BU Alumni Web

Number of Applicants to BU Class of 2017 Sets Record

University sees 20 percent increase over last year

| From BU Today | By Leslie Friday

Admissions received a record-breaking 52,532 applications for the Class of 2017. Photo by Cydney Scott

Blake Snelling won the BU lottery. She applied for early decision to Boston University, was accepted, and—wasting no time—sent in her enrollment deposit to commit to BU. Her speedy response earned her a prize for being the first official member of the Class of 2017.

“Just got the most adorable handwritten card signed by the Board of Admissions & a sweatshirt in the mail from #BU,” Snelling cheered on Twitter. “Thanks so much!”

Snelling (COM’17) was one of nearly 1,500 students who applied this year for early decision, a 40 percent increase over last year, and was among the record-breaking 52,532 students who applied by the January 1 deadline. That’s nearly a 20 percent spike over last year’s record of 44,006 applicants. Although several peer institutions’ deadlines aren’t until later in the month, none have reported the kind of surge seen by BU.

“The size of the increase in the number of applications over last year is remarkable,” says University President Robert A. Brown. “I can’t help but think that the increasing interest in attending Boston University is coupled with the increasing quality of our programs and the unique global student experience we offer here in Boston and in our programs around the world.”

University officials are thrilled by the rise in interest, but surprised by its intensity. “We didn’t plan for a 20 percent increase,” says Laurie Pohl, vice president for enrollment and student affairs. “It’s just wow.”

University Provost Jean Morrison credits Brown’s vision and leadership, the caliber of the BU faculty, and the University’s recent admission to membership in the Association of American Universities, which numbers only 4 members in Massachusetts and 63 nationwide, as big draws for research- and reputation-oriented students. And Kelly Walter, associate vice president and executive director of admissions, says strategic outreach to high schools (visits increased by 68 percent) and the expanded use of social media in targeting prospective students (Facebook “Likes” rose by 30 percent and Twitter followers by 47 percent) contributed to her office’s success.

An early glimpse at applicants to the Class of 2017 reveals a smart, highly accomplished, and diverse group of students. They rank in the top 17 percent of their high school class, with an average GPA of 3.55, and earned an average SAT score of 1891. (For those keeping track, ahem…Class of 2016, that means this year’s applying students earned a lower average SAT score and average GPA than you did.) They have volunteered in far-flung places like a women’s shelter in Thailand and an orphanage in India, completed research at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, interned at MTV France, and in the case of one student, mastered six languages. They come from 149 foreign countries and all 50 states, plus Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Guam. And they are more ethnically and racially diverse: the University saw a 19 percent increase in applications from African American students, a 19 percent increase from Hispanic and Latino students, and a 39 percent increase from international students.

The top five foreign countries from which BU received applications are China (4,159, a 48 percent increase over last year), South Korea (991, a nearly 8 percent increase), India (700, a 58 percent increase), Canada (305, an almost 28 percent increase), and Taiwan (217, a close to 4 percent increase). The percentage of applications from some emerging countries also rose sharply, among them Sri Lanka (300 percent), Costa Rica (144 percent), and Vietnam (114 percent). Two applications even arrived from Brunei (for the geographically challenged, the nation neighbors Malaysia off the South China Sea).

With 149 countries represented, Walter says, “that’s just shy of the United Nations. It paints a really great picture that this is not a slice of the world; this is the world that is applying for admission to BU.”

Although all nine undergraduate schools and colleges experienced a surge in applications, professional programs were definite favorites. Sargent College received almost 1,000 more applications than last year—a whopping 66 percent increase—the School of Management 2,165 more, a 41 percent increase, and the College of Engineering 1,315 more, a 32 percent increase.

Pohl acknowledges that the shaky economy and sluggish job market are heavily determining applicants’ academic and career choices. “Students are increasingly concerned about getting a credentialed degree in a successful career path, even if that means they need graduate school,” she says. “They get that here at BU, as well as everything that a great liberal arts college has to offer.”

Admissions now faces the difficult task of sorting through the tens of thousands of applications to fill the Class of 2017’s 3,800 slots, a full 100 less than last fall. “One of the practical implications of this is that we are becoming more selective,” Morrison says.

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