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International Applications Continue to Rise

Most popular countries: China, Korea, India, Canada, and Taiwan

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Photo by Kalman Zabarsky

Despite a dwindling global economy, Boston University continued its upward trend in overseas applications this year, breaking last year’s record of 3,822 by almost 400 applicants. The 4,213 international students who applied to BU’s Class of 2013 are the most in BU’s history and represent a 10.2 percent increase over last year — a significant jump, says Kelly Walter, executive director of admissions, in a year where the overall applicant pool remained relatively steady.

“We are a destination for people from overseas,” says Laurie Pohl, vice president for enrollment and student affairs. “I think they feel welcome here, immersed in a dynamic community.”

Students from more than 130 countries applied, the majority from Korea, China, India, Canada, and Taiwan. “Without a doubt, a lot of our growth is being driven by China, which was up by 50 percent from last year,” Walter says. “But we’re seeing large increases from lesser-known countries as well. For example, there was a 53 percent increase in applicants from Kazakhstan.”

Since 2005, BU has seen an increase of more than 75 percent among international applications, which Walter says reflects the global perception of a U.S.-based education as “the gold standard,” and of BU as both an urban and a global institution. The University has also broadened its overseas recruitment efforts during the past five years: BU representatives visited 38 countries last year, up from 24 countries five years ago, and 191 international high schools, up from 136 five years ago. “This fall, our representatives made contact with 6,795 students, compared to 4,657 in 2005,” Walter says.

For the first time ever, BU recruiters this year are visiting countries after students have been admitted. “Because many students can’t afford to fly to Boston for open houses,” says Walter, “we bring the open house to them.” Over the next several weeks, BU representatives will be hosting receptions in London, Istanbul, Dubai, Hong Kong, Bangkok, and Mexico City.

While the domestic application rate remained steady this year at 33,556, Walter says she was not surprised by the uptick in international applications — last year, the number increased by an unusually high 30 percent. “Education continues to be a high priority among international families,” she says, “and we’ve seen that students who live overseas are continuing to apply to U.S. colleges, even though it is very costly.”

A 2005 report by the Institute for International Education said that of the paid tuition and fees of international students attending a U.S. undergraduate institution in the 2004−2005 academic year, 80.9 percent came from personal and family sources.

Minimal scholarship aid is available to international students, according to NAFSA, a consortium of international educators with members in more than 150 nations, and most of it is reserved for graduate study. Generally, U.S. institutions offer little, if any, aid for tuition.

Walter says that financially strapped international students often receive financial aid through their countries’ governments or through private institutions.

Vicky Waltz can be reached at vwaltz@bu.edu.

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