Williams vs, Swarthmore

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Discus: College Search and Selection: March 2004 Archive: Williams vs, Swarthmore
By Subtrunks (Subtrunks) on Saturday, March 20, 2004 - 05:34 pm: Edit

Which one would win in a comparison of academic excellence, social life and prestige?

By Brownalum (Brownalum) on Saturday, March 20, 2004 - 06:19 pm: Edit

I think it's a toss-up, although Swarthmore's social life is, comparatively speaking, a bit muted - in part because it is a smaller school.

By Annakat (Annakat) on Saturday, March 20, 2004 - 11:12 pm: Edit

williams probably has an edge on prestige since it's older and was part of that upper crust all-male prep school world prior to the late 60's that still runs the world. the social life question depends on whether you prefer a tiny town in the mountains or a suburb of one of the country's largest cities; an outdoorsy athletic student body in a frat-like atmosphere (though there are no frats there anymore) or a more quirky individualistic student body. academics? they both send graduates to the best professional and grad schools, but swarthmore far outperforms williams when it comes to producing students that go on to get phds. thats my two cents. i'm biased though. but i'm probably right.

By Subtrunks (Subtrunks) on Sunday, March 21, 2004 - 01:33 pm: Edit

bump... biased in which way annakat?

By Annakat (Annakat) on Sunday, March 21, 2004 - 02:47 pm: Edit

both. dad and siblings are williams people, and i'm a swarthmore girl (reclaimed that word).

By Subtrunks (Subtrunks) on Sunday, March 21, 2004 - 04:22 pm: Edit

Well it seems all you need is to have your mom go to Amherst and your set. ...it seems wherever I go I'll cross into your family at some point.

By Annakat (Annakat) on Sunday, March 21, 2004 - 07:55 pm: Edit

mom did better than amherst. she went to vassar.

By Perry (Perry) on Sunday, March 21, 2004 - 08:15 pm: Edit

Concerning which school sends most students on to Phd's, Oberlin outranks both Williams and Swarthmore. So does Reed.

By Annakat (Annakat) on Sunday, March 21, 2004 - 08:21 pm: Edit

yes, thanks for pointing that out, perry. oberlin and reed are amazing places. just as good, even better in some ways as williams or amherst or swarthmore, but the prestige hounds don't seem to care about anything more than the car sticker.

By Subtrunks (Subtrunks) on Sunday, March 21, 2004 - 10:08 pm: Edit

Well if I knew about them I would have applied. I I think I heard about Reed because it has a nuclear reactor for undergrads which is really cool I might say. Then Oberlin is a great school in Ohio but I didn't hear about untill I had already applied. I also have to factor financial aid also. The fact that Amherst, Williams, and Swarthmore are need blind and give out only need based aid really affected my decision. My EFC according to FAFSA is 333 so there you go. Also I'am a first generation college student so prestige does factor some what into my decision (even though nobody in Miami has even heard about them). I'am postive one can succeed and go on to get a PhD from a great school even if one does undegrad at a community college but I rather be around more motivated students.

Annakat: Wow vassar is an awesome place.

By Annakat (Annakat) on Monday, March 22, 2004 - 12:23 am: Edit

subtrunks, best of luck wherever you decide to go. you're right. going to grad school just requires hard work and dedication, things that don't come automatically with a diploma from a prestigious school.

By Tropicanabanana (Tropicanabanana) on Monday, March 22, 2004 - 12:07 pm: Edit

A point to consider..with Swarthmore you have Philadelphia and Upenn, Haverford, and Bryn Mawr..with Williams you have....mountains.

Educational quality is probably about the same.

By Haon (Haon) on Monday, March 22, 2004 - 04:35 pm: Edit

Swat produced more phd candidates than williams 10+ years ago. Williams produced more CEOs/high powered lawyers/doctors than Swat 10+ years ago. Currently there is little difference between the two...Williams tends to produce a slight amount more preprofessionals while Swat tends to produce slightly more academics. However, the current difference is negligable.

