I attended COA for the fall term, and then I took the next two terms off to go somewhere cheaper (the school is on a trimester system) because I really didn't know what I wanted to do , and the school is a lot of money. Many people will tell you that COA is the perfect place to be if you don't know your focus. I whole-heartedly agree, but keep in mind that you can very easily waste your tuition at COA. If you take random classes for four years, you really don't get much out of human ecology (the only major). Yes, it is important to get a good background, as that is what human ecology is, but you need to find somewhere to put your passion. Also, if you want to focus on something that COA doesn't have a lot of classes in, they are really good at giving you independent studies and internships. However, if your entire schooling is independent studies, you should re-evaluate things. 50k a year is not worth a bunch of independent studies you can do anywhere.
**FINANCIAL AID** They are REALLY good at getting low income families a huge financial aid package. If you are middle class, though, you have to work a little harder. A lot of the scholarships go to international students (people who attend the Davis United World College Program get a full scholarship). However, if you talk to the financial aid office, they will almost always work with you. I talked to them and they gave me more loans (yes, not the greatest, but it really does help). You just have to be persistent and dedicated. Also, do NOT talk to Dominique. She will BS you to get off the phone. Talk to the head of financial aid (Bruce Hazam as of now). He is wonderful and he is currently helping me for when I come back. They really, genuinely want you to be able to afford the school.
**Diversity** COA boasts one of the most diverse student body in the country. Many universitites have a high amount of international students, but many of them are Asians and Indians. At COA, there are people from every corner of the Earth. There are a good amount of Latin American students, but there are people from 32 different countries. Considering that there are only 280-some people (Winter 2013), that is a LOT of different people. The one downside is that (in my experience) the international students can be very cliquey. Now, the upperclassmen all blend together, for the most part, but there is a HUGE group of international freshman who just kinda move as a group around campus.
**Student Body** Okay, there are a lot of different people on campus, but the large majority is kind of similar. Many people are "hipsters", and they are very artsy. They dress very alternatively and there are some people who don't identify with one gender or another. COA is a VERY liberal school. When it was announced that president Obama was elected for his second term, the entire auditorium erupted in applause. I don't think there was a single Romney supporter on the entire campus. Also, the student body is really accepting. No matter what gender, sexual orientation, nationality, or any other demographic group you are (besides republican in some cases), you will be accepted.
**Student governance** COA is HUGE on student governance. It is pretty much run by the students. WE help decide who teaches us, what we are taught, and many of the new policies enacted. We are not afraid to act out, either. A group of students last year didn't like that the juice machine was sponsored by Nestle (or something like that) so they stole it and put it next to Highway 3. Right now, people are trying to change some of the bathrooms on campus into gender neutral bathrooms. There is pretty much a committee for every section of the campus, and it is up to you how much you are involved. My only advice is to attend All Campus Meeting on Wednesdays. It is the reason that we have Wednesdays off.
That's right. No classes on Wednesdays (with a few exceptions every once in a while).
**Bar Harbor** Bar Harbor is the most beautiful place I have ever been to, and during the peak season, it is quite alive. However, even when most of the stores are open, there are few stores that are not aimed at tourists. However, this is a good thing because those are the stores that shut down in the winter. Bar Harbor during the off-season is very different. A lot of the stores shut down and there are much less people. However, we have a great grocery store, a library, several places to eat (My favorite is Two Cats. They actually have two cats!!), and the YMCA among other things. During the winter term, COA also runs a day bus (as well as the night bus, which I believe runs all three terms), so even if it is cold, you can still get out. There are also a few bars, if you are over 21.
**Party scene** There will most likely be a party somewhere on a Friday night. The biggest substance free dorm on campus has some, but most of them are off campus. It is your decision whether or not you want to party. It's not a huge party school. However, there is not much of a night life on campus. In fact, it seems pretty dead on Friday and Saturday nights. That is the one downside: most people live off campus, so there is not always stuff going on.
**Student Activities** That being said, the school tries its hardest to entertain its students. There are periodic open mics where students of all kind will express various talents. Also, people send out emails quite often talking about different activities and workshops being held. We have Circus Sundays, Hula Hoop Club, Veg Club (they volunteer and talk about their hatred towards meat eaters - be careful. They want a meat-free campus), and various movie screenings in Deering, the beautiful student center.
**Food** Food is a hit-or-miss in my opinion, but it was rated in the top ten for best food in the country. It is VERY vegan and gluten free friendly. In fact, COA used to be a meat-free campus. A lot of the food is also local, and they are trying to get more food from the school's two farms.
COA is really big on sustainability, and they are now operating as carbon-neutral. COA is very eco-friendly, so if this is important to you, then this is a great place for you.
**Education** The school is really big on environmental studies. If you want to work with computers, there are limited options, but if you want to do research, COA is a great place. I did undergraduate research as a first semester first year in my marine biology class. The professors are wonderful and they really know what they are talking about. Also, they are really involved with the students and most of them want to meet with you during office hours. If you have a chance, take a class with John Anderson. He is a very intelligent person and he LOVES his students, but you do have to make an effort. Some of the classes are kind of strange, like "The Art of Puppets" and "Satanic Verses" but there are usually classes for anybody. Our GIS program is especially good.
**HOUSING/CAMPUS** This is the best part. Campus is BEAUTIFUL and RIGHT on the bay. many of the dorms are old mansions or houses, and most of the buildings on campus are really old summer cottages. Turrets, one of the faculty buildings with a couple of classrooms, looks like a castle and has a beautiful garden behind it. Of all of the campuses I visited, COA's was the nicest. However, housing is limited. Right now, mostly freshman live on campus. However, there is talk of buying the hotel across the street and converting it into dormitories. If you don't get to live on campus after your first year (which is required for all 1st year students), there are many options for renting houses with your friends (you will have friends. Even if you are sitting alone, you won't be for long.). People who own summer houses in Bar Harbor want people to live in their houses in the winter and to take care of them, so rent is really cheap. The only issue is shoulder-season housing, because many winter rentals do not start until October and end in April or May. COA is still working on this issue, but it think it is getting better.Overall, COA is a beautiful place with a pretty unique educational program. Many people are concerned about getting a job after school, and I really don't know how the job placement rate is. I do know that over half of people go to graduate school, and it seems like it is important for many of the focuses people choose. I was once told that the things people want to do after COA cannot be implemented right away. A lot of students have to get second jobs to live before they can make enough money to follow their dreams. I think this is true for people who want to start their own business, get into politics, or implement their ideas into society. One thing I know for sure is that people from COA quite often do extraordinary things.