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Residential Life Policies

Swarthmore College is committed to student learning in and out of the classroom and thus supports the personal and leadership development of students through extracurricular activities. Swarthmore’s housing philosophy is based on the belief that residence-hall living enhances education by contributing to an individual’s academic, social, and personal development. If residential communities are to provide an environment for personal growth, residents must accept responsibility for their own actions and demonstrate respect for the rights and concerns of others and for the property of the College.

General housing policies and regulations described below are established by the Student Life department and the Office of Student Engagement. Students are expected to familiarize themselves with the policies and rules concerning their conduct in the residence halls. Acceptance of space in College housing constitutes your knowledge of, willingness and agreement to abide by these housing policies. Living in College housing is a privilege and not a right. The Student Life department and/or Office of Student Engagement may, at any time and at its own discretion, withdraw this privilege due to behavior, which does not rise to the standards outlined below. Students who lose their housing privileges are not typically entitled to a refund of their housing and food charges for the remaining weeks of the semester.

Housing Eligibility

Eligibility for College housing is contingent upon full-time enrollment status, an up-to-date College student account, and on-time participation in the room selection process. To reside in College housing, students must be in good financial and behavioral standing with the College, and must satisfy any outstanding fees owed to the College prior to move-in day. Students with outstanding balances will not be able to move into their residence hall rooms or collect their keys until the matter is resolved.

Students are eligible for eight (8) terms of College housing, including terms spent on study abroad. Students may request housing after their eighth (8th) semester but it is subject to limited availability. Students taking part in a ninth (9th) semester teacher certification program are not eligible for College housing.

Conditions of Occupancy

Students living in College housing agree to abide by the rules, regulations, and policies stated in the Student Handbook. Violations of residence hall rules and regulations are considered to be violations of College policy, and will be referred to the Office of Student Engagement and/or Office of Student Conduct. Residents must accept responsibility for their own behavior and act in a manner that demonstrates respect for the rights and concerns of others and for the property of the College.

Official occupancy dates for the residence halls are listed in the academic calendar. Residence halls remain open during fall break, Thanksgiving break, and spring break. Residence halls are closed to students during winter break. Specific winter vacation dates are set each year, but generally include a prolonged period from mid-December through mid-January when no campus housing is available.

When the residence halls are closed, no student may be in the building. Students found in residence halls when they are not authorized to be there are subject to fines and may be referred to the Office of Student Conduct.

Housing Assignments

Most students live in college residence halls all eight (8) semesters. New students are required to live in the residence halls during their first two (2) semesters. After their first year at the College, students are permitted to live in non-College housing.

All new students are assigned roommate(s) and a residence hall room by the Office of Student Engagement. During the spring semester, rising senior, junior and sophomore students indicate room preference for the following fall. Each student receives a lottery number, based on their official class year, which dictates their priority status in lottery room selection. The College guarantees housing for all students who participate in the housing selection process in a timely manner. While many seniors and some juniors live in single-type rooms, the College cannot guarantee that a single will be available for any student.  First-year, sophomore, and junior students generally live in doubles, triples, or quad-style rooms. 

A mixture of class years live in each residence hall. About 90 percent of residence hall areas are designated as gender-neutral housing either by floor, section, or building. The remaining areas are single-gender housing. Although single-gender options are offered, they are not always available and as such cannot be guaranteed.

Housing Access

A member of the Division of Student Affairs , Public Safety, Office of Student Engagement, and/or their designee may enter a student room, without notice, if there is reason to believe that a College policy/rule, state, federal, or local law is being violated. Also, College personnel may enter a student room in order to check the health and/or wellbeing of a student at any time. 

Facilities staff, members of the Division of Student Affairs, Public Safety staff and/or other approved vendors, may access student rooms to conduct maintenance and/or health and safety inspections at any point during the term. During College breaks members of Student Life and Facilities staff will access students’ rooms to conduct safety inspections and will report violations of College policy. Violations may be subject to fines and may be referred to the student conduct .

