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Hobbes's avatar

Does "Swarthmore College" sound pretentious?

Asked by Hobbes (7355points) December 5th, 2010

I know it’s kind of shallow, but I’m truly worried about telling people I went to a place called “Swarthmore” for the rest of my life. I feel like I’ll be apologizing for sounding like an ass every time I say where I went to school. Is this unreasonable? Am I making too much of a little thing?

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53 Answers

josie's avatar

In my opinion, it is a problem if you give a shit about what people think if you have done nothing wrong. IMHO.

TexasDude's avatar

You are making too much of a little thing. Having an education is nothing to be ashamed of, even if you think the name of your alma mater sounds pretentious.

janedelila's avatar

How does Mercyhurst sound to you? Swarthmore sounds like….oh, Harry Potter or something.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

Doesn’t sound like it to me.

Carly's avatar

I’m considering transferring to Humboldt University. I thought it sounded high and mighty, but it’s almost the opposite by having a high reputation for pot culture (which really isn’t a bad thing imo).

It might sound pretentious, but you can always back it up with a good story so people know the real Swarthmore.

marinelife's avatar

Any more than Harvard? No, it is just another Ivy League school.

lillycoyote's avatar

You are only going to tell people is they ask, right? It really won’t come up much, at least not after every one has moved beyond their college and post-college years and have other things to talk about. It’s not a topic of every day conversation, really. And you just basically told the whole world by asking this question. At least people probably won’t say: “Oh, well that explains everything” when you tell them where you went to college which is generally the reaction I would get until I moved away from the area and to places where most people haven’t heard of it.

And at least you didn’t go to Ball State or worse, Beaver College. They actually changed the college’s name to Arcadia University because they couldn’t take the jokes any more.

Jeruba's avatar

It’s just someone’s name, isn’t it?—or a place name from England? variant of Swarthmoor?

If that idea bothers you so much, though, maybe you should let someone else have your place.

[Edit] It seems to be a name associated with Quaker history.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

No, I agree with @janedelila—it sounds more like Harry Potter.

DominicX's avatar

I never understand people who are ashamed of prestige. It’s something to be proud of…

Furthermore, it’s just a name. That would be like being ashamed of having a last name like “Wellingtonsworth”. The name really has nothing to do with the college. I wouldn’t even want to bother with people who felt animosity toward me because the name of my college was “too fancy”.

Also, I know two people who go to Swarthmore. :)

lillycoyote's avatar

Additionally, it will only become really embarrassing to tell people you went to Swarthmore if you end up working at Barnes & Noble for the rest of your life.

absalom's avatar

No, “Swarthmore College” doesn’t sound pretentious. One could argue it’s pretentious to presume it sounds so, though.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@DominicX Well, it does tend to say that you think your better than everyone else, and if you don’t think you’re better than everyone else or you’re around people who react poorly to people who act superior, it can be helpful to downplay it. There’s something of a backlash against prestige among many people.

DominicX's avatar


I can understand not bringing up how much money you make or telling everyone that you went to Harvard every three seconds to validate your intelligence, but to avoid going to a college just because of the name is outright ridiculous and this “extreme humility” is almost pretentious in its own right.

gailcalled's avatar

What an odd question. Would you be embarrassed to say that you went to Haverford, Bryn Mawr, Amherst, Wesleyan U or Williams?

For the record, the Ivy League consists of Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Columbia, Cornell, Brown and the U. of Penn. They were originally a football league; today MIT is a pretender.’

Some people who go to Harvard are self-conscious and say, occasionally, that they attend a school in Cambridge (but not very often).

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gailcalled's avatar

Swarthmore used to be managed by a Quaker board but that has loosened up. The Friends’ belief in non-violent solutions to problems and social activism is still pervasive on campus.

“Although non-Quakers have served on the Board since 1938, and although Friends compose a small minority of students, faculty, and staff members, the College still values highly many of that Society’s principles. Foremost among them is the individual’s responsibility for seeking and applying truth and for testing whatever truth one believes one has found.”

