Boston University Guide

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

Location: Boston, Massachusetts

Mascot: Rhett the Boston Terrier

Type: Private Research Institution

Population: 34,300 (16,800 undergrads)

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About Boston University

Boston University was founded by Methodists, and still has ties to the Church through its Divinity School, though it is otherwise entirely secular in nature. With an increasing push towards research, the school has become more prominent recently, looking to compete with the other notable schools in Boston. With long traditions of academics and Ice Hockey, the school is looking to continue improving in all areas.

Boston University Statistics

Year Founded: 1839

4 Year Graduation Rate: 80%

Gender Distribution: 61% female, 39% male

Acceptance Rate: 22%

Residency: 22% in state, 54% out of state, 24% international

Location Type: Urban

Schedule System: Semesters

Student/Faculty Ratio: 10:1

Average Class Size: 27

Demographics: 40% Caucasian, 31% Other or unknown, 14% Asian, 11% Hispanic, 4% Black

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National Rankings

US News Rankings:

  • #23 Study Abroad
  • #40 National Universities
  • #48 Best Value Schools
  • #49 Best Undergraduate Engineering Programs
  • #76 Best Undergraduate Teaching

Independent Rankings:

  • #11 Best Colleges for Design per Niche
  • #21 Best Colleges for Communications per Niche
  • #21 Best Colleges for Performing Arts per Niche
  • #42 Research Universities per Forbes
  • #44 National Universities per The Times of Higher Education
  • #54 Global Universities per The Times of Higher Education
  • #74 Top Colleges per Forbes

Boston University Admissions Information

Application Deadlines:

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

Notification Dates:

  • ED I: December 15th
  • ED II: February 15th
  • Regular Decision: Late March
  • Transfer: Mid-April to Mid-May

Acceptance Rates:

  • ED I: 30%
  • ED II: 28%
  • RD: 18% 
  • Transfer: 43%

Average Applicant Pool: 60,800

Average Number of Applicants Accepted: 15,300

Average Number Enrolled: 3,500

Application Systems: Common App, Coalition App

Average GPA: 3.71 unweighted

SAT Scores: 25th% – 1340, 75th% – 1500

ACT Scores: 25th% – 30, 75th% – 33

*Test mandatory. Writing sections are not required.

Demonstrated Interest: Boston University does consider demonstrated interest.

How to demonstrate interest.

Recommendation Letter Policies: One counsellor recommendation and one letter from a teacher are required.

Boston University Essay Prompts:

  • Common App personal statement (650 words)
  • What about being a student at Boston University most excites you? (250 words)

Special Notes:

  • The College of Fine arts has portfolio and audition requirements for students wishing to enter that school.
  • The seven-year accelerated medical program has additional requirements for admission.
  • Applicants to the School of Business and the College of Engineering are required to have completed a year of calculus in high school.
  • Some merit scholarships require applications to be submitted by December 1st.


  • Students are required to use the Common App or Coalition App, and must submit transcripts from both their college and high school.
  • Students must select a college or school, and a major when applying.
  • You must upload your college course syllabi in order to be considered for transfer credit.
  • Standardized test scores are not required for transfer students.
  • Applicants to the School of Fine Arts must complete an audition or submit a portfolio depending on intended major.
  • Applicants to the business School need to have completed either AP/IB Calculus or college-level calculus.
  • Transfer students may not Defer their admission.

Admission Strategy

Admission Criteria:

The school considers these criteria very important: rigor of school record and talent/ability. Rigor of school record is determined by how difficult a student’s classes were, and whether they were the most challenging classes offered. Talent and abilities are demonstrated through awards won and extracurricular achievement.

The school considers the following criteria important: Class rank, GPA, test scores, essays, recommendations, extracurriculars, legacy status, and character. The portfolio is important for students applying for fine arts.

Recruited athletes do have an admissions advantage, but still must meet the academic requirements for admission.

Demonstrated interest is important to the school. They also consider geographic origin and race/ethnicity.

What is BU Looking for?

BU is looking for students who demonstrate a unique ability or talent, with a high level of achievement in that field. Academic rigor is used as a weeding out factor, while talent is used to decide on which students to admit from among the academically prepared candidates. Having unique or hard to explain accomplishments will make a student stand out more to admissions. 

The different colleges at BU admit separately, and look for evidence that students have prepared themselves for their intended program and interests. While applying undecided for major is fine, your academic and extracurricular involvement should relate to the college you applied to.

BU is competing with many prestigious schools for the same pool of students, and they therefore have a very low yield rate. Thus they look for signs that students they admit are actually interested in attending. The supplemental essay about why students want to attend the school is the main place where they look for this. They want an essay that directly speaks to what the university offers, rather than one which could be about any school in Boston.

BU is looking for students with a good character, who fit into their view of the school. They look for this in the personal statement, which they use to get a sense of who students are as people generally, and in the letters of recommendation, which tell them about who students are as scholars.

BU Strategy:

Half of all students admitted to BU come in Early Decision, and this is also the single greatest way to boost your admissions chances. While the academic criteria are not laxer for ED, the number of qualified students admitted is higher. BU also offers ED II, which offers a boost to admissions as well, though a smaller one than the first round. If you weren’t ready to apply ED, or got rejected from the school you applied to, consider ED II if BU is your second choice.

Essays are an important place to show the school who you are, and why you want to attend there in particular. They should give admissions officers insight into who you are and what you want to do at BU specifically. Avoid writing primarily about the city of Boston, and definitely don’t confuse them with Boston College. Look for specific programs and classes the school offers, and describe why those programs make the school the right choice for you.

