BRUNSWICK — Netflix CEO and co-founder Reed Hastings, and member of Bowdoin College’s Class of 1983, has donated $5 million towards creating a new program to help low-income, first-generation, and other underrepresented students.

The donation will create a new program at Bowdoin known as “THRIVE,” and is intended to help students who traditionally struggle with the college experience. Twelve students will be chosen to participate in the program, which will begin six weeks before they start their first semester.

“This is something the college has been looking to do for a number of years,” said Charles Dorn, professor of education and the associate dean for academic affairs.

The impetus behind the project is fairly straightforward. Say a student excelled in high school and placed in the top of their class, but went to a school that only offered a few Advanced Placement courses. They would be put at a disadvantage compared to a student from a better school district (or private school) offering extensive college prep classes and even internships.

“Many studies, and our own experience, clearly show that incredibly talented and successful students from low-income families or who are the first in their families to attend college — students we actively seek and who are coming to Bowdoin — often have more difficulty transitioning to college and taking full advantage of all we have to offer,” said Bowdoin President Clayton Rose in a news release. “We need to ensure that Bowdoin is the place where these students have the kind of comprehensive experience that allows them to excel here and to graduate on time, ready to pursue full and rewarding lives and careers.”

The idea behind the name, said Dorn, is that Bowdoin wants all students to thrive in their experience at the college. While many students graduate, some may have simply “survived” the experience.

“It comes right out of alumnus’ mouths, not just at Bowdoin but at other places, too,” said Dorn. “They wind up with the same piece of paper at the end of the thing, but the experience was wildly different.”

The program will start with 12 students who will attend a six-week college transition program before they start their freshman year. Courses will include quantitative reasoning, college level reading and writing, and more in an effort to level the playing field.

But it doesn’t end there. Throughout their first year, faculty support systems will help students transition into the college community. As time goes on, those students will evolve into mentor roles, assisting other students who are coming into the program, and college, for the first time.

The end goal is increasing retention of students that have historically had the most difficult path to a degree.

“We want to have the best college retention rate in the nation for our category of colleges,” said Dorn.

Bowdoin has also established an advisory group to help plan the program, consisting of five education experts from various backgrounds. In addition to his donation, Hastings will be a member of the group. He has served on the board of several educational organizations, on the California State Board of Education, and more.

“Making sure that these great students have the opportunity to fully experience a college education and to graduate on time is a critical challenge facing higher education,” said Hastings.

“Clayton and I share the same goals for Bowdoin, and I am delighted to be able to help the college to develop the programming and capabilities to make this a reality.”