Boston College Guide

The Ivy Scholars guide to Boston College’s culture, admissions, and other essential information for prospective students and their families.

Location: Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts

Mascot: Baldwin the Eagle

Type: Private Research Institution

Population: 14,600 (9,400 undergrads)

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About Boston College

Founded as a Jesuit school, Boston College is the oldest Catholic university in the Boston area. While it has become a prestigious research university, it has kept its original name, to remember its liberal arts roots (and to avoid further confusion with Boston University). The school was founded by Jesuits, and still holds close to those values, but is open to students of all religious backgrounds.

Boston College Statistics

Year Founded: 1863

4 Year Graduation Rate: 89%

Gender Distribution: 54% female, 46% male

Acceptance Rate: 28%

Residency: 25% in state, 64% out of state, 11% international

Location Type: Suburban

Schedule System: Semesters

Student/Faculty Ratio: 13:1

Average Class Size: 20

Demographics: 60% Caucasian, 10% Asian, 10% Hispanic, 4% Black, 16% Other

National Rankings

US News Rankings:

  • #7 Best Undergraduate Teaching
  • #31 Best Undergraduate Research
  • #34 Best Value Schools
  • #37 National Universities
  • #52 Most Innovative Schools
Independent Rankings:
  • #3 Best Catholic Colleges per Niche
  • #5 Best Colleges for Accounting per Niche
  • #29 Research Universities per Forbes
  • #30 Best Colleges for Business per Niche
  • #41 Top Colleges per Forbes
  • #59 National Colleges per The Times of Higher Education
  • #85 National Colleges per Money Magazine

Boston College Admissions Information

Application Deadlines:

  • Early Decision I: November 1st
  • Early Decision II: January 1st
  • Regular Decision: January 1st
  • Transfer Deadline: March 15th

Notification Dates:

  • Early Decision I: December 15th
  • Early Decision II: February 15th
  • Regular Decision: April 1st
  • Transfer: May 20th

Acceptance Rates:

  • ED I + II: 37%
  • RD: 22% 
  • Transfer: 34%

Average Applicant Pool: 28,400

Average Number of Applicants Accepted: 9,200

Average Number Enrolled: 2,400

Application Systems: Common App

Average GPA: 3.96 weighted

SAT Scores: 25th percentile – 1370, 75th percentile – 1490

ACT Scores: 25th percentile – 31, 75th percentile – 34

Comprehensive Breakdown
*Test mandatory. Writing sections required.

Subject Test Requirements: Subject Tests are no longer required, but still recommended.

Demonstrated Interest: Boston College does not consider demonstrated interest.

Recommendation Letter Policies: One counselor letter is required. Two letters from teachers are required, they suggest both come from core academic subjects (English, social studies, math, science, or foreign language)

Boston College Essay Prompts for 2020:

  • Common App Personal Statement (650 words)
  • Supplemental essays: (All 400 words)
  • Great art evokes a sense of wonder. It nourishes the mind and spirit. Is there a particular song, poem, speech, or novel from which you have drawn insight or inspiration?
  • When you choose a college, you will join a new community of people who have different backgrounds, experiences, and stories. What is it about your background, your experiences, or your story, that will enrich Boston College’s community?
  • Boston College strives to provide an undergraduate learning experience emphasizing the liberal arts, quality teaching, personal formation, and engagement of critical issues. If you had the opportunity to create your own college course, what enduring question or contemporary problem would you address and why?
  • Jesuit education considers the liberal arts a pathway to intellectual growth and character formation. What beliefs and values inform your decisions and actions today, and how will Boston College assist you in becoming a person who thinks and acts for the common good?
  • For Human-Centered Engineering major applicants only: One goal of a Jesuit education is to prepare students to serve the Common Good. Human-Centered Engineering at Boston College strives to develop people who will integrate technical knowledge, creativity, and a humanistic perspective to address societal challenges and opportunities. How would a Boston College engineering education enable you to contribute towards these goals?

How to write the Boston College essays

Special Notes:

  • Students must choose one of the four undergraduate schools when applying (Arts and Sciences, Management, Nursing, or Education), they are only considered for the one they select.
  • Students interested in pursuing the arts are encouraged to submit a portfolio demonstrating their abilities.


  • The Common Application is the only way to apply as a transfer. At least 9 credits of college must be completed before applying.
  • Either the ACT or SAT is required. Transcripts from both high school and college are required. A letter of recommendation from a college level instructor is required.
  • There is an alternate writing prompt for transfer students: 
    • Boston College strives to provide an undergraduate learning experience emphasizing the liberal arts, quality teaching, student formation, and engagement of critical issues. Please provide a statement that addresses your reasons for transferring and why you are choosing to apply to Boston College. (650 word limit)
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Boston College Academics


Transferring between the schools is difficult, and requires meeting academic requirements, and has an additional application. The exact requirements vary by school. Approval is subject to the will of the dean.

