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Number of Applicants to BU Class of 2017 Sets Record

University sees 20 percent increase over last year


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 & 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 University nine 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.

Acceptance letters will be sent by April 1. Students have until May 1 to respond.

Leslie Friday, BU Today, Boston University
Leslie Friday

Follow Leslie Friday on Twitter at @lesliefriday.

41 Comments on Number of Applicants to BU Class of 2017 Sets Record

  • Jim Howard on 01.16.2013 at 5:17 am

    And let me guess, this will be the “smartest, most diverse, best, etc.” class that BU has ever had. Same article every year.

    • Old School on 01.16.2013 at 11:40 am

      BU is on the rise, and as such, articles like this should continue every year! I’m glad to read it!

    • soldonbu on 01.16.2013 at 7:37 pm

      (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.)

  • OldFatty on 01.16.2013 at 8:31 am

    BU says they have a record number of applicants every year.

    • JC on 01.16.2013 at 12:41 pm

      One possible explanation for that is because….it’s true.

  • AP on 01.16.2013 at 10:27 am

    I’m surprised that BU still has Early Decision, instead of Early Action. Early Action better allows students to compare financial aid packages before accepting, while Early Decision constitutes a binding contract whereby, if you are admitted, you have to attend.

    In this day and age, with students graduating into a sluggish economy and mountains of student loan debt adversely affecting their lives, it seems foolish to keep the Early Decision pool. Most other schools have moved on to Early Action, including many of the Ivies, and I do not see why an expensive school like BU has not followed suit to financially help out its prospective students.

    • Anon on 01.18.2013 at 1:16 pm

      I don’t see the point of early action. The whole point of applying “early” is to demonstrate commitment to a particular institution. Regular decision exists for people who want to compare their options.

  • Peter on 01.16.2013 at 11:09 am

    Hope Admissions will do something to address the gender ratio. Must be over 60% female by now. I see at Harvard, Tufts, BC, Northeastern it’s about 50:50+/-1%.

    • Justin on 01.16.2013 at 12:08 pm


      Why would you want administration do something to address this ratio? As a guy, you should appreciate this statistic!! And so should prospective (male) students.

    • Mike on 01.17.2013 at 11:06 am

      Hope Admissions will do something to address the gender ratio. Must be over 60% female by now. I see at Harvard, Tufts, BC, Northeastern it’s about 50:50+/-1%.

      Really?? The most qualified person should be accepted. No exceptions at all.
      This has nothing to do with the sex of the person. Most qualified individual.

      Peter welcome to the real world. It is not always going to be 10 boys and 10 girls in every class.

      signed – everyone

    • Richard on 01.17.2013 at 11:40 pm

      Sorry peter, you’re wrong. Nationally many more women go to school than men, so artificially keeping it at 50/50 would just disadvantage women simply because they’re women. That’s probably not something you want to support.

  • MET Alum on 01.16.2013 at 11:36 am

    Peter: That would require BU setting higher admissions standards for women compared to men. This would lead to charges of gender discrimination.

    • Peter on 01.16.2013 at 12:22 pm

      We are already discriminating on the basis of gender here.
      How then, do these other comparable institutions arrive at gender parity? I don’t understand what you mean by”higher admission standards for women”, are you referring strictly to Academic performance?

      • BU Alum on 01.16.2013 at 10:53 pm

        I’ll try and make it simple for you Peter: Require women students to have higher GPA and SAT/ACT in order to be admitted.

  • I'm an A-B student on 01.16.2013 at 12:53 pm

    I’ve been mostly an A-B student through high school and I applied for the School of Communication at BU. I really hope I get accepted.

  • Anonymous on 01.16.2013 at 1:45 pm

    I feel like I hear this every year.

    Oh, wait.


  • yaletojail on 01.16.2013 at 3:12 pm

    So basically more average students applied because the university invested a ton of money trying to attract high school students rather than on academics. Great.

    • I know on 01.16.2013 at 7:39 pm


  • Steve Schuit on 01.16.2013 at 3:21 pm

    As a two-time alum (SED 73′, 81) I am especially encouraged by the rise in international applicants. It would allow for full tuition being paid by affluent students from aboard, helping with the overall pool available for scholarships. It also makes BU a more valuable educational experience for everyone by making it a more global learning place. I can personally testify that BU has a highly respected reputation internationally, especially in South Korea–where I currently reside and where I taught while in the Peace Corps.

    • soldonbu on 01.16.2013 at 7:34 pm

      Double like!

  • An Average Student on 01.16.2013 at 4:30 pm

    As one of those applicants, this is terrifying.

    • Another Average Student on 01.16.2013 at 6:10 pm

      From on average student to another – I have to agree.

  • pensive one on 01.16.2013 at 5:52 pm

    What does this mean to people like me that are good, but not great students. I applied early decision. I HAD my heart set on going to BU. I was deferred. Now I find out that TONS of other students, some super-high achieving, some more like me are applying. I was ready to sign on the dotted line, ready to commit to the University and now I wait. Will they choose someone with a higher GPA and maybe higher test scores just to improve the University’s statistics? I hope not, but I am beginning to think that this is all a game to improve the reputation of the University — it doesn’t seem like creating a community of young leaders and scholars who really want to attend the University is their number one priority.

