BU welcomed a particularly diverse and especially talented class of freshmen to Comm Ave this week, the culmination of an admissions season that admitted only 25 percent of a record 60,823 applicants. On September 3, 3,490 members of the Class of 2021 were matriculated into BU.
The incoming class is BU’s most diversified—both racially and socioeconomically—in recent memory. More than a third of the freshmen are minority students, a designation that includes those of African American, Hispanic, Native Alaskan, Native Hawaiian, and Asian descent.
Kelly Walter (SED’81), associate vice president and dean of admissions, says that while underrepresented minority students and high-achieving low-income students have always applied to BU, more such students chose to attend this year than in previous years, partially because of the University’s several new and increasing efforts.
Broken down, the Class of 2021 is 6.9 percent African American students, 11.9 percent Hispanic students, 17.9 percent Asian American students, 36.5 percent white students, and 22 percent international students. By comparison, three years ago the Class of 2018 was almost 6 percent African American students, almost 10 percent Hispanic students, and 16 percent Asian American students, and 24 percent of the class was international students.
Among BU’s strategic priorities, Walter says, is a commitment to making undergraduate education accessible to more students. The University knows that it needs to “provide the financial assistance necessary for high-achieving low-income students to enroll,” she says. “By meeting the full demonstrated need of these accomplished students, we were able to improve both the socioeconomic and racial diversity of our freshman class.”
This year, the University has increased financial assistance to students receiving Pell Grants by providing financial aid awards that meet the students’ full financial need, according to Walter. These students were designated as Richard D. Cohen Scholars, a program that was made possible in part by a gift from BU trustee Richard D. Cohen (CGS’67, Questrom’69). She says more than 400 such scholarships have made a difference in the number of low-income students at the University. This year, about 18 percent of the incoming class comes from low-income families, compared to 14.6 percent last year.
“About one in four domestic students are Pell Grant recipients, which is phenomenally diverse,” notes Robert A. Brown, University president.
BU also remains deeply committed to providing financial assistance to Boston public high school graduates. In June, the University named 25 Thomas M. Menino Scholars (who receive four-year, full-tuition scholarships) and 40 Community Service Award winners (those students earn grants from BU that fully fund their calculated financial need without loans; they are required to complete 25 hours of community service each semester). That program previously had been limited to incoming freshmen, but was expanded this year to include transfer students who are Boston public high school graduates.
For all students, the BU scholarship assurance program guarantees that the aid offered in a student’s first year is continued for each undergraduate year. “This program provides peace of mind for families and for students,” Walter says. “The cost of attendance is no longer an unknown. And because there is a four-year guarantee, they can be more confident about saying yes to enrolling at BU.”
She says Admissions is also working closely with more than 100 community organizations that help create college-going cultures in underserved communities. These include the Posse Foundation (this year BU doubled its commitment to the program, adding a second cohort from the San Francisco Bay area), Say YES to Education, Chicago Scholars, and IMPACT. Closer to home, BU remains committed to Boston Public Schools students through its partnership with the nonprofit College Advising Corps, which works to increase the rates of college enrollment and completion among low-income, first-generation, and underrepresented high school students by placing young college grads in public high schools as advisors.
The University has also expanded its involvement with key access organizations—those that disseminate information about college access and the nitty-gritty of how to apply—such as Strive for College, National College Access Network, Prep for Prep, Steppingstone Foundation, Ventures Scholars Program, and A Better Chance.
This year’s entering freshmen come from the top 10 percent of their high school class and have a 3.66 grade point average. They have an average SAT score of 1398 (out of a possible 1600) and an average ACT score of 30 (out of a possible 36).
“This is a class chosen from a very large, deep applicant pool,” Brown says. “Academically they are as good as any class we’ve ever had. These are incredibly bright, academically accomplished students.”
The Class of 2021 is also geographically diverse. They come from 46 states, and represent 72 countries around the globe. Of the international students, most come from China, followed by India, South Korea, Canada, and Thailand.
Regardless of where they’re from, this year’s freshmen appear eager to begin their BU careers, judging by their group Facebook page. Over the summer, members chatted about how to overload class schedules, how to start an intramural soccer team, and what to wear to Matriculation (consensus: wear your orientation shirt).
One student is an aspiring neurobiologist who appeared on Brazil’s version of The Voice (The Voice Brasil). Another completed an internship at a wildlife sanctuary in Namibia, while a third received the President’s Volunteer Service Award from President Barack Obama for her work at the Ghanaian Women’s Association of Georgia.
“Students today are interested in research universities, urban universities, and institutions like BU that have a global footprint,” Walter says. “You combine that with the excellent academic programs that are offered at BU and our location in Boston, and it’s a pretty compelling argument for most prospective students.”