Core Requirements:

  • All students are required to complete the core curriculum, to ensure all students have a solid foundation in the liberal arts. The required components are: Arts (1 course), Cultural Diversity (1 course), History (2 courses), Literature (1 course), Math (1 course), Natural Sciences (2 courses), Philosophy (2 courses), Social Sciences (2 courses), Theology (2 courses), and Writing (1 course)
  • Core Requirements

Courses of Study: 

  • Majors Offered
  • Option to double major
  • Popular majors include Economics, Finance, Communication, General Biology, and Political Science
  • Changing majors within a school is fairly simple, but requires permission from the department head in most cases.

AP Credit Policies:

  • Boston College awards credit for scores of 4 or 5 on most AP exams and for scores of 6 or 7 on IB exams. SAT Subject Tests may be used for language placement.
  • Comprehensive AP Credit Information

Academic Strategy

Admissions Criteria: 

The most important factors BC considers are: GPA, standardized test scores, and essays (both the personal statement and BC’s supplementals).

Factors considered important are: Course rigor, legacy status, recommendations, class rank, religious affiliation, and extracurriculars.

Boston College is a Jesuit-affiliated university, and they take students’ religious affiliation into account while making admissions decisions. While they admit and welcome students from all religious traditions, they do consider affiliation, and the majority of the student body is Catholic.

Recruited athletes must meet the academic criteria, but athletes specifically recruited by coaches will have an admissions advantage. Athletes coaches consider walk-ons will have no advantage.

What is Boston College Looking For?

They want students who are academically prepared for the rigor of courses on campus, and who will share in and enrich the campus community. Academic preparation is judged through grades, class rank, and test scores, and students should aim for at or above the average of an accepted student. Students are judged holistically, but academic performance is an important benchmark to hit.

How a student will contribute to the campus is determined through extracurriculars, essays, and recommendations. BC is looking for students who will actively engage with and attempt to better their community.

The school recently announced the Institute for Integrated Science and Society, which will focus on using science to address societal concerns, and interdisciplinary research. Students with interdisciplinary interests or who display a desire to use advancements in science to better society will help them fulfill their strategic plan’s goals.

Finally, the school has announced a commitment to both diversity, and to staying true to their original Jesuit nature, as expressed through the school’s traditions and culture. This will be reflected in recruiting efforts, and in how students’ essays are evaluated.

BC Strategy:

While BC does not take demonstrated interest into account, they did introduce Early Decision I and II in 2019, and those have higher acceptance rates than the Regular Decision round of admissions. While admissions criteria is the same, there are fewer overall applicants, increasing acceptance rates. The admission rates for ED II are lower than those for ED I, but applying this way is a good choice if you weren’t ready by the ED I deadline.

The essays are the most important part of the application within your immediate control, and should be your main focus if your academics are in a good place. The school is looking for students who can express themselves fluidly, and who will positively contribute to the school’s campus and culture. They use the essays to evaluate how well students will fit in with the school’s system and ethos.

As the school values standardized test scores so highly, studying for and doing well on the tests is a good use of time. Don’t go mad for a 10 point increase, but deliberate effort will pay off, as BC weights scores more than many other elite schools.

While BC does consider religious affiliation, they also have a commitment to both diversity, and the traditions of the school. While religious affiliation may play a part in the decision, it is difficult to say what precisely the role is. Regardless, do not lie about your religious affiliation or lack thereof on your application. You should, however, take the school’s religious character into account while you are applying. The school is majority Catholic, and this is due to self-selection. If you would not be comfortable attending a school with this kind of religious character, consider applying elsewhere.

Applications are judged by school, and it is difficult to change between schools once admitted. Always apply to the school that contains the major you wish to study, rather than gambling on being able to change schools after acceptance.

Special Programs

Honors Programs:

  • There were previously Honors Programs in the College of Arts and Sciences and the School of Management, but both have stopped accepting applicants and will be closed when the last of their current students graduate.
  • Departmental Honors (contact individual departments for more information, most require completion of an honors thesis)
  • Undergraduate Honors (graduation [Latin] honors and Dean’s List based on cumulative GPA)
  • Honors Societies

Research Availability:

  • Undergraduates are encouraged to take part in research projects with faculty. Graduating with honors requires this.

Study Abroad: 

Business Options: 

Career advising is also offered.

