How to Get Into Bowdoin: Admissions Stats + Tips
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- How Hard Is It to Get Into Bowdoin College?
- Average Academic Profile of Accepted Bowdoin Students
- What is Bowdoin College Looking for?
- How to Improve Your Chances of Getting into Bowdoin
Situated in the town of Brunswick, right on the jagged coastline of Southern Maine, is Bowdoin College. Since its founding, Bowdoin has made for itself a reputation of being rigorous, selective, historical, and driven by a sharp awareness of the common good.
The Bowdoin education, a traditional liberal arts education, emphasizes independent thinking, individual action, and social responsibility. The Bowdoin student is collaborative, inquisitive, a critical thinker, empathetic, and believes that we come together with the understanding that there is something bigger than ourselves.
Interested in applying to Bowdoin? Read on for a deep dive into what it takes to get accepted.
How Hard Is It to Get Into Bowdoin College?
For the 2020–2021 admissions cycle, Bowdoin received 9,402 applicants, of which 861 were accepted. This means that last year, Bowdoin’s acceptance rate was 9.1%, making it a highly selective school. That same year, Bowdoin received 1,123 early decision applicants, of which 242 were accepted, which yields a 21% acceptance rate for early decision. Bowdoin does not have early action.
While Bowdoin’s acceptance rate is incredibly low, your personal chances of acceptance may actually be higher or lower, depending on your profile strength.
To better understand your chances at X College, we recommend using our free admissions calculator. Using your grades, test scores, extracurriculars, and more, we’ll estimate your odds of acceptance, and give you tips on improving your profile!
Average Academic Profile of Accepted Bowdoin Students
Of this year’s first-year students at Bowdoin, 84% graduated in the top 10% of their high school class, and 97% graduated in the top 25%. A full 100% graduated in the top half.
While many colleges are now test optional, Bowdoin was the first school to eliminate standardized testing requirements! Bowdoin will review test scores if you choose to submit them, but students who do not will not be at a disadvantage. 67% of this year’s freshmen at Bowdoin submitted SAT scores, and 40% submitted ACT scores. The top 25% of students scored above a 1510 on the SAT, and above a 34 on the ACT.
Bowdoin does not offer secondary school GPA information, but given that more than three-quarters of admitted students graduated in the top 10% of their class, you should aim for all A’s.
What is Bowdoin College Looking for?
Beyond the classic qualities of traditional liberal arts colleges—intellectual curiosity, critical thinking, student-faculty collaboration—Bowdoin differentiates itself with The Common Good, best described as a commitment to thinking and acting in order to benefit society. This doesn’t necessarily mean the ideal student needs to have a service-heavy application; it simply means that the student has a larger view of the world, and an understanding that no matter the field we’re in, we can make them more accessible and ethical by making space for empathy, understanding, context, and history.
Keeping with its core values and mission, Bowdoin is need-blind, meaning that admissions officers will not factor in a student’s ability to pay for college when making acceptance decisions. Regardless of financial need, Bowdoin wants students who have been academically ambitious in high school, who demonstrate curiosity and a willingness to take intellectual risks, and who want to make an impact in the world.
How Bowdoin Evaluates Applications
According to their 2020-2021 Common Data Set, Bowdoin considers the following factors “very important” in a student’s application:
- Course rigor
- Class rank
- Academic GPA
- Application essay
- Extracurricular activities
- Character/personal qualities
These factors are “important”:
- Standardized test scores
These are “considered”:
- First generation
- Alumni/ae relation
- Geographical residence
- State residency
- Racial/ethnic status
- Volunteer work
- Work experience
And these are “not considered”:
- Religious affiliation/commitment
- Level of applicant’s interest
How to Improve Your Chances of Getting into Bowdoin
1. Aim for all A’s while taking the most challenging classes available
While Bowdoin doesn’t have a “cut-off” GPA, accepted applicants across the board have strong academics. Since almost 100% of enrolled first-years last year graduated in the top quarter of their class, a competitive candidate for Bowdoin will need to have A’s in nearly every class. Additionally, Bowdoin wants to see that students challenge themselves, so you should try and take advanced honors, AP, or IB classes.
If your GPA is lower, and you’re still a freshman or sophomore in your high school, check out our tips for increasing your GPA. If you’re a junior or senior, it will be harder to increase your GPA, so the easiest way to increase your Academic Index is to get a higher test score.
