The Horrible Misconception about Lewiston

Hi Everyone, I am a current Bates Student and I just want to share my experience with Lewiston. I’m sure that you have heard bad things about Lewiston when bringing up Bates. Yes, Lewiston is not a Brunswick, but it is still great. During orientation, my leaders told me that they were lucky to live in Lewiston for the last 4 years because the community is so strong (also Lewiston has great food). Brunswick is just another reason why Bowdoin kids get the “preppy” and “vineyard vine” stereotype. At Bates, you can work with some amazing people from Lewiston who have amazing stories to tell. When it is warm, it is nice to get away from Bates and walk to Lewiston. Lewiston and Bates feel completely different which is why I love the town. I hope that location is not a deciding factor if you are considering Bates. I was not thrilled when coming to Bates to live in Lewiston, but I have learned to love it. I am happy to answer any questions you have over Lewiston.


What is “the horrible misconception about Lewiston” ?

P.S. I have read a few descriptions of Lewiston, Maine written by Bates College students; the comments are not kind to Lewiston with one student going so far as to describe Lewiston as “the most horrible place on earth”.

I am an adult poster and my advice is simply that life is too short…

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With two mentions of its town and one of its name, it seems another college crept into a post on your college’s town.

I shared this post with my daughter, a 2020 Bates grad.
She agrees with the OP 100%.

-She thought Lewiston was a very interesting mix of people. Her view is that the Somali population revitalized Lewiston. The expat FrenchCanadians also help make Lewiston an interesting place in the least diverse state in the country.

-She loves Lisbon street and the restaurants near there.

-She loves the River Walk.

-Ditto for Mt. David and the Thorncrag Bird Sanctuary.

-There’s a good ice cream shop and at the end of the semester they practically give away tubs of ice cream for a buck.

-The retro roller rink in Lewsiton is fun.

-It’s easy to get out of Lewiston and see other parts of Maine. Portland is not far and is a really cool place.

-There’s a craft brewery (pretty new) and the Blue Goose that older students go to, but that wasn’t really her scene, haha.

As a parent, I can say that Lewiston improved very noticeably over the course of the four years we went there. We liked it very much.

@Publisher I mentioned your comment to my daughter. She said, quote, “I’ve never heard anyone say that. Must be from uni go.”

One could just as easily argue that the smog of LA is hell on earth, or the slums of New Haven are hell on earth or the depressed student bodies of certain other Ivy League schools are hell on earth.


Yes, that particular quote was from UNIGO–which is a valuable resource. But, that is not the only source of comments which disparage Lewiston, Maine.

Location is a factor to consider when selecting a college or university. The importance of this factor will vary from person to person. OP’s position is that it is a significant factor for many. I agree.

P.S. Even the diplomatic Fiske Guide To Colleges 2020 notes:

“Blue-collar Lewiston is not a draw…”

“Since there’s not much to do in Lewiston…”

I think my daughter’s point is, Uni go isn’t terribly reliable.

Sure, location is a factor for some. It’s clearly not the main factor for kids at Bates or other less than idyllic college locations.

I forgot to add that our family also liked the easy access to the Portland International Airport (PWM). It doesn’t serve a ton of destinations, but six major airlines operate from PWM and there are nonstop flights to many major cities as far west as Denver. It means that getting to Maine is pretty manageable.


I don’t think anyone on this thread is really disagreeing with each other. The notion that Lewiston is “the most horrible place on earth” is clearly an exaggeration, and that narrative is (somewhat unfairly) emphasized in the college publications and websites. (I bet these publications could get some quotes from students who like, or at least don’t mind Lewiston, but they all choose the “Lewiston is a pit” narrative.). On the other hand, it is not one of the most picturesque college towns , such as Brunswick, Middlebury, Northfield, etc. It’s somewhere in the middle, with what sounds like a fair amount of redeeming qualities in terms of eating and drinking establishments, and some interesting communities that the more “Disney-fied” college towns lack.

My son applied ED2 to Bates, and he didn’t get a chance to visit, so we’re really hoping this middle-ground narrative is true! We spent a lot of time reading about, and looking at photos and maps of the town, to make sure he knew what he was getting into and wouldn’t be disappointed if he’s lucky enough to get in. Ultimately for him, it came down the awesome school, and the overall location in Maine, a state that we love and have visited many times (just never to Lewiston!).


Right. Lewiston isn’t a picturesque town, but it has some really good qualities. I think all who have spent any time in Lewiston over the last 5 years would agree that it has improved markedly.

The OP is young and clearly likes his college and the town it’s in. As a student, his perspective is probably worth paying attention to. I suspect he mentioned Bowdoin because the two are often discussed when talking about Maine colleges, along with Colby.

My daughter had to do some community service requirements as a component of her coursework. She enjoyed her time at one of the local schools particularly. It gave her an insight into the community she wouldn’t have otherwise had. She appreciated having that perspective. Many Bates kids volunteer actively in the Bates community and the Harward Center is a busy place. Harward Center | Bates College
Perhaps that’s one reason why Bates students are happy to be in Lewiston.

I visited so many college towns with both my kids. We always had a drive around the neighborhoods and towns we visited. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. My daughter’s least favorite campus and surrounding neighborhood was a college in Boston, though she loves Boston itself. She thought the pristine houses and manicured lawns felt pretentious. She personally preferred college towns that were a mix of okay, industrial (or formerly so), with some tidy neighborhoods scattered around, which might be a good way to describe Lewiston. My son’s favorite college town was totally “artificial,” as in it was really built as a town for a college. I thought it was awful, full of strip malls and student eateries. But he liked the hubbub of normal life.