Pre-Med Options:

  • There is no explicit pre-med major, but the Pre-Health Program is open to students in any major interested in pursuing a career in healthcare. It offers advising concerning course selection, applications, and the MCAT.
  • Career Advising

Pre-Law Options:

Computer Science Options: 

  • The Department of Computer Science offers both a BA and a BS, with slightly different courses of study. The department is in the College of Arts and Sciences. Students may choose from one of five areas of emphasis within the major.
  • Students may complete an Honors Thesis to graduate with honors.
  • There are opportunities for research, employment, and internships through the department.

Additional Specialty Programs: 

Programs for High Schoolers:

  • The BC Experience is a four-week residential summer program for talented high school students on BC’s campus, where they take courses and experience college life.
  • Summer Programs offer high school students interested in a variety of disciplines opportunities to take classes from or conduct research with BC faculty and grad students.

Student Life at Boston College

School Motto:  Ever to excel

Mission and Values:

  • Mission: Boston College remains committed to leading its students on a comprehensive journey of discovery—one that integrates their intellectual, personal, ethical, and religious formation. Inspiration for Boston College’s academic and societal mission is drawn from the University’s distinctive religious and intellectual heritage. As a Jesuit, Catholic University, Boston College is rooted in a world view that calls us to learn, to search for truth, and to live in service to others. To fulfill that mission, we welcome and embrace the contributions of a diverse student body from many faith traditions.
  • Additional Information
  • Student Testimonials (Niche, Unigo, Grad Reports)

BC’s House System:

Most students have 3 years of guaranteed on-campus housing, some scholarship students and student athletes have 4 years of guaranteed housing. Some dorms are set aside for freshmen. Students have the option to reside in Living Learning Communities, which group students based on shared academic or social interests into a single building or floor. The majority of students live in off-campus apartments junior year, with over 90% returning to on-campus housing for senior year.

Housing Statistics:

  • 99% of freshmen live on campus

Campus & Surrounding Area:  


  • The school runs free shuttles around campus and into downtown Chestnut Hill. Further options for commuters include bicycles, carpools, and reduced public transit fare with a student ID.
  • Parking Information


  • Marathon MondayAlso called patriot’s day, this is the day classes are shut down for the Boston Marathon, and features an all-day celebration by students.
  • Red Bandana RunA charity 5k for students held every year to celebrate the memory of an alum killed in the 9/11 attacks.
  • BeanpotAnnual ice hockey game led between 4 Boston schools: Northeastern, Boston College, Boston University, and Harvard.
  • ShowdownThe largest dance competition on campus, held between rival student groups.

Student-Run Organizations: 


Greek organizations are not seen as compatible with the university’s Jesuit mission, so none are recognized officially by the school There are still 10 fraternities and 11 sororities at the school.


  • Boston College has some local nightlife, but the primary draw is Boston, a large city with a vibrant nightlife scene, with most areas of the city accessible by public transit.
  • On-campus parties are common, due to the large numbers of seniors living in dorms and the desire not to trek to Boston regularly. Frat parties are also common, though not as big a fixture as at other schools.
  • Ranked the #6 party school in Massachusetts by Niche.

Financial Information

Yearly Cost of Attendance:

  • Total: $78,617
  • Tuition: $59,050
  • Fees: $1,397
  • Room and Board: $15,220
  • Personal expenses: $2,950

Financial Aid:

Boston College is need-blind in admissions, and commits to meeting all demonstrated financial need. All financial aid awarded by the school is need-based. Students are required to fill out the CSS Profile and the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to be considered for aid. Loan counseling and on-campus employment opportunities are also available.

Additional Financial Aid & Student Loan Information


The Presidential Scholarship is the only academic-based merit scholarship awarded by the school. It is awarded to 15 students each year, and covers the full cost of tuition for four years. Applications must be submitted by November 1st to be considered, but both ED and RD students are eligible for the scholarship.

Fun Facts

  • The school’s fight song “For Boston” was composed in 1885, and is the oldest American college fight song.
  • The original iteration of Boston College opened in 1859, but closed within 2 years, due to financial troubles, the Civil War, and anti-Catholic sentiment. Its current incarnation opened more than three decades later.
  • The school originally opened in the South End of Boston, and moved to Chestnut Hill in the early 1900s.
  • The school is one of the largest Jesuit communities in the world, with over 70 masses celebrated each week during the academic year.
  • Notable alumni include politician John Kerry, actor Leonard Nimoy, comedian Amy Poehler, and former House Speaker Tip O’Neill.
  • The school is the most popular college on Instagram.
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