How to Get Into Boston University (BU): Admissions Data and Strategies
There is so much to like about Boston University that it’s not hard to figure out why it received almost 81,000 applications for a spot in the 2022-23 freshman class. BU has experienced such a sharp rise in popularity/prestige that the acceptance rate is now a fraction of what it was just a dozen years ago (14% vs. 58%). Located in one of America’s most popular cities, BU has highly-ranked academic programs in business, engineering, design, communications, the performing arts, education, and a litany of other disciplines. This incredible flood of applications in recent years has caused the average SAT to rise more than 150 points just in the time since Barack Obama’s first inauguration.
With selectivity at an all-time high, today’s applicants need to bring a lot more to the table than those who were accepted into BU a generation ago. The intent of this article is to give those considering applying to Boston University an understanding of:
- Boston University’s Class of 2026 acceptance rate
- Boston University’s Class of 2026 ED acceptance rate
- SAT, ACT, GPA, and class rank of accepted Boston University applicants
- Admissions trends from the Class of 2026
- The demographics of current Boston University undergraduates
- Boston University’s yield rate
- How Boston University’s admissions officers evaluate candidates
- Tips for applying to Boston University
- How to assess whether applying to Boston University is even worth the $80 application fee (for you)
Many students applying to Boston University may also find the following blogs to be of interest:
How to Get Into:
Let’s begin with an examination of the most recent admissions data.
Boston University’s: Overall Acceptance Rate – Class of 2026
In aiming to create a freshman class of 3,100 students, BU admitted 14% of the 80,794 who applied in the 2021-22 admissions cycle.
Boston University Early Decision Acceptance Rate – Class of 2026
Those who are serious about attending BU should definitely consider applying via binding early decision. Half of the university’s most recent first-year admits were accepted through ED. This school offers two rounds of early decision—ED I in November and ED II in January. The ED acceptance rate for the Class of 2026 was 26%.
BU Admissions – SAT, ACT, GPA, and Class Rank
Those admitted into the Class of 2026 sported an average high school class rank in the top 6%, a 3.95 average GPA, and had mean test scores of 1491 on the SAT and 34 on the ACT. Those who went on to enroll in the university for the start of the 2021-22 school year held SAT scores with a middle-50% range of 1390-1490; the ACT range was 31-34. The mid-50% unweighted GPA range was 3.6-4.0 and 70% were in the top 10% of their high school class.
Admissions Trends & Notes – (Class of 2026)
- BU has continued their test-optional policy for those applying to join the university in fall 2023.
- 54% of Class of 2026 applicants submitted test scores with their application.
- Half of the incoming freshman class was accepted via Early Decision.
- 24% of accepted students were international, coming from 87 countries.
- BU experienced a 6.7% increase in applications from the previous cycle.
Who Actually Gets Into Boston University?
Let’s look at the demographics of Boston University undergraduates:
- Students represent all 50 states (plus Puerto Rico, the District of Columbia, Guam, and the American Samoa Islands and U.S. Virgin Islands).
- They come from 100+ countries around the world.
- BU is one of the top US schools for international students to pursue their undergraduate education.
As at any highly-selective university, competition is toughest among those hailing from states with endless streams of qualified applicants (the entire Northeast & the West Coast). If you hail from a less populated state like Hawaii, the Dakotas, or Montana, your location is more likely to provide a boost to your admissions chances. Boston University likes to accept at least one student from every state. In fact, they have a member of each state in the 2021-22 freshman cohort.
Looking at ethnic identity, the breakdown of the Class of 2025 was as follows:
- Asian American: 20%
- Hispanic: 8%
- African American: 5%
- International: 23%
- White: 35%
- Two or more races: 5%
The breakdown by gender of all current undergraduates is notably split in favor of women:
- Male: 41%
- Female: 59%
Men do enjoy an edge in the admissions process at BU since there are far more qualified female applicants year after year. In the 2020-21 cycle, 23% of men are accepted compared to 16% of women.
