Swarthmore College

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#55, overall score 60.33/100

Fun Fact:

Every year, Swarthmore holds a Pterodactyl Hunt. The pterodactyls are defeated with foam bats.

Why should Jewish students attend Swarthmore? “The Jewish community at Swarthmore is both incredibly diverse and tight knit. Regardless of their background, everyone is able to find a Jewish space to fit into if they so choose. We provide spaces for prayer, discussion, learning, and socializing. Our events range from High Holiday services to kosher barbecues. We even have our own Beit Midrash which houses ancient and contemporary Jewish texts and is the location of weekly Kehilah board meetings. We seek to be an inclusive, intellectual, comforting, and caring community. We also have a vibrant interfaith community and we maintain strong partnerships with other religious organizations on campus.” — Simona Dwass, Swarthmroe Kehilah


  • Location: Swarthmore, Pa.
  • Region: Mid-Atlantic
  • Campus type: Suburb
  • Public/Private: Private
  • Liberal Arts: Yes
  • Undergraduate enrollment: 1,543
  • Jewish undergraduate enrollment: 240
  • Jewish population share: 16%
  • Student newspaper: The Phoenix
  • NCAA Division: III
  • NCAA team: Garnet
  • Ultimate Frisbee teams: Earthworms / Warmothers

What Students Say:

“Swarthmore is a great community. It’s easy to stay up talking with friends about something you never expected to be interesting, but somehow is. Students have so much in common yet have such a variety of interests that it’s easy to befriend anyone and be genuinely interested in them.”…“I think sometimes, because of the large group of hardworking and driven students all living in close proximity, the environment at Swarthmore becomes suffocating and limiting; we call it the Swat Bubble effect. Usually for me, what it takes is spending a day focusing on things other than my work…The College is working very hard to find ways to break this detrimental environment, and I think that so far they are doing an excellent job.”

COST & AID Score: 12.5/15

  • Score: 12.5/15
  • Tuition: $50,822
  • Room & board costs: $14,952
  • Average annual scholarship/grant package: $46,931
  • Average loan debt: $20,209
  • Starting median salary: $60,000
  • Scholarship for Jewish students: None

ACADEMICS Score: 20/20

  • Score: 20/20
  • Acceptance rate: 11%
  • Student/faculty ratio: 8:1
  • Median SAT range: 1380-1540
  • Jewish Studies major: No
  • Hebrew major: No

What Students Say:

“It’s definitely hard work, and you’ll have your fair share of really tough days. But it’s worth it because of the people you meet and the feeling of success when you finish your work.”

ISRAEL Score: 13.33/20

  • Score: 13.33/20
  • Size of Birthright trip: 15
  • School-approved study abroad program in Israel: Yes
  • Israel Studies center: No
  • Israel-related clubs: Swarthmore Students for Israel, J Street U
  • Jewish Agency for Israel fellow: No
  • BDS vote in last four years: Never introduced

SAFETY Score: 3.33/11

  • Score: 3.33/11
  • Anti-Semitic incidents in 2017: 2
  • Campus crime rate: 20.09/1,000 students (high)
  • City crime rate: 9.82/1,000 people (low)
  • LGBT center: Yes

JEWISH LIFE Score: 11.17/34

  • Score: 11.17/34
  • Hillel: Swarthmore Kehilah is not affiliated with Hillel.
  • Chabad: Rohr Center For Jewish Life Chabad House
  • OU-JLIC: No
  • Jewish fraternities: None
  • Jewish sororities: None
  • Can you get kosher food on the school meal plan? No
  • Chicken soup hotline: No
  • Hillel Friday night services: 1
  • Average Shabbat attendance – Kehilah: 25
  • Average Shabbat attendance – Chabad: 35
  • Synagogues within 10 miles: 10 (3 Orthodox, 5 Conservative, 2 Reform)
  • Eruv: No
  • Most famous Jewish alum: Carl Levin
  • Most unique/noteworthy club: Kehilah is the largest Jewish organization on Swarthmore’s campus, which organizes holiday celebrations, holds Shabbat services and dinners, has social events like barbeques, and co hosts educational possibilities with other groups on campus, all of which are always free and open to the whole student body.
  • Where do Jewish students come from? All over the country.
  • Kosher food details: The school is currently in the process of determining how to provide kosher meat to its students. It recently began offering halal options at both the dining hall and the snack bar on campus. There is also a fridge in the dining hall which is reserved for students to keep kosher and halal meat, which they can then cook themselves or have cooked on the regular grill. Each week at Kehilah’s free Shabbat dinners, we serve a vegetarian/vegan meal cooked by student volunteers and eat challah bread also prepared by students.

What Students Say:

“The Jewish community does great outreach. Many non-Jewish students attend events, too, because the events are a lot of fun.”…“I love that Kehilah strives to have events for every student who may be interested: we have students who come to Shabbat dinners but don’t come to services, we have students who only come to our non-religious events like our barbecue, and some who religiously attend the lunchtime weekly Mishnah study.”…“Despite all the work that Kehilah does to cater to students with all interests, it is still difficult to bridge political divides. In attempting to stay apolitical in order to not marginalize any students, we have created a community that (incorrectly) appears to have one specific political leaning.”

Do you attend this school? Do you want to tell us more about what life there is like? Take our survey here, and your feedback could be featured in next year’s guide! And if you’re a student or campus professional, join our online community Jewish Campus Confidential, and apply to become a Forward Campus Ambassador.

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