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How to Respond to the Swarthmore Supplemental Essay Prompts

Founded in 1864 by Quakers, Swarthmore College is found just outside of Philadelphia in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania. The beauty of Swarthmore’s campus is renowned; the Scott Arboretum showcases robust gardens and delicate landscaping. If you know that Swarthmore is the place for you, read our guide for how to best respond to the Swarthmore College supplemental essays!

Breaking down the Swarthmore College supplemental essay prompts

Swarthmore College is a small liberal arts college that contains just 1,435 undergraduate students. To become a part of this small community, you will need to make your answer to the Swarthmore supplemental essay question stand out. The Swarthmore supplemental essays will give you a leg up on the competition. 

Swarthmore asks applicants to select one of the three Swarthmore supplemental essay prompts to answer. The maximum allowed word count is 250 words for your Swarthmore supplemental essay. 

Therefore, be sure to plan and brainstorm prior to answering the Swarthmore supplemental essay prompt. You’ll want to select the option that sticks out to you the most so you will have a lot to say about the topic. Therefore, make sure you are outlining what you are going to say throughout the essay to ensure you do not go over the 250 word limit. 

Option #1

Swarthmore students’ worldviews are often forged by their prior experiences and exposure to ideas and values. Our students are often mentored, supported, and developed by their immediate context—in their neighborhoods, communities of faith, families, and classrooms. Reflect on what elements of your home, school, or community have shaped you or positively impacted you. How have you grown or changed because of the influence of your community?

This is the time to showcase your unique background and culture and how it has shaped you into the person you are today. Therefore, think about all the aspects of your life that make “you” unique. Think about the communities you belong to and environments you grew up in. Some examples might include having five siblings or how group-project oriented your high school was. 

Once you select one aspect of your upbringing that has impacted your life, write about it! Briefly describe what exactly this aspect of your life is and how it has affected you. For example, having five siblings may have taught you to be more independent or constantly taking part in group projects in school taught you how to be a leader.

Remember, don’t focus on any negative aspects of your life to answer this question, as the prompt explicitly asks about “positive impact.”

Showcase the “why” of a positive trait you possess. Meaning, you want to give context into why you are the way you are. Therefore, select something that has truly impacted you and made you into the person you are today. Remember, that’s what the admissions officers want to read. They want to get to know a potential student who is able to thrive in the particular environment or situation they were part of. 

Option #2

We are inspired by students who are flexible in their approach to learning, who are comfortable with experimentation, and who are willing to take intellectual risks that move them out of their comfort zone. Reflect on a time that you were intellectually challenged, inspired, or took an intellectual risk—inside or outside of the classroom. How has that experience shaped you, and what questions still linger?

In this response, Swarthmore is looking for applicants who take risks. Try to think of a time in which you went out of your comfort zone and challenged yourself. This can be a time inside or outside of the classroom. 

You want to make sure you are describing how you learned something in an unconventional way. Swarthmore does not want to hear you droning on about AP or IB exams and work, but rather, about something unique and out-of-the-box. 

So to begin, identify the main risk or challenge you will be discussing. Your risk can be as big or small as you would like. The most important thing is that you can reflect on this risk and how it shaped you. 

Once you have identified and discussed the risk or challenge, it is time to reflect on how it shaped you. What did you learn about yourself from taking this risk? Would you take this risk again? Did all of your questions get answered? Have you gained new skills or knowledge from this experience? 

The most important part of this response is your reflection. Swarthmore wants to see that applicants can unconventionally learn and grow from certain experiences. You can even now write about how you want to continue to challenge yourself while at Swarthmore. What risks can you take while at Swarthmore? How will Swarthmore allow you to answer any additional questions you may have? 

Option #3

Why are you interested in applying to and attending Swarthmore?

This question is quite simple. Therefore, if you choose to answer this particular prompt it is very important that you have adequately researched Swarthmore. You want to make sure you know the classes, majors, campus life, student life, traditions, clubs, extracurriculars and much more inside and out.

As you are researching, begin writing notes about what aspects of Swarthmore stand out to you. For example, maybe the fact that they have a particular major you are interested in or the fact that their campus is consistently rated as one of the most beautiful in the United States may appeal to you.

So, once you have a solid list of reasons why you are interested in Swarthmore, it is time to write about them! Try to select 2-3 of these reasons to dive deeper into. You want to show Swarthmore that you are interested in the more unique aspects of their school and that you will be a great addition to the tight-knit community. 

For example, if you choose to write about how a particular major  interests you, be sure to explain how Swarthmore differs from any other college that offers that major. 

Ultimately, Swarthmore just wants to gain a good understanding of who you are as a person through this prompt and how you would fit in at Swarthmore. Do not be afraid to take risks or a unique tone in your answering of this prompt. As long as you are showcasing your personality and interests, that is all that matters. 

Final thoughts on responding to the Swarthmore supplemental essays

Once you have reviewed all of the options for the Swarthmore supplemental essays, it is time to select one! Be sure to choose the one that stands out the most to you. Make sure you are selecting the option that would reveal the most about your interests and personality. 

Remember, this is Swarthmore you are applying to! You want to ensure that every piece of your essay responses are well-thought out and planned ahead. Just make sure you are not going over the 250 word limit. 

After reading this guide, you are ready to absolutely ace the Swarthmore supplemental essay question. Good luck in your writing! 

Next steps after applying to Swarthmore 

Once you have completed your response to your choice of the Swarthmore supplemental essays, it is time to submit your application! 

Now that your application is submitted, keep checking the following: 

  • Your Email 
  • Swarthmore portal
  • Any Swarthmore social media accounts

For any updates to your application status! Once again best of luck to you! 

Additional resources

We know how stressful it can be navigating the college applications and admissions process. So, do not worry because we are here to help with our helpful guides. 

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