Bowdoin, an elite liberal arts college in coastal Maine, counts among its alumni such influencers as Netflix founder Reed Hastings and poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Bowdoin has been test-optional long before it was en vogue: Students haven't been required to submit SAT or ACT scores in more than 50 years.

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Still, the college is highly selective, accepting about 9% of applicants. As part of the school's classic liberal arts approach, its 1,800-some students must do coursework in all of the major disciplines, including math, science, the arts and social sciences. Students can choose from more than 40 majors and 45 minors; the most popular programs include government and legal studies, economics and biology.

Bowdoin promises to provide grants to meet the entire demonstrated need of students who can't afford the full sticker price. About 95% of students graduate within six years.

Outside of academics, Bowdoin's Polar Bears field 33 Division III sports teams. The college's dining service, which has its own organic garden and butcher, consistently ranks at or near the top nationwide. One social highlight of the year is the annual Lobster Bake, at which students chow down on the local delicacy. Bowdoin also leans into its “Bowdoin hello” — a friendly greeting tradition stemming from the 60s.

Students are only five minutes from downtown Brunswick, as well as landmarks like the house where famous abolitionist Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote Uncle Tom's Cabin.