Boston University (visited 9/16/17)
BU is located in a beautiful section of town next to the Charles River; while waiting for the info session to start, I saw kayakers paddling by. They were smart to offer a 1:30 session on a Saturday afternoon; not surprisingly, it was crowded. As people settled into the lecture room, they had a PowerPoint running with standard pretty pictures and statistics/information such as, “What’s your chance of being called on in class? 1 in 27” and “First university to open all divisions to women in 1872” and “In 1876, a BU professor developed a telephone in a BU lab.”
However, I was highly disappointed in the info session. It could not have been more canned. They had a student there to help with the presentation which initially I was pleased to see, but it was so rehearsed and “game-showy” that it was hard to take them seriously. They said all the right things – accessibility to professors (“They’re more than happy to talk to you and they really want to know you!”), research opportunities, “You’re using a text book that the prof wrote,” … but it sounded like they were jumping through hoops and trying to check off the things families wanted to hear rather than being authentic and giving a sense of what it was really like to be a student on campus.
Luckily, the tour guide was a more personable and less scripted. I had a chance to talk to her a bit one-on-one as we walked back to the admissions office after the tour. I asked her for some of her insights into who would thrive at BU. Her answer was thoughtful: “People here get called out for hate. Gay people are welcomed here. Homophobes are not. People won’t put up with the bigotry. Also, there was a very vocal Trump supporter who went down to Charlottesville to march there. People absolutely weren’t putting up with that. He ended up transferring. If you’re going to openly hate on people, you won’t fit in here.”
She loves her education here as well the diversity. They have a huge international population (about 25%). Another 25% come from New England. “I chose BU because I wanted to get to know a lot of different types of people. However, it’s kind of hard to connect between colleges. I love my college (she’s in education), but I’m in the classes with the same 15 people! I came here because of the diversity, but the classes don’t always reflect that.”
BU is a large private research institution; UROP dedicates $1million in funding for undergrad research. “Everyone is passionate and empower each other to do bigger and better things,” said the student in the info session. “They’re similar in that they’re bright, ambitious, driven. It opened my eyes that I’m not the smartest kid in the room.” As a major university, it’s no surprise that there are a myriad of academic colleges to choose from, and students can double major or complete a Dual Degree in which they earn 2 bachelors in 4 years (and attend 2 graduations).
Set right in the heart of Boston, it offers the best of both worlds: a residential campus in an urban environment. Campus is spread out: it’s only a couple blocks “deep” at its widest point, but goes a long way. Shuttles run up and down campus and to the medical campus. Off-campus, students have access to many discounted or free events such as $5 tics to Fenway. “They don’t go to Boston. They’re IN Boston,” said one of the reps. A tour guide said, “I live in Boston. I tell incoming students to have fun. Go to the games. Go eat in the North End. Enjoy it.”
Housing is guaranteed all 4 years. Freshmen are often housed in large towers of traditional-style dorms. There are lots of brownstones with 20-30 students, mostly upperclassmen. All dining halls, kosher included, offer vegan meals. There’s no shortage of things to do with 450 clubs on campus (including a Beekeeping society!). A favorite campus tradition (according the tour guide) was Lobster Night: students get a ticket for a lobster with every meal swipe. The Beanpot Hockey Competition is a huge yearly event when the team takes on BC, Harvard, and Northeastern. NE and BC are the 2 big rivals. Bubble Soccer (in hamster balls) bring out lots of people as does the annual Pumpkin Drop run by the Physics Department. Students fill pumpkins with paint, dry ice, flour, and more, then shove them off a plank on the top of a 10-story building.
Study abroad is an integral part of the university, and they have programs for all majors to study abroad. One of the Earth Science professors is a leading expert on the oldest ice on earth and takes people with him to Antarctica. There’s a freezer on campus with the oldest ice in the world! There are also Internships abroad, many of which offer courses for 3-5 weeks before students are sent out to work. The Global Medic Brigades is a club. Students can go work with that. “It was amazing and humbling” The Hospitality majors must complete 2 internships, 1 of which must be abroad.
Within the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, they offer an option to join The Core, an integrated course that crosses disciplines by looking at the world’s great works of thinking and writing. It is designed so students take 2 classes per semester for the first two years, looking at humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences. These classes fulfill several of the required distribution requirements, and those choosing to complete the entire sequence will have notations on their transcripts.
To be considered for their Presidential Scholarship, students must apply before 12/1, but no additional paperwork. About 1/3 of their class is admitted under the Early Decision round. The average unweighted GPA coming in last year was a 3.8.