Prestige-wise, Williams is slightly more prestigious. The two schools are academically equivelent and you're not going to impress anybody more coming from one school than the other.

Socially, Swarthmore is much more for a very particular type of student. I'd characterize the typical Swattie as being extremely "quirky"...you're most likely going to either love or hate Swarthmore so VISIT before applying. Williams does not have ANY sort of a "frat" atmosphere (frats were banned 30+ years ago). You'll either love or like Williams...it's a school that's hard to hate. It would still be a wise decision to visit the school before applying.

Swat is closer to big cities while Williams provides more on-campus forms of entertainment. Your decision between the two schools should be based on which school you think is more right for you. These are two schools that are nearly identical academically but very dissimilar socially.

Another important consideration is the size. Swat is ~1400 students while Williams is 2000 students. That's a very significant difference.

Oberlin and Reed are both great schools (both of my parents actually went to Oberlin). However, neither are nearly as great as they were 10+ years ago, and neither are on the same academic or prestige level as Swat or Williams. The quality of students at Swat/Williams is significantlly different than you'll find at Oberlin/Reed.

By Northeastdad (Northeastdad) on Monday, March 22, 2004 - 05:02 pm: Edit

Haon, Can you extend this to cover Amherst and Bowdoin? My D is trying to choose between Amherst, Swarthmore and Bowdoin. I know Bowdoin is slightly lower, but she loves it there and they give best financial aid.

By Annakat (Annakat) on Monday, March 22, 2004 - 09:38 pm: Edit

Haon, I don't think that students at Swat or Williams are significantly different from those at Oberlin and Reed, especially in terms of academic talent. When I was visiting colleges, I found Oberlin, Reed, and a few other schools more intellectually stimulating than Williams. Sure, they're not as difficult to get into as Swat or Williams, but what does that mean really other than that Swat and Williams are in vogue at the moment mostly because of US News and World Report and their huge endowments? Are Bowdoin, Middlebury, and Davidson all that different than they were 10 years ago? Probably not, but the ranking of colleges has taken off and criteria for ranking colleges have changed in the last 10 years (both things silly), and these schools have certainly benefited from the US News rankings. As a result, they're quite popular with frenzied college applicants. Oh, Swat, Oberlin, and Reed (and a few other liberal arts colleges) are producing more PHDs than Williams, then and now. Sorry about the frat comment. It's just that everytime I've been to Williams (and that's many, since I was a kid, and more recently with family having graduated from there) the place just felt like a school with a huge fraternity mentality (see related postings concerning drinking at Williams). Don't know how to explain it. Just my feeling, just my opinion, and I don't mean it as an insult. It just wasn't for me (as much as my family wanted it to be so). You're right though. The places are so different and can be the perfect school depending on the student.

By Annakat (Annakat) on Monday, March 22, 2004 - 09:39 pm: Edit

Oh, Northeastdad, your daughter would not be giving up anything if she picked Bowdoin over Swarthmore, Williams, or Amherst. It's as good as any of the other three. If she loves it there, then she should certainly attend.

By Haon (Haon) on Monday, March 22, 2004 - 10:18 pm: Edit

Northeasterdad--Amherst is academically identical to Swat and Williams. Bowdoin is more on the level of Middlebury...there is only the very slightest difference. Midd and Bowdoin are still fabulous, excellent schools. If your daughter liked Bowdoin more, she shouldn't hesitate to attend bowdoin above Swat or Amherst.

Annakat--I've seen you post about Williams on this board in the past. You are continually biased against the school and generally exhibit a lack of understanding about higher education in general. First of all, Oberlin and Reed are both excellent schools with excellent students, but they are also (especially Reed) significantly less selective and always have been. I'm glad that you found Oberlin and Reed more stimulating than Williams but I'm also sure that you're intelligent enough to realize that the several classes you sat in on won't even begin to reflect what a college experience is like. Most people have different experiences than you had.