BU considers demonstrated interest more than most other elite schools, as it is working to increase its yield rate. This is a simple way to improve your odds of admission. It won’t tip the scales if you are unqualified, but it will be used as a deciding factor between equally qualified candidates. 

Composing your activities list in a way that makes your accomplishments stand out and highlights your unique achievements is important, as the talents and abilities you bring to the school are one of the most important admissions criteria. The most unique and impressive activity should go first, and activities should be grouped thematically.

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Boston University Academics


Core Requirements:

  • All students are required to complete the BU Hub, which grants them all a shared undergraduate experience. Students may opt to take further core classes to gain a liberal arts grounding in addition to their major. Students must earn 26 units across 6 competencies. The competencies are: Philosophical, Aesthetic, adn Historical Interpretation; Scientific and Social Inquiry; Quantitative Reasoning; Diversity Civic Engagement, and Global Citizenship; Communication; and Intellectual Toolkit.
  • Complete Hub Information
  • Core Curriculum

Courses of Study: 

AP Credit Policies:

Special Programs

Honors Programs:

  • The Kilachand Honors College offers students the ability to major in any other school, along with its own designated curriculum, strongly emphasizing experiential and communal learning. There are separate honors living facilities.
  • Departmental Honors (contact individual departments for more information)
  • Undergraduate Honors (graduation [Latin] honors, based on cumulative GPA)
  • Honor Societies

Research Availability:

Study Abroad: 

Business Options: 

  • The Questrom School of Business offers a BS in Business Administration, and must choose from one of eleven concentrations within the program.
  • The Honors Program allows talented students access to special seminars and mentorship opportunities with faculty.
  • There is a fellowship open to first generation or under-represented students interested in the business school.

Pre-Med Options:

  • There are set pathways for students interested in a career in medicine, although there is no explicit pre-med major.
  • The seven-year accelerated program allows students to earn a BA and MD in only seven years. It requires a separate application and that students maintain high academic standards.
  • Pre-Health Advising

Pre-Law Options:

Computer Science Options: 

Additional Specialty Programs: 

Programs for High Schoolers:

  • Summer Term High School Programs are 1-6 week programs, either residential or commuter, which allow high school students to take classes and conduct research at BU’s campus.
  • Pre-College Programs are offered at BU during the summer, and allow students to explore a range of passions and interests.
  • High School Honors Program allows high-achieving high school students to take the same classes as BU undergrads during the summer term.

Student Life at Boston University

School Motto: Learning, Virtue, Piety

Mission and Values:

  • Mission: Boston University is an international, comprehensive, private research university, committed to educating students to be reflective, resourceful individuals ready to live, adapt, and lead in an interconnected world. Boston University is committed to generating new knowledge to benefit society.
  • Additional Information
  • Student Testimonials (Niche, Unigo, Grad Reports)

House System:

With the 10th largest housing system in the country among 4-year colleges, BU guarantees 4 years of on-campus housing for all undergraduates who want it. All students living in housing are required to have a dining plan. There are both traditional dormitory style and apartment style housing options available. Some buildings (or floors of large buildings) are themed to group students with similar interests.

Housing Statistics:

  • 99% of freshmen live on campus
  • 76% of undergraduates live on-campus at any given time

Campus & Surrounding Area:  



  • Beanpot TournamentThe schools competes in an ice hockey tournament each year against Northeastern, Harvard, and Boston College.
  • BU SealCampus legend states that if students step on the BU seal in March Plaza, they won’t graduate in 4 years.
  • Lobster NightA themed dinner, every student eating in the dining halls gets their own lobster, alongside traditional New England fixings.
  • Pumpkin DropEvery October, the physics department launches pumpkins filled with various substances off the roof of their building.

Student-Run Organizations: 


Greek Life: 7% of the student body is involved in greek life, including social, service, and academic organizations.


  • BU has a reasonable neighborhood nightlife, with bars being a common destination for students. Boston is a large city, and has a vibrant nightlife scene, with most areas of the city accessible by public transit.
  • Ranked the #3 party school in Massachusetts per Niche.
  • Dorm, frat, and apartment parties are common, and as the school is just across the river from Cambridge, many students will crash (or try to) Harvard or MIT parties.

Financial Information

Yearly Cost of Attendance:

  • Total: $77,662
  • Tuition: $56,854
  • Fees: $1,218
  • Residence Hall: $10,990
  • Meal Plan: $5,650
  • Books and Supplies: $1,000
  • Personal Expenses: $1,950

Financial Aid:

BU guarantees to meet all demonstrated financial need of admitted students. The aid amount is determined in the student’s first year, and scholarship assurance means that the given amount of aid will not decrease going forward. Students need to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), in order to be eligible for financial aid. Work study is also a common component of aid awards.

Additional Financial Aid & Student Loan Information


BU offers merit-based scholarships as well. While most of these are academic, some are department specific, and some are awarded on the basis of artistic or athletic talent. Some of these scholarships you need to be nominated for, others have their own applications.

Fun Facts

  • The school was founded in Newbury, Vermont, and moved to Boston in 1867.
  • The school had $1.5 million dollars in property donated to it in 1872, on the condition it be held in trust for ten years. The majority of it was destroyed by the Great Boston Fire, with the insurance company going bankrupt and unable to pay out.
  • Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone while a professor at the school.
  • The school was the first in the US to grant a PhD. to a woman, in 1877.
  • Notable alumni include Martin Luther King Jr., actress Marisa Tomei, congresswoman Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, and radio host Howard Stern.
  • Nearly 5,000 alumni currently work in the entertainment industry.
  • The 4th floor of Sheraton Hall (a dormitory) is supposedly haunted by the ghost of playwright and Nobel Prize winner Eugene O’Neill.
Wendy Y.
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