Each semester, on a day Bowdoin calls Aspirations in Maine Day, the college welcomes between 40 and 50 freshmen from nearby high schools. The freshmen spend the day on campus with Bowdoin guides, meeting college students and professors, exploring labs and studios, and eating at the dining halls. The aim of Aspirations Day is to inspire the young students to go to college.
The high school students are carefully selected by guidance counselors, and sometimes by teachers, explained Abby Roy ’16, who has organized the past five Aspirations Day for the McKeen Center for the Common Good. “They select students who have the potential to go to college but might need extra motivation,” she said.For the most recent Aspirations Day on April 10, Roy, a Mainer from Winslow, organized a series of events and activities for the high school students, including one she described as a “scavenger hunt.” After learning of the interests of the 9th graders — e.g., fishing, theater, video games — she separated them into small groups. Bowdoin students led the groups to different spots on campus that related in some way to these hobbies.
The students who said they liked video games visited the RoboCup lab in Druckenmiller, where computer science students are developing robots. Students who preferred hiking, camping and hunting were directed to the Outing Club. Those who liked music? They went to WBOR, the college radio station. “They talk with the students [at each station] about how they can turn their interest into a career,” Roy said.
Roy also organized an afternoon discussion with two Bowdoin students from Maine. Liz Snowdon ’17, of Topsham, and John Layman ’18, from Solon, spoke about their classes, their advisors, their recommendations for preparing for college, what they love so far about college and what they find most challenging. They also answered a question about why they went to college, and why they selected Bowdoin.
Snowdon, a first-generation college student, explained that she chose to go to college, and to Bowdoin specifically, because she wanted to be at a liberal arts school where she could “find out what she wanted to do with her life,” and because her Bowdoin financial aid package made it the most affordable choice for her. Snowdon also recounted the time when the economy was poor and her father was out of work. “He didn’t find a job that paid enough to support his family because he didn’t have a college education,” she said. “It made a big impression on me.”
Layman said he opted for college, and Bowdoin in particular, because he wanted something new and different, and that he, too, was greatly helped by his financial aid package. “I viewed college as an investment to getting a good job, something that isn’t physical labor,” he said. “Working and doing hard work every day for the rest of my life doesn’t appeal to me. It’s what my dad does….I want a job where I’m using my brain more than my body.”
Snowdoin added that she also aspired to attend college because she loves books, knowledge and learning. “Whatever you’re interested in, you can explore here,” she said. “And what you’re not interested in, you can give it a chance.”