Arrival and Departure Dates

Students may neither arrive early at the beginning of a semester nor remain in College housing after the announced closing date without special permission from the Office of Student Engagement. A fine of at least $100 may be assessed, per day, for violations of this policy, and the case referred to the student conduct process. Individuals found to be in the residence halls without permission will be required to relocate immediately.

Housing Changes

Requests for housing changes can be requested by contacting the Office of Student Engagement. Making a housing change request does not ensure that a housing change will be made. Students are expected to work through roommate and other housing conflicts with the involved parties, with the help of resident assistants (RAs), Area Coordinators (ACs), Office of Student Engagement professional staff, or Student Deans.

All students are expected to occupy the housing to which they are assigned or which they have selected through the regular housing selection process. Prior approval from the Office of Student Engagement is required of any student making a housing change. Students are restricted from occupying, moving into, or using as storage any vacant residence hall room, without expressed permission from the Office of Student Engagement. Students who switch housing without the consent of the Office of Student Engagement may be penalized $100 and will not be permitted to participate in the next housing lottery.

Housing Cancelations

If a student reserves housing through the housing lottery or waitlist system and cancels their housing assignment after the first day of classes, students will be eligible for a refund based on the date of cancellation.

If a student cancels their housing and food*: 
  • Before the start of classes by 100 percent
  • During Week 1 by 100 percent
  • During Week 2 by 90 percent
  • During Week 3 by 80 percent
  • During Week 4 by 70 percent
  • During Week 5 by 60 percent
  • During Week 6 by 50 percent
  • During Week 7 by 40 percent
  • During Week 8 by 30 percent
  • During Week 9 and beyond No further reduction in housing and food.
* Food (meal plan) reductions may incur additional reduction based on the number of Points and/or Swat points that have been spent from your plan.

Space Use

All physical spaces on campus are considered College property. It is up to the discretion of the Office of Student Engagement, or other designated office, to assign or re-assign space to organizations based on organizational needs and facilities needs of the College. The College offers space for student groups, via reservations or on occasion extended use, as is available deemed necessary. The Office of Student Engagement, or other designated office, is here to help you navigate these space needs while ensuring the safety of students, maintaining the integrity of the space, and safeguarding availability for future organizational needs. The below policy  outlines all expectations regarding this privilege. If a group does not adhere to the outlined policy, they may be subject to student conduct processes, and potentially lose access to spaces on campus in the future.


Use of Space

Space on campus is provided to organizations based on the need and mission of said organization. It is reserved for these groups under the understanding that it will be used only for the intended mission aligned purpose of that organization. For this reason, these spaces are not meant for personal use, including, but not limited to, personal storage or social events outside of the scope of the mission of the organization. These spaces are not designed not designated as personal storage spaces nor should individual members of an organization store personal belongings in any designated space, as the College can not guarantee its safe keeping nor that any space would continue to be designated to the singular use of one organization. This is also to ensure the space is used properly, as these spaces are not designated for anything other than their intended use.



Students are expected to treat College spaces with respect. The College may impose a monetary fine and other educational sanctions, ranging from a minimum of $50, to several thousand dollars (depending on the scope of the damage) for failure to comply with agreements regarding space cleanup and/or destruction to College property (including Swaudio equipment).


Should there be a facilities issue in the space, students are expected to email to put in an official work order request. This includes but is not limited to, damage to the space or furniture, the need for new light bulbs, excess cleaning needs, etc. Students should not attempt to fix anything on their own accord. Facilities staff will address all work order needs.


Should the students desire an update to the space, including new or different seating needs, projector needs, etc, they can reach out to the Office of Student Engagement to bring up their ideas. While we try to ensure space is comfortable and functional, there may be limits to updates or requests of this nature. Conversely, spaces may be accounted for in capital planning projects at the needs of the large campus community.


Access to Space

In order to access spaces on campus, clubs and organizations must request in writing to the Office of Student Engagement through emailing at the beginning of each academic year to confirm individuals who need access. Once that request has been received, an OSE staff member will work with campus partners to facilitate the access (either OneCard for card access, or Key Central for physical keys. Should access needs change, please email an updated request to OSE to facilitate these changes. This goes for any new student request as well as student access removals. All one card access will be turned off, unless otherwise agreed upon, for all students over the summer period. All keys must be returned to Key Central upon completion of your role in the organization, or graduation from Swarthmore; whichever comes first.