Neither Oberlin nor Reed have ever been as selective or as respected as Swat or Williams. Oberlin was close in the 70s, but still wasn't quite there. I'd actually argue that many schools are fairly different than they were 10 years ago. The selectivity of schools WILL change over a span of 10 years, and while 10 years ago Middlebury was still excellent, 30 years ago they were significantly less national than they are currently.

Swat and Williams are currently sending near-equal numbers of people to grad schools. Oberlin and Reed are sending less than either of the other two schools (this better reflects the interests of the students rather than the quality...Williams has become more academia-oriented and less pre-professional).

It's obvious that you dislike Williams, so I'm glad you've realized this dislike and chosen not to attend the school.

I'd once again urge all students to visit Swat, Williams, and Amherst and choose for themselves which school they'd feel happiest at.

By Annakat (Annakat) on Tuesday, March 23, 2004 - 01:22 am: Edit

Haon, I think you're a little sensitive. I come from a Williams family, but just didn't think it was for me. And of course i'm biased. i've explained why only about a gazillion times. and guess what, Haon, you're biased too. I think a lot of people, maybe not folks on this board or disciples of the Church of USNews and World Report, but some academics and professionals alike would disagree with your assessment that neither Oberlin nor Reed is as respected as Swat or Williams. My "lack of understanding about higher education in general" of which you speak, is really a lack of devotion to manipulative ranking systems designed to sell magazines and that make "me" feel better about "myself" if "i" attend a school that does well in them. Sheezoweez, I love Swat, but I don't think it's collegiate nirvana, and I won't try to convince people that it's a perfect place. I'd be suspicious of a student who has NOTHING but good things to say about his or her school. Example: Your newspaper, the Williams Record (now available online), has devoted several issues to examining the drinking problem at Williams, but you would have us believe in your posts that the Record is the National Enquirer. The trustees are even looking into it. You even have Williams alums disagreeing with you on some things. Are you a marketing and/or public relations major? kidding, i know such majors don't taint the curricula at our holy trinity, AWS. I too suggest that all prospectives visit Swat, Williams, and Amherst and also look beyond these three places, then make up their own minds. To paraphrase a Williams alum from another thread, they shouldn't take your word or my word for it.

By Subtrunks (Subtrunks) on Tuesday, March 23, 2004 - 01:26 am: Edit

I will definately see both schools. I visited them already and I actualyl didn't seemuch of a frat feeling Williams first time around but that was during one of those open hosue weekends so I bet the school tries best to market itself. I did get that "quirky" feeling from Swarthmore. I do identify with that but I've also heard horror stories about the school being incredibly hard. I want a school that is academically rigorous but none the lessI want some semblance of social life. I like the fact Swarthmore has an engineering dept but Williams has its program with Columbia. So I guess my decision will come from visiting the schools and seeing which one I see myself in. I would liek to thank everyone for their opinions. You all are certianly entittled to them. And for northeast dad, your daughter should pick what is best. Its great that she made it all those great schools but if she is miserable on campus and regrets not choosing another school the college investment is wasted. She will want to transfer and subsequently lose and alot of the experience. So it is better that she picks what makes her happy even if it ranges from Amherst to the local community college.

By Thedad (Thedad) on Tuesday, March 23, 2004 - 12:08 pm: Edit

Great conclusion, Subtrunks.

By Annakat (Annakat) on Tuesday, March 23, 2004 - 04:09 pm: Edit

Best of luck, Subtrunks!

By Perry (Perry) on Tuesday, March 23, 2004 - 04:34 pm: Edit

Both Oberlin and Reed are being referenced with increasing frequency by both academics and others in the know as being among the top liberal arts colleges in the country. Remember, that Reed does not provide information or otherwise participate in the U.S. News & World Report rankings (which is why it's ranking in that publication is down the list). According to college guides, both schools send a great many students on to Phd's, more than Williams or Swarthmore. If I remember correctly, Oberlin is first among liberal arts schools in sending students to doctoral programs; Reed is third. The reputation of Oberlin, however, seems to be on the rise among many academics (professors, etc.), most likely because of the success of its students who pursue doctoral degrees.

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