Bowdoin College Essay Guide 2020-2021

Essay Guides 5 min read
Photo courtesy of Bowdoin College

This Bowdoin College Essay Guide was written by a Bullseye Advisor and Bowdoin graduate. For more guidance on personal essays and the college application process in general, sign up for a monthly plan to work with an admissions coach 1-on-1.

The beauty of Bowdoin College is in its people and place, tucked into the northern Atlantic coastline. As the number one college in Maine and one of the top liberal arts colleges in the country, Bowdoin offers not only a unique, captivating, four-year education amongst the sweet-smelling pines, but also life experience from lively, small-classroom debates or midnight debriefs at the dining hall’s Super Snacks.

As you will see later in the essay prompts, Bowdoin College boasts in “The Offer of the College” that Bowdoin education will guarantee you “resources behind you in whatever task you undertake,” the opportunity to “lose yourself in generous enthusiasms,” and “the best four years of your life.” As a former student and proud alum, I can promise you that if you commit yourself to every part of your four years, you will know truly how wonderful “the best four years” can be on a small, classic New England redbrick-building dotted campus.

Before you can experience this joy, however, you must craft genuine, meaningful essays responding to the College’s prompts. The following essay guide will hopefully start you on your way to success.

How did you first learn about Bowdoin? (Limit 140 characters.)

Although it seems straightforward, this question can be a tricky one to respond to. As a small college in a far-away place, Bowdoin prides itself on making a strong name for itself, but the journey to discovery of the College is different for every prospective student. Make sure you take the time to answer this short question genuinely and with a flair of creativity, 140 characters and all.

I think I was a freshman in high school when I first saw the name on a senior's sweatshirt, the classic bold white block letters on black fabric. However, it wasn’t until I saw the school listed on one of the classic “Top 10” lists that I actually researched the college, and it wasn’t until the fall of senior year that I even learned to properly pronounce the name of the College (BOH-din).

It was a few months later, though, that I remember the first time I met an alum, at an admitted students welcoming event the summer before I moved to Maine. After he sat with me and regaled his own joyous experiences at the College, he looked me straight in the eye and said, “Do not ever let anyone mispronounce the name of what will one day be your alma mater — it is a disrespect to me, you, and every other lucky student who has the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to learn and grow at the College.”

Does the sweatshirt count as the first time I learned about Bowdoin? Or maybe the “Top 10” list? Or what about when I had the opportunity to sit and listen to an alum that I actually “learned” about Bowdoin?

You might experience questions like these, too, when you first try to answer this prompt. With only 140 characters, you will only be able to fit your answer into a sentence or two, but what you decide to write be based on how you interpret the key-word, “learn”. Is it the first time you hear about a new concept? Or is it the first time you decided to pursue the details? Or maybe beyond that — learning happens when you finally connect the concept beyond yourself, learning from others in your journey to know more.

Generations of students have found connection and meaning in Bowdoin’s “The Offer of the College.”

Which line from the Offer resonates most with you?

The Bowdoin College experience offers countless opportunities to explore both the world around you and your own self, whether on a 10 minute bike ride to the ocean or in a 10-person seminar course about the mysteries of the nation-state. This prompt challenges you to demonstrate what you value most from the opportunity to attend Bowdoin.

This part of the application is required — you must choose a specific line to highlight. As you will then notice, the next “optional” prompt is directly related to your choice. Choose wisely!

Optional: The Offer represents Bowdoin’s values. Please reflect on the line you selected and how it has meaning to you. (Limit 250 words)

After you have chosen the line from “The Offer of the College” that stands out to you the most, take your excitement and run with it. What are you hoping to gain from your four years at Bowdoin? This is your chance to speak about your passions, interests, and big dreams for college. As the only substantial-length supplemental essay, this is your opportunity to demonstrate to the Admissions Committee both your enthusiasm for Bowdoin College and convince them that you would be an invaluable addition to the incoming class.

I chose the line, “to be at home in all lands and all ages.” As someone who grew up in a nontraditional family and spent many months traveling, I knew I wanted to continue to focus my educational and life experiences on international, outward-facing experiences. As an elite institution, Bowdoin not only boasts a diverse campus community, with professors and students from all over the world, but also, Bowdoin greatly supports students’ decisions to study abroad and spend summers working and learning abroad. Whether it was in my comparative politics courses, extended grant-funded research in Sri Lanka, or a paid internship in Lima, Peru, I felt at home in all lands, thanks to the support and opportunities of the College.

There are so many lines you could choose to write about, as each one provides a pathway to show the Admissions Committee an aspect of who you are. Most importantly, pick one that will enable you, in 250 words or fewer, to show who you are in the context of Bowdoin.

Whether you want to share an anecdote about your sportsmanship and ability to commit yourself fully to teamwork, recount a story about a special connection to nature or art in any form, or dream about changing your academic future forever with the “keys of the world’s library in your pockets,” you will be successful if you write with genuine spirit and enthusiasm. After all, you are applying to a school that is offering you “the best four years of your life!”


This essay guide was written by Lillian Eckstein, Bowdoin College ‘18. If you want to get help writing your Bowdoin application essays from Lillian or other Bullseye Admissions advisors, register with Bullseye today.

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