In order to obtain a physical key, students must sign a key request form with the Office of Student Engagement for Key Central to fulfill this request. By signing this form, you are agreeing to all key and lock related policies listed below.

The use of and functionality of all College student spaces is reviewed annually. 

Keys and Locks

The College takes precautions to protect the safety and wellbeing of students, and expects students’ full participation in this process. The College’s Key Access Management Policy with full information on the responsibilities for possessing keys can be found HERE.

Students are expected to familiarize themselves with the policies and expectations concerning the Colleges Key and Lock policies. Acceptance of the assigned room and/ or other keys and space in College housing, constitutes a knowledge of, willingness, and agreement to abide by these policies

Rooms should be locked when unoccupied, even for a brief period of time, to avoid theft of personal property. Exterior entry doors must not be propped open and/or tampered with. Public Safety officers, Environmental Services (EVS) staff, maintenance workers and their supervisors, Student Life professional staff, as well as resident assistants (RAs), may have access to master keys for each residence hall. These keys may only be used in the course of fulfilling official job duties. All residence hall exterior doors are locked and can be accessed with a student's OneCard.

Key Central. Key Central is located in the Facilities and Services Building. Key Central is generally open weekdays from 6:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. The office may be contacted by emailing or calling ext. 5397 (KEYS) from a campus phone. From off campus, call 610-690-5748. Keys will only be issued to the person to whom they are assigned.

Locks. Only College locks may be used on doors; personal locks will be removed, and the owner will be charged for damages and labor.  College keys may not be loaned, duplicated, modified or altered in any way at any time.

Issuing Keys. Keys are issued at residence halls or other central locations on campus as part of the check in process for move in.  Keys issued at other times are issued at Key Central located at the loading dock door of the Facilities Service Building. 

Key Security. Students must not to loan, transfer, give possession of, misuse, modify or alter the keys assigned to them.  Students must further agree not to cause, allow or contribute to the making of any unauthorized copies of the above keys.  All keys issued are the sole responsibility of the individual, and habitual loss of keys could result in the revocation of key use at the College, and may be referred to the Office of Student Conduct.

Lost Keys. Lost keys must be reported immediately. Please notify Public Safety, the Area Coordinator (AC), and Key Central immediately by email about a lost key. There is a $50 charge to replace a lost key. If a student loses more than one key, or there is reason to believe that the key may be identifiable, a mandatory room lock change may be required.

Found Keys. Found keys are to be turned in to Public Safety immediately. They can be brought to the Public Safety office or given to any Public Safety officer.  For security reasons, the office will not divulge the identity of a key or its owner to other students.

Room Changes. If a student is changing rooms, they may only have one (1) key in their possession at a time. The student is not to trade key(s) with another student. When rooms are changed, Key Central automatically reassigns new key(s) and flags the other key(s) as due. If the key(s) is not returned promptly, the student may be charged a fine up to $50 per key, per offense for room keys. Keys that provide access to more than just one room may have a replacement charge greater than $50 per key.

Returning Keys. At the end of the year, students must return their keys to Key Central before departing campus. If a student wishes to return a key after regular business hours, the key may be placed in the 24-hour key drop located directly at the top of the loading dock stairs of the Facilities and Services Building. If the student wishes to receive a key-return receipt, they may get one during business hours at the Key Central window. Keys must be returned to Key Central by the end of move-out day each term to avoid a replacement key charge.

Should the student elect to take a leave of absence, cancel their housing contract, or depart from the College earlier than originally scheduled, all College keys immediately become due and must be surrendered before leaving campus.


In all non-single rooms, if one or more assigned residents cancel their housing assignment, the Office of Student Engagement may assign new residents to any available vacant bed space and/or to move the remaining roommate(s) to another comparable space, at any time. Reasonable effort will be made to notify current residents of new assignments.

