Is Boston University a Good School? ⭐ (An IN-DEPTH Analysis)

When it comes to higher education, Massachusetts is home to many of the most respected universities in the United States and the world. There are all types of colleges for people of any background.

In particular, Boston University has been one of the big names for a long time. But is it really that good? Let’s find out:

In short, Boston University meets the criteria to be considered a good university, as it has a solid reputation in disciplines like Business Administration, Engineering, and Communication. Furthermore, the school registers high student satisfaction levels and performs well in national rankings.

However, there are many different factors that come into play when choosing a college. In order to determine if BU is a good fit for you, it is important to be well informed and evaluate every important variable.

And that’s what we are about to do in this article. We’ll start off by taking a quick overview of this college. After that, we’ll analyze the key factors that may influence your decision, such as reputation, student satisfaction, cost of attendance, class size, and even the salaries that graduates are likely to earn.

So if that sounds interesting to you, let’s dive right in!

Overview of Boston University.

Boston University

Founded by a group of Methodist leaders in 1839, BU is a private research university located in the heart of Boston. Nowadays, the university defines itself as a coeducational and nonsectarian school.

Being one of the largest institutions in the country, Boston University features 3 urban campuses, 17 schools and colleges, 21 libraries, as well as 450 active student societies. In addition, it offers more than 300 programs in fields as varied as Business, Engineering, Economics, and Computer Science, just to name a few.

BU is also an important member of the Association of American Universities. For that reason, it is recognized as a leading global research institution. In fact, the university runs the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP), which allows students to take part in research projects in a wide range of disciplines.

Finally, Boston University is well known for its work towards equality and inclusion. Even in the 19th century, the university would open its doors to women and African American people, an unusual practice for that time.

Notable alumni include civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., and Helen Magill White, the first woman to earn a Ph.D. in the United States.

1. Prestige and Rankings.

When it comes to reputation, we can get an idea of how Boston University has performed by checking out the latest college rankings, which are published on a yearly basis.

Rankings are a useful tool if you want to take a glance at a school’s prestige. And while your choice shouldn’t be based entirely on these numbers, they are still a good starting point in the decision-making process.

In the following table you can see which position BU holds in 2022, according to the most reliable publications:

U.S. News42
Times Higher Education42

However, looking at these simple numbers is not really that helpful. They only show you the school’s performance at this moment, causing you to miss the forest for the trees.

Besides, every company uses a different method to measure the quality of a school. Some of them put a lot of emphasis on scientific research, while others focus on student satisfaction.

In this case, Boston University gets exactly the same number in both rankings. But we can get a more accurate perspective if we take the average of the last years and visualize the historical trend. The main goal is to evaluate the school from a more unbiased point of view.

Below is a graph with the average rank for Boston University over time:

Boston University average national rankings
Average rankings calculated with data from US News and Times Higher Education

Now you have a wider view of what’s going on. Every chart tells you a story. And what we can see here is that BU has maintained a good position in the national rankings over the last years.

Five years ago, this university was standing at an average position of 38.5. Now in 2022, its average rank slightly decreased by 3.5 places. However, this change is so small that we can conclude that BU has remained at an acceptable level as time goes by.

By tracking Boston University’s position in the national rankings we were able to see a more precise image of its performance over the years. In this case, the university hasn’t climbed as we would probably want, but it hasn’t plummeted either. So the message we get from the chart is still satisfactory.

What we just did is a more effective approach to evaluating a school’s performance over a given period.

In the next part of the post, we’ll use a similar method to assess how satisfied students are at BU. So keep reading because this will be important.

2. Student Satisfaction.

If you’ve been doing your research for a while, chances are you’ve visited other sites to read reviews from other students. And while internet reviews may be useful at first glance, the truth is that they are often contradictory and you might end up more confused after reading many of them.

Besides, there are several disadvantages to this approach. Just to name a few:

  1. There is no way to verify that online reviews were written by actual students.
  2. Fake reviews are a common practice and they are often hard to detect.
  3. Star ratings can be easily manipulated to artificially improve or damage a school’s reputation.

The above mentioned are just some of the reasons why you should take reviews with a big grain of salt.

But don’t worry. If you’re wondering if there is a more reliable way to gauge student satisfaction, the answer is yes. We achieve that by analyzing retention rates, and that’s what we are going to do in this section!

Before we get down to the nitty-gritty, let me give you some context on retention rates and their importance.

Retention Rates: What Are They and Why Should You Care?

A retention rate is simply the percentage of first-time students who remained at the same school for their sophomore year. It is one of the most accurate parameters to measure student satisfaction because of the following reasons:

  1. It’s calculated with actual data from real students.
  2. The data is reported to the National Center for Education Statistics and it’s hard to manipulate. Any attempt to falsify this information could have serious consequences for the school.

