Bright, engaged students who are looking for a more personal, interdisciplinary education on an active campus should check out Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine. A little over two-hour drive from Boston, the campus is accessible by Amtrak and is just 25 minutes outside of Portland. If you think “rural” when you think of Maine, you might be surprised by how much the town of Brunswick offers with over 60 eateries, including a restaurant boasting a Food and Wine best new chef, and two independent movie theaters.
The Schiller Coastal Studies Center, a 118-acre coastal farm is located on nearby Orr’s Island and provides a variety of habitats for teaching and research opportunities, two research vessels and lab space. Bowdoin’s biological station on Kent Island, just south of the Bay of Fundy in New Brunswick, Canada, also provides summer research opportunities with stipends for Bowdoin students. The Roux Center for the Environment has just opened, bringing together environmental, earth, geographic sciences with history education, and digital computation to offer an interdisciplinary education. Professor Matthew Kringle is leading students in researching how diabetes is impacted by society’s changing relationship with nature and social inequality.
Bowdoin has particular strengths in sciences, government (with concentrations such as international relations), English, math and economics. Its strong alumni network and $1 billion-plus endowment ensures that there are stipends not only for summer research, but also for paid internships. Alumni have funded select scholarships for students to use for graduate school. Netflix founder Reed Hastings and Harlem Youth Zone’s Geoffrey Canada, both alumni, have spearheaded recent scholarship initiatives. Bowdoin is need-blind and meets 100% of demonstrated need for domestic students with grants, not loans. The career planning office is very strong and even supports students intensively (including reviewing essays) as they apply to graduate school even years out from their graduation.
Bowdoin students are smart, intellectual and curious without being arrogant. Kindness is a value, and students enjoy collaborating with one another. They talk about their work and not their grades. Seniors have the option to complete a yearlong thesis.
Students like to have fun. At the end of freshman year, they can apply individually or with a group of friends to live in one of the college social houses. Each social house is given a budget for both educational and social events, and everyone on campus is welcome. They are consistently ranked either first or second for best college food. One-third of students are varsity athletes with many others involved in club and intramural sports. (The college offers three-levels of intramural hockey including a team for those who have never skated). While you don’t have to be into the outdoors to enjoy life at Bowdoin, the outing club is a draw on campus, and some students get hooked when they participate in the summer pre-orientation programs. The Common Good is a theme at Bowdoin and students are encouraged to give back—The McKeen Center offers many such opportunities.
This year Bowdoin admitted eight percent of 9300 applicants making it one of the most selective colleges in the country. Less than 30 percent of students are from New England. About 30 percent of students apply test optional. Although just under half the class is filled under early decision, the admissions office points out that it confers no real advantage. Interested students should take the time to get to know Bowdoin, write a reflective personal essay, and carefully craft their Bowdoin-specific essay.