Skip to main content

Student Stories

students working together

Why Share Stories of Struggle and Success?

One of Swarthmore’s distinctive features is its academic rigor. But even when you are excited about new academic opportunities, it can be challenging to adjust to college coursework. Many students experience struggles when they arrive.

Swatties come from high school backgrounds that vary tremendously in their resources and advanced course offerings, corresponding to highly variable preparation, particularly for STEM majors and courses.

It is completely normal for new students to feel overwhelmed. You might be afraid to ask for help because you fear that you are not good enough to succeed at Swarthmore, or that professors will be disappointed that you need help. If you feel this way, you are not alone. There are a multitude of supports and resources to help you successfully learn and grow.

The goal of this page is for you to find stories you connect with, and to learn how other students addressed their struggles and work towards success.

Student Reflections

Some ways that students struggle and then find success are universal, or pretty close to it. Other experiences are highly individual. Below are five students' stories, given as responses to the following questions:

  1. If you could tell a first-year student one piece of advice about studying STEM, what would it be?

  2. How prepared did you feel coming into Swarthmore?

  3. What are some differences and commonalities between your STEM experience in high school and at Swarthmore?

  4. What are some ways in which you struggled with STEM classes at Swarthmore, and how did you find support?

  5. What resources were most helpful to you in navigating STEM at Swarthmore?

As these students wanted to remain anonymous, they are described just in terms of a few demographics. Those characteristics are given so that readers can see the variety of identities represented.

As you read these, remember that each person speaks just for themselves, not for a group. Seek the insights in each person's story.