How to Approach the Bowdoin Supplemental Essay 2020-2021

Padya Paramita

How to Approach the Bowdoin Supplemental Essay 2020-2021

Dedicated to growing a community of students who are passionate about creating positive change in the world, Bowdoin College offers an exceptional undergraduate experience to the 450 students who are admitted each year. You might resonate with this liberal arts school’s commitment to researching and protecting the environment. Or Bowdoin could appeal to you because you want a highly ranked college dining experience as a part of your everyday life, but so might thousands of other applicants. If you’re looking for a way to differentiate yourself from the competition, you need to find ways to stand out in your Bowdoin supplemental essay 2020-2021

Whether your choice of major is American Politics or Francophone Studies, you have to answer a two-part supplemental essay when you select Bowdoin on the Common App or Coalition App. The second part is optional, but you should write it, for a few reasons. 1) Almost all applicants will respond with an essay for this prompt and 2) your application would benefit from highlighting how the school’s philosophy aligns with your background and aspirations. It’s time to read the college’s signature “Offer of the College” and talk about the ways in which the words resonate with you. To guide you through navigating the Offer, I’ve outlined the prompt, the dos and don’ts of your response, and more tips to help you write the Bowdoin supplemental essay 2020-2021.

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Bowdoin Supplemental Essay 2020-2021 Prompt

In order to complete your Bowdoin application, you should answer the following prompt:

Generations of students have found connection and meaning in Bowdoin's “The Offer of the College,” written in 1906 by Bowdoin President William DeWitt Hyde.

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.

Which line from the Offer resonates most with you?

Optional Prompt

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

The Bowdoin supplemental essay 2020-2021 prompt might throw you off at first glance. You’re being presented with a stanza of text, and you might not be used to that from other supplemental essays. But if you carefully read it, the Offer is quite easy to understand. In fact, while a lot of other colleges won’t tell you where to pick your answer for their “why college” supplemental essay, Bowdoin has provided 10 different options to guide you. You’ve probably studied Shakespeare for class - the language in Bowdoin’s motto is far easier to comprehend. If you read it out loud, you’ll see that it all makes sense - you’re being asked “why Bowdoin,” but with a lyrical twist. 

The first part of the question is required. Spend some time studying the Offer before choosing the line that appeals to you the most. In order to make your choice, think about what you’re looking forward to out of your college experience, and specifically from your time at Bowdoin College. Even though the second part of the question is optional, the Bowdoin supplemental essay 2020-2021 is meant to help the admissions officers get to know you. There’s no better way to distinguish yourself from your peers - some of whom are bound to have picked the same Offer line - than to take advantage of this component and elaborate on why you’ve chosen your selected line. Dig in deeper to the lines as you develop your argument. Note the ways in which you could approach some of the lines: 

  • to count Nature a familiar acquaintance / and Art an intimate friend If this line resonates the most with you, elaborate on how you’re excited to create art, inspired by the natural setting of Brunswick, Maine. You could mention any activity you’re currently a part of that involves art and nature. “Nature” and “art” are both very broad categories, so be as specific as possible in your response.
  • “to gain a standard for the appreciation of others' work / and the criticism of your own” Bowdoin appreciates students who are able to offer (no pun intended) and accept meaningful feedback. By working with talented peers from all over the world, a Bowdoin education can help you understand the standard for good work, as well as develop your own self-awareness. If this line appeals to you, focus your response on what you consider a high standard in your field. If you’ve had any instances where you learned to take or give constructive feedback, don’t be afraid to include relevant anecdotes.
  • to make hosts of friends...who are to be leaders in all walks of life” - Are you drawn to the idea of collaborating with friends who will become future world leaders and share common values? If you’ve chosen “to make hosts of friends...who are to be leaders in all walks of life;” for example, you must bring forward your collaborative side. Outline your interests and goals - specifically tailored to your choice of major at Bowdoin or any extracurriculars you have your eyes on - and highlight how working with talented classmates can help get you there.  Expand on your goals and the ways in which your aspirations require collaboration. How can you hone your teamwork efforts while at Bowdoin? Use concrete examples where you can.

No matter which line is your favorite, your supplemental response should use anecdotes and the “show, not tell” technique to emphasize the importance of nature, art, resources, enthusiasm, friendship, and cooperation in your experiences thus far. The Bowdoin admissions officers must come out of reading your essay with a clear idea of exactly what you’re passionate about, what most appeals to you about the school, and which areas you’re most likely to contribute to on campus. So, don’t hold back on expressing your enthusiasm for the opportunities that await you at this prestigious liberal arts college. 

Additional Tips for Writing the Bowdoin Supplemental Essay 2020-2021

  • Make sure to still research the school - While your Bowdoin supplemental essay 2020-2021 should expand on whichever line you appreciate the most in the Offer, it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t conduct further research on the school. When it comes to answering colleges’ prompts, you have to be as specific as you can in your answer. The Offer doesn’t directly name any of the resources that Bowdoin has for you. Go ahead and name specific aspects that stand out to you the most. Admissions officers will notice if you’ve done your research, and they’ll feel more confident going to bat for you in committee if they know that you’re applying with concrete reasons.
  • Don’t repeat your personal statement - One of the key purposes of the Bowdoin supplemental essay 2020-2021 is to convey new information about you to help the school get to know you better. That’s not going to happen if you repeat parts of your Common App personal statement, activities list, or other elements of your application. Admissions officers don’t have a lot of time on their hands, so they won’t appreciate reading the same information over and over. If your personal statement already focuses on collaboration, you need to find a different line from the Offer that also calls out to you so that you can bring to light a new side of yourself. 

The Bowdoin supplemental essay 2020-2021 is used to determine your commitment towards this top liberal arts college by evaluating the way you engage with the Offer that has inspired generations of students who’ve attended the school. Make sure you take advantage of this component and focus mainly on what makes you a good fit for this institution. The more specific you are, the stronger your essay will be. Best of luck!

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