How to Write the Bowdoin College Supplement Essays 2018-2019
Bowdoin College, located in the coastal suburban area of Brunswick, Maine is a private liberal arts college. It was founded in 1802 with the goal of teaching students to use their talent and education for the benefit of the common good. To this day, students at Bowdoin are encouraged to become engaged with the community whether at a local or global level. These efforts are supported by the small class size at Bowdoin which allows faculty to support students in trying new things and taking risks.
In addition to the Common App or Coalition Application essay, Bowdoin College has two supplemental essays for prospective undergraduate freshmen to write. This first is a 140-character answer to a simple question, and the second is an optional, though CollegeVine highly recommends writing it, 25- word reflection essay.
Though this may sound like a lot of writing, CollegeVine is here to provide detailed tips and examples to help you approach the 2018-2019 Bowdoin application essays.
How to Write the Bowdoin College Supplemental Essays
1. Required Prompt: How did you first learn about Bowdoin? (140 characters)
This is a short answer. Remember that 140 characters is only approximately twenty words. This means that you need to choose your words carefully. Do not try to say too much in this sentence and do not list. Only give the one way you first learned about Bowdoin instead of trying to list reasons that you wanted to apply as this will allow you to provide a more in-depth response. Additionally, as this is a short answer, you should not start your response with “I first learned about Bowdoin…” The admissions officers already know the prompt, and this will simply waste limited characters.
Be creative. As this is a short essay, make sure that your response is creative and helps you to stand out from others. Even if you first heard about Bowdoin from your high school counselor, just providing that answer will not strengthen your application. Instead consider aspects of Bowdoin that really made it stand out from other colleges. Your answer will be much better if you consider not only how you first learned about Bowdoin but also what drew you to apply.
What not to do:
“My mother went to Bowdoin, so I grew up with Polar Bear pride, Bowdoin sent me emails, and I went to their summer camp.”
This is a poor response because it focuses on too many things rather than simply explaining the first time that you learned about Bowdoin. It could be strengthened by focusing on how your mom went to Bowdoin and shared her school pride with you. Did she take you to campus to visit? What did she share with you about Bowdoin that made you fall in love with the school? Or you may choose to stick with the summer camp route. What about it did you love? Was it the Bowdoin students who taught the courses, or was it the interactive elements of the curriculum?
How to improve:
“When my mom showed me Hubbard Hall on her campus, my five-year-old self decided that I too wanted to study at Bowdoin and become President.”
This response is better because it focuses on the first time you learned about Bowdoin with just one example. Additionally, it tells a bit of a story rather than just explaining your first encounter with the school. By saying “her campus” and including that you were five years old when this happened, it can be assumed that your mom is an alumni of Bowdoin showing you where she went to college.
This response also includes a specific detail about the college showing that you did your research. Hubbard Hall is a location on campus which houses the Government and Legal Studies department, which makes sense in connection with you wanting to become President. Small details like this go a long way in helping you to stand out from other applicants by showing that you are really interested in Bowdoin.
What not to do:
“I was so excited to receive my first letter in the mail encouraging me to apply to college. From the minute I opened the envelope, I knew that I wanted to apply to Bowdoin!”
While this response may truly tell of the first time that you heard about Bowdoin, it is extremely boring. It does not separate you from other applicants as this is likely an experience that many students applying to Bowdoin shared. Instead of this, try focusing on what attracted you to Bowdoin and tell a story about that. This method will also show that you have done your research about the school and really want to go there.
How to improve:
“While I don’t plan on helping deliver a baby in WalMart, “Where the Heart is” showed me that Bowdoin students are prepared for anything.”
This response is much more creative than just talking about how Bowdoin sent you a letter in the mail. The extremity of the situation pulls the reader in and separates you from other students. Additionally, this response tells a bit about you by listing a book and movie that you enjoy, “Where the Heart is”, that partially takes place at Bowdoin.
Finally, by explaining what you thought of the fact that the man who helped deliver a baby in a WalMart in the movie goes to Bowdoin, you reveal a bit of your voice and personality. Saying that this must mean students are always prepared is a bit comical, and it provides a characteristic that you actually think Bowdoin students possess and that you may gain from attending Bowdoin.
2. Optional Prompt: “The Offer of the College” (250 words)
Generations of students have found connection and meaning in Bowdoin’s “The Offer of the College,” written in 1906 by Bowdoin President William DeWitt Hyde.
“To be at home in all lands and all ages;
to count Nature a familiar acquaintance,
and Art an intimate friend;
to gain a standard for the appreciation of others’ work
and the criticism of your own;
to carry the keys of the world’s library in your pocket,
and feel its resources behind you in whatever task you undertake;
to make hosts of friends…who are to be leaders in all walks of life;
to lose yourself in generous enthusiasms and cooperate with others for common ends”
– William DeWitt Hyde, 7th President of Bowdoin College, 1906
Which line from “The Offer” resonates most with you?
Note: While this prompt is technically optional, CollegeVine highly recommends that you answer this prompt.
To answer this prompt, you will need to first select one of the seven lines from “The Offer of the College” and then write a 250-word thoughtful response to your chosen line. This prompt is not meant to be a textual analysis of what the meaning of the line is or what message the author is trying to get across. Rather, it is meant to provide inspiration for you to craft a meaningful response to the line using creative examples. Your response should illustrate to admissions officers that you align with Bowdoin’s values and thus are a good fit for the college.
