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Bowdoin Supplement Essay Common Good


Bowdoin College Application Essay Prompts


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


The first thing that should capture your attention is the 140 character limit to answer this question. Given such tight constraints (no longer than a tweet!), it goes without saying that Bowdoin is not searching for an extremely in-depth response to this question. Simply and straightforwardly stating the method through which you learned about the college will suffice for this question; however, if you wish, you can add some embellishment. If you can express strong interest, leave a humorous response that will make adcoms laugh, or communicate why it is the perfect school for you within the constraints of 140 characters, we encourage you to do so!


For instance, if you learned about Bowdoin College at a college fair your sophomore year and you’ve been enraptured ever since, consider responding along these lines: “I learned about Bowdoin at a college fair as a sophomore. Since then, my research has only strengthened my conviction that I belong here.”


Though character restrictions prevent you from detailing why you belong at the college (thankfully, you have the other component of the writing supplement to do that), a response like this is effective because it communicates to adcoms that you’re both committed enough to have conducted extensive research, and passionate about the campus culture. While your response to this question likely won’t have a significant impact on your application, it never hurts to demonstrate your interest in and passion for a school.


In an effort to understand your interests and aspirations for college, we ask you to select one of the three topics below and provide a response of up to 250 words.


Bowdoin students and alumni often cite world-class faculty and opportunities for intellectual engagement, the College’s commitment to the Common Good, and the special quality of life on the coast of Maine as important aspects of the Bowdoin experience.

Reflecting on your own interests and experiences, please select and respond to one of the following topics:

Intellectual Engagement

The Common Good

Connection to Place


This prompt is challenging because unlike most, it doesn’t ask any specific questions — the only explicit guidance you’re given is to reflect on your own interests and experiences and respond (in 250 words). But how do you respond? Thankfully, Bowdoin gives us some clues throughout this prompt about what they’d like to see in an essay for this prompt.



Understanding the Question

Firstly, you should notice that Bowdoin is asking you to respond to this prompt “in an effort to understand your interests and aspirations for college.” There are two things to consider here: first, that the school wants to learn more about your interests, and second, that they want to understand what you hope to eventually accomplish in college, and how a Bowdoin education will allow you to do so. Thus, in writing your essay, your primary objective should be to clearly describe what you intend to study and why the college is the best place for you to study it.


The fact that these three aspects of the Bowdoin College experience –“Intellectual Engagement,” the “Common Good,” and “Connection to Place” — are highlighted here is also significant. These are clearly three qualities of which the school is extremely proud and of which they hope students will take the fullest advantage. Before writing, you should make an effort to research how each of these factors into the student experience. This will help you later on when determining which of the three factors will be most important to you in achieving your goals at the college.


Selecting Experiences and Aspirations to Write About

Once you understand the role that these topics play in defining student life at Bowdoin, it’s time to choose which aspect of the experience is most significant to you and would best empower you to accomplish your goals. But before selecting a topic, you first have to to decide on the experiences, interests, and aspirations you plan to speak about in your essay.


You may find it helpful to jot down your most educationally formative experiences, and how those have impacted your academic and extracurricular goals.


For example, maybe growing up near the ocean, you are accustomed to observing all sorts of marine life year-round. You’re fascinated by the impact that time and seasons have on the delicate ocean ecosystem, and you’ve decided to study biology in college to better understand the science of life on earth.


Or perhaps you read a Vonnegut novel in English class your junior year, and it had such a potent effect on you that you’ve decided to major in English in order to create stories that also have the ability to change people’s lives. Whatever the experience, no matter how mundane or silly, write it down; even seemingly dull or unintellectual experiences can make for great essay topics.


Once you’ve reflected upon your most formative experiences, you should also put some thought into what your aspirations are and how you plan to use your college education to achieve them. Specificity is key; you will have trouble describing exactly how a Bowdoin education will enable you to achieve your goals if you don’t have a clear idea of what your goals are.


Students who are currently undecided on their career path can choose to speak on an area that is of particular interest to them, even if they’re unsure whether they want to enter into that field in college. Alternately, they can speak on their aspirations for college that aren’t academic in nature, or could apply to various academic fields: for example, a desire to develop strong writing or research skills.


Making Sure You’re Unique

When brainstorming for your essay, it is of the utmost importance to discuss experiences that are highly unique to you. Since this prompt asks you to frame your interests and aspirations in the context of a Bowdoin education, it is in some ways similar to a “Why X school?” essay — the major difference is that you’re only at liberty to discuss one of three aspects.


Since there is no way to be unique in your discussion of what about the college appeals to you, you must strive to differentiate yourself when discussing why that aspect of Bowdoin appeals to you. As such, try to describe experiences and aspirations that will leave a lasting impression on adcoms.


Very specific, detail-rich descriptions of experiences and passionate explanations of your aspirations are the best way to do this. If adcoms can understand exactly what shaped the development of your goals, and you can make a clear connection between these goals and the school, you will have put forth a more compelling case for your admission than a student who speaks only in very general terms about her aspiration and how it relates to Bowdoin College.


Tie Your Experiences into a Topic

When you’ve finished brainstorming experiences, the goal is to be able to tie these experiences into one of the topics. If you find that some of what you brainstormed previously is difficult to tie into an essay topic, you can cross that off your list. Ideally, the experiences and aspirations you speak about should clearly relate to one of the topics.


