College of the Atlantic Top Questions

Is the stereotype of students at your school accurate?


Stereotypes always have a nugget of truth. Our marine biology program is very strong, mainly due to our facilities (2 research boats and islands, oceanside campus, Allied Whale (private organization affiliated with the college that is on campus and which responds to marine mammal strandings, photo-identifies whales and does marine mammal research), and strong marine biology/policy professors. As someone who has served on the admissions committee and who is a marine mammalogist, I can say that coming to COA solely for marine biology is looked down upon. We are a liberal arts institution, and a special one at that, where you are expected to marry a variety of interests to tackle larger societal and environmental problems. We have a small population of strict marine biologists (I admit to being one of them) who immediately focus in on the hard science and never really break out of that. It's great to focus on something, but pursuing marine science so unilaterally defeats the purpose of Human Ecology. My advice, if you are applying to COA and love marine biology (or think you do, it's often romanticized by high school seniors who love the idea of playing with dolphins and living on a boat), is to showcase your diversity of interests and the level of passion you have for the field, but also your desire to have an interdisciplinary and well-rounded education. You're going to have friends doing wildly different things. My best friend studies agriculture, history and anthropology, while I have other friends who study film theory, politics, food systems and herpetology. This is a great thing. When I come home from a day of seal necropsies, the last thing I want to hear about is whale diving physiology. There's a lot to learn in other areas of study, and typical COA students are curious about them. To address the hippie issue, yes, there are some hippies. Everyone who goes to a liberal college adds the disclaimer that hippies are just a small minority of the population. Why would they do that? Because let's face it, hippies are slightly annoying. Theres a social stigmitization towards being a hippie because it is associated with hypocritical free-will but also judgement (what do you mean you don't eat cage-free, free-range, organic, anti-Monsanto local eggs?!!!), a perceived attitude of indifference and laziness, substance use (sometimes abuse) and anti-establishment mentality that ranges from indifferent complaining (dreadlocks) to annoying activism (canvassing). These things are true for some hippies, but for the most part, not ours. All students at COA actively try to seek better things for the world, and so you have genuine, hard-working people who are actually passionate about their views and interests, and who "do things." There are some slackers, but they do not have a prominent position in the community.


Some of these are true but most are skewed. A lot of people at the college care about the environment but that is not their primary focus. You will find artists, political enthusiasts, journalists, and a multitude of other interests. Yes, some of us wear patchouli and have dreadlocks but certainly not as many as people think. We are a vast array of students with different backgrounds and interests but we are united mostly with a concern for our world. There are a significant less number of parties here then most college campuses and creative innovation is important during the winter and off season.