Bates’ retention rate is 94%, so I guess students don’t mind Lewiston too much.


The horrible misconception about Lewiston is that it is a terrible place that doesn’t fit what a college town should be. I’ve met only a few students who have said some pretty awful things about Lewiston, but they all came from very wealthy areas of the country who planned to stay wealthy when they grew up. The majority of students eventually find Lewiston to be a great town, despite what the books and websites have to say about it.

I have been tutoring kids at Lewiston Public Schools and have really enjoyed it so far. It opens your eyes to a new perspective that not many students have seen. The majority of students at Bates went to a really good high school and got a great education (due to funding), but Lewiston doesn’t have the same privilege of funding their schools in the way a lot of Bates students are used to (including myself). There are 6th graders who are struggling to read basic articles in the news or don’t understand their multiplication tables (which is completely ok). The experience has shown me that education is extremely different around the country, and you kind of lose that knowledge if you go to a school like Bates or any higher end Liberal Arts School/Ivy League.

One last thing I’ll add is that Lewiston has been referred to MANY times as “The Dirty Lew” which is incredibly offensive. It adds to the horrible misconception that everyone in Lewiston is not “normal.” Lewiston has such a strong community, and I don’t think I remember seeing a community come together as much as Lewiston has. I really wouldn’t read what Unigo has to say because of course when you compare it to other towns it is not “the ideal town to live in.” However, Lewiston opens up a new perspective that some Bates students (including myself ) haven’t really seen.


I would have to disagree when it comes to things to do in Lewiston. The bird sanctuary (on of my favorite things) is absolutely beautiful and quite the hike if you know where to go. The food, while pricey, is so so good. I can not stress enough that I have had the best Boba in my life from Lewiston. Lisbon street is beautiful and probably one of the nicer parts, with a lot of restaurants. The roller rink is actually pretty fun (and cheap) and you can really get a sense of community there. During the fall, Lewiston is absolutely stunning. There is always something to do in Lewiston and walking down there (during the day) is something I did a lot with my friends. Escaping the “Bates Bubble” into Lewiston is great and very refreshing.


I actually think Lewiston is a draw for Bates. It’s not a college town and it’s not picturesque, but it’s real. (And it’s not dirty!! O_o)
Bates’ campus is extremely pretty, and you have pretty places within easy access. Maine is perfect for pictures. Families who summer love it for good reasons.
Lewiston is solid and working class.
So, with Bates at Lewiston, you get both.
I say “real” because you can see its industrial past, the francos’ heritage, the new Somali arrivals’ influence, the working class roots, the fact it’s a real community – and at the same time, while you see the lack of money and the struggles, it doesn’t feel totally abandoned, which you may feel when you visit some inner cities (like the rest of the state or the nation just wrote them off).
And, yes, some of the BEST food ever.


Similar comments could be made about Notre Dame (South Bend, Indiana) & Vassar College (Poughkeepsie, New York), but Notre Dame has a much larger student body than Bates & Vassar has easier access to major cities. Also, the area surrounding Vassar College & Poughkeepsie exhibits spectacular natural beauty.

All 3 are great schools–maybe due in part to location or maybe regardless of their location.

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Actually the posts would be much easier to read and decipher if you had described what you thought Lewiston to BE like rather than starting with the misperceptions. I have never been to Lewiston. I bet most readers haven’t either. I was tough, at best to wade through. Then in the middle, I thought I had mistaken the school as you bring up another school.

Folks in this thread might be interested in reading Home Now by Cynthia Anderson that came out last year. Publishers Weekly called it “a vivid and finely tuned portrait of immigration in America.”


I don’t think Notre Dame is comparable to Bates because it’s a much bigger school with 12,000 students.

As for Vassar, it’s a nearly two hour car journey or three hours by train to NYC. Boston is two hours from Lewiston. I’ve done both journeys several times. Bates buses run nonstop from the college to Boston as well. Maybe Vassar has a similar shuttle.

Just checked the train schedule and Poughkeepsie to NYC (Grand Central) is around two hours by commuter rail and 90 minutes on Amtrak. (I was curious because my uncle used to commute from Poughkeepsie to Wall St, which must have been around 3 hours each way–yikes!)

Good to know. I checked too, as I live not far from Vassar.

Anyway, back to Lewiston… the other convenient factor is that it’s easily accessible from the freeway, and in the winter, it’s as if no snow ever lands on road. Best snow removal I’ve seen.

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Perhaps the upper-SES skew of the students at Bates (60% full pay, 9% Pell) may mean that working class towns or areas were the kinds of places many of them avoided or never went to while growing up.

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I grew up in Lewiston and moved away many years ago for college and grad school. However, I still have friends and family in the area and visit a few times a year. In terms of the cities where the Maine NESCAC schools are located, I would put Brunswick (Bowdoin) at the top of the list followed by Lewiston (Bates) and Waterville (Colby). I have spent time in all of these places and I assure you that I would much rather be in Lewiston than Waterville. There are more restaurants, stores, and activities in Lewiston/Auburn and you are much closer to Portland. Lewiston has faced its fair share of challenges, but recent economic investment and development of the downtown/Bates Mill complex has started to breath some life and excitement into the city.