Bowdoin’s Class of 2026 will not look like its two preceding classes, with applications submitted and reviews underway. The Classes of 2024 and 2025 matriculated during the COVID-19 pandemic and their statistics have, in turn, have gone against the norm.
Despite previous classes suffering from fewer applications than normal at Bowdoin and across the country, applicants for the Class of 2026 have rebounded to resemble the number seen in the College’s record-setting year of 2019. As of January 25, the College received 9,397 applications for the class of 2026—a number on par with the number of applicants the College saw in 2019 during its record-breaking application year.
The College will likely see additional applications, as the Office of Admissions has granted extensions to select students on account of the Marshall Fire in Colorado and political unrest in Kazakhstan. This record-setting class, however, still provides space for the College to usher in a new Cass of 2026.
The Class of 2024 is currently the College’s smallest class, with approximately 460 students matriculated, a significant decrease from the Class of 2023’s 499 students. This number is the result of a tumultuous year for college admissions in the throes of COVID-19. One reason for the uncharacteristically low number is that 39 students who enrolled in the Class of 2024 requested to defer and matriculate with the Class of 2025. This is a severe increase from previous years in which the typical number of gap year requests was between 11 and 20 students.
“The reason I ended up taking [a gap year] was purely because of COVID[-19],” Mia Schiff ’25 said. “I was worried that socially, it would be very hard to be a freshman during a COVID[-19] year.”
Many of those who deferred did so on account of the College’s decision to bring back students at half-capacity and hold the majority of classes remotely.
“I really don’t learn well online,” Luisa Breen ’25 said. “Being able to be in person was huge for me.”
Over the course of the pandemic, the College has begun to see that students are engaging with the college admissions process differently than before. Now, current high school seniors are able to access information that was not previously available online including tours, town halls and information sessions about the College.
“During the pandemic, we shifted everything to virtual high school visits, virtual information sessions, virtual interviews, virtual chat sessions with students …We were able to reintegrate in-person campus tours last summer, but virtual has proven it’s here to stay,” Claudia Marroquin ’06, senior vice president and dean of admissions and student aid, said. “It’s provided us an opportunity to reach students who may never have been able to travel to the College or where we would not be able to visit given the fact that we have 15 admissions officers [trying] to cover the entire world. The virtual opportunities and some of the partnerships that began during the pandemic have helped to continue to reach audiences.”
On May 1, 2021, a total of 536 students enrolled for the Class of 2025, including the 39 students who deferred from the year before. The College’s office of admissions elected to accept a larger number of students for the Class of 2025 to ensure as equitable a process for the class as possible.
“The decision that we made early on in the recruitment cycle was that we would still be recruiting for a class as normal as we could to try not to impact the admission of students in the senior class,” Marroquin, said. “I think a concern many students had was that the high number of deferrals was going to lead to fewer spaces being available, and we were fortunate that at Bowdoin, we were able to work towards a class as we normally do.”
The College enrolled an abnormally large class in anticipation of students opting to defer a year and join the Class of 2026. Nineteen students made this decision.
Bowdoin’s deferral numbers over the past two years, though high for the College’s standards, is incredibly low compared to its peer institutions like Williams College, which had over 100 year-long deferrals from the class of 2024 to the class of 2025. Around the country, many 2020 high school graduates chose to take gap years on account of the persisting pandemic.
“Around half of my high school class took a gap year, and I think before that it had been one or two people per class,” Breen said.
Because of these deferrals, the yield rate for the Class of 2025 was the highest in the College’s history, with 63 percent of admitted students matriculating. This number represents a 9 percent increase from the Class of 2024 and a 4 percent increase from the Class of 2023.
In accompaniment with the class’s unprecedented size and yield, it sets a number of other records. The Class of 2025 holds the highest percentage of students whose home address is outside of New England at 75 percent, the highest number of domestic students who come from racial backgrounds the College identifies as a student of color at 40 percent, and the highest number of students who identify as first generation at 17 percent.
The Class of 2026 will be comprised of students who have experienced more than half of high school during the pandemic. In building the class, Marroquin stressed her understanding of their unique background and the uncertainty they have lived under for the past two years.
“The amount of turmoil this class and the previous one experienced in high school, and that continues into their college experience, is something to be reminded of because I think there are elements of the work that can feel normal,” Marroquin said. “I think it’s a really good reminder for our officers as we’re reviewing applications and speaking with students that there is nothing that has been consistent for many of these students.”