How to Write the Bowdoin Supplemental Essays

Forest in Maine
August 28, 2023
4 min read
Expert Reviewed


Reviewed by:

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 8/14/23

If you’re applying to Bowdoin, you’ll need to know how to tackle their supplemental essay. Read on to learn more about the Bowdoin prompt, how to answer it, and to see examples to draw inspiration from!

The Bowdoin supplemental essay is optional, but you’re highly encouraged to answer it, as it serves as an additional platform to showcase your personality, passions, and unique perspective beyond what your application already covers.

It's an opportunity to strengthen your application further and demonstrate how your values align with the college's community and mission! So, now that we’ve convinced you to write this optional essay, let’s delve into how to ensure your essay stands out and leaves a lasting impression on the admissions committee!

Bowdoin Essay Prompt

Bowdoin only has one supplemental essay prompt:

“The Offer of the College represents Bowdoin’s values. You have the option to reflect on the line selected and how it has meaning to you. Here is the Offer:

Generations of students have found connection and meaning in Bowdoin’s ‘The Offer of the College.’

To be at home in all lands and all ages;

To count Nature a familiar acquaintance, and Art an intimate friend;

To gain a standard for the appreciate of others’ work

And the criticism of your own;

To carry the keys of the world’s library in your pocket,

And feel its resources behind you in whatever task you undertake;

To make hosts of friends…Who are to be leaders in all walks of life;

To lose yourself in generous enthusiasms

And cooperate with others for common ends -

This is the offer of the college for the best four years of your life.”

Your answer to this prompt must be short! With a 250-word limit, it’s crucial you keep your response focused, precise, and to the point!

How to Write the Bowdoin Supplemental Essay

Crumpled essay papers

So, how do you ensure you make the most out of these 250 words? Follow these steps, and you’ll be on your way to crafting a compelling and concise essay!

Step One: Fully Understand "The Offer"

Before you begin crafting your Bowdoin supplemental essay response, read “the Offer” several times to truly immerse yourself in it. Take time to understand the profound values and ideals the poem aims to capture.

Go beyond the surface meaning and try to read between the lines, discerning the deeper values and ideals that underpin Bowdoin's educational philosophy. 

Step Two: Choose the Line that Speaks to Your Soul

As the prompt states, you can only choose one line to center your answer on, so choose wisely! Among these inspiring lines, one must have resonated with you on a deeper level. 

Listen to your intuition to select the line that encapsulates your aspirations and reasons for applying to Bowdoin. Perhaps it's the longing "to be at home in all lands and all ages," or the desire to "carry the keys of the world's library in your pocket." Trust your instincts and choose the line that evokes a genuine emotional response within you.

Do not simply choose the line that you believe will be the easiest to explain. Choose the path less traveled to show off your impressive critical thinking and writing skills!

Step Three: Reflect on the Meaning Behind Your Chosen Line

Now comes the moment of reflection. Delve into the reasons behind your connection to the chosen line. Explore how it has influenced your personal growth, shaped your worldview, or sparked a passion within you. 

Briefly share personal anecdotes or experiences that illustrate the impact this line has had on your life. Be vulnerable and sincere in expressing why this line speaks to your soul! But, keep the word limit in mind. 

Do not create a laundry list of all the experiences that tie into this line. Choose one or two that stick out the most and focus on connecting these experiences to your chosen line. 

Step Four: Make Your Essay Personal and Vivid

Student thinking

As you write your essay, remember that authenticity is key. Infuse your response with your unique voice, style, and personality. Use vivid language, descriptive imagery, and storytelling to bring your essay to life. 

Captivate the reader with your insightful reflections and consider showing instead of just telling!

Step Five: Connect with Bowdoin's Values

Your response should not only showcase your personal connection to the chosen line but also demonstrate your alignment with Bowdoin's values and mission. Illustrate how your chosen line reflects the shared ideals and principles between you and Bowdoin. 

Emphasize how Bowdoin's vibrant intellectual community and commitment to diversity resonate deeply with your own values and aspirations and show that you’ve deeply considered your college choice!

Step Six: Emphasize Your Potential Contributions

Bowdoin seeks students who will make meaningful contributions to its community. Articulate how your chosen line reflects your potential contributions to Bowdoin's campus life, academic pursuits, and extracurricular involvements. 

Highlight how your passion for exploration, collaboration, and leadership can enrich the Bowdoin experience for all. Share one or two concrete examples of how you plan to engage with Bowdoin's resources, programs, and organizations.

Step Seven: Remember to Keep It Concise

While you may be overwhelmed by how many attributes you should add to your essay, know that each component should only be a couple of sentences long! Keep your ideas as concise as possible, and avoid using unnecessary language that will waste valuable space!

Step Eight: Edit, Edit, Edit

Pens editing

Once you've poured your thoughts onto the page, take a step back and revise your essay. Reread your response with a critical eye, ensuring clarity and coherence.

Trim any repetitive parts and focus on conveying your ideas concisely. Use strong and effective language to make your points, and ensure that your essay flows smoothly from start to finish. 

