The Ivy Scholars guide to Brandeis University’s culture, admissions, and other essential information for prospective students and their families.
Location: Waltham, Massachusetts
Mascot: Ollie the Owl
Type: Private Research Institution
Population: 5,800 (3,600 undergrads)
Situated in a suburb of Boston, Brandeis was founded with the intention of being a secular Jewish institute for higher education and research. It maintains a strong academic program, and is integrated with the broader network of academic institutions in the Boston area. While it was founded with inspiration from Jewish philosophy, it has no religious requirements for students, and all faiths are represented on campus.
Year Founded: 1948
4 Year Graduation Rate: 80%
Gender Distribution: 58% female, 42% male
Acceptance Rate: 31%
Residency: 29% in state, 45% out of state, 26% international
Location Type: Suburban
Schedule System: Semesters
Student/Faculty Ratio: 10:1
Average Class Size: 20
Demographics: 47% Caucasian, 27% Other or unknown, 13% Asian, 7% Hispanic, 5% Black
US News Rankings:
Average Applicant Pool: 11,300
Average Number of Applicants Accepted: 3,400
Average Number Enrolled: 900
Application Systems: Common App
Average GPA: 3.83 weighted
SAT Scores: 25th% – 1380, 75th% – 1490
ACT Scores: 25th% – 29, 75th% – 33
*Test mandatory. Writing sections are not required.
Demonstrated Interest: Brandeis does consider demonstrated interest.
Recommendation Letter Policies: A letter from a counselor and one letter from a teacher in an academic subject are required.
Brandeis Essay Prompts:
The factors in an application Brandeis considers very important are: GPA, course rigor, test scores, extracurriculars, recommendation letters, and character.
Factors which are considered include the optional interview, level of interest, legacy status, and need. Race, ethnicity, and religious background are not considered.
The school is need aware, which means the amount of aid needed will be a factor. While they do promise to meet all demonstrated financial need for their students, they have a limit to the total amount of aid available.
Recruited athletes will have that factored into their admissions decision, but still must meet the academic standards generally.
What is Brandeis Looking For?
The very strongest applications are moved through the application process quickly, those which are strong but less so are decided by committee. Profiles which are clearly too weak for Brandeis are set aside after their first reader. Full holistic and committee review is mostly done for the “maybe” candidates.
Brandeis is looking for students who have shown the potential for leaders, either academically or in the activities they do. This is primarily seen through the activities list, as are volunteer and work experience, which the school values as extracurriculars.
Brandeis cares about the character of admitted students, as it was founded due to concerns about quotas on admitted students in the 20th century. They have retained their commitment to diversity, and while race is not factored into admissions, they look for students who exemplify this kind of character. They also look to continue their character and traditions as a Jewish institution, while they do not factor religion into admissions, many of the students are Jewish.
Brandeis has detailed a new commitment to student research in its strategic initiative. They have further announced new initiatives in both data sciences and digital humanities, including the use of data to study fields in the humanities. Students showing a desire to study in these fields will be of interest to admissions officers.
While Brandeis does not require standardized test scores, 88% of applicants submit them. If your scores don’t measure up to the average at Brandeis, look into the other methods they allow, including AP tests and subject tests. Select from among your options to give Brandeis the best possible view of your academic achievement.
Brandeis does track demonstrated interest, and their yield is around 25%, meaning for every four students admitted, one attends. For this reason, applying Early Decision is the best way to boost admissions chances at Brandeis, and demonstrating interest is an easy way to improve your chances overall. While this won’t get a weak candidate admitted, it can provide a tiebreaker between equally qualified candidates.
If you aren’t ready to apply by the ED deadline, consider applying ED II. This is also a good option if Brandeis is your second choice school, and you didn’t get into your first choice ED. While the admissions rates for ED II aren’t as high as the regular Early Decision, they still provide a slight boost to your admissions chances.
The school cares highly about the character of incoming students, and this is judged through the activities list, letters of recommendation, and essays. Working on the essays in particular to show how your character fits with the vision Brandeis has for itself will improve your chances of admission.
Brandeis is a Jewish institution in its character, and while this does not inform its admissions decisions, much of the student body is self selecting. Read through the ideals and values espoused by the university, and consider if they are something you want to embody. While Brandeis is not as overtly religious as Notre Dame, it is still a factor in student life and the school’s character.
Courses of Study:
AP Credit Policies:
All undergrads are encouraged to take part in research projects with faculty. Graduating with honors requires this.
Computer Science Options:
Additional Specialty Programs:
Programs for High Schoolers:
School Motto: Truth even unto its innermost parts
Mission and Values:
All first year students are required to live on-campus, and many students choose to live in university housing for their entire stay. Freshmen have their own dorms, which provide a traditional housing experience. Sophomore dorms are either suite, traditional, or apartment style. Upperclassmen primarily live in apartment-style dorms, though suite and traditional residences are available.
Campus & Surrounding Area:
Greek Life: Greek organizations are not seen as compatible with the university’s mission, so none are recognized officially by the school There are still 6 fraternities and 5 sororities at the school.
Yearly Cost of Attendance:
Need based financial aid is available for students and families unable to meet the cost of tuition. All students are required to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and the CSS Profile in order to be considered for this aid. The deadline for these to be submitted depends on whether the student is applying early or regular. Work-study positions and student loans are also common funding sources for students.
Brandeis offers a number of merit-based scholarships to help defray the cost of tuition. Students do not need to apply for merit funding. In order to maintain their merit awards, students are required to maintain set GPAs, with the requirements varying based on the award. Some scholarships are also open to international students.