Bowdoin vs. Williams (+gap year)

The option is Bowdoin or Williams, but Williams requires a gap year. How much better is academically Williams to deserve investing a (useful) gap year? Assume all other very important parameters equal (location, size, social life, etc) and focus only on academics. I am undecided, so I am looking for passionate professors and academically driven classmates who will inspire me to find my path. Thank you.

These are peer schools. Have you been accepted as a transfer to each?

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No, this will be freshman year in 2023.

Where did you deposit?

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You don’t have a deposit at both do you? It sounds like you don’t want to take a gap year, so seems like an easy decision.

Hence, the question “how much better academically is W v B” to justify the gap year.

Like I said, they are peer schools. Williams is not academically better than Bowdoin.

If you have deposited at both, you have prevented someone else from getting that spot.

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Bowdoin is a great school. Unless you want to take a gap year, which it sounds like you don’t, go to Bowdoin.

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This is thru athletics for next year. No deposits. There is no single ranking that puts B same as W. So, the question if the “delta” in academics/quality of professors (assuming rankings mean something) justifies the gap year.

Got it on the athletics, so you are a 2023 HS grad.

I strongly discourage students from making decisions based on rankings. These are peer schools, and any ranking differences are likely within the margin of error.

If you don’t want to take a gap year, go to Bowdoin.

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Yes, HS class 2023. Rankings give the impression that Williams has a national recognition/reputation/strong(er) alum network, while Bowdoin is mostly recognized in New England --more provincial(?) How can this play out for future job opportunities or grad school admissions in the US or Europe? Yes, I need a crystal ball :slight_smile: Thanks.

What rankings are you talking about? I can’t think of any that measure college academics.

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So, I guess you say that all the various rankings (US News, WSJ, Forbes, etc.) measure schools holistically and not “academics” only, right?

I know both schools pretty well, as do other posters here. If you want to engage on what factors are important to you in a school, posters will be willing to help you do that.

What major are you looking at?
What does the future of the team look like? Where will you have the best opportunity to contribute?
Have you visited both schools?

Williams is more isolated than Bowdoin. IMO (of course) Bowdoin has a better/nicer campus, with more of a town adjacent to it.

There is an athlete/non-athlete divide at both. Bowdoin students seem less overtly competitive with each other.

Job outcomes will be similar at both. Williams has the edge in art history/museum mgmt. Williams might have the edge in finance but there have been lots of Bowdoin grads entering finance jobs, including IB, in the last decade.

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You will find those at both places, in roughly comparable proportions

You will also find some dud profs and ‘take the easy path’ classmates at both places, in roughly comparable proportions.

However, the overall campus cultures are pretty different, and you are more likely to find what you are looking for if you choose the one that fits you better. Have you visited both? where did you feel more at home? as an athlete, coach / team dynamics will matter- does one of them have an edge?

The difference in academics isn’t the most important metric here: what will have the biggest impact, and shape your college experience the most, is the how you settle in to that school for four years.

Rankings give the impression that Williams has a national recognition/reputation/strong(er) alum network, while Bowdoin is mostly recognized in New England --more provincial(?) How can this play out for future job opportunities or grad school admissions in the US or Europe?

The differences are at hair-splitting levels- the more important differences are in the campus culture / experience. Trust yourself.

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I would think a gap year might be an issue for an athlete- would you still have a team to compete with? Or would you take the year off from your sport? I think those two schools are pretty close to identical in reputation. I prefer Bowdoin’s location on the Maine coast and close to Portland, but Williams is certainly a wonderful school as well.

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My decision at the end will be based on the whole, not just academics. But, for now, I deconstruct the parts as they have different weight factors. That’s why on my original question I said “all being equal”, let’s chat about academics only. From what I read so far, academics are about the same between the two schools and the gap year is a matter of personal taste. Thank you.

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Yes, no issue with the team and me keeping up with the sport.

So, I guess you say that all the various rankings (US News, WSJ, Forbes, etc.) measure schools holistically and not “academics” only, right?

Here are the criteria that USNWR uses. Academic reputation is 20%.

https://www.usnews.com/education/best-colleges/articles/ranking-criteria-and-weights

Here is the Forbes methodology. Academic success is 10%

And here is Forbe’s own view on why these rankings should not be the key decision factor:

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To put this in context, less than half of USNWR’s surveys are completed each year. They are sent to senior admin…presidents, deans, enrollment management leaders.

So not only do fewer than 1/2 complete the survey, but some, maybe many, of these executives give the survey to a staffer to complete.

I don’t think an executive, let alone a younger admissions rep to take one example I have directly heard, is able to adequately rate many schools on the various factors in the survey.

Can they rate their direct competitors? Probably. Can a Bowdoin AO or academic dean rate University of Denver? ASU? Probably not.

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