The Academic Program and Advising

The Bowdoin College Catalogue and Academic Handbook provides a comprehensive explanation of the curriculum and its associated academic standards and regulations.

Just as students are responsible for the content of the Student Code of Community Standards, so too are they responsible for reading and following the academic policies and regulations of the College presented in the Catalogue and Academic Handbook.

The Student Code of Community Standards supplements the Catalogue and Academic Handbook and references those topics/issues that most frequently concern students. When students have questions about the academic program, they should turn first to the Catalogue and Academic Handbook for an explanation and second to their faculty advisor or a member of the dean’s office for interpretations or answers to specific questions.

You will find information on these and other policies and regulations in the catalogue:

  • Course Load
  • Attendance and Examinations
  • Incompletes
  • Deficiency in Scholarship (academic probation, suspension, and dismissal)
  • Transfer of Credit
  • Recording Committee

The Academic Program

A liberal education cultivates the mind and the imagination; encourages seeking after truth, meaning, and beauty; awakens an appreciation of past traditions and present challenges; fosters joy in learning and sharing that learning with others; supports taking the intellectual risks required to explore the unknown, test new ideas, and enter into constructive debate; and builds the foundation for making principled judgments. It hones the capacity for critical and open intellectual inquiry—the interest in asking questions, challenging assumptions, seeing answers, and reaching conclusions supported by logic and evidence.

A liberal education rests fundamentally on the free exchange of ideas—on conversation and questioning—that thrives in classrooms, lecture halls, laboratories, studios, dining halls, playing fields, and residence halls. Ultimately, a liberal education promotes independent thinking, individual action, and social responsibility.

Bowdoin understands the obligation to direct liberal education toward the common good. In the twenty-first century, that obligation is stronger than ever. The challenge of defining a "common good" and acting on it is highlighted, however, in an interconnected world of widely varied cultures, interests, resources, and power. To prepare students for this complexity, a liberal education must teach about differences across cultures and within societies.

A liberal education is not narrowly vocational, it provides the broadest grounding for finding a vocation by preparing students to be engaged, adaptable, independent, and capable citizens.


Pre-Major Advising

The Offices of the Dean of Students and the Dean for Academic Affairs jointly coordinate the pre-major academic advising system. In partnership, the Dean of First-Year Students and the Faculty Liaison for Advising work together to match incoming students with a pre-major academic advisor. A number of factors are considered when making advisor/advisee matches, but the most important factor is a shared academic or research interest. Every attempt is made to assign students an advisor in their anticipated major (if they have one) or in an academic area that the student favored in high school or would particularly like to explore at Bowdoin.  The pre-major academic advising model is a generalist model in that all pre-major academic advisors are familiar with the curriculum and the distribution requirements and are able to help students complete the requirements of the general program before declaring a major.

In unusual situations, students may be able to switch an advisor. Students wishing to do so should consult with their current advisor or their dean and then identify another advisor. Once a new advisor has been identified, the student should pick up a pre-major advisor change form at the Office of the Dean of Students (on the second floor of Moulton Union). Once the student and the new advisor have filled out the form, it must be returned to the Office of the Dean of Students and the change will be recorded.

A vital part of the Bowdoin educational experience takes place in the interaction between students and their faculty academic advisors. Advising is a collaborative relationship with a goal of building a responsive, individual curriculum. The faculty academic advisor should generally attempt to inform and sometimes challenge the student.  The faculty advisor will listen and discuss, supporting some decisions, challenging others, cautioning against possible pitfalls, always respecting the student's responsibility and accountability.  Designing an education is an education in itself, and both students and advisors are active participants in this process.

An advisor’s release of the “Advisor Hold” in Polaris indicates that the advisor and student have discussed the student’s course selections.

Major Academic Advising

Bowdoin students retain their pre-major academic advisors until they declare a major during their fourth semester. After the student selects a major, the advising responsibility shifts to the major department. Each student is assigned a major advisor by the major department (double majors will have an advisor in each major). Students should consult with their major department should they desire to change their major advisor. Major advisors are familiar with the requirements necessary to complete a major program in a given area. The major advising model is thus more of a specialist model than is pre-major advising.

Other Important Academic Resources