members of the International Student Center. Also getting an early jump on things were many of the College’s student-athletes, whose practices and training began in earnest.
"We’re excited to welcome back our student-athletes and compete for both conference and national championships,” says Brad Koch, Marion Ware director of athletics, physical education, and recreation. “Our coaching staff continues to recruit high-character students who excel both in and out of the classroom. Campus leaders have been very helpful and great partners in our pursuit to elevate the student-athlete experience in as many areas as possible.”
Fifty-two percent of this year’s admitted domestic students are students of color, 24% of this year’s class are the first generation in their family to attend college, and 20% receive Pell Grants. Another 17% are QuestBridge-affiliated students.
These students reflect Swarthmore’s zeal for interdisciplinary and wide-ranging study. The most popular anticipated majors among the Class of 2026 include engineering, biology, English literature, computer science, psychology, philosophy, and economics.
“We are excited to welcome the class of 2026,” says Syon Bhanot, associate professor of economics. “I personally find that new students push us as faculty to think differently about economics and keep us ‘modern’ in our thinking. Fresh perspectives from new students are always a pleasure to engage with, and help drive our teaching and research work.”
The first-year students took quickly to their new homes in the dorms, lugging suitcases and carts and carrying overstuffed bags from the Campus & Community Store, with help from their families and student orientation leaders, resident advisors, and student academic mentors. They join a vibrant campus community.
“Swarthmore understands the value of living in community, and we prioritize support both inside and outside of the classroom,” says Rachel Head, associate dean and director of student engagement. “I am so excited to work with our new students as they meet their roommate(s), bond with their Residential Peer Leaders, and receive mentorship and support from their Area Coordinators.”
Those bonds are already forming.
“From afar, I have seen how high Class of 2026 members raised the bar of leadership and impacts for classes that will follow,” says Prince Tardeh ’25, of Liberia, who helped lead new student orientation.
“You are worth every effort of being at Swat as a space, and I hope you will replicate everything that led you here,” Tardeh tells the students. “I can’t wait to see what amazing things you will do here and beyond in the world, through your unique liberal arts acts.”