Review of College of the Atlantic

Rating: StarStarStarStarStar_gray By: Brianna L., Student Posted: May 11, 2011

My review

The Good:

The best things about COA are the people and the learning environment that we create together. The students that go here are self motivated, love learning, and care about each other and the human environment. The faculty are amazing--passionate about what they teach and how they teach it. We have a very small student to faculty ratio (11:1), so more advanced work tends to be more like projects you would find in a grad program. COA also has incredibly dedicated staff--people who believe in the college, are good at what they do, and enjoy interacting with students.

At COA we have one major: Human Ecology. This makes for a unique learning environment, because everyone is essentially studying the same thing but in very different ways as they explore the relationships between humans and their environments. My study of human ecology has led me to focus on the relationships between environmental policy, biology (more specifically herpetology), and experiential education; but I have friends who are studying everything from photography to global politics, literature to genetics, feminism to marine bioacoustics, and edible botany to midwifery. Despite our small size (only around 350 students), COA students manage to study a plethora of different subjects all within the lens of Human Ecology and are encourage to solve problems through interdisciplinary means.

This unique and challenging curriculum is set to the backdrop of gorgeous Bar Harbor, ME with Acadia National Park right in our backyard. Our lack of organized/school funded sports is not even noticeable due to the endless opportunities for outdoor recreation--not to mention all the student or YMCA organized sports (cricket, soccer, water polo, and tobogganing are favorites). Our campus is made up of a collection of old, renovated, and new buildings that create a collage of architectural interest and provide a variety of housing opportunities. Classrooms are small to facilitate analytical discussion and there are countless nooks to study or look out across the water at Bar Island.

I think what I love most about this school is that wherever you turn you can tell that people care--about what they are studying, about how they are teaching, about where they are building, about how their actions are affecting the world around them.

The Bad:

I have not been able to find a "worst thing" about COA, but I imagine that for some potential students the small size of the college is off-putting. A small community facilitates a level of knowing and participation that is not possible in larger schools, but this also means that you can't hide from human relationships and the reality of small community dynamics. Your professors know you, so you can't hide in class. You know all of your peers--at least their faces and probably their names as well--and so it's harder to run away from disputes or disagreements: you have to take responsibility for your actions. Students have the opportunity to participate in college governance and, with that, the opportunity to become disenchanted with it when change comes slowly. A small community can be really awesome, but you have to be willing to work hard and speak up when you want to see something changed.

Would I do it again?

Yes, I could not have imagined a better undergrad experience.

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The Breakdown:



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