The University of Maine

The University of Maine

The University of Maine – Orono, Maine

I’m going out on a limb here. U Maine may be the only public university I know in which students are boisterous in expressing their  gratitude for the opportunity their state has afforded them. They are also open in recognizing that U. Maine is not an Ivy League sure ticket to Wall Street, but they appreciate the care with which their professors teach them, for a campus they consider lovely, and for a variety of programs that entirely meet their needs. One real measure of a university’s ability to deliver on its promises is in the attrition rate; good schools keep their kids and few leave the University of Maine. Dollar for dollar, Maine may be among the best “buys’ ‘ in the Northeast.The university is a bargain for in-state residents and not a bad deal for out-of-staters as well. Facilities are considered excellent; a remarkable number of students describe their dormitories as very comfortable, and a truly remarkable number rave about the food, although many advise shopping carefully for the meal plan that suits a student best.

Those who love Maine cite four distinctive qualities that make Maine a great choice: Supportive faculty eager to help in every way, great variety of activities, pride in Black Bear sports, and a friendly and active college town

Located about sixty miles inland and about a hundred miles from the Canadian border, Maine is the northernmost of the universities and colleges reviewed in this edition. The University is set in Orono, a city of about ten thousand, and is the largest in Maine’s system of universities (about 8,600 undergraduate students/11,500 undergraduate and graduate) and the state’s flagship university. Maine was founded in 1862 by the same act of Congress that established most of what were called “land-grant” colleges (only Cornell and MIT are non-public land-grant institutions). Maine’s campus is actually on an island between the Penobscot and Stillwater rivers. The campus was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the architect who framed Central Park in New York, the grounds of the White House, and the elegantly crafted landscapes in which the nation’s grandest estates have been placed. The most striking aspect of the campus, other than its lovely setting, is the University of Maine Mall (not a shopping center!), which extends from the library to the field house.  

Although the temperature in Orono at mid-winter is only about three degrees lower than that in Worcester or Springfield, Massachusetts, Maine has a “north country” feel that has something to do with its extensive programs in forestry and sustainability, and an awful lot to do with the success of Maine’s “Black Bear” championship ice hockey team. The Black Bears are strong in a number of sports and are the state’s only Division I athletic program, but the fever pitch in the Alfond Arena when Maine takes the ice against archrival New Hampshire warms even the coldest of Maine winters. The Bears have twice won the national championship in hockey and regularly send players on to the NHL.

Maybe it’s the beauty of the campus, or the quality of food provided by the dining service, or the relatively small size of classes and the variety of excellent programs of study, or the excitement of big-time sports, or the quiet comfort of the town, or well maintained dormitories, or distance from the rattle of big cities – for whatever reason or reasons, students at the University of Maine are HAPPY.  

Students use words such as “welcoming”, “friendly”, “accepting”, “generous” in describing their community, and it’s clear that there is a strong sense of community in this not-very-large state university. Athletes, actors, dancers, scientists, environmentalists, fraternity/sorority, physically disabled, people of color – all seem to have a place on a campus that students call, “open to diversity”. An uncommon number of student-written accounts describe their university as responsive, supportive, and working hard to meet the needs of its students. Most instruction is provided by professors who are well liked by students who find them informative and helpful. The curriculum is wide and deep; specialized programs in the College of Natural Sciences, Forestry, and Agriculture are distinctive, as are the several strong programs in psychology and neuroscience, but highly regarded programs are also offered throughout the academic divisions (Maine Business School, the Honors College, the College of Education and Human Development, the College of Engineering, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and the aforementioned College of Natural Sciences, Forestry, and Agriculture), 

Engineering and the Natural Sciences/Forestry/Agriculture get a lot of attention, but there are several other programs that are noteworthy and highly regarded. Among them is a new program called New Media, which, as its title suggests, offers extensive exposure to the quickly changing media landscape.  Courses in digital narrative and documentary are accompanied by courses in what is called, ” Time-based sequence” in digital arts. The program is interdisciplinary and at the cutting edge of digital arts and journalism. I hear equally good things about the Music program, which includes performance majors and is under the umbrella of a growing School of Performing Arts, part of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Other programs of note include an Athletic Training program in the College of Education and Human Development, Civil and Chemical Engineering, (actually ALL of the Engineering programs), and a rigorous Honors College, which depends upon core programs in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the College of Natural Sciences. Honors students meet the General Education requirements in courses that are offered in small groups made up of Honors students. One of the requirements of the Honors College is the completion of an Honors thesis.

