Virtual Impressions: Boston University
Boston University (BU) would have been the second of my campus visits next month, for an open house. But the coronavirus cancelled the plan. BU is a very popular choice for many college bound high school students in Central New Jersey and Southeastern Pennsylvania. So I’ve gathered some photos on Pinterest, and taken a virtual look at the school. I also liked the Indian Maniac tour of BU You might, too. Daytripper University also has suggestions on places to stay and to visit when you come.
Now here’s a few observations about BU.
- Boston University has a contiguous campus. You’ll know when you’ve arrived and when you’ve left. Other big-city schools, like GW and NYU, have campus buildings mixed with private residences, retail shops, restaurants and office buildings. It’s hard to see where the campus begins or ends. Some people feel safer when they know that campus is campus, community is community. Boston University’s campus doesn’t feel as crowded as a city school where students mix with people on their way home, to work, or other places. It feels more campus-like than GW, which actually has fewer students. BU is also greener with a “beach,” than GW or NYU.
- If you can make your way to Commonwealth Avenue, you’ll learn the Boston University campus from East to Central to West pretty quickly. It made me think of Penn, which I have visited often. But the main pedestrian streets at Penn, Locust Walk and Walnut Street, are friendlier for walking. You must watch out for the cars and bikes as you run or walk down Commonwealth Avenue. But it’s also quite easy to get around the city from there via Lyft, Uber or public transportation.
- Boston University is more residential than I first thought. Seventy-five percent of BU undergrads live on campus. Eighty percent are on campus over the weekends. Most freshmen will live on the West Campus. The big plus for West Campus, besides the location, is the dining hall, where you don’t have to go outside. The numbers contrast greatly with Northeastern where less than half of the students dorm on campus. BU is also more residential than NYU (42%), GW (60%), Penn (51%) or Southern Cal (30%). I took a video tour of the student housing at BU. If you were not a BU student you would pay a fortune to live in the same neighborhood, and live in housing that’s not as nice.
- Boston is a big reason that people choose BU. It’s always been a great college town. But one caution: You’ll have a lot of competition when you’re seeking an internship. There’s more over 50 colleges in Boston and its immediate neighbors. Northeastern and Wentworth students on co-op will be your most likely competition for internships during the school year. So will MassArt students in the communication and film programs. UMass-Boston, the large public university in the city, is also competition.
- I totally understand that you want to be in “the city” for some majors. There’s no place like New York when it comes to finance or media, and no place like Los Angeles when it comes to film and television. There’s only one nation’s capital for politics. Boston is a state capital, financial and media center as well as a cultural hub that also has major league sports. But so is Minneapolis. The University of Minnesota is a lot more affordable than BU, and it dominates the local market for interns. Not to mention that their Gophers play in the Big Ten, a much better sports entertainment experience.
- BU has over 85,000 alumni in and around Boston, who are registered in LinkedIn.com. That really helps in finding internship or a full-time job. But it also has over 34,000 alumni in/around New York City as well as huge communities in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Washington DC, Philadelphia, Chicago, Seattle and the UK. But the University of Minnesota has huge communities in these cities, too, when you get outside of Boston. If you’re an excellent student with an affinity with Boston, and hope to stay, Boston University might be your school. But the costs have to work out.
- The BU experience costs $78,000 this year, and the university cannot meet full need. Forty-six percent of the class of 2018 borrowed, on average, over $42,000 for their education. This includes all students who started and finished their education at BU. Only five percent of the freshmen who arrive in 2018 received merit-based academic scholarships. The average award did not cover half of their tuition and fees. And, when I see that the majority of a senior class borrowed nothing, I can only guess that most of them had the means to come.
- There are many academic reasons to consider Boston University, as long as you can afford the school. There’s over 300 undergraduate programs, more than you’ll find at much larger schools. But it really helps to know what you want to study. If you’re undecided between business, communications or engineering and a liberal arts major, take the risk with the pre-professional program. Transferring from the College of Arts and Sciences into a specialty school seems as tough as it would be at Rutgers or UDel. Fortunately you can choose from several Communications and Engineering minors to pair with a liberal arts major. But you’ve got a choice of only two business minors: General Business or Entrepreneurship. Just like Rutgers.
- BU quit playing football over two decades ago, Their football team had played in only one bowl game in 113 years. The main sport is men’s hockey. Four 1980 Olympians, men who made miracles on ice, came from BU. They were team captain Mike Eruzione, Dave Silk, Jack O’Callahan, and goalie Jim Craig. Thirty-six hockey Terriers have played in the Olympics, 31 for the United States. But BU has not prevailed recently in local competition. The Terriers not only play in Hockey East. They also face Boston College, Harvard and Northeastern for the Beanpot Trophy. They have not won this title in four years. The Terriers won Hockey East in 2018. But they couldn’t fill half of the seats in a 6,200 seat arena when they had a losing record the following year.
- Fortunately for BU sports, the men’s basketball Terriers captured their first Patriot League title before the virus shut things down. They would have likely played in their first NCAA Tournament since 2014. Last season, according to the NCAA, they averaged less than 750 fans per home game. I hope that they did much better during a good season. But I wondered if BU students were more likely to chase down cheap tickets to a Celtics game.
There’s a lot to like about Boston University, and I look forward to visiting in person. The academics, location, residence life and connections are certainly strong points. It’s not a spirit and sports school. But I’m sure BU freshmen knew that coming in. However, the costs are not worth the reach, if you have financial worries. Other schools offer most of BU’s strengths for a lot less money, and I can help you find them.
Need help to compare schools virtually before you visit? Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at 609-406-0062.
Listen to my talk, What Exactly Is a Good College? hosted by test-prep experts Amy Seeley and Mike Bergin on Tests And The Rest!
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