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BU Admissions More Selective Than Ever

Only 25 percent of applicants accepted from record number applying

The Class of 2021 will be BU’s most select ever, with just 25 percent of a record 60,815 applicants admitted to a freshman class of 3,400.

“The strengthening stature and reputation of BU has very clearly had a positive impact on our ability to attract high-achieving students,” says Kelly Walter (SED’81), associate vice president and executive director of admissions.

This Friday, the University will begin wooing those admitted students with 26 open houses on campus and 45 receptions around the globe, from China to Dubai to Mexico, attended by administration and faculty, students and alumni. The goal is to showcase the University in a way that helps admitted students envision themselves at BU. The deadline for these students to choose BU is May 1.

The students admitted to the Class of 2021 average in the top 7 percent of their high school class, with an average GPA of 3.8 and SAT of 1452 (or ACT of 32). Some 76 percent of those admitted were in the top 10 percent of their high school class.

“For students who are at the top of their class and trying to decide for themselves what university would be a good fit for them, Boston University is often at the top of their list,” Walter says. “They know they’ll be challenged here, they know they will be pushed and stretched in endless ways, and they know they will be provided with a plethora of opportunities, whether internships or study abroad, and they know they will meet classmates from around the globe.”

Gabriela Horle (CAS’21), from Sao Paulo, Brazil, agrees with Walter. Horle is among the 36 percent of the class who chose early decision.

“Through seven years at international schools in South America, I was exposed to a mix of academic and cultural experiences that were fundamental in shaping who I’ve become,” says Horle, who plans to major in biology, specializing in neuroscience. “At BU I will be surrounded by a myriad of nationalities that make up 24.4 percent of the student body, while still being immersed in the American culture.”

Elliott Snow (CAS’21), another early decision student, says he chose BU because it’s a place that encourages people to really be themselves.

“I’m an awkward trans kid from LA, interested in marine science,” Snow says. “I know BU is the right school for me because it will allow me to be independent, but still give me access to an abundant range of amazing opportunities. I think the moment I realized that was when I was discussing my gender identity with Ms. Walter, and she told me to be myself. I think that’s when I realized that if a college wasn’t going to admit me because of my gender, I didn’t want to go to that university.”

“When I walked onto BU’s campus, I felt a sense of home and community that immediately drew me to the school,” says Danielle Chaum (COM’21), of Memphis, Tenn., who also chose early and will study film and television, with a minor in theater. “With a school so focused on highlighting student individuality, yet equally focused on a collective experience, I knew that BU was the place for me to be able to grow personally and meet new people from all over the world.”

Walter says the high quality of the class is “good for the University because smart students challenge one another, they challenge faculty, they reinforce the reputation of the University. We want students who are engaged, talented, inquisitive. It makes for a robust experience for everybody.”

The University’s record 60,815 applications is a 6 percent increase over last year, making it the first private school in New England to cross the 60,000 mark. The steady increase in applications combined with the smaller freshman class size adds up to greater overall selectivity. The University’s plan for a moderately smaller freshman class means that BU offered admission to just 25 percent of applicants, down from 70 percent some 15 years ago and about 50 percent as recently as seven years ago.

“The fact that freshman class size has been decreasing over the last seven or eight years has contributed to our overall selectivity,” says Walter. “But at the same time, student interest in the University had to grow.”

Programs like the Kilachand Honors College, the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP), and the internships that benefit 93 percent of students are opportunities that high-achieving students find attractive, she says.

Trustee Scholars are, on average, in the top 2 percent of their high school class, with 4.0 GPA and 1544 SAT (34 ACT) averages. Presidential Scholars average in the top 3 percent, with 3.9 GPA and 1531 SAT (34 ACT) averages. Students admitted to Kilachand Honors College also average in the top 3 percent of their class, with 3.9 GPA and 1515 SAT (33 ACT) averages.

About 20 percent of admitted students are underrepresented minorities, with 7 percent African American (an increase of 15 percent), 12 percent Hispanic or Latino, and 1 percent Native American.

Walter points out that 16 percent of admitted students are those who will be the first generation in their families to go to college. “The cost of a private university education can seem prohibitive for many prospective students who are the first in their family to attend college,” she says. “However, BU has a strong commitment to access, a commitment to affordability for all students regardless of socioeconomic background, and we are proud to be in the position to attract students who might otherwise assume that a BU education is out of reach.”