—I just noticed that an old friend of mine and a birthright Quaker, Dulany Ogden Bennett, is on the
Board of Governance.She had been the Dean of Students at the Friends school that I was involved in; she is a Swarthmore graduate; and her position on the Board bodes well for the college.—

sliceswiththings's avatar

The real question is…are you comfortable wearing a hoodie in the school’s colors?

Hobbes's avatar

I know that judging anything based solely on its name is a shallow thing to do. I know that Swarthmore has a great deal to offer, and I know the name is associated with the school’s Quaker heritage (a heritage I’m proud to be a part of). I’m not going to drop out or switch schools just because of the name, but I still can’t help but feel that it calls up associations with Ivy-League-esque privilege just because of the way it sounds. I know that the sort of person who would make a snap judgement about me based on the way my school’s name sounds isn’t someone whose opinion I should necessarily care about but still… it bothers me.

gailcalled's avatar

@Hobbes: Go to Penn State then. You have free will. Do you live in PA? Is so, you will save thousands of dollars in tuition, room and board and loans.

Or pick the state university or college where you live.

And do check out Swarthmore’s scholarship program. You will see that many of the matriculating freshmen do not come from privileged or wealthy backgrounds. The Quaker schools and colleges are extremely generous with financial aid.

absalom's avatar

@gailcalled: Or tell people he went to Penn State.

Hobbes's avatar

@gailcalled – I’m not ashamed of the school I go to. It’s not a dealbreaker. It’s just something that bothers me, and I wanted to hear other people’s opinions on the matter.

gailcalled's avatar

@Hobbes: Assuage your guilt by getting active in the many social outreach programs on campus. You will find a fairly unpretentious group of kids; none or few will be concerned about fancy clothes or cars. Go to Friends’ Meeting for Worship on Sunday to get a feel for the terrific ambience there.

trailsillustrated's avatar

sounds like a harry potter college name

Hobbes's avatar

Strangely enough, all the people saying it sounds like something out of Harry Potter have actually made me feel better about the whole thing =]

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@Hobbes I wanna go to Swarthmore. Do we learn Wingardium Leviosa?

Hobbes's avatar

You also get your own Hippogriff to carry you to class. They’re only issued to upperclassmen though – freshmen have to sign them out from the Aviary and fill out time sheets and stuff. So annoying…

wundayatta's avatar

@Hobbes You better know how to work really, really hard. They say that Swarthemore students work harder than any other students in the USA. Like no social life. Nothing but school work and good deeds. But they do have a hell of a dijeridu player there. And a nice Gamelon. And they do focus on good works.

I really don’t think a lot of people know much about Swarthemore. I think it’s a bigger deal in your head than anywhere else. It’s a nice place. No one really notices much if you are a graduate. It’s just a good school, and it is far from pretentious. It’s a Quaker school, and Quakers are probably the least pretentious people you could find.

Also, if you go, then you’d be close enough to have lunch with me :) Uh oh. Come back. Come back. Stop running. I’m not going to put poison in your coffee. At least, not enough to kill you. ;) (thats a joke—or it is in my mind, anyway)

Pandora's avatar

Future employers may find it difficult to believe its a real college. But the reality is that after a few years no one you know ill be asking where you went to college. The next 2 big question after college will loom a lot longer.
Do you have a degree and what is it?
So what are you doing now?
Then later it will be, who are your seeing? Are you married? Do you have kids?
No one will remember what college you went to or even care.

Hobbes's avatar

I actually already go to Swarthmore – I’m in my third year.

@wundayatta – Do you live in the town of Swarthmore? Or just close by? I’d love to have lunch with a fellow jelly! Just not arsenic or anything. Something that isn’t painful, preferably.

anartist's avatar

Well try Skidmore.
Or maybe Bennington or Vassar or Wellesley or Radcliffe?
Or maybe Smith is a little less prententious??

funkdaddy's avatar

I knew a guy who went to Swarthmore, I gave him a bad time when he was accepted. It is kind of a haughty-taughty sounding name, so I see what you’re saying. Honestly though it was just something to give a friend a hard time about when he told us he was going elsewhere for school.

