This fall, along with 372 freshman, Swarthmore welcomed 16 transfer students-a marked increase from numbers accepted in the past. The influx of transfer students at Swarthmore this year is part of the Admission Office’s new efforts to accept more such students every year. According to Jim Bock, the number of transfer students accepted “[has] been small, [has] been tiny, [has] been 2 or 3 students a year. We’d like to bring in more students to build a sense of community among that population.”
In the past, there was simply not enough space to accommodate transfer students who applied. “In 1996, we had a 158 people apply, but we took no transfers, we didn’t have enough room. The class of 2000 had overenrolled by 40 students. We ended up literally sending everybody their money back,” says Bock. In subsequent years, Swarthmore had 3 transfer students matriculate, and then only 1 student.
The situation put the Admissions Office in a difficult position. “I’ve always believed that either we have a transfer process, or we don’t.” says Bock. “At that point, we had to start pulling back because we were encouraging people to apply, but then we weren’t actually accepting anyone.”
Now, the Admissions Office is making a conscious effort to let it be known that Swarthmore is interested in accepting more transfer students. “Now when prospective students ask the question [regarding selectivity], we can honestly answer that it is about as selective as freshman admissions. Before, we had to be honest and says ‘Well, it’s nearly impossible.’ It wasn’t very encouraging.” According to Sarah Burford ’08, a transfer student from Mount Holyoke, the statistics on acceptances were “definitely very intimidating.”
Now, Swarthmore is seeking to carve out a greater space for transfer enrollments. The change will not be dramatic-in fact, Swarthmore has steadily been increasing the number of transfer students accepted over the past few years. “Last year, we had 8 transfer students matriculate. The year before that, we had 12. So this process has been going on.” says Bock. Admissions isn’t looking to grow the overall enrollment. “We have a set number of freshman that we can accept, a set number of transfer students that we can accept. We are just looking to balance enrollment out a bit more.”
Though transfer students are typically from 4 year colleges, introducing Swarthmore to students at community colleges will be a big part of the outreach program. “We want to reach out to students who didn’t believe they were ready to come here, or afford this financially.” For the first time ever, Bock met with the Vice President of the Community College of Austin this year. Since Swarthmore can only accept about 15 transfer students overall, there won’t be a huge number of students coming from community colleges. But the outreach will allow a greater diversification of the pool. “It’s not a ton of outreach, but it’s more then we’ve done before, which was zero. Now, people who would not have been aware of a place like this could apply too.” says Bock.
Bock believes the Swarthmore community as a whole will benefit from an increase in the number of transfer students. “Students bring a lot to community in terms of experience-they’ve been through the process twice, they come a year wiser, a year smarter.’ Burford agrees, commenting that “all of the transfer students are really interesting people-we all have such varied experiences, it definitely makes for a more colorful community.”
It is also a source of support for transfer students who now have a lot more students around them with similar experiences. “I enjoyed having a large number of students there with me, I liked that feeling of community.” says Burford. “I really appreciated that they had a special meeting for [transfer students], they had a special ASAP workshop, they had several programs that allowed us to meet with this other group of people.” In addition, the greater number of transfer students here has given housing more flexibility in assigning roommates. “Overall,” says Burford, “Swarthmore has been great to me…the transition here has been very smooth.”