Care of College Property

College-provided furniture in residence hall rooms may not be removed or dismantled. Public-area furnishings are intended for general use and are not to be taken into private rooms. Students who violate these expectations or fail to rectify the situation by returning furniture to its rightful place upon request may be referred to the student conduct process. Serious or repeated violations may subject the student to a referral for noncompliance and suspension of their right to reside in College residence halls.

Personal beds—including waterbeds and mattresses— may not be added to the room. For safety reasons, construction of lofts or walls in rooms is not permitted.

Students are required to complete a room inventory form during both moving in and out of their rooms. If a student changes rooms during the semester, the student is responsible for completing a room inventory form for the room being vacated and then another form for the new room. Rooms must be returned to their pre-occupancy condition upon move-out. Rooms will be examined subsequent to each student’s departure, and a fine may be levied in the event that special cleaning beyond common procedures is required, or for the absence of, or unauthorized removal of College property from the room. Fines may also be levied if the staff must move furniture in or out of the room. Similar charges may accrue if students leave belongings in common spaces that must be removed by facilities management personnel. Typically, those charges begin at $100 per resident and increase when extra cleaning of rooms is necessary. Painting of walls, floors, doors, and furniture is strictly prohibited.

Prohibited Items

Fire regulations prohibit personal cooking appliances (hot plates, toaster ovens, air fryers, or other items with open-heat elements), space heaters, candles, incense, other open-flame items, vapes, and halogen lamps. Any student with an open flame (e.g., candle, incense, etc.) may be subject to a $500 fine. Additionally, weapons, fireworks, and/or other dangerous devices (including lithium powered vehicles and decorative knives/swords) are prohibited (see Weapons and Other Prohibited Items policy). Any student in possession of prohibited items and/or in violation of the fire safety policy may be referred to the student conduct process through the Office of Student Engagement.

The cooking facilities in residence halls (excluding PPR Apartments) are designed only for occasional snack use and not for regular meal preparation. Students are not permitted to cook in traditional residence hall rooms or bring microwaves or refrigerators, unless they are rented through the MyMicrofridge rental program. Extreme care must be taken with irons, clothes steamers, curling irons, and other personal-care devices. Electrical items using excessive wattage (e.g., air conditioning units) are prohibited. Extension cords must be Underwriter’s Lab approved; outlet strips must have a built-in circuit breaker. No gas-powered vehicles, hovercrafts, or other lithium powered vehicles are permitted in campus buildings.

With the exception of approved service and support animals, pets are not allowed in the residence halls. A repeat offense will cause the student with the pet to forfeit their right to reside within College housing. Students who have questions about accommodations for service and support animals are invited to contact the Office of Student Disability Services (

Alcohol in Residence Halls 

Students and their guests over the age of 21 are permitted to possess and consume alcohol in their own residence hall room without special approval, provided fewer than ten (10) people are present; alcohol is not being provided to any individual under the age of 21, alcohol is not served from a keg and no communal alcoholic beverage is being served (such as, punch), and there is no disruption to the community. Students are required to comply with the Student Handbook policies and applicable Pennsylvania State laws.

Alcohol at Events

Swarthmore College is committed to supporting the health, welfare, and safety of all our faculty, staff, and students, and to providing a safe and healthy environment for all members of our community. All persons while in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania are subject to the Pennsylvania Liquor and Penal Code. In all campus events, the alcohol must be used in accordance with the College’s Policy. Student organizations may not store alcohol in any designated student space. Any unregistered alcohol will be confiscated and disposed of when found. 

Student social events must abide by the Social Events on Campus policy. See the full policy here

Quiet Hours

A student's right to study or sleep in an environment free from undue interference and disruption is a priority at Swarthmore. As a result, quiet hours have been established for all student residential areas, effective:

Sunday - Wednesday: 11:59 p.m. to 7:00 a.m.
Thursday: 1:00 a.m. (Friday morning) to 7:00 a.m.
Friday: 2:00 a.m. (Saturday morning) to 7:00 a.m.
Saturday: 2:00 a.m. (Sunday morning) to 7:00 a.m.

Residents are expected to abide by courtesy hours at all times. This would include being responsive to any requests to lower the noise level regardless of the time of day.