2. Cultivate at least one or two Tier 1-2 extracurriculars (find your “spike”)
For a socially-engaged and impact-focused college like Bowdoin, you especially want to make sure that your extracurriculars reflect that you are serious about making the world a better place. Of course, your activities don’t have to be limited to service activities. If you are passionate about something, Bowdoin will want to see it.
In general, any activity that you do regularly outside the classroom counts as an extracurricular, as long as you can demonstrate that the activity has contributed to your growth as an individual. However, not all extracurriculars are created equal. Extracurricular activities can generally be divided into four “tiers.” To increase your chances at Bowdoin, you should have one to two “Tier 1” or “Tier 2” extracurriculars.
- Tier 1 activities demonstrate exceptional talent, achievement, leadership, or merit. Activities and roles on the national level or which garner field-wide recognition count as Tier 1 activities. This may include winning a national award, qualifying for international competition and therefore gaining prestigious recognition, or starting a nonprofit that gains national traction. Having a Tier 1 activity marks you as a distinguished youth in the field of your activity, so having Tier 1 activities is rare.
- Tier 2 activities are more common than Tier 1, but still show high levels of achievement and potential. Holding school-wide leadership positions like student government president, winning regional competitions or awards, and local recognition as a student athlete or musician are all considered Tier 2.
- Tier 3 activities demonstrate sustained participation rather than exceptional achievement, and are frequently seen in applications, both across the board as well as in any given individual student’s application, as some students may have more than one Tier 3 activity. These activities can include holding minor positions in school clubs or being on a Varsity team.
- Tier 4 activities are the most common and have the lowest entry bar; they demonstrate interest without particular dedication. However, they are still important to include, especially if you have higher tier activities, because they can help show the diversity of your interests. Tier 4 activities can include regular volunteering, general membership in clubs or organizations, or taking any kind of music or art lesson over several years.
3. Write engaging essays and supplement responses
In addition to the Common Application/Coalition Application/Questbridge Application essays, Bowdoin will require you to respond to several questions in the Bowdoin Supplement. The Bowdoin Supplement Essay is optional, but think of it as another chance to deepen the admissions officers’ understanding of you.
Use these essays and response questions to show your strengths, character, your authentic voice, and what you may bring to Bowdoin’s campus.
4. Ask the right teachers for recommendation letters
Bowdoin requires three letters of recommendation: one from a counselor, one from a junior or senior year teacher of an academic core subject (English, math, lab sciences, social sciences, and foreign languages), and a third recommendation from another teacher (in any subject area) or a clergy, coach, community-based organization counselor, employer, peer, or community member. Bowdoin is a small college with a high faculty–student ratio (8:1), in which 71% of classes have fewer than 20 students, and where students and professors collaborate closely outside the classroom as well as inside.
Your letters of recommendation will show admissions officers what kind of student and peer you are. Letters of recommendation should come from instructors who know you the best and who can speak positively of your character and abilities. Take some time to think about which teacher will write you the most promising recommendation letter, and take a look at tips from CollegeVine to help guide you through the process.
How to Apply to Bowdoin College
Planning on applying to Bowdoin? Here are some dates to keep in mind for the 2021–2022 cycle.
Admissions Application Due
Financial Aid Application Due
Early Decision 1
Early Decision 2
Bowdoin accepts the Coalition Application, the Common Application, and the QuestBridge Application. To apply to Bowdoin, you will need:
- All parts of your Common, Coalition, or QuestBridge application, including personal essay and application fee
- Secondary school report (information about school’s offerings and environment)
- Secondary school transcript
- Bowdoin Supplement
- Three letters of recommendation: one from a counselor, one from a junior or senior year teacher of an academic core subject (English, math, lab sciences, social sciences, and foreign languages), and a third recommendation from another teacher (in any subject area) or a clergy, coach, community-based organization counselor, employer, peer, or community member
Optional materials include:
- Bowdoin supplemental essay
- SAT or ACT scores
- Video response
- Arts supplement
Learn more about Bowdoin
Take a look at our other resources on Bowdoin to help you with your application process.
Want to know what your chances really are for Bowdoin? Our free chancing engine takes into account your GPA, test scores, extracurriculars, and other data to predict your odds of acceptance at over 500 colleges across the U.S. We’ll also let you know how you stack up against other applicants and how you can improve your profile. Calculate your chances for free!