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Bowdoin, like any school, can be what you make of it. It can seem like a small school dominated by New England prep school kids who like to get drunk, or you can seek out the many people who are not this way. Bowdoin has many material perks - 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. I would comment that school spirit and traditions don't seem to be very important here.
The best thing about Bowdoin--and this is probably more a recommendation to small liberal arts colleges in general--is the access to faculty and the mentoring that happens on campus. This is especially apparent in the sciences, where faculty mentoring can make all the difference. I'm in an intro biology class right now, and not only do both of the professors know my name, one of them has even shared some advice with me during office hours. When I see him in passing around campus, he'll often ask me if I've identified any birds recently (he's an ornithologist) or if I have any questions about ecology in general. These little encounters really make me appreciate the size of Bowdoin and the amount professors invest in their students. At a large university, I don't imagine professors make much time for a freshman biology aspirant. Here, it's unusual for a serious science major to graduate without having spent a significant amount of time working in a professors lab, probably graduating as a published author.
When I was first looking at colleges my junior and senior year in high school, I was convinced that I wanted a huge student body. Coming from a small private school in Baltimore, I felt that I needed to have that experience. When I started looking into Bowdoin, the class size was the one thing that made me hesitant about applying, despite the fact that I loved everything else about it--the social house system, the balance of athletics and academics, the food (of course), the campus, the location, etc. I decided that regardless of what size school I went to, I would have significantly more classmates than the 75 I had in high school, so either way, I was going to have a plenty of different experiences. When I got here my freshman year, I found that the class size was practically perfect. Enough people to always be meeting new ones and small enough that I didn't feel overwhelmed. One experience that I'll never forget is when the women's Field Hockey team won Bowdoin's first ever National Championship. The entire campus was at the field house at 1 am on Saturday night to greet them. One of the houses off campus threw them a huge party and practically the entire campus was there, supporting the team until 5 o'clock in the morning. Even security guards were there when the team got off the bus, taking pictures and cheering them on with the rest of campus. It really was a huge testament to our incredible school spirit.
Bowdoin is an amazing school. The people are kind and welcoming and truly make the Bowdoin experience. First year housing is unlike any other schools. All of the dorms were completely remodeled within the last two years. We have the top one or two dining services in the country, which becomes important when you're eating at the dining hall three times a day for months at a time. The size of the school is just right. At first I thought it would be too small, but now I love the fact that anywhere I go, I'm bound to see a familiar face. When I go into the dining halls, walk through Smith Union (the student center), or come out of the library I always see a friendly face and hear a nice hello. It really fosters a great sense of community among the students. People at Bowdoin tend to be really close with people from their freshmen dorms, which is great for most people, and not so great for others. The social house system also really fosters this because many parties at the beginning of the year center around affiliates of that particular house. Bowdoin's administration is extremely efficient, from the time you're a pre-frosh going through the admissions cycle, to course registration, to security on weekends. I have never run into any issues regarding the administration, which cannot be said of students at many other schools. One of my only complaints is the lack of school spirit exhibited by students at any time other than during a Bowdoin-Colby hockey game (which is one of the best nights of the whole year). The majority of even men's football, hockey, and basketball games are only sparsely attended, and when students do attend, they is lackluster spirit. All in all though, Bowdoin has been a great experience so far.
