2 Strong Bowdoin Essay Examples
Located on the picturesque coast of Maine, Bowdoin College is well-known as one of the best liberal arts colleges in the country. This small school provides world-renowned academics across 35 majors and 40 minors. Because of Bowdoin’s small size and impressive curricula, gaining admission to this college is a highly selective process.
In this essay, we will share two essays real students submitted to Bowdoin, to demonstrate what Bowdoin is looking for in applicants. We will go over what each essay did well and where it could be improved to help you prepare to write your own essays.
Please note: Looking at examples of real essays students have submitted to colleges can be very beneficial to get inspiration for your essays. You should never copy or plagiarize from these examples when writing your own essays. Colleges can tell when an essay isn’t genuine and will not view students favorably if they plagiarized.
Read our Bowdoin essay breakdown to get a comprehensive overview of this year’s supplemental prompts.
Essay Example #1 – Bowdoin’s “the offer of the College”
To carry the keys of the world’s library in your pocket and feel its resources behind you in whatever task you undertake.
To my people,
It’s been eight years since we were plunged into the tyranny of oppressive governance. Our medical system has been neglected, waters destroyed with oil, and freedom of speech banished. At Bowdoin, I will be equipped with the keys to the resources necessary to tackle these challenges.
Just five years left!
By 2027, I will have taken advantage of Bowdoin’s humanities-division requirements to explore successful revolutions like the Gandhi’s salt march in Prof. Mohandesi’s Revolutions in the twentieth century (HIST 1026) class, equipping me to lead us through the revolution we’ve eagerly awaited and install a political system that will ensure our happiness. I will have gained insight into possible ways to clean the oil spills that condemn our waters by researching oil-cleaning strategies under simulated conditions in a small part of the Gulf of Maine. I will have learned advanced teaching methods from my peers at FFLY (Fostering Female Leadership in Youth) group by teaching Bath middle school girls, enabling me to introduce the skills garnered there to the free education program I established for our kids. I will have developed a Parkinson-stabilizing device from my experience analyzing human motion with MATLAB by interning at TriMedx biomedical department during my dual-degree program at Thayer. I hope to later extend this device to cater for poliomyelitis, a disease that has plagued us since 1982.
At Bowdoin, I will not only be afforded these resources but will also be equipped with the keys to unlock them when necessary.
Thanks to Bowdoin!
What the Essay Did Well
Wow! This essay grabs the reader’s attention right away, and keeps us enthralled with powerful language and an abundance of detail. The first paragraph tells us the three issues this student cares about, and then they explain exactly which specific opportunity at Bowdoin will give them the tools they need to address each problem.
The essay expertly lays out the personal significance of each Bowdoin resource, for example saying, “I will have developed a Parkinson-stabilizing device from my experience analyzing human motion with MATLAB by interning at TriMedx biomedical department during my dual-degree program at Thayer.”
A fine essay would have said “I want a meaningful internship as part of the dual-degree program,” but this essay is great because it tells us where the student’s internship would be (TriMedx), what they will learn (MATLAB), and how that skill will help them achieve their goals (developing a device to address the medical neglect they identified).
Not only was this student able to pack all that information into their brief discussion of this particular resource at Bowdoin, but they also did it for each thing they mentioned. If you apply the same lens to the class, oil cleaning initiative, and youth leadership group, you will find they all reveal a multitude of information in just one sentence.
Another strong aspect of this essay is the student’s consistently assertive voice. Beginning with a statement like “My people” conjures an image of a commanding public figure. The student also chose to describe their time at Bowdoin in the past tense, making it seem like they have already attended and accomplished all these things. It’s a clever way to trick the readers into subconsciously associating the student with Bowdoin.
Finally, the essay has a nice infusion of creativity that helps differentiate it from other, more formulaic essays. Even though the majority of the essay is one paragraph, styling the beginning and ending as a letter helps solidify the image the student is trying to create of a public leader addressing their people.
What Could Be Improved
On the whole, this is an incredibly well-written and impressive essay. However, there are a few information gaps that leave the reader a bit confused. Mainly, who is the intended audience of this letter, and what happened eight years ago? While it’s true you should show, not tell, you also don’t want to confuse your readers by leaving out information that isn’t easily inferable.
The reader might assume that the student is talking about their hometown or country, which has been subjected to political oppression, but where is that? Does the student live there, or are they watching from afar? Who are their people? The timeline also gets confusing because they start by mentioning “It’s been eight years,” but do they mean eight years from when they are applying or eight years from when they graduate in 2027?