Even if this is the first time you hear about this concept, there are solid arguments why you should pay close attention to it.

A student will be more encouraged to keep studying at the same university if his freshman experience was positive. Accordingly, the higher the retention rate is, the better expectations you can have for your first college year.

On the other hand, a bad first-year experience will induce more students to drop out or transfer to another college, causing the retention rate to decrease. Therefore, this is something to keep in mind before you make your final decision.

There are, of course, other factors that may lead students to drop out, such as personal problems or lack of money. However, colleges that take good care of their freshmen indeed hold high retention rates throughout the years.

Retention Rate at Boston University.

As of 2020, BU reported a retention rate of 92.32%.

The following chart illustrates how retention rates have varied over the years at this institution. I want you to take a look at it carefully. What can you notice?

Boston University retention rate line graph
Retention rates calculated with data from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS)

First of all, it is a fact that this parameter has remained incredibly high. And maintaining a retention rate above 90% is not an easy task.

In 2013, Boston University had a 92.79% retention rate. A few years later, it reached its highest point at 94.37%. And now it is standing at 92.32%, which is still a pretty good value.

As you may have noticed, the retention rate didn’t show any abrupt change during the period we analyzed. It just remained fluctuating above 92%. So we can conclude this is a positive signal.

The data for 2021 has not been released yet, but it is expected to be above 90% once again.

This is a clear and undeniable indicator that new undergraduate students are highly satisfied with their experience at Boston University. The odds of dropping out after the first year are low, and freshmen find a good environment to keep studying at this university.

Graduation Rates: What You Need to Know.

In the previous section, we analyzed how satisfied students are after their freshman year.

But now it’s time to answer an equally important question: how many undergrads actually finish their studies?

We can find the answer to that question by simply looking at the graduation rate of the school, which is the percentage of students who completed their program.

A high graduation rate is a very positive signal, as it reveals that all the time, effort, and resources you spend at this school will be probably worth it.

On the contrary, low graduation rates may suggest that students don’t get academic support along the way or they just feel disappointed over time. So this is also something that you’ll want to take into account.

Graduation Rate at Boston University.

According to the most recent data from the National Center for Education Statistics, BU registered the following graduation rates:

TimeGraduation rate
6 years88.03%
4 years83.44%
Graduation rates calculated with data from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS)

In the following plot you’ll visualize the 6-year graduation rate over time. In other words, the proportion of students who completed their program within 6 years after enrolling:

Boston University graduation rate line graph
Graduation rates calculated with data from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS)

This graph clearly illustrates how this parameter is steadily going up over time.

As of 2014, BU registered a graduation rate of 83.73%. However, it showed consistent growth during the following years, reaching its highest-ever value at 88.03% in 2020.

In summary, the 6-year graduation rate at this university increased by 4.3 percent points between 2014 and 2020. And it will probably remain at a similar level in 2022.

This consistent increase in a relatively short period indicates that Boston University provides the right conditions for students to advance and graduate within a reasonable time.

Outcomes 8 Years After Attending.

We can dive a little bit deeper and find out the proportion of students that dropped out or transferred from BU. For this purpose, take a look at the following doughnut chart:

From this chart, you can tell that within 8 years of entry, 87% of the students had already graduated, while 10% transferred to another college. Probably the most interesting fact is that only 3% of the students dropped out, which is a very small proportion of the entering class.

Note: College Scorecard usually reports older data. For this reason, you might see a slightly different graduation rate in this chart. Nonetheless the information is still reliable since it comes from the U.S. Department of Education.

3. Class Size / Student-to-Faculty-Ratio.

Class size is another factor that could define whether or not this school is a good fit for you. If you prioritize being able to interact with your professors regularly and receiving more personal attention, you’ll want to find a college with a low student-to-faculty ratio.

This parameter tells you how many students there are at a college for every faculty member. Thus, a lower value typically indicates that classes are more reduced and personalized.

On the other hand, a higher student-to-faculty ratio isn’t necessarily something negative. It all boils down to the type of experience you are looking for. Some people feel comfortable in larger classes, while some others don’t.

What Is the Student-to-Faculty Ratio at BU?

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, Boston University has a student-to-faculty ratio of 10:1, meaning that there are 10 students for every faculty member.

This number has not changed at all in recent years, as shown in the following table:

CycleStudent-to-faculty Ratio
2020 – 202110:1
2019 – 202010:1
2018 – 201910:1
2017 – 201810:1
Source: Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS)

It is important to point out that you should not take this parameter literally. In other words, a 10:1 ratio doesn’t mean that every single class at BU will have exactly 10 students.

