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College of the Atlantic

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COA is not for everyone.BrightOther
COA is not for everyone.
I'm currently a freshman at COA, debating dropping out halfway through my first term.
I visited the campus twice before applying. The first time, it felt perfect for me, like some sort of environmentally friendly, open-minded, free-spirited hippie haven that would be far more accepting than my small, ignorant hometown. The second time, it felt less perfect; actually, it felt suffocating. The campus is tiny, the population is tiny, and while Bar Harbor is a beautiful location, there's not much to do unless you want to hike all the time (Acadia!) or go to lame house parties in town. There are a lot of restaurants and shops, but nearly all are aimed at tourists and close down once fall/winter begins.

There's only one major and one degree - in Human Ecology. Have fun figuring out what that's supposed to mean. You're supposed to find out what it means for yourself in the context of what you're most interested in, but it only ends up being confusing and convoluted. The ability to personalize your education is nice - there are few class requirements, a required internship that lets you test out your desired field, and study abroad possibilities - but you're often faced with the question of "what am I actually doing here?" Getting a degree in Human Ecology. What is that? How will that be useful to me in the future? No one knows. Ask the faculty? They don't know, either. And while they will help you as much as possible, they focus on making you choose. If you're someone who struggles with decision-making (like me), it's more frustrating than enlightening; if you're independent and know what you want (or at least have an idea of it), then it might be better.

The faculty are nice. For the most part, they all seem to genuinely care about their students as well as their field. Some classes are more rigorous than others, but all the professors are very educated and come from different backgrounds. If you're interested in getting out of the classroom and doing hands-on work, there are a lot of opportunities; many of the classes have field trips, and others are centered around field work. For an education class, I've gone on field trips to different schools around Maine to observe their methods. For a science class, I've only spent one class in the lab; otherwise, every other class has been a field trip. It really depends on what you take, and if a class doesn't seem challenging enough, you're probably not putting enough into it.

One thing that COA stresses is its community, and while a community does exist, it's not nearly as strong as they present it. There are weekly community meetings on Wednesdays for all students to make decisions on things happening in the college, but not everyone shows up. You will be taking classes with upperclassmen in every course except the Human Ecology Core Course (most of the time), but you don't really have any friends outside of your year. Even in your own year, people are extremely clique-y. In the first week, people will constantly talk about how accepting everyone is and how they don't really dislike anyone, but by the end of it, groups will be formed and no one will stray from those groups. If you're anxiety-ridden (like me) and have difficulty making friends, you'll undoubtedly get left out of these groups and end up with just a couple people who check up on you every now and then. The same people who said they didn't dislike anyone in the first week will suddenly become extremely judgmental. If you manage to get into one of these groups, you'll be fine, though things will eventually get awkward as people start dating.

If you're looking for a really diverse campus, this isn't the place. There are a lot of international students through UWC, and the white students will say that "nearly 20% of our students are international" like it's ground-breaking, and while it is cool, it's not as prevalent as they advertise it. A lot of the students are very much the same - white, dreadlock-wearing hippies who pretend to be socially conscious but are the complete opposite. Everyone prides themselves on being outside the "norm", but everyone here conforms much more than they would like to admit. Students and professors are generally accepting of different sexualities and genders, and are willing to use preferred names and pronouns when asked.

The food is generally good, especially if you're willing to try new things. It isn't a typical university dining hall - there's usually a couple meal options and a salad bar - but they do try to be inclusive of vegan/vegetarian, gluten-free, and allergy-free diets. There are still options for omnivore students as well. However, there are no meals on the weekends. You have to feed yourself on Saturday and most of Sunday. On Sunday nights, there are community dinners within individual dorms, where someone cooks dinner for everyone. The person who cooks changes every week. While this is meant to foster independence and growth as a community, it's a little annoying, especially since Bar Harbor is generally expensive (as a tourist location) and poor college students can't really afford that much food.

There are different kinds of residences. The most popular is Kathryn Davis Village, the most recently built, which has solar panels, a pellet boiler, and composting toilets. It has beautiful kitchens and dorms. Then there are individual houses, like Seafox - the closest to the ocean - Peach, Cottage, and Davis Carriage. These are for people looking to live in a smaller environment, but I've heard that it can get crowded. Then there is Blair-Tyson, which is the most typical dorm setting. If you want to live in a building where things are almost always happening, BT is a good bet. There are a lot of people and the common rooms are popular hang-out spots among residents, so it's a good way to meet other people and make friends. This year specifically (due to a higher student enrollment than usual), many double rooms were made into triples. A lot of the rooms don't have enough furniture for all the people living in them (I've heard of one triple that only has two desks and one wardrobe). If you have a single room, you're probably fine (I have a single and I haven't had any trouble).

Overall, COA is a decent place. There are pros and cons, as with any place, but I recommend researching it thoroughly and emailing faculty and staff for answers about specific questions - they're generally honest. If you can visit campus during the fall fly-in or an open house, I recommend that, too. It is difficult to know if COA will be a good fit for you if you don't have firsthand experience with it. If you're a transfer or non-traditional student, don't be intimidated - there's a large population on campus and you won't be isolated.

I know a few other people who enrolled this year who are considering dropping out (and one who already has).Personally, I think I'm probably going to leave COA. It's draining on my mental health and I don't think it's where I need to be right now. But it might be right for someone else.

1st Year Female -- Class 2019
Campus Aesthetics: A+, Useful Schoolwork: B-
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Not so bright
Though this school excels academically, as a person of color I feel incredibly isolated and ostracized.
2nd Year Female -- Class 2018
Scholastic Success: A+, Social Life: F
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COA misrepresents its level of academic rigor.Quite BrightOther
COA misrepresents its level of academic rigor. Science classes are not intended for students intending to study science fields at a higher level after graduation, although the admissions department certainly attempts to recruit those same students. Science classes are designed to be interest courses for humanities students, and faculty will admit that even if the school won't.
4th Year Female -- Class 2015
Useful Schoolwork: A-, University Resource Use: F
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