President Barry Mills told a large group of high school seniors who are considering Bowdoin’s acceptance offer that selecting a college or university boils down to where they will thrive. “Where are you going to succeed?” he asked them, acknowledging that they’re likely choosing between a number of selective schools besides Bowdoin.
Pres. Mills was welcoming a record number of students during last weekend’s Bowdoin Experience. Nearly 100 students from across the United States, as well as Puerto Rico and Thailand, arrived on campus Thursday and stayed through Sunday, experiencing classes, meals in the dining halls, dorm life, short outing club trips and many campus events.
Each spring, Bowdoin invites a group admitted students to the Experience weekend who “can add some kind of diversity to campus,” whether that’s cultural, geographic or socioeconomic, according to Assistant Dean of Multicultural Recruitment Clauda Marroquin. Some of the students will be first-generation college students; many of them come from disadvantaged backgrounds. “After three nights here, they get a good sense of what Bowdoin has to offer them,” Marroquin said. “The goal is that these students will matriculate.”
She said the increased number of students participating in this year’s weekend could be due to the overall jump in applications Bowdoin received this year.
Mills spoke to the group for an hour Friday evening in Kresge Auditorium. He described his own time at Bowdoin (1968-1972), passed on his advice about selecting a college, and answered many questions from the curious crowd.
After asking where each student was from (Boston, the Bronx, Brooklyn, Chicago, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Iowa, etc.) he started off by saying, “I came to Bowdoin and it completely changed my life.”
He described “coming from a pretty modest background” in Rhode Island. Neither of his parents attended college. After graduating from Bowdoin, Mills went on to earn a PhD in biology from Syracuse University and a law degree from Columbia University, and practiced law in New York City before becoming Bowdoin’s 14th president. “This place is about changing people’s lives,” he continued. “Bowdoin creates the opportunity for all sorts of wonderful things to happen in your life.”
Mills said no matter if students graduate from a good school like Bowdoin, Williams or Harvard, they’ll land the same job and get into the same graduate school. “The most important thing is for you to go to a place where you’ll feel rewarded and where you’ll be successful.”
At Bowdoin, Mills said students will have little chance of finding the kind of anonymity a big university can bestow. “At Bowdoin you’re going to know the faculty; they’re going to know you. You’ll get lots of attention. You’ll get to do research in labs. You’re going to make lots of friends. You’re going to join a community.”
One student asked Mills what he considered the ideal Bowdoin student. “One characteristic of this place is the people here want to be engaged,” Mills answered. “It’s not a very competitive place, it’s not a big-ego place. I don’t get the sense students are competing with each other. I’m not suggesting people aren’t striving to succeed, or there isn’t excellence here, but they do it in a collegial way.”
After answering a number of questions, Mills finished the hour with his last bit of counsel: “Take a walk around the quad, see how it feels. Keep asking questions, find out what you need to know. And I hope to see many of you next fall. We’ll have a great time together.”