A Unique, Interdisciplinary, Independent Learning Experience – Anyone who has heard of COA knows that there's something different about it. It's still sometimes called "experimental" and I think that it totally is. With under 350 students, it's one of the smallest colleges in the country, but yet we have a huge proportion of international students. The campus is beautiful... we're carbon neutral right now (go composting toilets!) but considering going off of carbon credits and working more on our own sustainable practices by getting more local food (we use a ton already from Beech Hill Farm, owned by our school), reducing electricity usage, etc. Because the school is so small, class sizes are small, and you work so closely with other students and your professors to actually learn useful things. We all share the same major, Human Ecology, which is about interdisciplinary thinking and interaction. Everyone does something different with it. At COA you can design your own curriculum, even your own courses if you want, and focus on things more important than taking required courses that you're not interested in, or memorizing a hundred things for some exam that you'll forget about next term. You have to do an internship and a Senior Project to graduate. Tons of people at the school do hands-on research, write their own novels, create educational programs, exhibits, and more. I'm always learning something from my fellow students. Everyone knows each other and you genuinely care about the overarching themes that pervade the whole community (health, the economy, the environment). It's one big family. There is no "Greek Life..." so many of these questions just aren't applicable. There's no sports team, although there's Water Polo at the Y and everyone is awesome in the outdoors (real sports, haha). There's no other school like it. If it's for you, you'll know.
Getting Involved Is Easy and Rewarding – With such a large faculty/staff to student ratio, you have the opportunity to get to know your professors (and everyone else!) really well. I've been invited to dinner at faculty's house, had lunch with the president, and gone mini golfing with staff. Take every opportunity to get involved in the community, and you will be tremendously rewarded. There's nothing more pleasing than walking to class and stopping to talk to everyone you see on the way.
Lacking Where It Counts – COA just built a new student life building, but it's useless except for eating at the cafe or doing homework. There aren't any real activity spots. There is no gym -- you have to walk or drive to the nearest Y. The science labs are extremely outdated, and the library is extremely small, though the people there are willing to get you whatever you need through ILL. COA's one saving grace is the writing center -- an awesome resource for people who need helping at any point in the writing process.
The school lacks a gym, but there is the YMCA about a mile away. Bar Harbor lacks public transportation, particularly in winter, so you can only go at all these certain times when the school shuttle runs. Our community center is really just a few rooms and some study spaces with a meditation room, but it is cozy. Our library is rather small, but it is nice with lots of individual desks to work at as well as round tables. There are also some computers for student use. We also have a computer lab, but sometimes it fails to serve all the students who use it, so it's essential to use it when others aren't (eg don't be there at 12:55 to print off a paper due for a 1pm class). Take-a-Break is definitely the hub of campus, though. It is our dining hall, but people hang out there all the time to do homework and study with their friends. Faculty, staff and students also have some meetings in there.
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