Don’t be afraid to start over if you feel like your essay fails to convey your voice! You may need to write multiple drafts until you’re confident you’ve written the best essay possible!

Step Nine: Seek Feedback and Refine

Share your essay with trusted individuals—friends, family, or teachers. Seek their honest feedback and insights. Embrace constructive criticism and use it to refine and strengthen your response. 

A fresh set of eyes is more likely to catch mistakes, pick up on awkward sentences, and offer ways to further polish your essay!

Step Ten: Stay True to Yourself

As you write your Bowdoin supplemental essay, remember that this essay is an opportunity to showcase your authentic self. Don't feel pressured to conform or write what you think the admissions committee wants to hear. Be genuine, celebrate your individuality, and let your true self shine through in every word!

Bowdoin Supplemental Essay Examples

Here are some compelling Bowdoin supplemental essay examples to act as aids in your writing journey!

Example One

"I’ve called several places home over the last 10 years. First, it was my birthplace Kerala, then Delhi, briefly Yanbu, and finally Maine. Accordingly, the line “To be at home in all lands and all ages" resonates with me profoundly. This line encapsulates my journey of embracing diverse cultures, bridging gaps between traditions, and finding a sense of belonging in unfamiliar territories.

I have faced the challenge of adapting to new environments several times, and this line reminded me of the value in cultivating a global perspective. Moreover, this line reminds me of the importance of immersing myself in the cultural tapestry of my surroundings. By embracing diversity, I discovered a shared humanity that binds us all together. This understanding has influenced my academic pursuits, leading me to explore courses that delve into the histories and traditions of different societies.

As an immigrant, I recognize the privilege of having access to a wealth of knowledge and perspectives from around the globe. This drives me to seize every chance to learn and contribute, embracing education as a means of breaking down barriers and making a positive impact in the world.

"To be at home in all lands and all ages" encapsulates my immigrant experience—a journey of growth, intercultural understanding, and embracing the richness of diverse perspectives. Embracing this ethos, I am eager to contribute to Bowdoin's vibrant community, to learn from and with my peers, and to be a bridge-builder between cultures and ideas for the betterment of our shared future."

Why It Works

This Bowdoin supplemental essay works for several reasons:

  • Engaging introduction: The essay starts with a captivating introduction that immediately grabs the reader's attention. This creates a sense of curiosity and sets the stage for discussing the line that resonates with them the most.
  • Addresses the prompt: They respond to the prompt by stating that the line "To be at home in all lands and all ages" profoundly resonates with the applicant. Students often get distracted by the essay itself and forget to follow the prompt! They often discuss more than one line or analyse the entire poem!
  • Includes personal experiences: The applicant delves into their personal experience as an immigrant, explaining how they have adapted to multiple environments and cultures. They link this experience to the idea of cultivating a global perspective, emphasizing the importance of embracing diversity.
  • Shares their academic goals: The essay discusses how the line relates to the applicant's academic pursuits of exploring courses that delve into the histories of different societies. This shows their commitment to broadening their understanding and engaging with diverse perspectives.
  • Recognizes the applicant’s privilege and purpose: It demonstrates the applicant's awareness of the privilege they have as an immigrant with access to a wealth of knowledge from around the world. It shows their driven approach to education, viewing it as a tool for breaking down barriers and making an impact.
  • Embraces Bowdoin’s values: Throughout the essay, the applicant repeatedly emphasizes how the line aligns with their values and beliefs, encapsulating their growth, intercultural understanding, and commitment to embracing diverse perspectives. This demonstrates a genuine connection to the college's mission.
  • Looks forward: The essay concludes by expressing the applicant's eagerness to contribute to Bowdoin's vibrant community, learn from their peers, and be a bridge-builder between cultures and ideas. This forward-looking approach showcases their enthusiasm for being a part of Bowdoin's community.

Overall, this response is well-structured, concise, and directly addresses the prompt. It effectively communicates the applicant's unique experiences, values, and aspirations, making a compelling case for why they are an ideal fit for Bowdoin College!

Example Two

“Knowledge is what separates good doctors from excellent ones. If you want to be an excellent physician, Delilah, you need to apply yourself and commit to learning.” These are the words that have stuck with me since I received my first D in my freshman year Biology class after I admittedly gave my studies 70% of my attention instead of 100%.  

Ever since that pivotal moment, my attention has been directed towards the unwavering pursuit of knowledge and continuous learning, which is why the line “To carry the keys of the world's library in your pocket" resonates with me.

In the vast realm of medicine, knowledge is not only power but also the key to unlocking doors that lead to healing and understanding. The library, in this context, symbolizes the wealth of medical knowledge and resources that I aim to carry with me throughout my academic pursuits and professional career.

This line represents a lifelong commitment to learning and continuous improvement. In the rapidly evolving field of medicine, staying abreast of new discoveries and advancements is essential. As a pre-med Bowdoin student, I aspire to immerse myself in the vast resources available to me, forge meaningful connections with like-minded peers and mentors, and ultimately become a healthcare leader who makes a positive impact on the lives of patients and the broader community. 

Bowdoin's values of intellectual curiosity, service, and leadership align seamlessly with my aspirations, and I eagerly anticipate embracing this enriching academic environment."