The university carries out a formal program training those who offer support in residential life, indicating that the Residence Advisors have been taken seriously and that quality of residential life is a priority.  Aside from the warm welcome in the first year for new or transferring students, new students also find that they have free admission to all of Maine’s Division One athletic events (Go, Bears!) and are given two free tickets each semester to concerts and performances on campus.

Outside of the classroom, Maine offers significant opportunities for recreation and activity, the most notable of which, given the university’s location, is the program known as Maine Bound.  Women Rock – rock climbing for women, Biking and Bouldering, Katahdin Knife Edge Traverse, Surf Southern Maine, Sea Kayaking – all bring students into the wilderness, but a lot of activity can be found on campus in the Indoor Rock Climbing facility and the Ropes Challenge Course.  Fitness programs are offered in the New Balance Student Recreation Center and Intramural sports abound, including indoor softball, floor hockey, and the Black Bear Attack Adventure race, which almost certainly does not involve fleeing from a black bear.

Student clubs and organizations are equally well subscribed and include all of the expected options in music, drama, journalism, political activity, and celebration of culture.  At last count, Maine hosted more than two hundred different clubs, so I am forced to highlight only a small portion of the array.

Sports?  Fencing, crew, cricket, rugby, triathlon, Alpine skiing, wrestling, ultimate frisbee.], capoeira, equestrian, figure skating, trap and skeet, yoga.

Cultural and Service?  Best Buddies, South Asian Association of Maine, Helping Honduras, Iranian Social Hub, Hillel,  Muslin Students Association, Deaf Culture Club,  Autism Training Student Organization.

Other?  Gamers, Black Bear Robotics, Home Brewing Club, Hip Hop and Swing Dance clubs. Strap on your apiary gear – Black Bear Beekeepers are looking for you!

My favorites, however, are found in the Animal and Veterinary Sciences division:  UMADCOWS – caring for the dairy herd, the Maine Animal Club, several equestrian clubs and competitive teams, and the Standardbred Drill Team.

Fraternities and sororities have their place at Maine, and Greek life seems healthy and positive.  A strong Residential Life staff organizes a variety of living options, including theme based housing for new students, should they feel more comfortable in one of eight residential communities organized around Great Books, Technology, or Global Crossroads among others.  The seventeen residential halls on campus are described by students as comfortable and welcoming.

There are two distinctive traditions at Maine that deserve at least a cursory description.  In the first place, the crowd at any athletic event might cheer, “Go, Blue” in order to root the team to victory, but the true mascot is a black bear.  Originally, Maine’s mascot was an elephant (Go Figure!), but the arrival of a black bear cub on the sidelines of a football game apparently made the crowd go “bananas”, so today, “Bananas the Bear” is the university’s totemic animal.  Once a famous song across the country, the “Maine Stein Song” is now sung at most events and often when the Bears score.

Most varsity teams at Maine play in Division I in three separate conferences.  The football team is a member of the America East Conference, which includes U. Massachusetts, U. New Hampshire, U. Vermont, SUNY Albany, SUNY Binghamton, Bryant University, U. of Maryland Baltimore County, U Mass Lowell, and New Jersey Institute of Technology. The very successful hockey team plays in the Hockey East Association.  The association currently includes the universities of Notre Dame, Vermont, New Hampshire, Boston College, and Boston University.


The University of Maine received approximately 15,000 applicants, from which 14400 were admitted in order to enroll a first year class of 2025. The acceptance rate in recent years has ranged from 85% to 96%.

Scores reported for the 25th-75th percentile ranged from 540-650 on the Evidence Based Reading and Writing subtest of the SAT and from 520-630 on the Math. ACT scores for the same group have ranged from 22-30. College of the Atlantic’s enrolled student population is approximately 50% female and 50% male. 

The majority of applicants are from New England, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. Approximately 82% are White/Non-Hispanic.

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