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. (January 2018)
One of six children, Collins was born in Caribou, Maine, where her family operates a lumber business established by her great-great-great grandfather, Samuel W. Collins, in 1844.
Her parents, Patricia (née McGuigan) and Donald F. Collins (1925-2018), each served as mayor of Caribou. Her father, a decorated World War II vet, also served in both houses of the Maine Legislature, one term in the house and four in the senate. Her mother was born in Barrancabermeja, Colombia, to American parents. Collins has English and Irish ancestry. Her uncle, Samuel W. Collins Jr., sat on the Maine Supreme Judicial Court from 1988 to 1994 and served in the Maine Senate from 1973 to 1984.
Collins attended Caribou High School, where she was president of the student council. During her senior year of high school in 1971, Collins was chosen to participate in the U.S. Senate Youth Program, through which she visited Washington, D.C. for the first time and engaged in a two-hour conversation with Maine's first female United States Senator, Margaret Chase Smith, also a Republican. Collins is the first program delegate elected to the Senate and currently holds the seat once held by Smith.
After graduating from Caribou High School, she continued her education at St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York. Like her father, she was elected to the Phi Beta Kappa national academic honor society and Collins graduated from St. Lawrence magna cum laude with a bachelor's degree in government in 1975.