I mean, he could have picked Texas, Texas A&M, North Texas, Texas Tech, Texas State, Southwestern, or if he was feeling wacky Texas Christian or Southern Methodist. See a pattern there, Texas doesn’t tend to get too creative when naming institutes of higher learning.

It didn’t change what I thought of him at all and even if it did that would be a reflection on me for worrying about BS rather than a reflection on him for going to a quality school when he had the chance.

If you’re feeling bad about how it sounds, maybe try the pirate accent? Swaarrth-muuurrrrrrr has a nice ring to it me thinks.

nope's avatar

You know, I didn’t read 100% of the responses. But I have to wonder, at what point did going to an excellent school begin to sound pretentious to anyone? I mean, what are you supposed to say? Sorry I’m smart, but….? Many people assume that going to a school like that means you have to have a lot of money, but I know for a fact that there are students who graduate from schools like that based on merit alone, helped along by scholarships, so money has little or nothing to do with it. Please don’t be ashamed or feel embarrassed; instead, appreciate your accomplishment.

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Seelix's avatar

I haven’t heard of Swarthmore, but I wouldn’t worry about whether it sounds pretentious. You should be proud of going to a good school. I’m going to the University of Toronto, and I’m in a program that only accepts 8 students per year, and I’m dang proud :)

wundayatta's avatar

@Hobbes I live about half an hour away, in town. You’ll want to visit the city occasionally. It’s a place you will have a great opportunity to visit if you go to Swarthemore. Take that opportunity. I don’t know where you’re from, but a lot of college students, even those at Penn, who live in West Philly, never leave campus, event though downtown is fifteen minutes away.

There’s a gazillion museums, myriad shopping opportunities, wonderful restaurants, parks, concerts, dance, writers groups, and so much more. There are lectures at the Academy of music and the Ethical Culture society, drum circles, Quaker meetings, Black Baptist churches, and on and on. If you go to Swarthemore, it will all be half an hour away on SEPTA.

skfinkel's avatar

It depends where you live. Few people where my children grew up had ever heard of the school, and would have no idea of the prestige it carried. More important would be the education you received at the school. The notion of prestige is relative. In the East coast, everyone wants to know where you went to college, and coming from Swarthmore is a good thing. In the West coast, no one ever asks and no one particularly cares, unless you are applying for a job, where again, it would be a good thing. So, it does mean that you are smart and accomplished to have gone to such a school, but where people want to know about you in that way, it is only positive. Otherwise, you don’t need to go around talking about where you went to school. And if you really don’t like saying you went to Swarthmore, you can always move somewhere where no one knows its name.

iamthemob's avatar

@Hobbes – I’m glad you clarified that you’re talking purely about the sound of the name of the school as opposed to anything it’s actually associated with.

That being said (1) yes, you’re making too much of it, and (2) yes, it totally sounds pretentious in my opinion. It’s that open “aw” and open “ore” at the end. Drawing out the vowel sounds is often associated with a sort of pretention. The way “Harvard” is pronounced with the drawn out a’s, dropped r’s (but not in the Boston accent sense – the Boston accent is the drawn out a in “hat” and not “haw”) is an example.

I think that it sounds amusingly pretentious. That’s just being silly…so if you’re worried about someone taking that seriously, I would assume that the person doing so is someone that you wouldn’t want to be associated with.

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anartist's avatar

@iamthemob You mean you’ve never had cause to pahk your cah in Hahvahd Yahd< By the way the Rs are not lost, just moved. All the way to Havana, Cuber.

I had a friend who was so anti-elitist that when a classmate’s mom drove them to school in her Cadillac, my friend scrunched down to hide that she was riding in a Cadillac.

It’s all just not worth thinking about.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@anartist FWIW, when I started high school, another kid who came from a well-off family got the shit beaten out of him because of it (as if it was his money…). The high school was about 90% poor and sore about it. So I never, ever let anyone know that my parents were rich – not just because that didn’t translate into me being spoiled or having money or anything, but because it was dangerous to let others know that.

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