With just a few more words, the student could have cleared up these confusions to avoid the reader becoming unnecessarily distracted by any vagueness. For example, instead of saying “It’s been eight years since we were plunged into…” they could say “In 2015, we were plunged into…” as that version leaves no room for misinterpretation.
Essay Example #2 – Navigating Differences
Every graduate of the institution should be confident in their preparation to be able to navigate through differences in all sorts of situations.
A Bowdoin education does not guarantee these skills but it does impact a set of tools necessary to bravely enter unfamiliar conditions with the confidence to deal effectively with ambiguity.
If you wish, use this space to share anything about your personal background not otherwise captured in your application or your experience navigating through differences. (250 words)
Several thoughts fluttered through my mind as the Volvo truck rolled my family and me through the thick bushes separating two seemingly dissimilar worlds. Reflecting on the exciting relocation experiences I often heard my classmates share, I realized mine was unfolding differently.
The first day I stepped into my new community, I was baffled at the new life I would have to adapt to—struggling with hundreds of other people to get water as early as 4:00am, learning the local language, and scrambling under trees to get adequate internet connection. I battled adapting for several months until, during a class on the advantages of rurality in high school, my teachers advised me to change how I view my community. I stopped looking at the community from the view of “when will these change?” and began to view the community from a “what can I change?” perspective. Gradually, I began to see the deficiencies in my community as opportunities to make an impact. Shortly after, I opened a small free school through which I helped several kids access education. By advocating for vaccination initiatives, I also helped reduce the diseases plaguing the community.
Looking back today, I know I wouldn’t have done all these if I had continued to view the bad sides of my new life. My experience adapting to my community has taught me to always look for ways to improve uncomfortable circumstances I find myself rather than simply complaining.
What the Essay Did Well
We walk away from this essay remembering this student for their adaptability, positive outlook, and drive to help others, which are all qualities colleges value in applicants. Even better, the student didn’t have to tell us they have these traits. By honing in on a specific memory and focusing on their attitude towards the situation, we get told a story that is comprehensive and detailed enough for us to draw the conclusions ourselves.
This student shows how you can successfully use a single anecdote to sustain an entire essay. Often, students will open with a descriptive story, then move on to a more matter-of-fact tone for the rest of the essay, but this student maintains their story-telling voice throughout. Their somewhat unconventional strategy allows the reader to see the student’s growth in a specific moment, which makes that growth feel more tangible and concrete than if the student had explained how they’ve changed over a longer period of time, as that approach almost always requires the reader to make some inferences on their own to fill in the timeline.
Our understanding of how this student matured comes from the contrast they draw between their first impressions and the concrete actions they ended up taking to improve their community. Describing the struggle to get water, learn a new language, and find internet access shows the reader how the student initially focused on the negatives of their new environment. But by explaining the shift in their mindset, which led to their school and vaccine initiatives, we get to see a new, more mature version of this student, who doesn’t shy away from adversity.
What Could Be Improved
This essay would be even stronger if the student had expanded on the school they started and the vaccination initiative they were part of. These are incredibly impressive feats for anyone to accomplish, and especially for a young person who has faced the hardships of being relocated and having to assimilate to a new environment. Putting more of the focus on these projects would emphasize the student’s resilience and desire to help their community, which are currently somewhat tangential points.
While the imagery in the introduction is immersive, and the restating of the student’s ideas in their conclusion helps hammer home the essay’s main points, these sections could have been shortened (or, in the case of the conclusion, removed–you generally don’t need one for a 250-word essay). That would make room for the student to provide more details about their community initiatives, which would highlight the strength of their character.
For example, say the student started a new paragraph after the line “Gradually, I began to see the deficiencies in my community as opportunities to make an impact,” and instead of just giving us the overly factual “Shortly after, I opened a small free school through which I helped several kids access education,” they said something like:
“At first, I had bemoaned the constant error messages I got from spotty internet connection, which made doing research for my school projects take twice as long as it used to. But slowly, I instead started to think about how fortunate I was to have always had a strong internet connection previously. Gradually, a feeling of responsibility started to grow in me: a responsibility to share the information I had been fortunate to access. That desire to give back eventually motivated me to open my own free school.”
This version gives us a much clearer understanding of why the writer chose to spearhead this project, and the personal impact it had on them. While this is already a strong essay, that next level of detail about their new mindset would take this essay from great to exceptional.
Where to Get Feedback on Your Essay
Want feedback like this on your Bowdoin essay before you submit? We offer expert essay review by advisors who have helped students get into their dream schools. You can book a review with one of our experts to receive notes on your topic, grammar, and essay structure to make your essay stand out to admissions officers.
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