There is a distinct difference between how upperclassmen party and how first-years party. Generally, many people tend to party with their teams, clubs, or floormates. This is the best way for first years to access alcohol, if that is how they are interested in having fun. Often, the College Houses have large parties that are open to any student. These are large and mostly impersonal events, unless they're hosted by one of the better houses with more active, and/or friendly residents, such as Quinby or MacMillan House. (The six other houses are Ladd, Baxter, Helmrich, Reed, Burnett and Howell - Howell being the substance or "chem" free house) Other first-years who aren't as interested in drinking often get frustrated that there aren't more substance free programming events. However, as students get older they are invariably more in tune with social events and have more autonomy (particularly when they are of legal drinking age). Invariably, seniors love Bowdoin infinitely more than they did when they were first-years. Sometimes people complain about the difficulty of meeting new people or people in general, but this is a reality of college that no school can overcome.
Social life at Bowdoin has been at times disappointing to me - we have "social houses", which are better than the Greek system, but are relatively infrequently used for activities other than heavy drinking of cheap beer most nights of the weekend. There are other things to do, but you have to try a little harder to find them. There is a significant chem-free sector, but they are often separated from the rest of the students. In terms of dating, it can be difficult to find a middle ground between one-night hookups and long-term, serious relationships. Bowdoin students go to a variety of events - while hockey and basketball games are some of the most popular events, theater, speakers, etc. can also attract large crowds. Students are supportive of a wide variety of things. I am on the rugby team and in the Outing Club, and both have provided me with by best experiences while at Bowdoin. Our Outing Club is one of the very best in the nation, and the Leadership Training program is a particular asset. The rugby team has given me my roommates/closest friends, and is a unique and diverse group of amazing women.
Social life revolves around the in-season teams' game schedules. When teams are off campus for games, it's very noticeable. Weekends are Thursday through Saturday, with a sprinkling of random evenings when you and your friends don't have too much work (although rare is the evening when your no-work evenings overlap with your friends'). Fridays are surprisingly quiet, mostly because athletes are resting up for their Saturday games. For freshman, particulary during the first months when not all of them have 21-year old friends yet, weekends mean college house parties and long keg lines, which get old fast. Most upper classmen steer clear of these parties, unless they're other college house members or it's a particular themed party. The dating scene is a hookup scene. Campus Activities Board and other organizations do a very good job of bringing acts to campus - recent performers have been Talib Kweli, Ben Kweller, and Girl Talk. Multicultural groups are surprisingly quiet and border on nonexistent, while sexual health and awareness is a big thing on campus. A Cappella and comedy groups are strong as well.
It would be easier to say the least popular groups instead of the most. It is a small school and different clubs and teams spend most of their time together. The sports teams support other teams whenever we can by attending each other's games and cheering them on. The most popular athletic events are field hockey, men's ice hockey, and football. There are new guest speakers every week, but I never go and am not sure who does go. There is no dating scene here. There are many one night stands, but not many couples. The couples that do exsist last for a long time, a lot of them ending with marriage. The big nights to go out are Thursdays and Saturdays. If you're awake late on any other day, you're doing homework. We have a lobster fest at the beginning of every year, where we all get to see everyone we missed over summer and eat very delicous lobsters! Bowdoin doesn't have any sororities, but we do have affilate houses that every freshman dorm is assigned to. There's not too much you can do on a Saturday night, besides drinking, because we aren't located in a large town with lots of options.
You can realistically party three nights a week: Thursday through Saturday. A lot of freshmen do this, and a significant number of students drink heavily through all three years (I could be a bit biased coming from the frisbee team, which, along with men's rugby, probably drink more than anyone else on campus). That said, every night has "chem free" options like movies, swing dancing, poetry and music events, etc. Last weekend I went out on Thursday night with the Frisbee team, playing drinking games in one of the college houses until 11pm when we migrated to the pub to hear The Mathematicians play. They have a huge following among the frisbee team, so the concert was a blast. Friday morning I went to class, and around 1 oclock I left with 3 friends to go ice-climbing on Mt. Washington. We stayed in the Harvard Mountaineering Club Cabin between Tuckermans and Huntingtons Ravine. When we came home on Saturday, I went out again to another social house party, where drinking games and dancing were the main events. I finished that night sleeping at my girlfiend's room.
