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Bowdoin College

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Describe the students at your school.

Everyone has multiple passions.

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Who wouldn't fit it here.

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Bowdoin is very diverse for a NESCAC school, but that's pretty faint praise. A Bowdoin professor actually wrote a book called "Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?", although she wasn't referring to Bowdoin specifically. There are some social groups along ethnic lines, but there are also plenty of people who are friends with people inside those groups and there's never been any tension between them. The LGBT community is small, with a lot more L's than G's. Whether you think Bowdoin is accepting depends in large part with who you hang out with -- the women's rugby teams and the theater program would probably say their friends are extremely accepting, the football team maybe a little less so. No one who's out gets harassed or made to feel uncomfortable if they're out, but I think that at such a small school, coming out is a big enough deal that a lot of people wait until after graduation to do it. All these different types of students definitely do interact, though -- the more you get involved with extracurriculars at Bowdoin, the more diverse you realize it is. Most Bowdoin students are from New England; 25% are from Massachusetts alone. A friend of mine at another school told me they had a "Rep Your State" party and I told her Bowdoin could have "Rep Your Town in Boston Metrowest" with the same number of people. That said, there are a ton of people from the tri-state area, a lot from Pennsylvania, a lot from Chicago, and a decent amount from the West Coast. There are very few people from the Midwest or the South. Politically, Bowdoin is no Vassar or Hampshire, but we are still very active. A number of Bowdoin students have gone on to work for College Democrats of America and the founder of Students for Barack Obama is a senior; she now sits on his national campaign's board of directors. There are like, ten conservatives on campus -- I think the rest are in hiding out of shame. As a public school student, I think it's incredibly easy to tell who went to private school and who didn't, but the class divide is definitely not that simple. There are a lot of international students, a lot of people from wealthy towns with excellent public schools, and a lot of students who are on financial aid. Many of the people I know who are on financial aid are not embarrassed to talk about it at all -- during my freshman year, I was not on financial aid, and I actually was more uncomfortable about admitting that than admitting I'm on it now. Girls actively compare their bargain shopping, which I always think is a good sign that we're too rich and entitled. People definitely would not talk about how much they'll earn one day -- even the ones who will earn millions would never be that crass. There are people who will namedrop or talk a little too much about their vacation house(s), but I've been surprised multiple times to find out that someone completely down-to-earth is one of the wealthier people I know. There's only pressure to dress up for class if you don't like being in the minority wearing sweats, but no one is going to stare at you if do -- especially in the morning. I will say this, though -- I didn't know much about designer jeans before I came to college, and now I can recognize almost all the major brands; I think they osmosised into my brain. There are a few girls who will wear heels to class, but I think everyone kind of agrees that they look like idiots.

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For the first few weeks of school, I couldn't get over how kind people were. I didn't meet my first asshole until a month or two had passed. Coming from a private school where athletes were generally written off as jerks, I was thrilled to find out that many of my friends were varsity high school athletes or even competing on the college's teams. That being said, there is definitely a rift in the student body between athletes and non-athletes. Since athletes can't drink on Fridays or Saturdays, they usually party on Sunday and Monday night, when everyone else is studying. Since a lot of the social life is centered around weekend events, which sport events prevent athletes from attending, athletes tend to do the majority of their socializing with each other. Generally, students are very engaged in what goes on around campus. If anything, there are too many student organizations for the size of the school, and people have trouble recruiting enough support for that reason, but that's hardly a criticism. Being relegated to Maine, political activism is fairly limited, but the Young Democrats have still managed to raise a lot of disucssion and awareness about the presidential campaign. Compared to my high school, which was perhaps suprisingly diverse for a private school, Bowdoin is not so diverse. Black students here definitely tend to themselves, but other minority groups seem better integrated. I haven't yet figured out why the black students aren't more connected, because it seems like relationships between black and non-black students are common. When the weekend comes around, however, people fall back into their respective groups.

