How to Get Into Boston University: Admissions Data and Strategies
There is so much to like about Boston University that it’s not hard to figure out why it received 61,006 applications for a spot in the 2020-21 freshman class. BU has experienced such a sharp rise in popularity/prestige that the acceptance rate is now one-third of what it was just a dozen years ago (18.5% 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:
1) An understanding of the big-picture of Boston University admissions.
2) Data to help you assess your chances of admission of more accuracy.
3) What the Boston University admissions committee looks for and how to get your application to stand out from the crowd.
To accomplish these goals we will touch on the following topics:
- Boston University’s Class of 2024 acceptance rate
- Boston University’s Class of 2024 ED acceptance rate
- SAT, ACT, and class rank of accepted Boston University applicants
- Admissions trends from the Class of 2024
- 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)
Let’s begin with an examination of the most recent admissions data.
Boston University’s: Overall Acceptance Rate – Class of 2024
In aiming to create a freshmen class of 3,100 students, BU admitted 18.5% of the 61,000+ who applied in the 2019-20 admissions cycle. This figure is down just a fraction of a percentage point from the prior year, and down from 22% two years ago.
Boston University Early Decision Acceptance Rate – Class of 2024
Those who are serious about attending BU should definitely consider applying via binding early decision. Half of the universities 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 tends to be around 7% higher than the regular decision acceptance rate.
Boston University Admissions – SAT, ACT, and Class Rank
Those admitted into the Class of 2024 sported an average high school class rank in the top 7%, an “A-“ average, and middle-50th standardized test scores of 1420-1540 on the SAT and 32-35 on the ACT. Those who went on to enroll in the university for the start of the 2019-20 school year held SAT scores with a middle-50% range of 1360-1480; the ACT range was 30-34.
Almost one-fifth of Class of 2023 members had a perfect 4.0 (unweighted) and 87% possessed better than a 3.5. Among those who submitted a class rank, 64% placed in the top decile of their graduating high school class while 92% earned a spot in the top quartile.
Admissions Trends & Notes – (Class of 2024)
- Due to COVID-19. BU has gone test-optional for the Class of 2021.
- The total number of applications declined from 62,224 to 61,006.
- The total number of applicants accepted through early decision is now 50%; in 2019 it was 45% and in 2018 it was 35%.
- The states sending the highest number of students to BU continue to be: Massachusetts, New York, California, New Jersey, and Texas.
- Roughly 75 admits per year are graduates of Boston Public Schools.
- Boston University continues to rank among the top 10 U.S. schools in volume of international students.
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 102 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 2020-21 freshman cohort.
Looking at ethnic identity, the breakdown of members of the Class of 2023 was as follows:
- Asian American: 20.7%
- Hispanic: 10.8%
- African American: 7.9%
- International: 24.4%
- White: 31%
- Other: 5.2%
The breakdown by gender of all current undergraduates is notably split in favor of women:
- Male: 38%
- Female: 62%
One would think that this disparity would give men an edge in the admissions process at BU since there are far more qualified female applicants year after year. Yet, this is not the case—19.1% of men are accepted compared to 18.8% 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 an extremely low 27% 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 (56%), Duke (55%), and Cornell University (60%).
How Boston University Rates Applicants
There are only two factors that Boston University ranks as being “very important” to their admissions process: rigor of secondary school record and talent/ability. Factors considered “important” are: class rank, GPA, standardized test scores (test-optional for Class of 2021), the essays, recommendations, extracurricular activities, character/personal qualities, and legacy status.
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, those entering the school in 2020-21 include 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 61,000+ 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 “important” to the admissions process. It is one of the few schools to assign this degree of importance to this factor. 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 2019-20 cycle, there was 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)
The key to tackling this 250 word supplemental essay is to do your homework on Boston University in order to uncover the specific attributes and offerings that genuinely get you pumped. Learn how to write a killer “Why This College” essay in our previous blog post on the subject.
Those applying to Kilachand need to answer one of the following prompts:
Option A: What about the Kilachand Honors College resonates with you, and how would Kilachand’s curriculum fulfill your academic, creative, intellectual, and/or professional goals?
Option B: If you could create a new Kilachand course, what would it be? How would your imagined course align with the core values of Kilachand?
Should I Apply to Boston University?
Students with SATs below a 1350 SAT and/or a 3.75 GPA will likely need a “hook” to achieve their dream of becoming a Terrier. BU, with acceptance rates of 18-19% is only hunting for students that possess 90th 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.
Dave has over a decade of professional experience that includes work as a teacher, high school administrator, college professor, and independent educational consultant. He is a co-author of the books The Enlightened College Applicant (Rowman & Littlefield, 2016) and Colleges Worth Your Money (Rowman & Littlefield, 2020).