Bates College is located in Lewiston, ME about 40 minutes north of Portland and 30 minutes west of Freeport, ME (the corporate headquarters of L.L. Bean). It is rural, but not remote, however the town of Lewiston feels slightly depressed. Bates is a pretty, brick campus with an expansive lawn, a small pond, and lots of open space. The school has undergone some recent renovations including a new dining hall, new dorms, and a renovated field house. They are also rebuilding the foreign language departments.
Bates was built on the philosophy of equal access to all and has upheld that philosophy through its anti-Greek life and integrated residential halls. Their founding mission is “change everything and influence the spirit of daily life.” All clubs, activities and housing are open to all students. Freshmen are, however grouped by about 15 students to one Resident Adviser to provide for an easy transition. Students are a mix of conservative and liberal points of view. It was summer, so I did not get to see the full range of students, however, those I did see, seemed clean cut, slightly preppy, but also very down-to-earth. Most of the student activity takes place on campus, leading to a strong sense of community, school spirit and enthusiastic student body. Roughly 1/3 of students participate in varsity sports (D III with the exception of skiing and squash.) Many other students participate in club or intramural sports. There is also an extremely robust arts focus with strong programs in dance, music, art, and theater. The most popular club on campus is the Outdoor Club, which organizes various outdoor activities, such as rock climbing, hiking, kayaking, and skiing. The most popular majors are English, Biology, and Biochemistry.
Admissions conducts “specialty readings” for student athletes and the visual and performing arts (music, theater, art, debate, and dance). Those students are encouraged to submit supplemental material to pass onto the appropriate faculty or coach. The Admission office works closely with the faculty/coach to secure a position for those students who can add value to the campus. Admissions looks for students who can articulate clearly why they want to attend Bates and how they will contribute to campus. They also encourage students to interview with their “Admissions Fellows” (10-12 seniors who conduct interviews). As most select colleges, they look for strength of curriculum, why student wants to be there, and what student will do once accepted. Roughly 45% of students are accepted through Early Decision, although they are trying to hold that number steady. Bates is test optional and finds that approximately 30% do not submit scores. The academics are strong at Bates with an interdisciplinary focus. Students must major in a subject plus two additional concentrations (4 classes) or minors (6 classes). All students are required to write a senior thesis for each major. Bates also offers the 4 short terms where students can take one class intensely over a 4-week period.
Roughly half of the students come from the Northeast and the rest from outside. They would like to expand their geographic reach outside of the Northeast. 6% of the students are international and 20% students of color. Overall Bates is a good school for an academically curious, outdoorsy, athletic or artsy, ambitious, but not cutthroat student. Students who wish to explore a variety of subjects across disciplines will also thrive here. Students will also come away with excellent writing and communication skills regardless of their major.