BU has expanded its outreach to low-income and first-generation students, working closely with community organizations to help them with the college admissions process. “We did very little of that 15 years ago, and now it is a strategic priority,” Walter says.

Admitted students came from all 50 states and 113 countries besides the United States, including outliers such as Malta and Tajikistan. Some 24 percent of those admitted are international students, from the same top five countries as in previous years: China, India, Korea, Taiwan, and Canada. The top five US states represented are California, New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Florida.

Nearly 40 applicants are citizens of the countries named in President Trump’s travel ban, including Iran and Syria. Walter says only a handful of these students were competitive for admission, but the Board of Admissions felt strongly that these students should be admitted if their applications proved meritorious, and their citizenship did not disadvantage them, Walter says.

“It’s so important for us to demonstrate our commitment to students from abroad,” she says, citing the investment required by students and their families. “Just showing up and answering their questions, being there to help them understand the institution, which they may never have seen in person, is reassuring.”

Joel Brown, writer, BU Today at Boston University
Joel Brown

Joel Brown can be reached at jbnbpt@bu.edu.

20 Comments on BU Admissions More Selective Than Ever

  • Some guy on 03.28.2017 at 9:38 am

    If I’m honest I don’t really view “increasing selectivity” as necessarily a positive thing. There are many many schools out there now that attempt to raise their stature by admitting fewer students. But that doesn’t make it better school, it’s merely a way to increase institutional competitiveness for US News and other publications. It also passively encourages those who are super-concerned with school status to apply. And these applicants are probably the children of the already wealthy and have access to tutors and test prep and on and on. So it’s not really a meritocracy in that case and increasing selectivity has done little to improve the quality of the students or institution.

    Maybe BU should not try and be the most selective institution (doesn’t Boston have enough extremely selective institutions?). Maybe BU should find good students who are professionally focused and will fit in well in COM or ENG.

    • MET Alum on 03.28.2017 at 9:53 am

      Until recently BU offered an environment similar to a good state flagship but at two or three times the cost. Top students do not want to be sharing a dorm or classroom with a distracting minority of students who are there just to have fun on mom and dad’s dollar. Those students can flunk out at a state school for a lot less money.

      • BU2011 on 03.28.2017 at 10:38 am

        Couldn’t agree more.

      • CAS '18 on 03.28.2017 at 11:54 am

        As a current student, my experience at BU has been a far cry from those of my peers who attend state flagships. The culture, urban environment, wealth of opportunity, and rigorous academics that BU provides are just not comparable. While there is extreme wealth at BU, I have yet to encounter a student whose work ethic and intelligence has not inspired me to better my own. I am personally not here “to have fun on [my] mom and dad’s dollar,” and it was actually BU’s financial aid that made my cost of attendance here less than that of the “good state flagships” at which I gained admission. In sum, please be cautious not to make inaccurate blanket statements about experiences you cannot personally speak to.

    • Mike on 03.28.2017 at 11:31 am

      There’s almost 2,000 universities in the US. What’s significant for people is the total access to education, and the quality of across across the board. It’s really not that significant if one school becomes more or less selective over time.

      If the average university in the US becomes more selective, and access is restricted, then you have an issue. I’m ususre how that’s changed over time, though

    • Gerald collins on 02.13.2018 at 1:28 pm

      I am CAS grad 1977 under John Silber. BU had been underrated despite the wide variety of courses available. It was always much better than the state flagship university as well as BC and tufts. The students back then were more indepe
      Indepenment and not coddled like the other schools. I do worry that some brilliant students will not be admitted because they didn’t have the same scores. The college of general studies used to be for these type students by now the grades for this school are very high. People like Howard Stern who h

      would not have opportunity to study at BU had it not been forCGS

  • MET Alum on 03.28.2017 at 9:51 am

    I will look for the stats of enrolled freshen next fall. They will undoubtedly be significantly lower than the admitted student stats

    • Mike on 03.28.2017 at 11:26 am

      They will be – and that’s true at literally every university. Even for the most elite universities, a higher percent of students in the bottom half of their admitted student class will choose to enroll vs. the top half. The top half of an admitted class has a lot more options (including different scholarship opportunities).

  • Pei on 03.28.2017 at 11:35 am

    Very impressive! As an alumni, it’s been great to see so many wonderful improvements to BU since I graduated.