The popular groups are safespace, bmasv, and the newspaper. I am involved with Bowdoin Cable Network. I am a editor there. With BCN, you can choose how much time you want to dedicate so it is really great. We have a weekly news episode and several shows that come out monthly. Everyone leaves there door open. Athletic events are somewhat popular, especially hockey. There are A LOT of speakers and events involving the theater. My closest friends live on my floor. If its 2 am on Tuesday and Im awake I working on a paper or studying for a test. Traditions include polar bearing (skinny dipping at the beach) and middle of the night trips to LL Bean. People party almost every weekend (thursday, friday, and saturday). There are no frats, but rater social houses which are governed by residential life and resemble frats in some aspects, but reduce the amount of hazing. When I dont feel like drinking, me and my friends watch movies, go into to town, or simply go out to parties and dont drink. Off campus we go to movies, shopping in Freeport, skiiing at Sugarloaf or Sunday River...
Dorm life is great, very open, and fun. People leave their doors open and make friends with their neighbors. Athletic events are very popular and there is a lot of school spirit, especially against other Maine colleges. Guest speakers are awesome--often times very revered in their fields. Dating scene kind of sucks--it's so small that it's hard to just casually date because you are probably already friends with the person. Also it makes break ups awkward and difficult because everyone is friends and knows everyone. On a 2am on Tuesday, if I was awake, I would either be working in the library for an exam the next day, sleeping, or chilling and having late night silly fun with my roommates and friends. There are no frats or sororities and this definitely makes the student body more inclusive. Bowdoin is really fun and there are really fun parties here. But it is also ok if you don't want to drink a lot. The people I am friends with all love to party and have fun drinking but also can have fun sober--that's what it's all about here--being able to have fun anytime.
Parties are not hard to find at Bowdoin. If a social house (our version of a frat or a sorority, except College-run and coed) isn't throwing a party, one can usually be found in the Tower or in another dorm on campus. However, these parties can often be fun without imbibing. I have friends who don't drink and still go to these parties, and they almost always have a good time. Beer is not hard to find on campus, but I wouldn't say it runs our social life. If students don't want to drink, the dining hall is open from 10-1 on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights, and they serve as much snack food as students could ever possibly want. Additionally, we have one chem-free social house that throws all different types of parties, just without the alcohol. One down side to such a small campus is that hooking up can often be awkward. It's impossible to hook up with someone and never see them again - you will run into them at the dining hall, in the union, in the halls of academic buildings, on the quad...you get the picture.
Hockey is one of the bigger sports on campus to watch, especially the game with our rivals at Colby college. Other sports can be just as big, it really depends on how well they're doing in the season. In the dorms, most students leave their doors cracked, so if you need anything you can open it or knock to say hi. During the week, most everyone is busy with work of some kind, though many are able to chill and relax a little. On the weekends almost everyone goes out to party, often with a couple destinations each night; though if someone wants to take it easy, that's fine too. Some people just chill, play board games, dance, or whatever on a weekend night. But one attraction for everyone, whether or not they plan on partying, is Super Snacks. Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights one of the dining halls opens from 10-1am (though you can stay after the doors have closed), and let you get chips, grilled cheese sandwiches, carrots, and other snacks. Whether you're hungry or just want to chill, it's a great place to go.
There is so much to do at Bowdoin! Initially, I was a little apprehensive about living in the small town of Brunswick, Maine, but there are way more interesting activities than I could ever participate in. I run cross country and track. Over half of the students at Bowdoin play a sport and the student body as a whole is really healthy and active. Attendance at sporting events is huge. Students are really supportive of each others sports teams and other endeavors. I really like the residential life in the dorms at Bowdoin. First of all, the dorms are palacial. But, I also really like the social life in the dorms. Everybody leaves their doors open and we all say high in the hall. I also love the casual intellectual discussions that take place all the time in the dorms. Whether it's discussing the upcoming election or talking about a reading assignment for a class, Bowdoin students all have interesting opinions and love a good discussion.