Brandeis University Guide

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)

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About Brandeis University

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.

Brandeis Statistics

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

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National Rankings

US News Rankings:

  • #33 Best Value Schools
  • #40 National Universities
  • #76 Best Undergraduate Teaching

Independent Rankings:

  • #33 Best Value Schools
  • #40 National Universities
  • #76 Best Undergraduate Teaching

Brandeis 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 1st
  • Regular Decision: April 1st
  • Transfer Deadline: Rolling

Acceptance Rates:

  • Early Decision I/II: 37%
  • RD: 30%
  • Transfer: 25%

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.

How to demonstrate interest.

Recommendation Letter Policies: A letter from a counselor and one letter from a teacher in an academic subject are required.

Brandeis Essay Prompts:

  • Common App personal statement (650 words)
  • Please include a short response to one of the three prompts below (250 words or fewer).
    • Why would you like to attend Brandeis?
    • Justice Brandeis once said, “If we would guide by the light of reason, we must let our minds be bold.” Tell us about something bold that you’ve recently done. 
    • There are approximately 171,476 words in the English dictionary. Pick your favorite word and tell us why you picked it.
  • For international students only:
    • Brandeis attracts students from many corners of the world. As an international student at Brandeis, how would you enrich the campus community? (250 words or fewer)

Special Notes:

  • The school allows students who are talented in music to submit an additional portfolio to demonstrate their abilities.
  • Students who wish to major in business must apply for that separately. This application may only be done by current students at Brandeis.
  • Students may sign up for an optional interview.


  • Students must apply using the Common Application. College and high school transcripts are required, as is a letter of recommendation from an academic professor.
  • Standardized test scores are not required, though they are recommended.
  • Students must have completed at least one semester of college to be eligible to transfer.
  • Students must complete at least four full-time semesters at Brandeis after transferring before they graduate.
  • Transfer students are awarded need-based aid, but are not eligible for merit aid. 
  • Transfer students are encouraged, but not required, to sign up for on-campus interviews.
  • There are additional requirements for transfer students wishing to major in business.

Brandeis Admission Strategy

Admissions Criteria:

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.

Brandeis Strategy:

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.

Brandeis Academics


Core Requirements:

  • All students are required to complete the core curriculum and show competency in 5 areas: First Year Experience; Foundational Literacies; Schools of Thought; Global Engagement; and Health, Wellness, and Life Skills
  • Core Requirements

Courses of Study: 

  • Majors Offered
  • Option to double major
  • Popular majors include Economics, Biology, General Business, Psychology, and Public Policy
  • It is generally easy to change majors. Biology, Neurology, and Computer Science all have separate forms from the standard. Students wishing to major in Business or Health: Science, Society, and Policy must meet additional requirements.
  • Minors Offered
  • Course Catalog

AP Credit Policies:

Special Programs

Honors Programs:

  • 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 Society

Research Availability:

All undergrads are encouraged to take part in research projects with faculty. Graduating with honors requires this.

Study Abroad: 

Business Options: 

  • The International Business School offers a BA in business, allowing students to take classes with graduate students at the school. They further offer a joint BA/MA program, allowing students to earn a BA in any major and a MA in International Economics in 5 years.
  • There is also a joint BA/MBA program, which allows students to earn both degrees in five and a half years.
  • The undergraduate economics program is also run through the business school, and offers a major and a minor.

Pre-Med Options:

Pre-Law Options:

Computer Science Options: 

  • The Department of Computer Science offers both a BA and BS, with the BS being more in-depth, and the BA designed to work alongside other majors. They also offer a minor.
  • They offer a 5-year dual degree in computer science.
  • There are several awards handed out annually to accomplished CS students.

Additional Specialty Programs: 

Programs for High Schoolers:

  • Pre-College Programs are summer programs which offer interested students a chance to experience life on a college campus while exploring a variety of academic or societal topics.
  • Summer Courses Advanced high school students are welcome to take a selection of summer courses at Brandeis alongside undergrads for college credit.

Student Life at Brandeis

School Motto: Truth even unto its innermost parts

Mission and Values:

  • Mission: Brandeis University is a community of scholars and students united by their commitment to the pursuit of knowledge and its transmission from generation to generation. As a research university, Brandeis is dedicated to the advancement of the humanities, arts and social, natural and physical sciences. As a liberal arts college, Brandeis affirms the importance of a broad and critical education in enriching the lives of students and preparing them for full participation in a changing society, capable of promoting their own welfare, yet remaining deeply concerned about the welfare of others.
  • Additional Information
  • Student Testimonials (Niche, Unigo, Grad Reports)

House System:

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.

Housing Statistics:

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

Campus & Surrounding Area:  


  • There are shuttles run by the university which provide free transportation around campus, into downtown Waltham, and into Boston.
  • Parking Information


  • This Is Our HouseNew students are welcomed to campus featuring poetry, music, and chances to meet the people they’ll be spending the next year in housing with.
  • Culture XPut on in coordination with 16 student groups, this is a celebration of the various cultures represented at Brandeis.
  • Liquid LatexAn annual show where students choreograph pieces which are performed in nothing but liquid latex paint.
  • SpringfestAn annual concert held the week before Spring exams, the show has featured numerous stars as headliners.

Student-Run Organizations: 


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.


  • Brandeis does not have much of a party scene itself, but it is a short trip from Boston, a large city with a vibrant nightlife scene, with most areas of the city accessible by public transit.
  • Student organization events and performances are common forms of on-campus entertainment, and frat and apartment parties occur, though they are much more laid back than at some schools.

Financial Information

Yearly Cost of Attendance:

  • Total: $73,120
  • Tuition: $55,340
  • Fees: $1,890
  • Residence Hall: $9,060
  • Meal Plan: $6,830

Financial Aid:

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.

Additional Financial Aid & Student Loan Information


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.

Fun Facts

  • The school was founded on the campus of the failed Middlesex University, with the goal to be a secular Jewish school.
  • The founders offered to name the school after Albert Einstein, but he refused, so they named the school after the first Jewish Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis (who was dead and thus unable to raise any possible objections).
  • The school operated without quota systems, and did not ask any applying students their race or ethnicity.
  • Notable alumni include author Angela Davis and creators of Friends David Crane and Marta Kauffman.
  • The school only had a football team for 10 years, from 1950-1960.
  • There are 7 different buildings on campus named Shapiro.
Wendy Y.
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