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Remote Degree Finisher

Finishing the Degree Away from Swarthmore

Swarthmore encourages students who have not graduated with their matriculating class to finish their degrees and graduate from Swarthmore, even if the last few requirements need to completed while away from the College. The graduation requirements are indicated in the College Catalog. Swarthmore graduates degree candidates once a year at Commencement, and Swarthmore only graduates degree candidates who are completely finished with degree requirements. Below find additional comments to help off-campus finishers complete their degrees.


Office of the Registrar
phone: 610-328-8298


Caution about spring semester courses elsewhere

Courses taken elsewhere in the spring semester typically due not transfer back to Swarthmore in time for May graduation of that same year.  Graduation is likely to occur the following year. 

May 15 Deadline

The general deadline for completing requirements is May 15 of the year in which you intend to graduate (some departments or programs have earlier deadlines). For any transfer of credit to count toward graduation in a given year, all required documentation (official transcript and departmental final credit validation/approval) must be received in hand by the Registrar's Office by May 15 of that year.

Letter of Completion Available

Swarthmore graduates students once per year, at the end of the Spring semester.  However, upon completion of the degree requirements, the registrar's office can write a letter certifying degree completion. This letter normally has the force of the diploma with regard to employment and graduate school admission, even though students technically will not be graduated until the commencement following the completion of your requirements. For more information about the Commencement, please contact the Student Affairs Division. 

Caution to summer finishers: Expect delays in getting final approval of degree completion over the summer (due to vacation schedules when school is not in session). Careful advance planning regarding your expected dates with your chair(s) and the registrar can avoid most delays of this nature.

Submission of Work

All students should maintain copies of everything submitted for degree requirements. Please do not submit your original copy of anything without making and keeping a copy for your records. Copies should be maintained until after graduation.

Overall Credits

Along with the other requirements discussed below, thirty-two (32) Swarthmore credits are required for graduation. Most off-campus degree candidates will be able to earn credits elsewhere and bring those back to Swarthmore to fulfill this requirement. Note that the average course elsewhere is worth .5 to .75 credits (sometimes 1.0 credit) at Swarthmore, depending on final credit validation here. Some Swarthmore departments, but not all, permit you to write an extra paper and earn more transfer credit than otherwise would be possible. You should ask about this "extra credit for extra work" option when you arrange to do the transfer credit during the preliminary approval phase, and again when you ask for final validation of credit - this option is not available in every department, but ask. Remember, in order to transfer credit, it is vital that you follow the transfer credit procedure required by the College, getting preliminary approval and then final approval.

The Major

All degree candidates must complete a major, including course requirements and the senior comprehensive requirement. The comprehensive requirement depends on the major, and might be either credit-bearing or non-credit-bearing, depending on the department. Students should work closely with the chair of their major department regarding fulfillment of the major requirements. Regular meetings with the major advisor are likely to be essential. Finishing the major is likely to be challenging in three ways: intellectually comprehensive, largely independent work, and possibly emotionally challenging depending on past experiences. The registrar's office understands these complexities, and wants to help off campus finishers navigate these sometimes difficult waters -- feel welcome to ask for advice, we can help.

Four Semester Rule

Degree candidates must have completed four semesters of full-time study on the campus at Swarthmore College.

Senior Year Rule

Normally the senior year rule is met by the last two semesters being done on the campus at Swarthmore, with the approved exception that seniors during the first semester of their senior year, who have obtained the approval of the chair(s) of their major department(s), may participate in the Swarthmore Semester/Year Abroad Program. Senior year rule compliance is calculated retrospectively with the last two full-time semesters of degree work, regardless if the semesters are separated in time. If students have studied elsewhere in the time between their two senior semesters, no more than 2.0 Swarthmore credits for work done elsewhere (regardless of how many courses were taken during the intervening time) may be applied to the Swarthmore degree without being out of compliance with the senior year rule. There are two circumstances where a senior can use credit for work done elsewhere to complete the Swarthmore degree without re-enrolling at Swarthmore: (a) after the eighth semester if the major department confirms that the major is done or approves that the major can be completed remotely, or (b) after earning at least 30.0 credits toward the degree if the major department confirms that the major is done or approves that the major can be completed remotely. In either case, the senior year rule is fulfilled by the last two semesters done on the campus at Swarthmore (or with the first semester by approved study abroad), regardless of the number of subsequent credits to be earned.

Degree candidates who left the college with fewer than 8 semesters of enrollment or fewer than 30 credits counting toward the degree probably have not fulfilled the senior year requirement and will likely need to return to Swarthmore to finish the senior year rule and their degree (or transfer degree candidacy to another school). Students should apply for re-admission by writing to the Associate Dean of Academic Success. Students can explore with the Registrar if a waiver of the senior year rule might be possible, but a degree requirement waiver would require approval of the faculty and should not be expected.

Distribution Requirement

Please ask the registrar to clarify where you stand with regard to the distribution requirements. These can vary depending on graduation year.

The Writing Course Requirement

Please ask the registrar to clarify where you stand with regard to the Writing Course requirement, which is actually part of the distribution requirement. This can vary depending on graduation year.

Foreign Language Requirement

For more information, see point number 4 on the catalog Degree Requirements list.

PE Requirement

For students who have completed 8 semesters but not yet completed the PE requirement, please read this letter from the PE department [pdf] which will help you finish any remaining PE requirement you may have.


The graduation requirement is for a grade point average of 2.0. If a simple average of your grades does not meet this requirement, there is an extraordinary way to fulfill the requirement by transferring in credit beyond the normally required 32 credit graduation requirement. If you brought in 1 extra Swarthmore credit, for a total of 33 credits, we could then not count toward the requirement 1 course taken here that currently hurts your gpa. In this way, by bringing in additional courses, you can meet this requirement. It does not matter what grades the courses elsewhere receive, so long as they are C or better (the basic transfer credit requirement for grades).

Account Zero Balance

In order to graduate, you must have a zero balance with the Student Accounts Office. Inquiries should be directed to that office: 610-328-8394.