Twenty-four hour quiet hours are in effect beginning at 11:59 p.m. on the day before the start of the reading period on the last day of classes each term through the end of exams.

It is understood that an occasional late-night study session may need to take place in a residence hall room. If a regular pattern of late-night studying develops and the roommate needs to get a regular amount of sleep, the student will be asked to relocate to a more appropriate location (library, classroom, or residence hall lounge).  Should students experience any conflicts between roommates about sleeping, socializing, and studying schedules, they are encouraged to utilize their resident assistant (RA) or Area Coordinator (AC) for assistance.


Residence hall rooms are designed for sleeping and studying on the part of the occupants. Guests of Swarthmore students are welcome to visit campus when the College is in session. Guests are defined as non-Swarthmore students and friends, family, and prospective college-aged students. Individuals or groups contracted to perform specific functions at the College (e.g., performers, speakers, etc.) are not permitted to stay overnight in the residence halls. If a guest of a student will be staying in a residence hall overnight, all roommates must be notified and agree to any overnight stay.

Guests can only stay a maximum of three (3) consecutive days/nights, and they must be accompanied by their host at all times while in the residence halls. A guest is never permitted to sleep or reside in any public location (such as a residence hall lounge, basement, or other public space). Requests for exceptions must be made to the Office of Student Engagement.  

Student hosts are responsible for the conduct of their guests on campus and will be held accountable for any violation of the student code of conduct or other rules of the College committed by a guest. Guests will be asked to sign in for large scale events on campus for safety needs. Guests must stay with their hosts for the entire duration of the event. Each host is able to check in one guest only. 

The Division of Student Affairs and/or Office of Student Engagement reserves the right to require a guest to immediately leave campus if their behavior begins to have an impact on the campus community or is otherwise disruptive.

Before inviting a guest into the room, the student must secure the permission of all roommates. If the roommate does not give permission, the inviter may not have the guest in the room. Usually, roommates can agree about the presence and timing of guests. If no agreement can be reached, the basic principle is that the room is for study and sleeping by the assigned occupants.

Storage and Insurance

College storage is not available during the summer term, or while a student is taking part in off-campus study.  Students should make arrangements for transporting personal items to and from campus and for storing those items when the residence halls are closed (with the exception of winter break).  Please contact the Office of Student Engagement for a list of suggested storage vendors. There are many locations off-campus that offer students summer and winter break storage options. Students must work with these companies directly as they are not managed by the College.

A limited amount of storage may be available to international students who are not able to travel home during the summer term and others with extenuating circumstances. Please contact the Office of Student Engagement to determine eligibility for this option.  

The insurance program for the College is designed to provide protection for College property and does not include the property of students or others. Students and their parents are strongly urged to review their insurance plan to be sure that coverage is extended to include personal effects while at college. The College assumes no responsibility for stored items; students store items at their own risk.

Food (meal) Requirement

All students living in campus housing must participate in the College’s meal plan. The College's meal plan is done through Swarthmore Dining Services (the Dining Center). More information can be found at Swarthmore Dining (  

Cable and Internet

Limited cable access is provided throughout the residence halls. Splicing into a cable line or installing a satellite dish is a violation of College policy. Wireless network access is provided in all residence halls. The use of personal wireless access points is prohibited as they may interfere with the College-provided service.

Summer Housing

The College, as a service for faculty and their student researchers, provides a limited amount of summer housing. Summer housing priority is given to international students and students conducting research with faculty members. If additional College housing is available, other active students are eligible to apply (e.g. students who wish to work on-campus during the summer or hold a local internship). Information about summer housing options are made available after spring break by the Office of Student Engagement. 

Off-Campus Housing

Rising Sophomores, Juniors, and Seniors have the option to live in non-College owned housing for the upcoming academic year.  If you are an enrolled, on-campus student, who is planning to live in non-College owned housing, you must give formal notice to the Office of Student Engagement prior the Spring Housing Lottery or December Lottery.  The Intent to Live Off-Campus Application is located on the Housing Portal located in MySwarthmore in the Student Menu, and will be available prior to the Spring and December housing lotteries for the following semester.

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