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Last updated March 21, 2024

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How to Use the Boston University Common Data Set

Key Takeaway

Boston University values two admissions criteria the most: course rigor and GPA. If you're applying, make sure you've taken all the challenging classes you can (I'm talking APs, IBs, and dual-enrollment) and done well in them. That, combined with strong essays and extracurriculars, may be your ticket into BU.

The Boston University Common Data Set tells us a lot about how the university evaluates applicants. In this post, we show you the most important data so you can use it to write the best BU application possible.

Let’s get into it.

How Boston University Evaluates Applicants — based on CDS data

Boston University isn’t messing around. They list only two criteria as “very important”: course rigor and GPA. That means that admissions officers are looking for students who have taken the most challenging classes available to them and have earned high grades.

Other factors—class rank, essays, recommendations extracurriculars, and character—are secondary to GPA and rigor but still important. One interesting distinction between BU and many other universities is that Boston University doesn’t consider your talent or ability unless you’ve submitted an application to the College of Fine Arts.

Very Important Important Considered Not Considered
Rigor Class rank Test scores Interview
GPA Essay First-generation status Talent/ability
  Recommendations Alumni relation Religious affiliation
  Extracurriculars Geographical residence  
  Character/personal qualities State residency  
    Racial/ethnic status  
    Volunteer experience  
    Work experience  
    Applicant interest  

Does Boston University track demonstrated interest?

Yes. Demonstrated interest likely won’t move mountains with your application, but Boston University admissions officers will be on the lookout for applicant engagement. You should be opening those marketing emails, attending school visits or virtual information sessions, and visiting in person if you can.

Does Boston University care about standardized test scores?

Yes. Boston University considers test scores in their application evaluations. They aren’t the most important factor in admissions decisions, but they do play a role. Of the first-year students enrolled in 2021, 32% submitted SAT scores, and 13% submitted ACT scores.

Does Boston University care about essays?

Yes, essays are an important part of the BU admissions process. They are still secondary to course rigor and GPA, but good essays can help compensate for GPA blips, and they can make solid GPAs stand out even more. We speak with a lot of students who are applying to BU—either as a top program in their list or as a school to round out their target lists. We took the advice we give most often and turned it into a comprehensive post about the BU essays.

What GPA do I need to get into Boston University?

Of the first-year students enrolled in 2021, 100% were in the top half of their graduating high school classes. What’s more, 99% were in the top quarter, and 75% were in the top tenth. Pretty competitive—but not as tough as schools like the University of Michigan, where higher portions of students fall into the 4.0 range.

Let’s take a look at the GPA breakdown for those enrolled students.

GPA % of Enrolled Students
4.0 26
3.75-3.99 31
3.25-3.49 37
3.50-3.74 5
3.00-3.24 1
2.50-2.99 0
below 1.0 0

Boston University Acceptance Rate

Boston University received applications from 75,778 students and admitted 14,129 of them, making the acceptance rate about 18.7%.

Of those 14,129 admitted students, 4,010 enrolled.

Boston University Early Decision Acceptance Rate

BU has an Early Decision application option that allows students to enter into a binding Early Decision Agreement. 5,659 applicants applied ED, and 1,820 of them were admitted. That’s an ED acceptance rate of 32%—nearly twice the standard acceptance rate. Pretty solid.

What’s the right application option for you?

If you’re set on attending Boston University, then EDing might be the perfect choice, as long as you’re willing to enter into that binding Early Decision Agreement. Based on the acceptance rates alone, your chances of being admitted with an ED application may be quite a bit higher.

Most Popular Majors at Boston University

We can see the most popular majors at Boston University by looking at the Common Data Set data about how many degrees were awarded in each major academic area.

As you can see from the data, the three most popular BU majors are almost an even tie between social sciences, communication and journalism, and business or marketing. There’s also a pretty even spread across biological sciences, engineering, and health professions.

Major Percent of Degrees Conferred
Social Sciences 15.7
Communication/Journalism 15.1
Business/Marketing 15.1
Biological/Life Sciences 10.6
Engineering 9
Health Professions and Related Programs 7.4
Psychology 5.6
Computer and Information Sciences 4.6
Visual and Performing Arts 3.9
Mathematics and Statistics 2.5

When choosing a school or college at BU to apply to, be mindful of which are most popular. For the schools that house the most popular majors, you may have to think more intentionally about your application strategy.

What should you do with all this information?

Boston University may be a great option to add to your list if you’re looking for a pretty competitive school and have a solid but imperfect GPA. While GPA and course rigor are at the top of their evaluation list, other factors, like essays, extracurriculars, and personal character, can tip the admission scales in your favor.

Whether or not you have perfect grades or course rigor, paying special attention to the categories ranked as “important” and “considered” can help your application stand out.



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