Wellesley vs. Bowdoin fit advice

Hi! I’m a sophomore in high school so I haven’t applied/been accepted anywhere yet but I’ve been looking at Bowdoin and Wellesley and I just want some advice on which you would recommend. I might major in environmental science (maybe double major in humanities) but I’m not sure so I don’t want to decide just based on that. In terms of location I’m fine with either and I’m fine with going to a women’s college. Bow doing is a little smaller so that could be a plus but Wellesley has Boston MIT etc.Could you just tell me a bit about the culture/student life at each of these? Also my gpa is around a 3.3 weighted right now. Do you think I would be able to get it high enough for these schools in time for apps?

What is your unweighted GPA?

It’s early for you to be so focused on a few schools. I encourage you to get a Fiske or Princeton guide to colleges to help in your research, you can also take a look at student reviews on Niche dot com.

There are many schools with good environmental science majors. You ultimately want to have several reaches on your list, a handful of match schools, and at least one affordable safety. Talk with your parents sooner rather than later about your college budget, that is the number one determinant for most students when building their college list.

@Mwfan1921 thanks for the response, my school doesn’t provide unweighted gpa. In any case I’m not focusing specifically on these schools but I just wanted to see how similar or different liberal arts colleges are

You’ll have to calculate your unweighted GPA (as many colleges will)…core courses only, on a 4.0 scale where A, A- is 4, all Bs = 3 and so on.

Both Wellesley and Bowdoin will likely be out of reach if your uwGPA is below 3.5.

LACs do tend to have distinct vibes, so do take a look at some of the resources I mentioned above. Hopefully you will be able to visit during your junior year sometime.

Bowdoin is an inclusive environment, not overly competitive nor an academic grind. It is also a beautiful campus in a nice area.

Wellesley students are known for being relatively competitive, and of course is women only. It is part of the 5 school consortium, which increases opportunities for academics and social life.


“gpa is around a 3.3 weighted right now.”

You are not likely to get accepted to either Wellesley College or Bowdoin unless you can make a HUGE improvement to your GPA over the next two years. Both of these schools are going to have a culture that is focused on academic excellence to a level that you are not at currently. If you can get straight A’s from now on you might have some chance, but both would still be reaches.

Somewhere such as Roger Williams (in Rhode Island) or the University of Maine might be more realistic. U.Mass Dartmouth might be another option. What is your home state?

My #1 suggestion is that you start working hard to try to pull up your GPA, and see where you are towards the end of your junior year of high school.

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@DadTwoGirls my high school is supposed to be one of the most competitive in the country, would this help me? A student from my school was accepted to Bowdoin last year with a 3.0 gpa weighted (84 my school grades con the 0-100 scale. My gpa is an 88 at the moment and grades have not been finalized yet for first semester sophomore year.

Did that student have a hook? Hooks are things like athlete, underrepresented minority, low income, first gen

@Mwfan1921 I don’t know, this was a stat I saw on naviance

I saw one student from a daughter’s school get accepted to Bowdoin with a 3.5, while two other students were turned down with 4.0’s in the exact same classes (the students knew each other). The stronger students also had much higher SAT scores (like 250 points higher). A “hook” as suggested by @Mwfan1921 appears to be the reason. Thus I guess that you will not know unless you apply and see what happens.

How do your grades compare with others in your high school?

Regardless you also need to spend quite a bit of time thinking about safeties, unless you have two obvious safeties. It is sometimes easy to pick out reach schools because they are famous. Safeties can be easy if they are obvious (such as in-state public schools), but can be difficult to pick out otherwise.

I assume that you have a good GC at your school, so they should be able to help you create a college list comprised of reaches, matches and a safety or two…and part of building that list will take into account the profile of students who were accepted with lesser stats than yours. There is a lot of nuance involved, but right now I agree with dadtwogirls that you probably aren’t competitive for a school with an 8% acceptance rate. With that said, talk to your GC. For example, my kids go to a top well known public HS, and the only kids who generally get accepted to the elite LACs are hooked in some way (typically athletes).

@DadTwoGirls I have some safeties in mind but of course I want to see what happens over these next two years. I’m doing much better this year so far. How much do upward trends in grades matter? Will my freshmen year grades be “excused” if I continue to do well these next to years?