For example, if you consider yourself an intellectually curious person who seeks to learn for learning’s own sake, the intellectual engagement Bowdoin offers its students may appeal to you. If you want to change the world with your college education, you are probably especially interested in college’s investment in the common good. If you find your life has always been defined by your environment and that you could find unique solace and sense of belonging on the coastal Maine campus, it is most likely your connection to the place that will shape your experience.


Writing Tips

Once you’ve selected the experiences, aspirations, and aspect of the Bowdoin experience that you’ll write about, the only thing left to do is write! With such a limited word count, it’s important to ensure that every word you include communicates something significant about yourself to the school.


A great way to start your essay is by telling an anecdote that sheds light on your interest or skill in your desired field, though you can also begin with an unexpected statement that grabs the reader’s attention, a thought-provoking rhetorical question, or any number of clever hooks.


If you find it difficult to work in a hook without taking up too many precious words, feel free to jump right into the body of your essay. As you write, consider using rhetorical devices and interesting word choice to lend your writing a unique voice that will stick in readers’ minds.


With the advice above, you should be well on your way to writing a Bowdoin College essay that will set you apart. Good luck!

Bowdoin College is a small liberal arts school in Brunswick, ME of about 1,800 undergraduate students. In addition to its location (truly in the middle of nowhere of gorgeous [albeit cold] Maine), Bowdoin has a number of unique offerings including the main pillars of the college, which are addressed in question 2. Their supplement contains three parts, all of which we break down for you below.

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

This answer is so short that in reality, it doesn’t really matter what you write. We promise. We’re not tricking you. It’s 140 characters—a tweet—so it’s truly too short to get super creative. In reality, this question is for Bowdoin’s marketing purposes. Bowdoin wants to know which of their marketing channels work. Keep it honest and short—perhaps you learned about it from a family member, a friend, your college counselor, you name it. Hold onto the creativity for the next question.

2. In an effort to understand your interests and aspirations for college, we ask you to select one of the three topics below and provide a response of up to 250 words.

Bowdoin students and alumni often cite world-class faculty and opportunities for intellectual engagement, the College’s commitment to the Common Good, and the special quality of life on the coast of Maine as important aspects of the Bowdoin experience.

Reflecting on your own interests and experiences, please select and respond to one of the following topics:
Intellectual Engagement
The Common Good
Connection to Place

This question works as a version of the “Why X School?” question, but the way that Bowdoin has framed it is entirely to your benefit. The question is framed such that Bowdoin is telling you the three aspects of the college that they find unique and interesting. They are showing you their values and asking you to relate to them. It’s easier in a lot of ways because they are focusing your answer, but challenging for the same reason. You really need to nail this response. This isn’t the time to talk about a unique reason why you want to go there, as much as it is an opportunity to discuss which value makes Bowdoin a great fit for you. You should choose a topic that inspires you to tell a story about yourself that can be related back to one of these concepts. But fear not (ok, fear a little): by choosing any of these three themes to elaborate on, you’re setting yourself up for success—as long as you choose the right topic for you. Let’s go through each of them.

Intellectual Engagement
If you are a very focused student academically and are sure of what you want to study, this one is for you. It’s the academic portion of the “Why X School?” response, and it’s your time to shine. Discuss your intellectual interests and what draws you to study those things at Bowdoin in particular. Gush about the classes you want to take and the professors you want to take them with. Elaborate on research projects you hope to dive into. Go forth and profess your love for academia.

The Common Good
This topic is great for students who are deeply invested in contributing to their school community or are connected to community service-driven projects in their area. This is a chance to talk about what you have accomplished and what your goals are, as well as how (and WHY) you plan to accomplish them at Bowdoin specifically. Every college has community service opportunities. Why do you want to contribute to the Brunswick community? The Maine community? What does that mean for your particular goals? What does the proliferation of benevolent behavior mean the Bowdoin community? Be sure to tie in your historic contributions to what you perceive as the common good as well as your future plans at Bowdoin and beyond.

Connection to Place
The idea of “connection to place” can be interpreted relatively liberally, and you can get a bit more creative. Your connection to place could span your connection to your home, and perhaps incorporate the appeal of going to school in Maine or the extension of your perception of home. While this is the prompt with the biggest area for creativity, you need to make sure that there is evidence to support your claim. How will you make your mark on Bowdoin as a place? Why is that connection important and what drew you to Bowdoin so much so that you want to attend the college and spend 4 years in this place? Tell that story, and explore it in a way such that your admissions reader is struck by your dedication to make an impact.

3. If there is additional information you feel will support your application, you are welcome to include it here.

We have advised students to think of this as a space for creative writing, or something that isn’t present in your application or the additional information section that you want to share. Perhaps there is something that is particularly niche that didn’t quite belong in the additional information section but that would be relevant here. Did you hike ¼ of the Appalachian Trail last summer? Did you spend every summer in southern Maine growing up? Think about if there’s something that Bowdoin in particular should know about you when they’re evaluating your application. If there’s not anything that you can think of (it’s totally fine) then we suggest sharing a piece of creative writing that you’re a) particularly proud of and b) that shows a passion of yours or a side that isn’t clear when you read through the rest of your application. Feel free to reach out to us if you have any questions about what pieces may or may not be appropriate to submit here.

The college application process is intense. Let us know if you have any questions or concerns. We’d be happy to answer them for Bowdoin, or any other college you might want to chat about.