  • Student on 03.28.2017 at 1:41 pm

    I have a feeling that college admissions will eventually get so competitive that only those who have created companies by the age of 13 or found the cure for cancer by the age of 16 will be able to get it. While it’s great to have a competitive school, I’m not sure it’s a good thing to get more and more competitive every year.

  • Hello Kitty on 03.29.2017 at 10:27 am

    Students apply to so many schools nowadays that selectivity data get exaggerated. More and more arbitrary and puzzling decisions arise: a student does get admitted to university A but does not get admitted to university B even though its status and profile are essentially the same as university A (maybe even lower). Students now routinely apply to a dozen schools, inflating the application pool for all of them and necessitating lower admissions rates. Yes, BU attracts better students (on paper at least) than it did fifteen years ago, but exactly what these admissions ratios mean is open to question. Selective college admissions amounts to an inflationary economy. Qui bono? Universities like the extra bit of application-fee income and they like to use the data to hype themselves.

  • Opinion of Specialty on 03.29.2017 at 6:26 pm

    For those who feel bad about students applying to BU 10 years later: The biggest issue to worry about is not the increasing selectivity; it’s the increasing monthly rent at Allston. The rent increases at a much higher rate than the acceptance rate.

    To be honest, why do we see a higher selectivity as a bad thing? Accept fewer kids, reduce the demand for housing and thus the rent, so those who are really excellent won’t suffer housing issues.

  • Christopher Huggins on 04.01.2017 at 9:38 am

    As a 1969 graduate, I attended alumni weekend last year. I made a point of asking everyone I met how they felt about Boston University. I was struck by how enthusiastic everyone was: without exception they sang their praises of the university. “I love it here!” was a common reply. I was surprised, honestly, with how everyone expressed their passion for the school. It appears applicants are getting the same message that this is a wonderful place to spend their undergraduate years. It is up to alumni like myself to increase the financial aid resources of the university.

  • Paula on 04.02.2017 at 8:36 am

    On one hand you boast of admitting first generation students, low income, and those from Trump’s banned countries, and on the other hand you boast of being more selective and excluding more applicants. Why not be more inclusive across the board? Building a higher “border wall” to your institution in the name of “exclusivity” is no different from Trump, even if you have a small opening for the “disadvantaged”.

    • DB on 04.05.2017 at 6:59 am

      Well said! Should BU try to be Harvard?

    • Mike Siroky on 07.06.2017 at 5:08 pm

      Paula: According to your logic, Harvard and MIT which accept less than 6-10% of their applicants, are no different than Trump – whatever that means.

      Open admissions was attempted by City college of New York in the 1970’s. It turned a fine institution that provided a first class education to sons and daughters of poor immigrants in NYC into a third rate remedial institution.

  • Megan on 04.03.2017 at 10:53 am

    Will you be publishing an article on the makeup of the final 2021 class? I’d love to see the representation official students bring to campus in addition to these potential students

  • Dave on 05.21.2017 at 7:08 pm

    Interesting… I saved a copy of the admitted student stats from the year I applied/enrolled (fall 1996) and it said 50% were accepted. As someone who has followed this stat from afar since then, I always thought the acceptance rate had never gone above 50%, so it’s interesting to see it up around 70% for the early 2000s. The other thing that is not mentioned in the article is, most schools are accepting a far lower % of applicants now, because students apply to so many schools – a dozen or more now, vs a half dozen back when I was looking into colleges 20 years ago.

  • OldGraduate on 12.25.2017 at 7:28 pm

    Graduated in 1981.
    Could not “afford” but had work, scholarships, loans.
    Experiences of education, environment, more real life being in large city, large school, student work experiences set me out on a good foot. And yes, difficult to get employed at time. But “work study” gave me head start on work experience.

    Went on to doctoral professional health degree from UNC-CH (accepted to all 5 schools I applied 1985, from BU degree), completed Executive Masters (2002). So, my degree “held” water for many years. Employed in leadership positions along the way. Active in both the Arts and Sciences which was my goal as a BU student.

    Thus, it is respected and of practical good to gain a BU degree. But, need to leverage and take advantage of opportunity, like most of life. Means, BU provides a chance to learn those skills. The degree is well respected by other institutions and business. Students need to be bright industrial individuals to best take advantage. AS they used to say: BU!

    Good luck!

  • OldGraduate on 12.25.2017 at 7:32 pm

    PS Wish I could go back now! Learn more now that I am done with “requirements” and early retired!

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