College Rankings

Best College Value Snapshot: Bowdoin College

This liberal arts school's selective admission rate and generous need-based financial aid packages make it a smart choice.

It's mid morning on a brisk day at Bowdoin College, and snow flurries swirling in the sky have given way to a flock of seagulls squawking overhead. Located in Brunswick, Maine (population 20,278), where historic homes, shops and restaurants line the broad main thoroughfare, this small, elite liberal arts college attracts stellar students from around the country. Its appeal: a broad-based curriculum, friendly campus culture, commitment to the environment and focus on community service. Bowdoin's liberal arts education develops core skills—critical thinking, analytical reasoning and the ability to communicate effectively—that students can take anywhere, says Bowdoin president Clayton Rose.

Bowdoin secures its spot on this year’s lists (number 18 in our combined ranking and number 11 among liberal arts colleges) in part for its selective 15% admission rate and generous need-based financial aid packages, which are awarded to nearly half of students. Bowdoin does not include loans in its financial aid awards. An impressive 86% of students graduate within four years.

Walk the campus, located three-and-a-half miles from the ocean and a 30-minute drive from Portland, and you’ll be back where you started in about 15 minutes, unless you pause to look for tributes to the school’s polar bear mascot or chat with President Rose, who is often seen walking his Labrador retrievers, Pete and Emmie. Students aren’t surprised to see professors and members of the administration take meals in Thorne dining hall.

Bowdoin’s campus encourages community, but the roughly 2,000 students—two-thirds of whom hail from outside New England—also have plenty to do off campus. The school’s outing club organizes more than 150 excursions a year to help students stay physically active and connected with nature. Or students can take a short walk down Maine Street to browse the vinyl at Bull Moose, take in an indie film at Eveningstar Cinema or pick a flavor (or three) at Gelato Fiasco. And many students tie their studies or other interests to a service project. Last year, students collectively spent about 56,000 hours volunteering.

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