Bowdoin Drops Application Fees for Aided and First-Generation Students

Bowdoin College has eliminated its application fee for students who require financial aid and for applicants who seek to be among the first in their families to attend college. The change, which takes effect immediately, was announced today by Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Whitney Soule.

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“Application fees can be a genuine barrier to higher education for low-income and first-generation college students,” said Soule.

“By eliminating the fee for these groups, we hope to encourage more of these students to apply for admission to Bowdoin, not because we necessarily want or need more applications, but because we are committed to providing access and opportunity to qualified students, regardless of their economic circumstances.”

A 2014 White House report (“Increasing College Opportunity for Low-Income Students”) identified application fees as among several factors that can deter low-income and first-generation students from applying to college. With fees that range from $50-$90 per application, and with a typical student applying to 10-12 colleges, the costs can be especially daunting to low-income families.

Under Bowdoin’s new policy, applicants who would be in the first generation in their families to attend college will be able to submit an application to Bowdoin without paying the fee, regardless of family income. The fee would also be waived for any student seeking financial aid assistance from the College. Other applicants will continue to pay a $65 fee with their applications, revenue that helps to offset the costs of Bowdoin’s highly personal and staff-intensive admissions process.

“Our selection process is not built on an algorithm,” said Soule.

“It’s personal, detailed, and time consuming. And it requires real effort from our applicants. Bowdoin asks supplemental questions and we require an additional short essay. But we take the time to read each application carefully, constructing an understanding of the applicant as both a person and student. It is a process that is incredibly effective in matching exceptional students in our applicant pool with all that Bowdoin has to offer.”

Bowdoin does not consider family income in its admissions decisions and does not require loans in its financial aid awards. It is one of only fifteen colleges in the country that is need-blind, does not require loans in aid packages, and also covers 100 percent of a student’s demonstrated financial need for all four years.

Of the 503 students in the new first-year class, 15 percent are first-generation college students. Bowdoin provides need-based financial aid to 45 percent of its students overall and to 47 percent of the new first-year class.

The College received 6,799 applications last year for approximately 500 spots in the first-year class.

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