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As someone who falls into the "preppy kid" stereotype I will say that I feel like I do fit in at Bowdoin. However, that does nto mean that I only interact with other prep school kids! On the contrary, I think that all different kinds of students interact here--and that's why it's so fun--you get to do things other people are interested in and learn so much from others. Students are definitely politically aware and we do have "intellectual" discussions outside of class. Most kids are probably middle class to upper middle class and on some kind of financial aid. Most students are from the east coast. 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. That's what I really appreciate--people here are so willing to make friends. The students here are all about real fun--it's not just about getting hammered all the time or doing drugs for fun. People here are spontaneous--truly fun. We go sledding, skiing, do silly things all the time. It's about laughing and having fun even in the most daily, seemingly boring times. Maybe we are just dorks, I don't know, but everyone even seems to find something to laugh really hard about in the library. Kids here really have a great sense of humor and are active, proactive, go getters.

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As a conservative, I've definitely felt the huge liberal presence on campus. There is some talk about breaking down racial stereotypes on campus, but I haven't come across any racist tendencies. Bowdoin is a very racially diverse campus considering that it's in the far Northeast and very expensive. There are very few religious students and the Bowdoin Christian Fellowship in particular is quite small. The LGBT group on campus is pretty prevelant, so caution is definitely advised if your views on the issue lean towards the conservative. There is a really large emphasis on community service and almost everyone has some level of commitment to a community service program at some point during the year. Interestingly for such an academically prestigious school, almost all students were involved in some sort of athletics during high school and many continue this in college. 70% of students participate in IM sports during the four years they're here and many are on the varsity and club teams. As an aside, the Field Hockey team actually won Bowdoin's first National Championship this year. It was a pretty big deal. Unfortunately football isn't very big here; instead hockey is the dominant sport and has a pretty large fan following consisting of both alumni and students.

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i have a wide religious and socio-economic groups of friends. most racial groups hang out with each other and i feel that the LGBT scene is opening up rapidly at bowdoin. i think there is a group for any kind of student here- whether preppy and white, athletic and asian, black and nerdy. you can wear a dress and boots to a sweatsuit to class- your day, your choice. different types of students always interact, but are not necessarily part of the same friend circle. one table is the hockey table- all fun guys who play hockey and hang out at dinner for a long time while more hockey players come and go. one table is the freshman group of girls and guys who all live in the same dorm and are shooting the shit. one table is a group of res life students- a mix of asian, black and whites. one table- is a just a bunch of friends, girls and guys probably white, same year. Kids are from all over but the majority is the northeast. there is a range of rich to middle class to poor at bowdoin. there are people who are completely politically active and people who dont know/care. it is concern about making a comfortable living later in life but no one is that worried the exact money they will make or say it.

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So the diversity isn't immense in any way, but considering we are a small liberal arts college in Maine, we have a fair amount of ethnic, religious, and demographic diversity. Coming from a white, middle class, small town in Maine, I've never been in a school with so many Asians, African Americans, and Jewish people. But if you come from a city, the diversity may seem lacking. Fortunately, not everyone here is your stereotypical private school snob. I was also surprised to find that not everyone is from Massachussetts either! So there may be a sizeable fraction of students at Bowdoin from New England, but there is a pretty good following of students from New York and California. There is at least one person from almost every state in each class and several international students too. Bowdoin has a predominantly liberal student body, but I don't find that politics affects student interactions too much unless it's election time or you are part of one of the political clubs. Maybe it's the fact that girls are attracted to the city, or that the Maine's woods scare them away, but the ratio of attractive girls to attractive guys at Bowdoin is very small.

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For all the talk of diversity, half the student body is from New England, mostly Massachussetts. I have always felt like an outsider, being from Washington state. Geography plays a larger role in individual identities than I could have anticipated. I am also an individualist, and that has remained true throughout my four years at Bowdoin. As a result of Bowdoin's collective culture (nobody does anything alone here; they're too scared), I have placed great distance between myself and other students. As a warning to other individualists, Bowdoin does not embrace individuality. It enforces community and shoves it down one's throat. Maybe that's great for people looking for empathy or friendship, but it's a constant struggle for individuals to fight through the communal fog. Unless you love college culture, you'll be angered by bowdoin's student culture, and find yourself constantly saying, "These are good people, they mean well, but they need to get the hell out of my way!"

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