Wondering how to get into Boston University? We’ve got everything you need right here.
Boston University offers over three hundred programs of study and four years of guaranteed housing. Ranked #13 in the country for employability by Times Higher Education, BU gives its students a fantastic college experience and an excellent springboard into their career of choice. Within six months of graduation, 94% of graduates are employed or enrolled in graduate school.
Over eighty thousand students applied to Boston University last year. The competition is tough, and preparation is key. In this guide, we’ll share information and advice that will help you strengthen your application and increase your chances of acceptance.
About Boston University
There are ten undergraduate schools and colleges at Boston University, and over seventeen thousand undergraduates study at BU each year. Students have the option of embarking on combined BA/MA programs and the chance to take coursework across multiple schools and colleges.
The student-to-faculty ratio at BU is eleven to one, and the average class size is thirty students. Boston University offers over seventy study abroad opportunities and hosts a large number of international students from over one hundred different countries. Nearly one quarter of the students in the Class of 2026 come from outside the United States.
Undergraduate students have guaranteed housing that ranges from historic brownstones on Bay State Road to modern buildings that overlook the Charles River. There are nearly five hundred active student groups. Between college life and the city of Boston, you’ll never lack for things to do.
Is it Hard to Get into Boston University?
Boston University is as least as difficult to gain admittance to as an Ivy League university. 80,796 students from over one hundred and sixty countries and from every state in the U.S. sought admission to Boston University this past year, and only 4.5% of those students were admitted.
The acceptance rate for students who applied early was drastically higher; we’ll cover that in greater detail towards the end of this article.
GPA and Test Scores
Grades are very important to Boston University, and you should aim for an unweighted GPA of as close to 4.0 as possible while taking challenging classes. 3.8 – 4.0 was the middle 50% GPA range for students admitted to the Class of 2026. 84% of those students ranked in the top 10% of their high school class.
Boston University is test optional for first-year applicants applying for fall 2023/spring 2024. Their admissions page states, “Prospective students and applicants must decide for themselves whether or not to include standardized test scores with their application for admission to Boston University. When making this decision, we ask students to consider the totality of their academic record, their contributions both in and out of the classroom and to their communities, and whether they feel confident that the sum of these experiences fully reflect their academic ability and potential.”
Forty-four percent of the students who applied in 2022 submitted test scores. Boston University doesn’t list an average score for the Class of 2026, but given how few students submitted scores, we can surmise that the average was very high. You should aim to score well into the 90th percentile on the SAT test, so aim for a composite score of 1400 or higher.
BU superscores both the SAT and ACT, which means that this university uses the highest score of each section, regardless of test date, when considering each applicant.
What is Boston University Looking For?
An excellent academic record is key to getting into Boston University, but GPA and test scores on their own won’t be enough. Boston University will also consider your character, your extracurricular pursuits, and your overall involvement in the world around you.
Here are some traits that Boston University looks for:
- Looking to understand the world
- Develop their own innovations
- Form novel research questions
- Proactively seek out new experiences
In the next sections, we’ll discuss what you can do now and when you apply to show BU that you possess all of the qualities they’re looking for.
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What Should You Do in High School?
Here are some things that you can do in high school to show Boston University that you would be a great addition to their next class.
Excel in Challenging Classes
If you want to go to Boston University, you’ll need to demonstrate that you can handle the most difficult coursework available to you. We recommend that you take the most challenging possible course load that you can manage while still maintaining an unweighted GPA of 4.0 (or as close to 4.0 as possible).
For most programs at Boston University, the recommended high school coursework includes:
- four years of English
- three to four years of mathematics (precalculus/calculus recommended)
- three to four years of laboratory science
- three to four years of history or social science
- two to four years of a language
Applicants to the Questrom School of Business and the College of Engineering are required to have a year of calculus.
We have more advice on keeping your grades up here.
Academics are the most important thing, and you can show BU that you share this value by going above and beyond in your quest for knowledge. Consider taking college-level courses that your high school doesn’t offer, either online or at a local community college.
Earn High Test Scores
Standardized tests are an opportunity to demonstrate your academic ability. It would be wise to take both the SAT and ACT exams as early as possible so that you can find out which one suits you best and how much additional preparation you’ll need to achieve your target score.
Back when test scores were required by BU and every applicant submitted their scores, the middle 50 percent range for the SAT averaged around 1400 to 1540. Since most students didn’t submit test scores this past year, the average was probably considerably higher.
Make sure you have time to test and then study and test again if need be to achieve your desired score. Giving yourself plenty of time to familiarize yourself with these exams and try out different testing strategies will help you to score as high as possible.
We have lots of tips on how to study for standardized tests right here.
Pursue Your Passions
Pursuing things that you’re truly passionate about will provide content and substance for your college essays. It will give you your hook, something to distinguish you from the other applicants and make you more memorable. You want to show BU that you’re interested in the world around you and that you proactively seek out new experiences.
So seek out new opportunities. Get out of your comfort zone and find what lights you up. And then dive deep. It’s better to pursue a small number of passions wholeheartedly than to occasionally clock in on a long list of extracurriculars. You want to be able to demonstrate community involvement, intellectual vitality, and an overall zest for life.
Check out this article for ideas on great extracurriculars to explore. If you’re not sure where to start, ask yourself what you can do to better the lives of those around you.
