How to Get Into Bowdoin College: Admissions Data & Strategies
Bowdoin College is among the most selective and respected liberal arts colleges in the United States, right up there with schools like Amherst, Swarthmore, and Claremont McKenna. These schools lack may the global name recognition of Ivy League universities (at least within the general public), but–make no mistake–institutions like Bowdoin College sport single-digit acceptance rates and present a massive admissions challenge even for students at the very top of their high school class who earned just-about-perfect SAT/ACT scores.
Bowdoin has always had high admission standards, but the quest to gain acceptance into this Maine-based liberal arts gem has never been tougher, as the following stats show:
- 2006: 21%
- 2012: 16%
- 2021: 8.8%
To give prospective Bowdoin applicants a better sense of their admissions chances, this blog will touch on the following topics:
- Bowdoin College’s Class of 2025 acceptance rate
- Bowdoin College’s 2025 Early Decision acceptance rate
- SAT, ACT, and class rank of accepted Bowdoin College applicants
- Bowdoin Admissions trends for the Class of 2025
- Bowdoin College’s system for rating applicants
- A look at the demographics of current Bowdoin College undergraduates
- The percent of accepted students that attend the Bowdoin College (yield rate)
- Tips for applying to Bowdoin College
- A look at the Bowdoin essay prompts
- How to assess whether applying to the Bowdoin College is even worth the $65 application fee (for you)
Let’s begin with an examination of the most recent admissions data.
Bowdoin College Acceptance Rate – Class of 2025
Bowdoin received 9,325 applications for a place in the Class of 2025 and accepted just 822. This acceptance rate of 8.8% was comparable to the rate for the Class of 2024.
Bowdoin College Early Decision Acceptance Rate
Bowdoin received 1,123 ED applicants for the Class of 2024 (most recent official data released), and accepted 242 individuals. The ED acceptance rate for this cohort was 22% versus just 7% for those applying in the regular round.
Bowdoin College Admissions – SAT, ACT, and Class Rank
Bowdoin, of course, has long been a test-optional school. Yet, among those in the Class of 2025 who submitted scores, the median math SAT score was 760 and the median reading score was a 740. The average ACT score was 33.
Looking at Class of 2024 data, 84% of enrolled freshmen finished in the top 10% of their high school class and 97% were in the top quartile.
Admissions Trends & Notes – Class of 2025
- There were 9,397 applications for the Class of 2026, a slight uptick from the prior year.
- The Class of 2025 contained 536 students including 39 who deferred the previous year.
- 40% of the Class of 2025 identify as students of color.
- 17% of the Class of 2025 are first-generation students.
- 44% of the Class of 2025 elected not to submit ACT or SAT scores with their application.
How Bowdoin College Rates Applicants
Bowdoin uses a truly holistic admissions process and views seven factors as “very important” to the admissions process: rigor of high school course load, GPA, application essays, recommendations, extracurricular activities, talent/ability, and character/personal qualities. The only factor labeled as “important” is standardized test scores.
Straight from the Bowdoin admissions office:
- “Bowdoin seeks students who are bright and engaged inside and outside the classroom, and who demonstrate curiosity and a willingness to take intellectual risks.”
- “All completed applications will be read by at least two readers. The first reader is typically the admissions staff member assigned to act as a liaison for the particular region, state, or country in which the student attends high school. The second reader is typically a randomly selected member of the staff who is able to provide a fresh perspective on the application. “While there is no specific set of secondary school classes required for admission, most successful applicants have pursued the strongest program of study available at their secondary school—typically including four years of study in English, math, science, social studies and foreign language—and have achieved the highest levels of academic performance.”
- “The decisions on some applications will be rendered after the second read is completed. Two-thirds of the applications, on the other hand, will be put through a committee process, during which applications are individually discussed and adjudicated by a group of admissions staff.”
Bowdoin College Demographics
Let’s look at the demographics of Bowdoin College undergraduate student body. The following are the U.S. states that sent more than ten students into the Class of 2025:
- New Jersey
- New York
12% of the Class of 2025 are international students. The greatest percentage of international students come from the following countries:
- China: 25%
- Canada: 6%
- Japan: 5%
- Hong Kong: 4%
- Thailand: 4%
In terms of ethnic identity, the breakdown is as follows:
- White: 56%
- Asian: 9%
- Hispanic: 11%
- African American: 8%
- Two or More Races: 8%
A look at the gender split reveals that university enrolls a slightly greater number of women than men on campus:
- Men: 48%
- Women: 52%
In one recent year the following percentage of enrolled students attended each types of high school:
- Public: 51%
- Independent: 49%
Bowdoin College’s “Yield Rate”
Bowdoin College’s yield rate—the percentage of accepted students who elect to enroll, divided by the total number of students who are admitted is 63%. This places them well above other top liberal arts schools which have the following yields: Williams College (46%), Pomona College (45%), and Swarthmore College (35%).
Tips for Applying to Bowdoin College
If you plan on joining the almost 10,000+ Bowdoin College hopefuls for the next admissions cycle, you should know the following:
- If Bowdoin is your top choice, you’ll want to strongly consider applying ED I by November 15 or ED II by early January. The Regular Decision deadline falls in the first week of January, but the acceptance rates are significantly lower in this round.
- Bowdoin does recommend that students sit for an evaluative interview.
- Your counselor and teacher recommendations will be key. Visit our blog for tips on requesting high school letters of recommendation.
- Bowdoin College does not consider “demonstrated interest” so you will not be judged on whether or not you made a campus visit, contacted an admissions officer, etc.
- You can apply through the Common Application or Coalition Application.
- You’ll need to submit a Mid-Year Report in late February so remember to keep those grades up throughout your senior year of high school.
- Make sure to dedicate sufficient time and effort to the supplemental essay prompts offered by Bowdoin College. In the 2021-22 cycle, there were two essays one of which is technically optional (but don’t skip it):
Bowdoin Supplemental Essays
1) How did you first learn about Bowdoin? (Limit 140 characters.)
2) Generations of students have found connection and meaning in Bowdoin’s “The Offer of the College.”
To be at home in all lands and all ages;
to count Nature a familiar acquaintance,
and Art an intimate friend;
to gain a standard for the appreciation of others’ work
and the criticism of your own;
to carry the keys of the world’s library in your pocket,
and feel its resources behind you in whatever task you undertake;
to make hosts of friends…who are to be leaders in all walks of life;
to lose yourself in generous enthusiasms and cooperate with others for common ends –
this is the offer of the college for the best four years of your life.
-William DeWitt Hyde, 7th President of Bowdoin College, 1906
Which line from The Offer resonates most with you? (Select an option.)
Bet you weren’t expecting to take an English exam on your application! This is really a two question prompt, so skip down to the next question for our full walkthrough.
Optional: The Offer represents Bowdoin’s values. Please reflect on the line you selected and how it has meaning to you. (Limit 250 words)
Should I Apply to Bowdoin?
Just about everyone accepted in Bowdoin finished at or near the top of their high school class and boasts many special talents both inside and outside of the classroom. Given the single-digit acceptance rate, any student applying to a school of Bowdoin College’s caliber also needs to also have a proper mix or “target” and “safety” schools on their college list. More on creating a balanced college list can be found here.
Dave has over a decade of professional experience that includes work as a teacher, high school administrator, college professor, and independent educational consultant. He is a co-author of the books The Enlightened College Applicant (Rowman & Littlefield, 2016) and Colleges Worth Your Money (Rowman & Littlefield, 2020).