Academics are a top priority for students at this highly-selective New England liberal arts college where everyone knows each other.
Bowdoin undergrads are experts at balancing a demanding work load with a thriving social scene. Half the students play a sport and admit to having an attachment to their flip flops and North Face apparel. The college has no fraternities or sororities, but there’s a weekly party in the co-ed social houses. Students are very aware of the “rich white kid from Maine” stereotype. While the prevalent style here is indeed preppy or athletic, this is largely due to the long winters and the emphasis on involvement in sports.
majority of students are upper middle class, there aren’t many snobby "Gossip Girl" types here. The classes are generally small, although some courses that are part of the flexible distribution curriculum can have more than 30 people. Students genuinely love their professors, and it’s not uncommon to see them having dinner together. While they are definitely politically aware, in-your-face activism is absent on this campus. Athletics are very popular at Bowdoin - the Division III teams have a definite influence, and the Outing Club is the most popular organization. Every year, students look forward to the Ivies, a week-long party at the end of April. But if the on-campus parties and traditions get stale, students venture out to nearby Brunswick or even head on a road trip to Portland or Boston.
Bowdoin is a tiny, highly selective liberal arts college where academics are a top priority, everyone knows each other’s business, and there’s never a dry weekend. Undergrads rave about the quality of the professors and caring administration, while admitting that the long winters call for an excess of L.L. Bean and Patagonia fleeces. Academics are rigorous at Bowdoin, and it’s non-stop studying Sunday – Wednesday. However, Thursday brings the start of a long weekend, with weekly parties in the college social houses and soirees organized by the sports teams. " Bowdoin students are hardworking and really buckle down on their assignments, but the weekend brings a different scene to Bowdoin with a fairly high level of social interaction, partying, and relaxation," says a freshman. The fact that SAT scores aren’t mandatory when applying and decisions are based largely on class performance and extracurricular activities explains the activism of the students. Everyone is involved in a plethora of organizations and about half of the student body plays an intramural or varsity sport. "They instead look at you as a whole person, not just as a number," says a senior. Bowdoin, a need-blind-college, recently eliminated student loans. With a 68% Caucasian population, it’s also one of the more diverse small liberal arts colleges in the Northeast. Although Brunswick lacks a rowdy college-town atmosphere, sporting events may be at times poorly attended, and the tight-knit community can feel stifling, most students agree that the perks are worth it. "
The housing is much better than many comparable schools (especially for freshmen), the food is really great (even for vegetarians like me), and the location gives you both the advantages of cities within reasonable drives as well as being walking distance from cute shops and restaurants of a small town. And yes, the academics, for the most part, are very good, particularly once you get past entry-level classes, " says a sophomore.
Students here are experts at balancing academics, partying, and extracurriculars. Core requirements at Bowdoin are very minimal and offer a broad choice within categories. In addition to a mandatory freshman seminar, students have to complete one course each in mathematics, art, and science, as well as a class that fits under "Exploring Social Difference" and one in "International Perspectives." Classes are typically under 25 students with the largest intro course averaging 50. Students agree that no matter the size, professors make a point to offer personal attention to everyone, making ample time for one-on-one discussions outside of the classroom. "Professors know your name, they invite you to dinner at their house, students babysit their kids," says a senior. This doesn’t mean an easy A, however. “ Get ready to spend some serious time in library. The Bowdoin B is a joke on campus (everyone seems to get them) but you have to work hard for that B and kill yourself for the A, ” says a junior. While some students say that the class selection is pretty limited due to the small size of the school, others disagree and cite unusual courses. "My favorite class this semester is a German class called Robots, Vamps and Whores." says a German studies major. No one is outwardly competitive here – asking what someone got on an exam is considered taboo. While almost everyone agrees that Bowdoin’s education is high quality and focuses on learning for the sake of learning, some argue that there should be more “real life” preparation. "It does not encourage internships, or provide enough funding for people pursuing internships. I think this is a mistake, as students are not provided with enough experience to get good jobs out of college. " says a junior music major.
The most common stereotype for a Bowdoin undergrad is a rich, preppy individual with an affinity for the outdoors. The long cold months fuel this image, as fleeces and warm boots are practically a necessity." Most Bowdoin students are upper middle class kids from the suburbs. There is a common school wardrobe of Patagonia fleeces, designer jeans, cable knit sweaters, and LL Bean boots. ” says a history major.
Although the population is indeed predominantly Caucasian from the Northeast, about half receive financial aid and no one flaunts their economic status. “ Especially with Bowdoin's new no-loan policy, a number of students come with full grants,” says a sophomore. For the most part, students are health- and environmentally-conscious, and the most popular organization on campus is the Bowdoin Outing Club. “There are definitely a ton of athletes here, but what is great about Bowdoin is that the 'jocks' and non-athletes totally interact and are friends. It's not like there is a 'cool, popular' group of jocks versus the other kids. ” says a junior. Everyone interacts on this small campus, no matter where they come from, and it’s considered very strange to shun someone. “There’s a tradition called the 'Bowdoin Hello.' Anytime you’re walking along a path and it’s just you and another person, you smile and say hello,” says a sophomore. Conservative students admit that they feel the influence of the predominantly liberal environment, but although lots of students are aware, political activism is nowhere as evident at Bowdoin as some of the other liberal arts colleges. The dating scene has two extremes – drunken hookups followed by awkwardness in the cafeteria the next day, and serious relationships which often end in marriage. "Bowdoin kids tend to hang out mostly in groups, and since the school is smaller even if someone is attracted to another individual in their group of friends, people tend to avoid serious relationships for fear of throwing off group dynamics," says a freshman.
Bowdoin doesn’t have fraternities or sororities; instead sophomores and juniors live in co-ed social houses, where they throw free parties almost every weekend open to everyone. There’s also a pub on campus, which has a dance party complete with a DJ every Thursday. While the college does provide ample activities such as guest speakers every Friday, free movie night as well as a plethora of clubs for students who don’t drink, it’s hard to avoid that aspect of the social scene. “There are social house parties which are fun for freshmen and sophomores (sometimes), but these get old once you are an upperclassman. However, aside from parties, Bowdoin offers great lectures, plays, and dance shows which are a lot of fun to go to,” says a junior. The town of Brunswick has adorable eateries and some shopping, but offers little entertainment for students who are 21 and over, so they take the shuttle to nearby Portland for barhopping. Interestingly, while over half the students are involved in athletics, school pride is lacking at Bowdoin games, with the exception of Bowdoin-Colby hockey matches.
A large percentage of student play sports but most students do not watch sports. Our last pep rally was lackluster at best,” admits a freshman.