The results are in! After a two-year hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Orient conducted its third first year survey, asking members of the Class of 2026 about their identities, experiences and expectations for Bowdoin.
The results come from a 55-question survey that received 268 responses—or approximately 52 percent of the Class of 2026.
Sixty percent of respondents could not pronounce Bowdoin before they heard it, 13 percent have a relative who attended Bowdoin and, for 65 percent of respondents, Bowdoin was their first choice. Even though they have only been on campus one month, 61 percent of the Class of 2026 prefer Thorne Hall over Moulton Union.
Members of the Class of 2026 are diverse in the types of high school they hail from. A majority (54 percent) of respondents surveyed attended non-magnet, non-charter public high schools, while over a third (35 percent) attended private non-parochial schools. Smaller percentages attended public magnet or charter schools (three percent) and private parochial schools (six percent). All together, 57 percent of the Class of 2026 attended a public school and 41 attended a private school.
When comparing the Class of 2026 to the Class of 2023, which filled out a similar survey in September 2019, a greater percentage of Bowdoin students are coming from public schools. Of the Class of 2023, only 51 percent attended a public high school.
Further, 53 percent of the incoming class identify their home environment as suburban, while 33 percent of respondents hail from an urban neighborhood. Only 13 percent of incoming students are from rural areas.
Although the College does not use loans to calculate financial aid packages, students may still take out loans to afford the cost of Bowdoin. In the Class of 2026, 21 percent of students responded that they intend to take out loans during their time at Bowdoin. This compares to 30 percent of students who indicated a similar experience in the Class of 2023. The almost nine-point decrease in students seeking additional financial support is a significant development.
Alcohol, Drugs and Sex
In line with trends from previous years, 74 percent of respondents have consumed alcohol before attending Bowdoin. These numbers are almost exactly the same as for the Class of 2023, 74 percent of whom reported drinking alcohol before coming to the College.
Higher than in previous years, 16 percent of the Class of 2026 reported smoking cigarettes before arriving on campus. This compares to only ten percent of the Class of 2023 self-reporting this behavior. Despite this, there was a five percent decrease in previously vaping reported by the Class of 2026 compared to the Class of 2023 (29 and 23 percent, respectively).
The percentage of students in the Class of 2026 who have tried marijuana before arriving on campus (40 percent) is down by three points from 43 percent of the Class of 2023.
Proportions of respondents using other substances are much lower. Only three percent of the Class of 2026 have used cocaine or other hard drugs.
Additionally, 17 percent of the Class of 2026 self-report owning a fake ID, and 39 percent of respondents have had sex prior to coming to Bowdoin.
Thoughts Entering Bowdoin
The response to the College’s protocols for Covid was overwhelmingly positive with 42 percent responding that they were “satisfied” with the protocols. Thirty-two percent of respondents said they were “neutral” about the protocols. Sixty-four percent of respondents have had Covid before coming to Bowdoin, and six percent of respondents reported having symptoms of long Covid.
For the Class of 2026, 39 percent of respondents answered that they had sought mental health treatment prior to at0tending Bowdoin, and a slightly higher proportion, 41 percent, said that they planned to seek mental health treatment at the College.
The percentage of students in the Class of 2026 indicating that they would seek mental health treatment (41 percent) is greater than what the Class of 2023 reported in 2019 (31 percent). This increased need for mental health treatment could reflect a greater openness in discussing mental health issues or normalization of treatment during Covid.
The majority of respondents, 62 percent, identified themselves as “liberal” when asked about their political leanings. Interestingly, 13 percent of respondents identified themselves as “socialist” while just four percent identified as “conservative.”
Methodology and Fact Sheet
Notably, 37 percent of respondents were male, 59 percent were female and four percent have another gender identity, which is not in line with the College’s official report. However, other demographic figures—percent of students identifying as white, international and first generation—were accurate according to the admissions website. Therefore, the survey results were not adjusted for selection bias.
The Bowdoin Orient First Year Survey elicited responses from 268 students at Bowdoin College. To limit “ballot stuffing,” or the action of filling out the survey more than once, measures were taken to limit the amount of responses that could be submitted from a single IP address to one. Further, the Orient did not collect personal data of respondents outside of their IP address and the time they began and completed the survey. In the published data, which can be found on this article’s webpage, we have removed the IP addresses and will not be disseminating those responses in accordance with our own policies on ethics, polling and anonymity of respondents.
The Orient recognizes that there was no way to prevent a member from another class or from outside the Bowdoin community from filling out this survey. However, it is assumed this did not happen as the only method of filling out the survey was through an anonymous link emailed only to the first year class.
More information about the method of distributing, the Orient’s decision not to weight the poll, the questions asked, the data available to the public, the purpose of the poll and how to inquire about the data or the Orient’s decisions can be found on this article’s webpage in the Fact Sheet for this poll.
Ari Bersch, Janet Briggs, Andrew Cohen, Seamus Frey, Clara Jergins and Shihab Moral contributed to this report.