Boston University’s yield rate—the percentage of accepted students who elect to enroll, divided by the total number of students who are admitted was a fairly low 28% last year. This is due to the fact that BU is competing with the same pool of students as the Ivy League and other elite institutions. As such, the university greatly values “demonstrated interest” (more on that in a moment), and especially those who are willing to commit to the school via Early Decision. For comparison, many other top private universities have superior yield rates such as Northwestern (60%), Duke (61%), and Cornell University (64%).
How BU Rates Applicants
There are only three factors that Boston University ranks as being “very important” to their admissions process: rigor of secondary school record, GPA, and talent/ability. Factors considered “important” are: class rank, GPA,, the essays, recommendations, extracurricular activities, and character/personal qualities. This year, since the school is again test-optional for the Class of 2027, standardized test scores are merely ranked as “considered.”
BU really does value an applicant’s “talent/ability.” In fact, they take great pride in touting the diverse achievements outside of the classroom of their incoming freshmen. For example, one recent freshmen class included students who…
- Placed third in the first season of MasterChef Junior
- Developed and patented two products to help pediatric cancer survivors
- Is a three-time World Tap Dance Champion
- Developed an algorithm to identify and fight cyberbullying
- Was named one of ‘America’s 10 most outstanding teen social entrepreneurs’
- Earned a bronze medal at a World Junior Figure Skating competition in Switzerland
- Built a solar-powered car
- Started a program that has donated over 15,000 pairs of lab goggles to schools across the US
- Founded a mobile app that aims to end food waste by connecting over 70 restaurants with food surpluses with approximately 1,200 customers who are seeking to purchase food at bargain prices
- Presented a paper to United Nation officials about language education for refugees in Turkey
- Runs a dance program to help elderly patients fight dementia
- Was a columnist for the South China Morning Post
- Published a picture book that was translated into three languages, an 80,000 word novel, and a poetry anthology
In the admissions office’s own words:
“We’re looking for students who are likely to succeed at BU. Taking honors, AP, IB, or the most challenging courses available at your high school or college is important. But we’re also looking for students who will create a unique, diverse community at BU. Those who are doers—volunteers, entrepreneurs, and ambitious students looking to take their academic experience to new heights. That’s why we consider extracurricular activities and interests, work experience, special talents and skills, along with recommendations from teachers, counselors, community leaders, and others who know you well.”
It definitely also helps if you are recruited as an athlete to join one of Boston University’s 24 Division I sports teams or possess a unique skill like those mentioned above.
Tips for Applying to Boston University
If you plan on joining the 80,000+ BU hopefuls for the next admissions cycle, you should know the following:
- Boston University expects to see evidence of advanced coursework in high school. Taking multiple advanced classes, particularly within your area of academic interest is a must.
- Boston University does not offer interviews so it is imperative that you stand out on your Common App and supplemental essay as well as through your teacher/counselor recommendations.
- Boston University weighs “demonstrated interest” as “considered” in the admissions process. Therefore, you will be judged on whether or not you made a campus visit (in non-pandemic times), contacted an admissions officer, etc.
- Make sure to dedicate sufficient time and effort to the supplemental essay(s) required by BU. In the 2021-22 cycle, there is one prompt that every applicant must tackle and a separate set of prompts for applicants to the Kilachand Honors College.
All applicants must answer:
What about being a student at Boston University most excites you? (250 words)
For detailed advice on how to tackle this essay visit our blog entitled Boston University Supplemental Essay Prompt and Tips.
Should I Apply to Boston University?
Students with SATs below a 1400 SAT and/or a 3.75 GPA will likely need a “hook” to achieve their dream of becoming a Terrier. BU, with an acceptance rates of 14% is only hunting for students that possess 95th percentile and above standardized test scores and have earned mostly A’s in a highly rigorous high school curriculum. If Boston University is your aim, make sure to also have a rock-solid backup plan. All students need to make sure that they formulate an appropriate college list, containing a complement of “target” and “safety” schools. You’ll definitely want to do this in conjunction with an admissions professional.
A licensed counselor and published researcher, Andrew’s experience in the field of college admissions and transition spans more than one decade. He has previously served as a high school counselor, consultant and author for Kaplan Test Prep, and advisor to U.S. Congress, reporting on issues related to college admissions and financial aid.