Published December 17, 2020 by Tom Porter

Admissions Help in Tough Times: Bowdoin Joins Other Colleges to Reach Thousands of Students

The last few months of the year are typically stressful times for high school seniors and their families as they make their way through the long and complex college admissions process. This year, in the context of the global COVID-19 pandemic, those challenges have been bigger than ever. 

This is especially the case for students from low income and minority backgrounds, among whom college applications are down this year. Such pressures prompted Bowdoin to team up with Amherst, Carleton, Pomona, Swarthmore, and Williams to form the Six Colleges Initiative, designed to enable the schools to widen their reach and offer thousands of applicants a single source of useful information. It’s one of several initiatives launched by higher education institutions over the fall to address a projected shortfall in admissions.

6 colleges webinar screenshot
Whitney Soule (middle, top tow) joins colleagues for a webinar on Cooperations and Coronavirus. View the webinars.

Over the past few months, key staff members at the six colleges have offered a series of webinars for students and their families, centered on essential topics like the academic experience, faculty relationships, and community-building. According to a blog post coauthored by Dean of Admissions and Student Aid at Bowdoin College Whitney Soule and published by the American Talent Initiative, “These forums have provided unique opportunities to reach thousands of students across the country in real time, the recordings of which are then publicly available and can be distributed to even more young people across our institutions’ shared networks.” These shared networks, the blog continues, “amplify the accessibility of the liberal arts experience for thousands of students and families, highlighting financial aid opportunities, offering responses to frequently asked questions about the transition to college, and showcasing academic resources.”

“These forums have provided unique opportunities to reach thousands of students across the country in real time."

As well as offering direct help to students, the initiative also represented an opportunity to hear from students about their concerns by reaching out to high school counselors and staff at community-based organizations throughout the nation. Additionally, in repositioning their activities to a remote experience, colleges found they were having a more robust engagement with students’ parents and families, which proved helpful. “They can help reinforce admissions deadlines, set aside time to complete application forms, and underscore the value of higher education,” wrote Soule and fellow blogger Adam Rabinowitz, communications manager at the Aspen Institute’s College Excellence Program. “In the process, unique, meaningful connections emerge with families in ways that did not exist before.”

Under Soule’s stewardship, Bowdoin has implemented a series of equity-focused admissions initiatives, including the waiving of application fees for any applicant with financial need or from a first-generation background.