Why It Works

This answer to the Bowdoin supplemental essay prompt works exceptionally well because it showcases the applicant's personal connection to the college's core values and future aspirations. Here are the most successful parts of this essay:

  • Captivating hook: The essay uses a unique hook by sharing harsh words spoken to them by a teacher that has stuck with them and influenced their perspective on learning.
  • Passion and commitment: The essay exudes a genuine passion for the medical field and emphasizes the applicant's unwavering commitment to continuous learning. This passion is evident in their determination to “carry the keys of the world's library” and seek knowledge to become the best physician.
  • Reflective and self-aware: The applicant demonstrates a high level of self-awareness by acknowledging their past academic challenges and using them as a catalyst for growth. This reflective aspect of the essay adds depth to their character and showcases their ability to learn from experiences.
  • Clear career goals: By stating their aspiration to become a healthcare leader who positively impacts patients and the broader community, the applicant presents a clear vision of their future role in the medical field. This clarity highlights their sense of purpose and commitment to making a difference.
  • Involves Bodwon’s mission: Throughout the essay, the applicant aligns their personal values and ambitions with Bowdoin's mission, emphasizing how they will actively contribute to and enrich the college's academic and social environment.
  • Unique voice: The applicant's writing style and voice add a personal touch to the essay, making it stand out and allowing the admissions committee to connect with their story on a deeper level.
  • Evident research and understanding: The essay showcases the applicant's research and knowledge of Bowdoin's values, illustrating that they have taken the time to understand the college's culture and align themselves accordingly.

This essay has an engaging narrative that demonstrates the student’s passion and interests. It shows clear direction and effectively demonstrates their potential to thrive in Bowdoin's community!

FAQs: Bowdoin Supplemental Essay

For any remaining questions about the Bowdoin supplemental essay, read on to find your answers!

1. How Many Supplemental Essays Does Bowdoin Require?

There is only one optional Bowdoin supplemental essay.

2. How Important Is the Bowdoin Supplemental Essay?

Since the supplemental essay is optional, it won’t necessarily make or break your application. However, writing the essay can be beneficial as it will demonstrate the following:

  • Interest and fit: Writing the supplemental essay shows that the applicant has taken the time to research Bowdoin and understand its values and culture. By addressing specific aspects of the college in their essay, applicants can demonstrate their genuine interest in attending Bowdoin and fit.
  • Personal insight: Applicants can provide a more personal and nuanced perspective of themselves beyond what can be conveyed through test scores and academic records. It offers an opportunity for students to share their unique experiences, aspirations, and challenges. 
  • Differentiation: The application process is highly competitive, and many applicants have strong academic records and extracurricular achievements. A well-crafted supplemental essay can set an applicant apart from others, helping them stand out as a unique and compelling candidate.
  • Writing skills: The supplemental essay evaluates an applicant's writing skills, clarity of thought, and ability to articulate ideas concisely. Effective communication is a valuable skill in college, and the essay provides a platform for applicants to showcase their proficiency in this area.

Ultimately, the Bowdoin supplemental essay lets applicants present themselves beyond their academic credentials and convey their unique qualities and aspirations!

2. How Long Should the Bowdoin Supplemental Essay Be?

You have a 250-word limit on your Bowdoin essay, and you’ll likely need to reach this maximum to fully explain the meaning of your chosen line! 

3. How Do I Ensure My Bowdoin Supplemental Essay Stands Out?

Here are some tips to make your Bowdoin essay shine:

  • Make it personal: Start by genuinely reflecting on the quote from "The Offer of the College" and how it resonates with your own experiences and values. Make a personal connection to the quote and let your passion for the topic shine through in your writing.
  • Open with a hook: Start your essay with an intriguing hook that will urge the admissions committee to read on. Consider using a quote that resonates with you, a short anecdote that relates to your story, or a philosophy you live by!
  • Offer a unique perspective: Avoid generic responses and focus on what makes your perspective and story unique. Consider what sets you apart from other applicants and how your experiences have shaped your aspirations and values.
  • Avoid vagueness: Use specific examples and anecdotes to illustrate your points. Show, don't just tell the admissions committee about your journey and how you embody the values expressed in the quote. Be descriptive and think outside of the box!
  • Share your goals: Use the essay as an opportunity to highlight your future goals and how your time at Bowdoin will help you achieve them. Emphasize how the college's resources, community, and values align with your aspirations.
  • Be authentic: Write in your own voice and be true to yourself. Avoid trying to fit into any preconceived mold of what an applicant "should" be like. Let your personality and passions come through in your writing.
  • Avoid clichés: Stay away from overused phrases or clichés—the admissions committee has seen it all before and won’t be impressed. Instead, strive for originality and sincerity in expressing your thoughts and feelings.

By following these tips, you can create a standout Bowdoin supplemental essay that showcases your unique qualities and ability to fit in at this college!

Final Thoughts

Now you've got the tools to craft an amazing Bowdoin supplemental essay that truly reflects who you are and what you’re passionate about! Each line will mean something different to you, so take your time to decide which one to focus on and ensure your personality is highlighted throughout!

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