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Students express changing opinions on Counseling, E-Board, AI

May 3, 2024

GPA inflation, artificial intelligence, counseling and Good Will Hunting: Bowdoin students shared their opinions on these topics and more in the spring 2024 Bowdoin Orient Student Survey (BOSS).


This semester’s BOSS yielded 311 responses. Of the respondents, about 30 percent are members of the Class of 2027; 32 percent the Class of 2026; 20 percent the Class of 2025; and 18 percent the Class of 2024 or older. About 52 percent of respondents are women, 42 percent are men and five percent are nonbinary. About 19 percent of respondents are varsity athletes. Eighteen percent of respondents have a relative who attended Bowdoin. Around 54 percent of respondents are not on financial aid, and seven percent of respondents are international students.


Approximately 21 percent of respondents indicated that they agreed or strongly agreed with the statement “Grade inflation is a problem at Bowdoin.” This represents an increase from the 14 percent of respondents who felt that way in December and is similar to the 20 percent in May 2023. Additionally, the proportion of students who agreed or strongly agreed with this statement decreased with each consecutive class year: 36 percent of the Class of 2024 compared to just 12 percent of the Class of 2027.

The majority of respondents—about 52 percent—estimated that the average grade point average (GPA) at Bowdoin is between 3.500 and 3.749. About 39 percent of respondents believed the average GPA should be within this range. Additionally, just under half of respondents—about 49 percent—believed their GPA is above the average GPA at Bowdoin.

For the second time, the survey also asked about artificial intelligence tools like ChatGPT. About 37 percent of respondents said they used artificial intelligence tools on academic assignments this semester, an increase from 27 percent in December. Respondents who used artificial intelligence tools most commonly said they used them in Natural Science and Math and Humanities courses. The primary assignments respondents used ChatGPT for were homework assignments and papers/essays.

Several respondents suggested that artificial intelligence can be a useful supplement to what students learn in class.

“For problem sets, I use ChatGPT if I have abstract questions I might ask the professor or if I don’t understand a part of the problem. I never directly plagiarize or ask it for step-by-step solutions,” a student from the Class of 2026 wrote.

Others expressed some concerns about the accuracy of artificial intelligence tools.

“Beyond elementary material, ChatGPT often provides erroneous answers,” a student from the Class of 2024 wrote.

This semester, the survey also asked whether students had difficulty enrolling in classes required for their major. About 34 percent of respondents indicated “yes.” The class with the highest proportion of respondents answering “yes” was the Class of 2026—the class that most recently declared their majors this semester.

Additionally, around half of survey respondents were aware of the College’s upcoming transition to a first-come, first-serve class registration system. However, the approval rating of this change was overwhelmingly negative, with an average score of 19 on a feeling thermometer ranging from 0 to 100.

Approval Ratings

Students felt positively about President Safa Zaki, with 81 percent of students either approving or strongly approving of her. Last semester, 76 percent of students either approved or strongly approved of Zaki.

Continuing a trend from last semester, Entertainment Board (E-Board) approval continues to climb. This spring, 47 percent of students either approved or strongly approved of the E-Board, significantly higher than 24 percent overall approval in the fall and 17 percent last spring. Despite this upward trend, 23 percent of students disapproved or strongly disapproved of the E-Board.

Residential Life (ResLife) has seen a downturn in approval, as only 51 percent of students approved or strongly approved of ResLife compared with 63 percent in the fall. Since the fall survey, ResLife student staff organized in an attempt to form a union, for which the vote was ultimately canceled in early April.

Counseling Services

Counseling Services has seen an approval rebound in the wake of the pandemic. Forty percent of students approved or strongly approved of Counseling Services this spring, while 14 percent disapproved or strongly disapproved. This ratio has been slowly improving for Counseling Services since the spring of 2022, when 28 percent of students approved or strongly approved of Counseling Services and 28 percent of students disapproved or strongly disapproved.

The Class of 2024 expressed the most disapproval with Counseling Services—24 percent disapproved or strongly disapproved—and the Class of 2027 expressed the least disapproval—only five percent disapproved or strongly disapproved.

Nearly half of survey respondents reported using some form of Counseling Services. Student perceptions of counseling continue to remain mixed, with an average score of 62 reported on a feeling thermometer ranging from 0 to 100. This was consistent with survey respondents from last year.

Multiple respondents were thankful for Bowdoin Counseling Services but indicated their positive experiences were not universal.

“I had individually good experiences with counseling and believe that they are well-intentioned as a whole, but I know a lot of people who have been hurt by their system,” a student from the Class of 2024 wrote.

Other respondents noted that Counseling Services’ resources seemed overstretched, a sentiment present in previous surveys.

“I had a great experience with the counseling services. I do think that more staff should be hired, as it seemed like the counselors I spoke to had a really high workload,” a student from the Class of 2025 wrote.


Compared to last semester, the percentage of respondents who are happy rose from 86 percent to 88 percent. Similarly, 87 percent of respondents give a damn, which is an increase of three percentage points from the fall semester.

When asked whether they would describe themselves as “A student who goes to Bowdoin” or “A Bowdoin student,” 72 percent responded with the latter—consistent with the 73 percent of respondents who felt that way last semester.

Forty-eight percent of respondents believed the world will improve in 25 years, which marks a one-percentage point increase from the fall.


Seventy-one percent of respondents are either the oldest or youngest child among their siblings. Additionally, a higher percentage of respondents are an only child—16 percent—than a middle child—13 percent.

As for handedness, 89 percent of respondents are right-handed, nine percent are left-handed and two percent are ambidextrous.

The majority of respondents—78 percent—preferred to listen to music on Spotify over other mediums. Apple Music was next, with 11 percent of respondents saying they preferred the platform. Very few respondents preferred physical media—two percent for vinyl records, one percent for CDs and not a single respondent preferred cassette tapes.

When asked “Good Will Hunting (Gus Van Sant, 1997)?”, 66 percent of respondents answered “yes” while 34 percent responded “no.” How do you like them apples?

More information about the method of distributing the survey, 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.

Andrew Cohen, Janet Briggs, Julia Dickinson, Nikki Harris, Shihab Moral, Margaret Unger and Austin Zheng contributed to this report.


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