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How to Respond to the 2023/2024 Bowdoin College Supplemental Essay Prompts

By Cait Williams

Cait Williams is a Content Writer at Scholarships360. Cait recently graduated from Ohio University with a degree in Journalism and Strategic Communications. During her time at OU, was active in the outdoor recreation community.

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Reviewed by Bill Jack

Bill Jack has over a decade of experience in college admissions and financial aid. Since 2008, he has worked at Colby College, Wesleyan University, University of Maine at Farmington, and Bates College.

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Edited by Maria Geiger

Maria Geiger is Director of Content at Scholarships360. She is a former online educational technology instructor and adjunct writing instructor. In addition to education reform, Maria’s interests include viewpoint diversity, blended/flipped learning, digital communication, and integrating media/web tools into the curriculum to better facilitate student engagement. Maria earned both a B.A. and an M.A. in English Literature from Monmouth University, an M. Ed. in Education from Monmouth University, and a Virtual Online Teaching Certificate (VOLT) from the University of Pennsylvania.

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Updated: November 2nd, 2023
How to Respond to the 2023/2024 Bowdoin College Supplemental Essay Prompts

The Bowdoin College supplemental essays may look a bit intimidating at first. After all, there are four of them and they’re not exactly traditional questions. Only two of the four prompts are mandatory, but optional essays are important if Bowdoin is your top choice.

So, let’s see what the school is all about, and dig into each of the Bowdoin College supplemental essays!

Bowdoin’s mission

Located in Brunswick, Maine, Bowdoin’s campus looks like it’s something out of a novel. Their goal is to create a diverse learning environment by actively working to admit students of all backgrounds through their need blind application process. 

“Offer to College”

Unique to Bowdoin College is what they call the “Offer of the College.” The Offer was written in 1906 by Bowdoin’s seventh president, William DeWitt Hyde. In this statement, Hyde outlines what Bowdoin promises to offer their students during their time in college. Bowdoin wants their students to know that they are committed to providing the resources, community, and faculty needed to achieve their goals.

Bowdoin’s philosophy to learning

Studying abroad and real life application of the learning you do are key components that Bowdoin encourages all of their students to be a part of. They know that while classroom education provides a vital foundation, so does pushing students to take the reins and get out in the world! In addition to education, they are also committed to the natural environment around them and the preservation of their historic campus. 

With this context, we can now jump into our supplemental essay prompts!

The Bowdoin supplemental essay prompt 

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.)

Bowdoin is going outside of the box with this essay prompt! First off, it’s actually not much of an essay. They want you to read the above quote lines and choose what line resonates with you most. Pretty simple, right?

Well, it seems simple. However, there are two things you should think about before just choosing a random line and pressing copy and paste. 

  • First, “The Offer” is an integral piece of Bowdoin’s history. Their website has more information about where this quote came from and why it has become so important. So, take some time to do a little research before answering. 
  • Second, it’s true that there is no right or wrong answer to this question, however, you should still be putting some deep thinking behind your answer. Putting in the work upfront always pays off. As soon as you move on from this question, you’ll see why.

How to choose a line from the quote?

So, how do you go about actually choosing a line from this quote? We recommend you start by reading this quote once through in its entirety. As you read, take note of any lines that jump out at you or stick in your head. After, go back and look at the lines you have noted and make sure you understand what the speaker is saying. Once you’ve done so, you will have your answer! 

Optional essay prompt that expands upon line from the offer you chose

The Offer represents Bowdoin’s values. Please reflect on the line you selected and how it has meaning to you. (Limit 250 words)

Here’s where that critical thinking and research you just did a few minutes ago pays off. This essay might say “optional,” but if you’re seriously considering Bowdoin, this prompt is far from optional. 

This question is a great way to show your values to Bowdoin! And guess what? You don’t have to talk about your major or career goals at all. All you have to do is talk about your answer to the previous prompt. Do you want to talk about what the arts mean to you or how important adding to the community around you will be? Go for it! 

Remember, your response is limited to 250 words. So, take your time and think carefully about what you want to share. There is no right or wrong answer here–simply expand upon the answer you chose for the previous prompt. Strive to be as genuine and purposeful as you can, and you’ll be just fine.

Additional resources 

Once you’ve finished the Bowdoin College supplemental essays, give yourself a pat on the back! But remember, your admissions process is far from over. Luckily, we have some tools to help you through it. We offer a number of free and informative articles to help you through the college admissions process. Here are some to get started:

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