Bates College

Bates College can be found in the city of Lewiston, Maine about 20 minutes off of I-95.  With a population over 36,000 Lewiston is the 2nd largest city in Maine.  It is often considered with the nearby city of Auburn, and together they have a population of over 107,000.  There are homes and business in this small town, but there is not a lot to do.

The campus is beautiful in May with flowering bushes and trees draping over archways into the grassy quad. The dorms are nice.  The freshman dorm on the tour has a common room with a cozy fireplace.  The student union is lovely and open with windows to the third floor ceiling and lots of bright light.  Lake Andrews is idyllic and adds a scenic touch to the campus. However, the campus geography on the whole is a bit disjointed.   Behind the quad, on what could be called “academic row,” the trees are small and lack maturity.  The sidewalks are disproportionately large and the buildings look a little stilted and run down.  The science building was very unimpressive, and the chemistry lab looked like an average public high school classroom.  The other classroom featured on the tour holds about 30 students.  The room was set up in a large seminar fashion with 4 long tables forming a rectangle for open discussion; however, the room felt more like a conference room in an office-plex than the intimate seminar class of an esteemed liberal arts college.

With 1700 undergraduate students and no graduate school, Bates College is a small liberal arts school where students can take advantage of small class sizes—average size is 16 students. Even the largest lecture halls are intimate enough to encourage questions from students. With no graduate programs, there are no teaching assistants leading undergraduate courses—however undergraduate teaching assistants are tutors in classes.  Professors are said to dedicate their energies almost exclusively to teaching undergraduate students.  However, the undergraduate teaching assistants seem to have an important role in after-hours learning.  When asked about the role of undergraduates in teaching, the tour guide explained that the teaching assistants are there because the professors don’t work at all hours and go home at night.

The general education requirements imposed by the school are lax. The tour guide joked that an “easy class on the statistics of racial profiling” fulfilled his friend’s quantitative requirement. Nevertheless, most of the classes offered at Bates are academically solid, and students are known for an intellectual curiosity that drives many of them to study  in fields outside their majors. Students have a vast array of courses from which to choose; indeed, both students and administrators are proud of the curriculum’s “flexibility.” As a part of the General education requirements, students must pick two concentrations to augment their major/minors.  Concentrations are a collection of 4 courses that serve to add breadth to a student’s education. They are offered in a great variety of fields.   One set of parents at Bates for their son’s graduation, lauded the academics of the school but did note that their son’s main complaint was sometimes not being able to find certain classes he wanted. Sometimes they weren’t available.  Sometimes they just weren’t offered. The sciences are said to be strong at Bates.  The Bates science program has distinguished itself from those at other small liberal arts colleges in New England, by bringing in millions of dollars in research grants. Other strong departments include English, history, political science, and psychology.  Bates requires students to write a senior thesis. Seniors spend their final semester, and sometimes an entire year, working on the thesis, either conducting new research or preparing for a performance. As one student told the school newspaper, “It gave my major a real meaning. It was a nice finale to my Bates education.”  A few select students present their theses to outside experts who are flown in to evaluate the presentations.

Bates has several avenues to increase student engagement. Each freshman takes a First Year Seminar.  The professor of the seminar becomes the student’s academic advisor.  The Learning Commons is a physical space that provides not only a place to collaborate but also houses services that facilitates support offered to students and faculty by peers.  There are writing workshops, math and statistic workshops, PALS (Peer Assisted Learning in the Sciences—where trained undergraduates are available on a regular basis to meet in small groups to complement what is learned in difficult science classes) and other programming as well. There is the Harward Center for Community Partnerships. Each year one-third of Bates students take community-engaged learning courses that integrate community projects with academic learning. The Sophomore Hub is an initiative and source of support and information for sophomores to make sure they are on track for making decisions regarding majors and study abroad etc.  Bates Summer Scholars are incoming freshmen who spend 6 weeks in the summer before freshman year studying on campus in preparation for a successful transition to college

Bates has a short term during the month of May when most students take one intense class 4 or 5 days a week.  Students participate in the May term 2 or 3 times. Some students choose to do an internship during this time.  Sixty percent of juniors study abroad.  Bates has a program of study in Russia that is led by Bates professors.  Other study abroad opportunities are with affiliated programs all over the world.

Bates guarantees housing for all 4 years and requires students to live on campus unless they have special permissions.  All dorms are co-ed, but some have single sex floors.  Some dorms are renovated and beautiful while others are antiquated and quaint.  Bates received a big gift in 2008 that would allow it to buy and serve more organic and local food.  As a result Bates has great food options that the students seem to like.

Everything at Bates emphasizes the school’s close-knit community atmosphere. Says a student: “The best aspect of Bates is that there are lots of different kinds of intelligent people. They really expanded my beliefs.” Life at Bates is said to revolve around the residences, the site of most cerebration and celebration alike. Since the town of Lewiston doesn’t have a lot of nightlife, students stick to campus for fun. Many of the houses off-campus or on Frye Street hold parties on any given night. Nothing too out-of-control happens due to security’s watchful eye and a ban on hard alcohol. The college hosts events every day and every weekend for those who want to have fun without alcohol. The Bates Outing Club is the most popular extracurricular organization; in fact, students are automatically registered as members when they arrive on campus. The club allows students to borrow backpacks, bikes, and tents at no cost, and it sponsors outings to the beach, mountains, and Maine ski resorts several times each semester. The shooting club is also a favorite, along with a sailing club. Both men’s and women’s hockey are very popular, attracting many fans while enjoying success in their respective divisions. Student organizations sometimes sponsor trips to Portland and Freeport, the latter town a quaint shopper’s-paradise. The Bates Museum of Art specializes in Maine artists, but in April and May, studio art majors showcase their works there. The annual Gala is a college-wide formal featuring a live orchestra or band. Bates brings in a number of lecturers each year. The annual Lobster Bake is a huge feast at the beach, with all-you-can-eat lobster and clams. Finding an equilibrium between amusement and academics comes easily to Bates students. A senior biology major writes, “ There is a great balance between academics and fun on any day of the week.  It’s not like other colleges where students work all week and party all weekend.  At Bates, every day is a combination of work and play.

Bates students of all political persuasions agree that the campus leans decidedly to the left. As one student says, “Bates is definitely left-leaning, and that is putting it mildly. But most teachers conduct classes with a fairly high level of political balance.”

I was a little concerned about job/graduate school placement after graduation, and I need to look further into this at Bates to better understand it.  Two graduating senior women spoke very positively about their Bates experience but neither had job prospects. The Bates statistics on graduating seniors looked a little bleak with 10% of students unplaced in jobs or graduate schools.   Here is a link to where graduates are continuing their educations.  Eighty some odd percent get accepted to medical school.

For the students entering in fall of 201, about 27% of applicants were admitted.  Bates is test optional, reviewing SATs, ACTs, and SAT subject tests if submitted.

30% were in the top 5% of their high school class.  45% were in the top 10% of the high school class. 65% were in the top 20% of the class.

If this report seems a little negative, it is colored by the tour guide who clearly did the school no favors in how he represented it.


Mid range scores:

ACT                  30-32

SATr                630-720

SATm              630-710

SATw               640-720


Bates cost-of-attendance:


Interestingly, Bates has a single cost and does not break the cost into tuition, fees, room and board etc.

Bates has a small endowment but manages to meet the full need of students.  There are no merit awards.


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