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Swarthmore College 2020-21 Supplemental Essay Prompt Guide

Regular Decision: 

Swarthmore College 2020-21 Application Essay Question Explanations 

The Requirements: 1 essay of 250 words

Supplemental Essay Type(s): Community, Why

As part of the Common or Coalition Application, you will be asked to submit no more than 250 words in response to a short answer question. For the 2020-2021 admissions cycle, students will be asked to choose one of the following three questions:

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?

Swarthmore is starting with a fastball right down the middle of the plate. Everybody has a story, every applicant has been shaped by their home, school, and community — but Swarthmore is only asking you to write about one aspect of your upbringing and development. So, how have you changed because of your community? Maybe growing up as one of six children taught you how to be resourceful and independent (since your parents were pretty busy raising a half dozen children while working full-time!). Perhaps your faith has been very important to you, and you found a community of like-minded people in your local mosque. Think about the activities, experiences, or elements in your life that have propelled your growth and shaped your view of the world. We’ll bet you’ll have a few options to choose from if you give it a ponder!

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?

Colleges looove to hear about times when students have gotten excited about learning or took intellectual risks! So, rise to the challenge and give admissions something of substance to chew on. When have you felt inspired or challenged? Maybe you had to plan an event for your club at school, and found yourself facing obstacles you had never encountered before (How many seats will we need? Where will students hang their coats? How much food should we order? What kind of food should we order?!). How did you rise to the occasion? Perhaps you needed to code a spreadsheet for a LARP game you created with your friends. What was frustrating about creating the formulas, and what was the end result? Be sure to focus on what aspects of the experience you choose pushed you to learn, act, or relate in a new way.

Why are you interested in applying to and attending Swarthmore?

Swarthmore sure doesn’t leave you much room to explain why you would like to attend one of US News and World Report’s top 3 liberal arts colleges! We suspect that the goal is to force you to cut straight to the chase. Beyond the typical reasons, why do you really want to go to Swarthmore? What will you get out of this experience that you couldn’t possibly get at any other school? Though the essay may be short, we suggest you give yourself a good chunk of time to research the school and learn about what it’s actually like to attend. For a small school like Swarthmore, a campus visit can make all the difference (both in the eyes of the school, and in your ability to connect on a personal level). Gather as much information as you can so that you can pack your brief paragraph with detail. You’ll demonstrate your commitment to the school while also showcasing your unique perspective!

Please note: the information below relates to last year's essay prompts. We are going to update this guide with the prompts for 2021-22 as soon as they become available. Check back soon!
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