    • BU Alum on 01.16.2013 at 10:56 pm

      If you are a good but not great student then you may have to settle for UMass.

      • Umass fan on 02.14.2013 at 10:57 am

        “Settle for Umass”…you may want to recheck your facts BU Alum. I’m pretty sure Umass amherst these days is tougher to get in than BU!

    • BU sophomore on 01.19.2013 at 6:45 pm

      keep your hopes up my gpa was 3.1, sat was 1610 and I got in! I was surprised but maybe it was my phenomenal essay or all of my extracurriculars

    • BUaccepted on 03.26.2013 at 8:37 pm

      Hey don’t sell yourself short! I’m only in the top 25% of my class, not top 17% and I got in! :) My SAT scores were pretty good but that’s about it. The rest of me is average. I wish you luck!

  • For the Sake of Statistics on 01.17.2013 at 7:49 pm

    (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.)

    The above statement is totally unnecessary. With a 20% increase, you can expect a lower mean GPA from an average of 52,000 applicants (more variation as well as a higher probability of students with lower GPA’s applying) than from 44,000.

    • Kyle on 01.22.2013 at 10:31 am

      For the sake of statistics? So you are saying that last years applicant pool had a different normal distribution than this years. If these are all meant to be a standard of the University and how well it is doing, then it should remain the same every year, regardless of the applicants.

  • Pensive one on 01.17.2013 at 8:31 pm

    BU Alum, you may be correct. It will be interesting to see the “yield” of this great increase in applicants. It could be that BU is an appealing safety school as well.

  • Julie Abouchacra on 01.18.2013 at 6:43 am

    I am a BU parent. Both of my children attend BU. I have a senior and a freshman. So far, our experience has been great. I am happy to hear such news.

  • BUParent on 01.25.2013 at 4:57 pm

    My daughter is a SMG alum. I’m happy with what she had become….confident, smarter, and with a well-developed business acumen. One of the lucky ones who got offered a job before graduating. BU’s SMG has an excellent reputation not only in the US but also around the world.

  • BU Guy on 02.01.2013 at 6:41 pm

    I’m surprised the article didn’t mention the fact that BU will be a Patriot League school next year, and how that may have contributed to the increase in applicants. Personally, I think it may have been a major contibuting fact.

    Also, someone mentioned that the GPA and SAT averages being lower than last year was likely due to the fact that the pool of applicants was larger. I would have to agree. It makes complete sense. To think the average would remain the same or increase over the averages of a smaller pool is simply not reasonable. There are only so many top applicants out there.

    Larger schools are generally disadvataged when comparing numbers. For example, when you compare BU SAT scores to that of other smaller schools, it would appear that BU has less qualified students due to the lower score range. However, the score range is for the middle 50%. Thus, because BU has roughly 4000 freshman, we have roughly 1000 students with scores above the score range, whereas smaller schools may only have 1000 freshman total, with scores below, within and above their score range. In other words, BU may actually have a largher number of top students, but a lower score range. Averages can be misleading, especially for larger schools.

    I think when the the class of 2017 is enrolled, we’ll see an article in September stating that its GPA and SAT scores are the highest in BU history.

    This is great news for BU.

  • Doubtful on 03.18.2013 at 5:12 pm

    I originally believed that I had a pretty good chance of getting into BU…I guess not now :(

  • Wait listed on 03.23.2013 at 6:46 pm

    Well this explains a lot :'(

  • Rejected on 03.24.2013 at 10:33 am

    I got a 30 on my act but had an ok gpa but I got rejected :(

  • A mom on 03.24.2013 at 11:22 am

    As a parent of a college student and a high school senior I want to tell all of you applying to college that I can understand your apprehension about acceptance, but you will all get into college and this awful time of waiting will fade into euphoria and the realization that it matters not what college you attend, but that you attend and give it your best effort! Enjoy the next 4-5 years of your life they will take you on a wonderful ride:)

  • Disappointed Student on 03.29.2013 at 12:51 pm

    Reading this article was extremely frustrating. I had my heart set on BU for a while now so I was looking forward to hearing from the school. I thought I had a good shot because I am graduating 3rd in my class on 385 students with a cumulative gpa of 97.3. I have taken 8 AP classes and have gotten 4’s and 5’s on every one of those exams. I have an SAT score that is just a few points below their average(I figured since my gpa is about 10 points higher than their average, it wouldn’t matter that I’m just a few points below their average SAT). I have very good extracurricular activities (tutoring, volunteering for youth leagues) and I even play sports and have been on a varsity team for three years. Sorry for the ranting, but I thought these credentials would have been good enough for BU class of 2017, but I just got my decision and I was denied. I really don’t understand why and I hope maybe someone can explain a possible reason to me?

    • Another Student on 04.01.2013 at 1:20 am

      Well… You sound like a great person and all (other than the odd GPA), but no one really knows what people in Admissions are looking for. It’s not just “credentials”. It’s more than academics and volunteering. I was accepted, but I couldn’t tell you why they chose me and not you. I’m sorry.

  • queenkat on 06.21.2013 at 12:30 pm

    you guys should stop complaining cause ur making poeple lose hope of getting into BU.

  • Carlito on 08.24.2013 at 1:41 pm

    You received a sweatshirt?? I received a letter of admission and a windshield sticker of BU. hmmm.

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