The best thing about Bowdoin is most definetly the people. Everyone is unbelievably friendly and, for the most part optomistic and happy. People are active and upbeat about life and want to make the best of most situations. I suppose that is the kind of mentality needed to trudge through the difficult winter months. If I could change one thing about Bowdoin I think I would have more dances and organized date events. Dating life at Bowdoin is tough, and people tend to hook up instead of actively date. And when I say "date" I don't mean 3-year relationships leading to marriage. I simply mean taking someone to dinner in town or going out to a movie. 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. Maybe if there were more organized dances and formals students would eventually come around, get excited about them and actually start attending, as opposed to falling into the groove of one drunken social house bump-n-grind after another. I would say Bowdoin's a bit too small. Everyone knows everyone else's business. I know what some kids did last weekend and I've never even spoken to them. If you go to school with someone at Bowdoin that you went to high school with, or that your cousin went to high school with, you know all of their high school business before they even get to school. Likewise, as in high school, people quickly become comfortable in one group of friends and oftentimes stay in that group with minimal changes for most of their Bowdoin career. However, the great think about the relative smallness of the school is that people are easy to find, and if a person is on campus they're no more than a five-minute walk away. this makes for easy lunch-dates with a friend you haven't seen in a while, and it also allows people to easily access new areas of campus and new groups of people. Likewise, it's easy to meet new people because classes are small, and people are approachable enough that if at any time a person is curious about another group of people they will most likely be welcome with open arms to party/hang out with that group. As long as a person avoids the gossip-trend and continues to pursue new and different relationships, the size of the school is not a problem. But if you're someone who socializes as though they are still in high school, your Bowdoin experience may start to resemble your high school one. It's a personal choice. Depending on the time of year I spend my time in different parts of campus. During the fall, for instance, I spent a lot of my time at Smith Union (known by students as "The Union,") doing work over a chai tea latte, talking with friends, checking mail or buying a drink from the C-Store. I also spent a lot of my time outside playing intramural soccer on Farley field or running to the Organic garden about 2 miles from campus. The weather in the fall is so beautiful that most students spend a lot of time outside. In the winter, however, I spend a lot of time in my room to avoid traveling to much outdoors. The roads get icy and it's often difficult to navigate the ominous "black ice" that has caused a couple injuries on campus this year.It's common for more students to stick to their dorms or apartments during winter months for this reason, though everything on campus is so close that traveling between buildings isn't too terrible. However, the places that everyone spends a lot of time in are definetly the two dining halls, Moulton and Thorne. This is due to the fact that Bowdoin has unbelievable food at EVERY meal, so students opt for dining hall food over the Kraft Mac-n-cheese and pop tarts in the dorm type meals prefered by students from some other colleges. Likewise, Bowdoin students are very friendly, fairly relaxed kids who appreciate a nice, long meal and conversation with friends, so many students will meet a friend for a meal three times a day and stay until other responsibilities can be put off no longer. The longest I personally have stayed in a dining hall is 1 1/2 hours. Brunswick is no New York City or Chicago, but it's a legitimate college town with a few bars, several nice restaurants, two killer ice-cream shops, two coffee shop, a major grocery store and a natural foods store, ethnic restaurants , clothing stores, banks, sweet shops and bakeries, unbelievable homemade donut shop to contrast a Dunkin' Donuts, discount stores, a tattoo parlor, a small record store, notorious retro movie-rental shop, a great single-theatre cinema that shows movies a few weeks after they've left the major cinema and even an adorable knitting shop, to name some. And what I just described is only off of Brunswick's Maine Street, which students can walk to. If a person has a car they can find lots of the major chains (Starbucks, Target, KFC, McDonald's), a high school, and a couple car dealerships five minutes away in Cook's Corner or in the more commercial side of Brunswick. In Brunswick you will NOT find up-scale shopping or super-chic boutiques, but the town meets most of an individuals basic needs. And for the kids craving more of a city environment, I recommend they take the 10-20 minute drives to Freeport or Portland. If 20 minutes by car sounds too far a distance to Neiman Marcus, I suggest you find another school. I would say Bowdoin's administration is very accessible, which is inherent at a smaller school. Most any teacher, coach or administrator is