Although recent trends show that more parents are sending their children to public high schools, the percentage of Bowdoin students from private schools has increased.
Over the past five years, with the exception of the class of 2010, the percentage of students coming from private schools has decreased, from 46 percent in 2006 to 45 percent in 2009. The class of 2010, however, has caused the trend to change directions, with 48 percent coming from private schools.
According to the Admissions Office, however, the differences between the percentages of public school graduates and private school graduates are slight, and mild fluctuations in the ratio occur frequently, and by chance.
According to Logan Powell, senior associate dean of admissions, Bowdoin admits students who have been well-prepared for college, regardless of where they received their education. While the quality of education received at their secondary school is important, whether the institution is public or private makes no difference in the application process.
"We don't ever go out in the beginning of a year and have a number and a percentage in mind," he said.
Powell maintains that the admissions committee does not go into the application process with the intention of increasing or decreasing either private or public school enrollment. Slight fluctuations in percentages per year can be attributed to the raw numbers of applicants from each category, but most often the changes are simply due to chance.
"It's not because we designed it that way, and not that it was a goal; it just happened that way," he said.
Recently, Bowdoin representatives have dramatically expanded the areas where they travel to recruit applicants. In addition to visiting schools in Europe and Asia, admissions officers have also been making an effort to visit large, public schools that do not typically send students to Bowdoin.
According to Powell, while the term "private school" may automatically bring to mind the image of a small, established, preparatory boarding school, the term actually encompasses a wide range of institutions. These include institutions ranging from small, parochial schools to larger private schools.
"It is easy to think of them fitting a certain description, but they don't," Powell said.
Although the rise in early decision applicants might also cause a greater increase in students from private schools in the class of 2011, this is not necessarily the case.
"We've always been of the mind that we're always going to make more offers to students who apply regular decision," Powell said. Also, students will receive the same financial aid package through early decision as regular decision, though early applicants will not have the opportunity to shop around for other offers, he said.
Central to the debate is the question of finance. A recent Wall Street Journal article, ''Opting out of Private School,'' pointed out that differences between a public school education and a private school education are in many cases becoming fewer and fewer. Consequently, parents are often choosing the more financially feasible option.
The article also suggests that the private-public school debate may be becoming irrelevant. Some public schools are considered better than many private schools, and public school students often test in the same range or better than private-school students. While parents and students may worry about a college's statistics during the admissions process, the differences between students are not apparent once on campus. However, even during the admissions process, Powell states the small differences between numbers from year to year should not be alarming.
"The type of school someone attended is not going to be a determining factor," he said.