Do not stress too much about choosing a line. Pick one that will allow you to provide quality examples in your response. Go with your gut and select one to which you relate.
When answering the prompt, you need to focus on how the line you chose has meaning to you. This could be through previous experiences or how you hope Bowdoin will give that line meaning during your college experience. You could also include a bit of both if applicable.
This is also a good opportunity to support what you wrote in your first essay! If you include a bit in the first prompt response about what attracted you to Bowdoin, then you can choose a line that will allow you to further elaborate upon that idea in this response.
“To be at home in all lands and all ages;”
When writing about this line, the first thing that comes to mind is being comfortable with diversity in both age and other cultures. Consider your own significant experiences with diversity. Did you volunteer at a nursing home and learn a lot from the older people there? If so you could share how you learned to relate to people who are older than you. Did you live in multiple places growing up? Share this then!
You can then strengthen these responses by explaining how Bowdoin offers you the chance to continue learning about diversity and become comfortable with those who are different than you. Or perhaps you have not learned to be at home with people from different places or of different ages. Then discuss opportunities at Bowdoin that will allow you to become at home with diversity, something upon which Bowdoin greatly prides itself.
This, however, is just one way of interpreting the line. There are many others, so do not limit yourself!
“To count nature a familiar acquaintance,”
When responding to this line, one option is to take it literally and focus on the need to preserve the ecosystem for future generations. This is an extremely relevant topic today, and it would provide you with an opportunity to discuss your own relationship with nature. Have you been an advocate for recycling programs in your city? Is one of your favorite hobbies hiking? Take this space to reflect on your connections to nature and the environment and how this has impacted who you are today.
Additionally, you can discuss Bowdoin’s sustainability programs and their environmental studies major if you are interested in pursuing this. How does Bowdoin view the environment and work to preserve it?
You could also take this line in a different direction and discuss how nature is used in other disciplines. Think of literature involving nature if that interests you or how technology is often constructed to mimic nature. Consider why we care so much about nature from an interdisciplinary perspective. Either way, just remember to focus not only on your interests and how you connect to the line but also how Bowdoin will help you further this connection.
“and Art an intimate friend”
The obvious route to go with this line is focusing on a passion for anything remotely artistic. This make this line perfect for dance or music lovers for example. You can, however, be a bit more creative and discuss how art connects with what you love.
For example, if you love code you could compare that to an art. What makes it like a painting? Does it use many of the same creative characteristics? Is it something that others can enjoy? Or you could discuss how what you love relates to art. For example, you can talk about how you can code to create music, and thus your love for coding allows you to connect with the art world, a field which you previously may not have enjoyed. Do not limit yourself by thinking that this prompt is just for those with artistic abilities.
“to gain a standard for the appreciation of others’ work and the criticism of your own”
A seminal lesson to be learned revolves around how to work effectively with others; this includes being able to appreciate them for their skills and be able to accept that yours are not always perfect. This line provides a chance to explain ways in which you have already had to learn this lesson or elaborate on opportunities Bowdoin provides which will challenge you further. Did you always view others work too highly and devalue your own? Or were you the opposite of this? Either way, discuss your journey and show that you are able to learn and grow.
“to carry the keys of the world’s library in your pocket, and feel its resources behind you in whatever task you undertake”
This line provides the perfect opportunity for you to discuss your favorite literature. Do not restrict yourself just to books, though! Think about newspapers, recipes or even instruction manuals if you would like as these all could be considered literary pieces. Literature often reveals lessons that are relevant for everyone, and these lessons are the same throughout centuries. Talk about how literature has influenced your path.
For example, maybe you explored your family’s history through old recipes that you found with your grandfather. Literature is a means of expression, and it forms the backbone of society. Talk about how it has and will help you in the future.
“to make hosts of friends…who are to be leaders in all walks of life”
You will likely always remember the friends that you made in college. For many, this is the first time that they will be living with their classmates and surrounded by such a diverse group of people. Bowdoin’s small class sizes encourage students to have close relationships with not only faculty but also other students.
Discuss how your friends have shaped you or even how you have shaped each other. What are lessons that you have learned from your friends and have they encouraged you to be a better leader? Be honest with your response, and remember that it is okay to be personal so long as everything is appropriate. Just keep in mind that you should discuss both friendship and leadership in this response!
“to lose yourself in generous enthusiasms and cooperate with others for common ends”
This prompt is a great opportunity to discuss community engagement, a principle which Bowdoin was founded upon. Go ahead and discuss what you are passionate about and would like to pursue at Bowdoin.
Consider both what gets you up in the morning and how you would like to make the world a better place. It could be something service oriented or even a response about your basketball team. Make sure you also mention how your passions involve teamwork and cooperation to get the job done!
Make sure to do your research! This will really strengthen your essays by helping to show what you love about Bowdoin.
Choose a line that will allow you to highlight how you will fit in as a student at Bowdoin. This poem represents many of the college’s values, and the admissions officers want to be able to picture you as a student while reading your essays. So provide examples showing what you have already done that aligns with these values and maybe even explain what you hope to do at Bowdoin.
Take your time. These are short essays, but they will require thought. Do not wait until the last minute to write the 140-character essay as each letter you choose is important.
Have fun while writing these essays! Admissions officers want to see you as a real person here, and they want to see how you can think outside of the box. Let yourself have some fun with it and this will help you to more easily be creative.
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