easily-accessible through email or phone, and they will happily meet with students to answer questions or even to share a meal or coffee. I will say that I expected there to be more student-teacher and student-administrator interaction than there is, but that isn't due to lack of access between the two, but unfortunately possibly due to lack of interest to pursue these interactions. When it comes to legislation and changes in college life, however, Bowdoin's administration seems to be quite open to student suggestion and opinion. Overall I believe the student body feels the administration is invested in making Bowdoin the best place possible for its students and faculty. The biggest recent controversy was the faculty's decision to eliminate Credit-D-Fail as an option for all students (starting with the class of 2012) trying to fulfill their distribution requirements with the Credit-D-Fail option. This decision was greatly opposed by many students, several of whom protested the motion before the faculty meeting during which the faculty would cast their votes. Many people were infuriated by the decision, saying that it will lead students to quit trying unique courses out of fear of doing poorly and hurting their GPA. Those who supported the decision claimed that Bowdoin students should not be exempted from working hard in classes they are challenged in and simply fall back on the Credit-D-Fail option. Supporters also believed the Credit-D-Fail option undercuts the distribution requirements instead of supporting them. There isn't a whole lot of school pride a
The best thing about Bowdoin is definitely the fact that you know everyone. Obviously, there are situations where that might be a pain, but in general, I love being able to walk around campus and know the names of half the people I pass. The size also helps the school really take care of its students -- the food and the housing wouldn't be so good if the facilities had to manage a population twice this size. The only reason that I would want Bowdoin to be bigger is so that we could get more prestigious speakers and music artists. Other than that, the size is perfect -- I really like that I wtill get to know most of my class by graduation. I spend most of my time on campus in my social house or in the Union. The rooms are so big that I really never want to leave, but I try to make use of a few really good study spots. Bowdoin has lots of random study rooms with amazing old furniture and huge windows that I never spend enough time in. Brunswick is by no means a college town, but it is really nice -- the town of Amherst might be the only NESCAC town that's bigger (but still worth visiting). There's a Hannaford's and a 7/11, a movie theater, a bunch of thrift stores, a ton of restaurants (the highlights are Shere Punjab, an Indian restaurant, and Frontier Cafe, which is overpriced but gives you an awesome view of the river). If you can get a car, there's also a bunch of bigger stores in another part of Brunswick called Cooks Corner, where there's a much bigger movie theater and a Starbucks, as well as even more shopping in Freeport ten minutes away, and more stuff in Portland twenty-five minutes away. There are a few bars in Brunswick that seniors do actually go to, but I've never been there because they're pretty strict about fakes. Town-gown relations are good, for the most part -- we've had some problems with high schoolers trying to get into our house parties, but I've never heard of any of them actually getting inside. The Bowdoin administration is pretty accessible; I've babysat for the Dean and they all meet with the student government every month to talk about whatever issues come up. I think one problem Bowdoin has is the tendency to let some problems remain unsolved in favor of one big sweeping solution -- for example, the Health Center and the gym both really should be renovated, but instead of doing it now, they're going to build a fancy schmancy "Wellness Center" for both in 2010. That's kind of a small complaint, though. There was a controversy on campus recently over some hazing, but it was unbelievably tame as far as hazing horror stories go. Some people on the sailing team posted their "initiation" photos on Webshots (not even Facebook) and there was an inquiry, but believe me, I am not shilling for Bowdoin when I say there are seriously no hazing problems here. It was one woman claiming to be a "hazing expert" trying to raise some publicity for herself and one team that gave their photo album the wrong name. There's definitely a lot of school pride at Bowdoin -- it can almost make you feel weird if you aren't 100% happy all the time because everyone else seems to be. There's also a big rivalry with the other two Maine colleges -- you can always hear us shouting "mules are sterile!" at the hockey game with Colby. One thing that's unusual at Bowdoin that I really would have liked to know is that there is technically a ban against hard liquor and drinking games on campus, even if you're 21. In practice, this doesn't really have any effect, and it basically sanctions beer drinking -- but if you have a party in your room with either of those things and Security happens to come, it can be a real pain to deal with. As long as you're responsible, though, you probably won't even attract their attention.
Alex SophomoreReviews provided by: Unigo