Yes, if you go to one of the nation’s premier private high schools a 3.3 might be more in range than people here appreciate. CC (not everyone, but most) has a suburban public school frame of reference from what I am able to gather.

We still don’t know a lot about OP’s course selection and rigor, nor the unweighted GPA. Hence, why I told OP to discuss build their college list with the help of their GC.

that was not directed to you, but i know a student just admitted to bates from “one of those schools” with 0 honors or AP classes and a 3.0.

Was that an unhooked student? There are a number of hooked kids with those stats who matriculate each year at top schools…though definitely far fewer unhooked students admitted with those stats.

@Mwfan1921 Last year I took AP world but it was only half the course, which meant we didn’t take the AP exam (the course was still weighted however) this year we could either continue with AP world or we could take AP Euro. This year I’m taking AP Euro and will take the AP euro exam. I am also taking AP comp sci. Last year I also took Design and Drafting for Production (DDP), this is a college course but an AP exam is not given for this course, it is however weighted as an AP course would be.

For reference I attend a public high school in NYC, Brooklyn Technical High School. My school is one of eight specialized high schools in the city, my school and the other seven require the Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT).

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B students from the best schools make that happen more often than not, from my experience. No hook the way people describe a hook on CC.

I am responding to myself now.

Brooklyn Tech is a great school, but not one of best on the country. I now agree that you need to get your grades up a bit for those schools to be anything but reaches. You may get in, but it will not be easy.

In all honesty, even from the most “elite” high school in the USA, a student is not going to be accepted with a 3.0 unweighted GPA without a hook. There are simply too many kids from high schools which are just as “elite” or almost as elite who have very strong academics.

Colleges accept students based on whether than student brings something to the college. So the student either brings high academic achievements, high extracurricular achievements, connections, name recognition, or a very large donation.

These “elite” high schools also have only about 10% of their students who graduate with GPAs of 3.0 or lower (based on their own school profiles), so I really find it difficult to accept that Bates is accepting students from the bottom 10% by GPA from any high school, unless that student is a superstar athlete, a world renown actor, or their parents have donated a huge chunk of money. Actually, if you consider students with GPAs of 3.0 students no honors or AP classes, we’re talking about a students from the bottom 1%.

I do no think that there is any AO in any college who believes that a kid from the bottom 1% of Andover or Hotchkiss is better than 80% of the applicants to a college like Bates.

These are good schools, but they accept students like the Ivies do. That means that there is a good proportion of their students who were accepted because of legacy, athletics, and donor parents. They also have a very good system there to keep students from falling below a 3.0 average.

A student who is scraping by on a 3.0 with the easiest courses at one of these schools would likely be failing at any other decent high school in the country, and the AOs know it.

Not really. Unless these colleges are blatantly lying in their published stats.

From the fact that every college with an acceptance rate similar to that of Bates has no more than tiny percent of students with GPAs of B or lower, and, for colleges like Bates, these are almost always reserved for star athletes, the one or two that coaches get to choose every year, or for some super wealthy.

Bates has 30 sports for which coaches can recruit superstars with lower academic achievements, which would come out to 30-45 or so a year. That is about 5% of incoming classes. About 8% of all students are in the top 0.5% by wealth. What are the chance that the fewer than 10% of students who are accepted every year with a GPA of 3.0 or less are almost all from those 13% very wealthy donors and superstar athletes, versus applicants who are at the bottom 1% of their class at Philips Exeter or some other similar “elite” high school?

Once upon a time, attending an “elite” private high school was another indicator that a young man was from the “right sort of family” (i.e., wealthy, White and Christian). In those days, merely attending one of these high schools assured your place in an “elite” college. Nowadays, while the elitism is still there, it is not in the fact that one attends such a high school, but because acceptance practices at both “elite” high schools and “elite” colleges benefit the rich and powerful.

So a B student from an “elite” private high school who is accepted to an “elite” college is not being admitted because they attended that “elite” high school but most likely because they have a hook for both.

From my experience, the nation’s top prep schools (the very top) get B students and better (their bottom 3rd) into top 50 liberal arts colleges. For example, I sit on the board at one of them and we get our bottom 1/2 into Colby and Bates somewhat regularly.