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Last updated March 21, 2024

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How to Get into Boston University

Key Takeaway

With a 20% acceptance rate, Boston University is tough to get into—but for many students, it's not out of reach. To get in, you'll need to focus on your GPA and course rigor. You'll also need to infuse your application with school values like adaptation, leadership, and community.

With sub-10% acceptance rates becoming the norm, Boston University’s 18.7% acceptance rate may seem like a breath of fresh Boston air.

But in reality, a nearly 20% admit rate is still uber-competitive. You’ll have to bring your A-game.

To help, we’ve compiled our best answers to your most-asked questions about applying to BU. Our team of former admissions officers has helped students just like you earn admission to Boston University using these exact same strategies.

Ready to get started?

How to Apply to Boston University

In this section, let’s get back to those application basics. To apply to BU, you’ll first need a Common Application account. If you’re using QuestBridge, you can apply that way, too.

Once you add Boston University to your Common App, you’ll be able to select a BU school or college to apply to. The school or college should be the one that houses your preferred major, so make sure you’re choosing the right one.

No matter the school or college you select, you’ll also need to send in other information, like your personal statement, extracurricular activities list, high school transcript, school report, and letters of recommendation. These components are all a standard part of your Common App account.

For BU specifically, you’ll need to fill out the Boston University supplement, including a supplemental essay. And if you’re interested in applying to the Kilachand Honors College, you can indicate so on your Common App and provide the additional required materials.

Boston University Application Options

As you probably know, choosing an application plan is one of the first steps in organizing your college list. At Boston University, you can either apply Early Decision or Regular Decision. When it comes to Early Decision, you can apply ED I or ED II—ED I if BU is your #1 top choice, and ED II if your ED I school doesn’t work out.Whether you apply ED or RD will depend on how committed you are to BU. Remember that an Early Decision application is binding—you are obligated to attend if you’re admitted (with a few exceptions, like inadequate financial aid). But since there’s no Early Action option, you’ll be applying Regular Decision if you don’t want to apply ED.

For reference, BU reports that 42% of the class of 2026 applied Early Decision, and 58% applied Regular Decision.

Boston University Application Deadlines

Early Decision I: November 1

Early Decision II: January 4

Regular Decision: January 4

How hard is it to get into Boston University?

With an 18.7% acceptance rate, BU isn’t as difficult to get into as, say, MIT. But at that rate, we’d still consider Boston University to be a competitive school to apply to. At 18.7%, it’s about the same level as Georgia Tech.

To emphasize how competitive BU is, let’s take a quick look at some schools that have higher rates. BU’s acceptance rate is lower than the University of Michigan, NYU, the University of Virginia, and the University of North Carolina—all wonderful, competitive schools.

At that 18-20% mark, Boston University is a good balance between prestige and attainability. While it’s not as mind-bogglingly difficult to get into as the Ivy League or T15, it’s still a sought-after school with a good reputation across the disciplines.

What does Boston University look for in applicants?

If you’ve read our Boston University Common Data Set post, then you know that BU has a relatively funky application evaluation rubric.

Most colleges list all the main application components—GPA, rigor, essays, recommendations, and personal character, for example—as “very important” in the application review process. But no, not BU!

Instead, BU only lists course rigor and GPA as “very important.”

That means that above all else, your GPA and course rigor need to be competitive. As you’ll see in the next section, a competitive GPA at BU doesn’t necessarily mean you have a 4.0. But it does mean you’ll have above a 3.5-ish.

Perhaps more importantly, you need to have strong course rigor. “Rigor” refers to the level of courses you’re taking. Usually more rigorous courseloads will include AP, IB, or dual-enrollment classes.

Admissions officers always evaluate your course rigor in the context of what your school offers, so don’t sweat it if your school doesn’t have very many. But whatever your school has, you should try to take on as many as you can handle while maintaining a strong GPA and a healthy academic balance.

Beyond academics, BU is on the hunt for students who are dedicated to their education and willing to engage with an evolving world. A quick glance at Boston University’s mission statement will give you great values—adaptation, leadership, creativity, scholarship, community service—to infuse your application with.

Boston University GPA requirement

You probably won’t be surprised to hear that Boston University students tend to excel academically. As we covered in our Boston University Common Data Set post, 100% of BU’s enrolled first-year students were in the top half of their high school graduating classes. A full 75% ranked in the top 10th.

So how do those rankings look in terms of GPA?

The highest percentage (37%, to be specific) were in the 3.25 to 3.49 GPA band. But over half of those enrolled students had above a 3.75 unweighted GPA.

Based on all this data, you have some wiggle room at BU if you don’t have a perfect high school GPA. Still, you’ll probably need a pretty strong one—above a 3.5—to be seriously considered

Boston University SAT Scores

BU is still test-optional, so you aren’t required to submit your scores. In fact, BU’s admissions website reports that only 44% of applicants submitted test scores.

We have a whole post on test-optional strategy that will help you decide whether submitting scores is the best choice for you. To make that determination, you’ll need BU’s middle 50% range—AKA the range in which the middle 50% of students scored.

Here it is—definitely less intimidating than others:

SAT Composite: 1390-1490

ACT Composite: 31-34

If your scores are within or above that range, you’re probably okay to submit them. (There are some caveats, so read our test-optional post for more advice.)

Does Boston University superscore?

Yep! Boston University superscores. Didn’t get your best scores all in one go? No problem. Superscoring means that BU will take your highest scores for each section, whether you earned them on one or multiple test dates.

What high school coursework do I need to get into Boston University?

BU doesn’t require you to have taken a specific distribution of classes, but they recommend a fairly balanced courseload. Take a look:

  • English: 4 years
  • Math: 3-4 years, up through at least calculus or pre-calculus
  • Lab science: 3-4 years
  • History or social sciences: 3-4 years
  • Foreign language: 2-4 years

Bear in mind that when you’re applying to a specific school or college, there may be additional school-specific requirements. STEM students, for example, may be expected to take additional or more advanced coursework in STEM fields.

What extracurriculars do I need to get into Boston University?

There’s never been an admissions officer who looked at an application and cried, “No! Why didn’t they do X?”

While admissions officers sometimes wish that applicants had been more involved or had challenged themselves with their extracurriculars more, you’ll never get dinged just because you’re missing that one extracurricular that would change it all.

Instead, admissions officers want to see that your extracurriculars have helped you grow, challenged you, and enabled you to engage with your community.

So no matter what your extracurricular resume looks like, you should focus your efforts on communicating the meaning and impact of each activity in a cohesive way. Taken together, your extracurricular list should paint a thorough picture of who you are and who you would be on BU’s campus.

If you need inspiration, or if you want to find activities that connect your interests to BU’s offerings for your supplemental essay, check out BU’s student activities information.

Final Takeaways + Boston University Supplemental Essays

With all this strategy in mind, you’re ready to get started on your Boston University essay. As you compile your Common App information, begin on your personal statement, and start writing your extracurricular activities section, remember that each part of your application should work together to form a cohesive whole. That’s the key to good application strategy, no matter where you’re applying.

When it comes to really standing out as a prospective BU student, your supplemental essay is crucial. If you’re ready to get to writing, jump into our Boston University Supplemental Essay Guide next.



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