Serve Your Community
Community service activities are an excellent way to show prospective colleges that you work well with others and would be a valuable addition to any community. Don’t stretch yourself too thin by dabbling in dozens of different projects. Do find something that you truly care about and can contribute to in a meaningful way. If you can lead your own projects and come up with innovative solutions to problems in your community, that’s even better.
Boston University wants to know what you have to contribute to their community, and it’s not enough to tell them what you’ll do once you get there. You have to establish a history of community service now – not necessarily through established organizations (though that can be good too), but in real and meaningful ways that you can write about when it comes time to write those college essays.
Remember that community service can look different for everyone. Steady jobs or familial responsibilities are just as valid as community service projects. The important thing is that you’re involved in the world around you in a positive way.
Build Relationships with Your Teachers
Boston University requires a teacher evaluation as part of the Common Application. In order to receive truly valuable letters of recommendation, your teachers need to know you as a person. Maybe your AP Biology teacher was also your soccer coach for three years, or your English teacher runs a local charity that you’ve given your time to. Ideally, your letters of recommendation should come from teachers who can speak to both your academic abilities and your community spirit.
Boston University Application Process and Checklist
Your application to Boston University will include:
- Common Application or QuestBridge Application
- High School Transcript
- Senior Year Grades
- Counselor Recommendation and School Report Form
- Teacher Evaluation
- Standardized Tests (Optional)
You’ll need to specify which of the ten undergraduate schools and colleges you’re applying to, though some students will be offered admission to the College of General Studies if they don’t get into their first-choice college.
The College of Fine Arts also requires recordings, auditions, and/or portfolios, depending on your area of study. You can find their requirements here.
Boston University Essays
When you apply to BU, you need to respond to two Common App essay prompts. Essays are your chance to distinguish yourself from a stack of similar candidates.
Writing outstanding college essays starts long before you put pen to paper or pull out your laptop. It starts with rich life experiences, with struggle and perseverance that give you something worth writing about. This is one reason that extracurriculars are so vital.
Depending on how many colleges you plan to apply to, you may need to write ten to twenty supplemental essays by the time you’re through. If you leave this to the last minute, it can be an overwhelming prospect. These essays are far too important to be rushed, so start early. Many colleges release their essay prompts each summer.
Here are some more tips to write the best possible essays for your college applications:
- Stick to the topic.
Permitted word counts are low, so there’s no time to waste. Get to the point!
- Include specific details.
You’ll have to cut extraneous words, but that doesn’t mean your answer should be boring. Instead of telling them what you’re interested in or what matters to you, illustrate those things with vivid examples to make sure your application stands out.
- Write in your genuine voice.
Your essays shouldn’t be riddled with errors, but they shouldn’t be stiff and formal either. These short responses are your best chance to make an impression and showcase what makes you unique. Let your personality and voice shine through.
- Show your values.
Focus on values that you genuinely believe in and share with Boston University. Don’t just tell them what matters to you; provide examples of how you live and embody those values.
- Be reflective.
Go deep on these essays to demonstrate a high level of critical thinking and self-awareness. Your response should go beyond a basic answer and also serve to explain why each topic is important to you and how you’ve grown as a person.
- Edit carefully and double check for errors.
First you’ll want to edit for content, ideally getting outside perspectives from people you trust to make sure that your answers are conveying what you want them to. Once you’re satisfied with the content, you need to proofread multiple times to make sure each response has zero errors. Have other people proofread your essays as well to make sure you haven’t missed any mistakes.
Should You Apply Early to Boston University?
Boston University offers two Early Decision deadlines: Early Decision and Early Decision 2. These application options require students to commit to attend and withdraw applications to all other schools in the event that they’re admitted to Boston University. The deadline for Early Decision is November first and the deadline for Early Decision 2 is January fourth, which is the same as the Regular Decision deadline. Students who apply Early Decision 2 will be notified in February and are required to accept; Regular Decision students will be notified in late March.
Early Decision applicants will need to ask their counselor to submit first marking period grades as soon as they are available. Regular Decision applicants will need to ask their counselor to submit grades for both / all marking periods as they become available.
Of the 80,796 applicants who sought admission to BU in 2022, 74,487 applied Regular Decision. The remaining 6,309 applied Early Decision. 3,634 students were admitted to the Class of 2026, which is about 4.5% of those who applied. 42% of those students applied Early Decision, which means that 24% of students who applied through the Early Decision action plan were accepted! Compare this to the 2.8% acceptance rate for students who applied Regular Decision, and it’s clear that there is a huge advantage in applying early to Boston University.
If you’re comfortable with the condition of withdrawing applications from other universities upon acceptance, go ahead and apply early to Boston University.
Final Thoughts: How to Get into Boston University
With an acceptance rate in the single digits, Boston University is extremely competitive. The acceptance rate is much higher for students who apply Early Decision, but you’ll still need to build an exceptional application to be admitted to this university.
If you want to go to Boston University, here’s how to craft a strong application:
- Earn mostly A’s and rank in the top ten percent of your class
- Score higher than 1400 on the SAT
- Commit to a small number of extracurriculars that you truly care about
- Serve your community and lead your own service projects
- Write compelling essays by using specific examples and an authentic voice
- Proofread your essays carefully
We wish you the best of luck – and if you have any questions about the college application process, please reach out. We’re here to help.
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