Every year, nearly 6,000 students apply to Bowdoin College. Of the one-sixth accepted, nearly half chooses to matriculate. And every year, the Office of Admissions strives for a "diverse" graduating class.
Diversity, however, is not a sugar-coated word for racial and ethnic minorities.
"We don't have minority recruitment," said Associate Dean of Admissions and Coordinator of Multicultural Recruitment Elmer Moore. "But multicultural and diversity recruitment."
Moore defined diversity as "people from various perspectives such as geography, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, political ideology, religion, height and so on."
According to Moore, efforts to bring "diverse" students to the College began in 1794, when it was founded.
Moore is responsible for coordinating the Bowdoin Invitational, Explore Bowdoin and the Experience Weekend—four-day weekend programs designed to recruit diverse students to the College.
These three programs give prospective students an opportunity to explore Bowdoin by experiencing it first-hand and to be exposed to all that the College has to offer.
The process formerly required students to be nominated by their high school counselors for the Invitational; however, now students must apply for the program. Approximately 250 to 300 students apply every fall, and around 130 get chosen, according to Moore.
Moore said that, historically, students who attend Explore Bowdoin have been admitted students from the QuestBridge Program, a "non-profit program that links bright, motivated low-income students with educational and scholarship opportunities at some of the nation's best colleges," according to its website.
Experience Weekend, however, is the most hyped of the three multicultural recruitment programs.
It is "an opportunity usually for multicultural, low-income, first-generational students who have not had the opportunity to come see Bowdoin," said Moore.
First year Jordan Francke, a white male from Presque Isle, Maine, attended the Bowdoin Experience weekend last year in April 2009 as a prospective.
"I'm not a minority in the traditional sense," said Francke. "But I was invited from northern Maine, which is a minority."
Francke said the Experience Weekend helped him meet a lot of people and get to know a group that eventually chose to come to Bowdoin.
Van Tra '13, a Vietnamese female from Houston, Texas, was also invited to attend the Bowdoin Experience last year. Tra was accepted to Bowdoin through early decision.
"I came so I could get an interior knowledge of what I should do, what to look out for," she said.
This year, the College invited approximately 220 students to Experience Weekend.
Prospective student Emery Ahoua, an African-American male from Newark, New Jersey, was one of approximately 80 attendees at this year's Experience weekend two weeks ago.
"Saying that I simply enjoyed Bowdoin during the Experience [would] be an understatement," said Ahoua. "I loved every single minute of my time spent at Bowdoin."
For Ahoua, "it was not the big events that were planned for us that mostly attracted me," he said. "It is the simple things that Bowdoin does on a daily basis that brings its community together."
"After my visit, I knew that Bowdoin was the place for me," said Ahoua, who was also considering Middlebury, Boston College and Bates.
Like Ahoua, prospective student Terence Barley of Bloomfield, N.J., who is half Caucasian and half African-American, also enjoyed Experience Weekend.
"[Experience Weekend] ensured me [that] Bowdoin was definitely my top choice," said Barley, who was choosing between Boston University, Emory, Tulane and Bowdoin. "I mailed my [Bowdoin] deposit the Monday I got home," he said.
Bowdoin is consistently ranked by the U.S. News & World Report as one to the top seven liberal arts colleges in the past several years.
Thus, it is no surprise that Bowdoin's highly selective liberal arts education is a vital factor when students are deliberating whether to attend Bowdoin.
Academically, Tra loves Bowdoin's atmosphere.
"That's the incentive for me to stay here," she said.
Interested in the sciences, Tra was excited to take a paid research internship on campus this summer, through which she would work alongside Professor of Biology Michael Palopoli.
Although Barley "found all the current students to be very friendly and welcoming" as well, it was Bowdoin's academics ultimately attracted him most.
Sometimes, however, Bowdoin's strong academics give a false sense of the social culture on campus.
"To be honest, I didn't think that Bowdoin had much of a social culture until I [attended Experience Weekend]," said Ahoua. "Most of the current Bowdoin students that I spoke with are simply brilliant, but they showed me that what makes Bowdoin different is that they know when to have fun."
For multicultural students, the biggest challenge is not deciding to come to Bowdoin, but rather, what happens after matriculation: fitting in.
Moore felt that finding one's place at Bowdoin depends on the individual student, noting that Bowdoin provides plenty of resources for students to fit in.
While Tra said she loves Bowdoin's academic environment, since matriculation she has had a hard time fitting in.
An Orient editorial from November of 2000 stated that while actions by the student body to exclude minority groups might not be intentional, they were certainly present at the time.
Tra agreed, and said that this dynamic extends to the present.
"It's not about the issue of race or ethnicity that's the barrier, but often the issue of socioeconomic class," Tra added.
Tra feels that minority students have to live up to certain standards in order to "survive" Bowdoin.
According to Tra, at an "elite" institution like Bowdoin, North Face jackets and L.L. Bean boots become class markers of socioeconomic status. For Tra, this is not a comfortable experience.
"You have to be fashionable to be comfortable at Bowdoin," she said.
"In general, I feel like I can't stand up for myself," said Tra. "I'm a nobody...I feel like I don't belong here."
"I don't think Bowdoin's purpose through the Experience is to present the false image that Bowdoin is more diverse than it really is," said Francke. Instead, he said it is "to attract minorities so they can say that they are diverse."
Francke's first semester at Bowdoin confirmed the existance of small class sizes he was told about during Experience Weekend.
However, other aspects of campus culture were not confirmed.
"They said that the people you meet at the Experience would be your best friends," said Francke. "When I got here, those people were in different dorms," and so he was unable to see them often.
Additionally, Experience Weekend gave Francke the sense that Bowdoin students got off campus a lot, and "went to Portland and Boston several times a month," he said. "You can go there but it's less convenient than people led me to assume."
For Tra, the Experience weekend also did not exactly provide her with a "true" sense of Bowdoin.
Tra's host assured her that the people at Bowdoin are very nice. Tra said she found that sentiment to be true, but often on a surface level.
According to Moore, Bowdoin's diversity is more apparent on campus than it has been in the past.
"I think the student body is a demonstration of our success," said Moore. "We want to be diverse, that's why there's no end."