In fact, Boston University reports an average class size of 27 students. The reason for this difference is that a great part of the faculty members dedicate their time to non-teaching duties. And this is quite common at colleges with high research activity.

Keep in mind that class size is not set in stone, and it does vary across different courses and majors.

4. Estimated Student Expenses.

Paying for college is one of the main concerns that will have an impact on your final choice. So in order to make an informed decision, the first step is to get familiar with the expenses you’ll have to cover.

The following table contains the reported Cost of attendance (COA) for Boston University. The COA is a quick estimation of the amounts you would spend annually without receiving any kind of aid. This includes tuition and fees, room and board, books, supplies, and other expenses:

Tuition and fees$55,892
Room and board$16,160
Books and supplies$1,000
Other expenses$1,950
Total cost of attendance$75,002
Source: College Navigator. National Center for Education Statistics

This cost can be significantly lower if you are awarded financial aid. For that reason, we’ll dedicate this whole section to take an in-depth look into the questions that matter to you.

Is the school getting more expensive? What’s the average amount that students receive in grants or scholarships?

These are some of the key questions that we will respond in the next paragraphs. So stay tuned.

Cost of Attendance and Financial Aid.

In this part of the post, we will see how the amount of aid compares to the cost of attendance. Ideally, if the cost of attendance is going up, we want the amount of aid to be growing at the same or even at a higher rate.

But before we get in more detail, I want to make something clear:

This section is only intended to provide a general picture of how the cost and the amount of aid have performed.

All of the numbers presented here are estimates reported by the school. However, every person has a different background, and in case you are eligible for financial aid, the amount will strongly vary depending on your circumstances.

If you need a more accurate estimation based on your personal case, please refer to Boston University’s net price calculator.

Having said that, let’s take a look at the chart:

Boston University cost of attendance and financial aid line graph
Source: Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS)

As the graph shows, the cost of attendance is going up steadily.

Part of this increase is already expectable, as inflation consistently drives up prices. Nonetheless, there are many factors that define the cost of attendance. Consequently, the change in price from one year to another can easily be above inflation.

During the period we are analyzing, the cost of attendance grew by 17.85%, going from $63,644 to $75,002 in 5 years.

On the other hand, the average amount of grant aid for freshmen increased at a faster pace. In 2014-2015 it was standing at $30,849, and after five years it reached its highest point at $45,724, which is an increase of 48.22%.

The fact that the amount of aid experienced faster growth is a highly positive signal. However we still need to know more details before we can draw any conclusion. And that’s the topic of our next section.

Percentage of First-Year Students Receiving Grant or Scholarship Aid.

So far, we know how the annual cost and financial aid have varied over the last years at BU. But now it’s time to find out if there are enough freshmen receiving this benefit.

In the chart below, you’ll see the percentage of new students that have been awarded aid during the last cycles. What can you notice?

Boston University percent of first-time students receiving grant or scholarship aid
Percentages calculated with data from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS)

The graph clearly shows that the percentage of students receiving aid hasn’t seen any significant increase recently.

Back in the 2013-2014 cycle, 52.35% of the entering class at BU received grant or scholarship aid. However, this percentage showed some decline in the next years, reaching lower values around 47%.

As of 2019-2020, which is the last cycle reported, 47.62% of new students received grant or scholarship aid. This is a decrease of 4.73 points over a 6-year period.

This behavior reveals that the odds of being awarded aid are slightly lower than six years ago. But remember, if you need an estimation based on your situation, head over to BU’s net price calculator.

Bottom Line.

To summarize, in this section we analyzed the environment that students face when it comes to paying for college. Our key findings are listed below:

  • The cost of attendance at Boston University is going up steadily.
  • The percentage of students receiving financial aid hasn’t shown any increase. In fact it went slightly down in recent years.
  • However, the average amount that freshmen receive grew at a very fast rate.

5. Expected Salaries.

Now we are getting to the final part of our analysis. And we cannot end this post without talking about about salaries. Even though people usually find it hard to bring up this topic, it is something you are probably interested in.

Hence the next question is, how much can you expect to earn after graduation?

The answer to this question is variable, as it depends on the major you selected, as well as the job offers available when you graduate. But the good news is that the U.S. Department of Education publishes a list of the typical salaries that graduates earn in the third year after graduation.

This piece of information is highly valuable for the following reasons:

  • It is calculated using data from actual BU graduates.
  • It corresponds to the early stage of their career. At this point, you probably care more about your starting salary than you do about your late career income.

There are other sites like Payscale or Glassdoor that upload their own estimates. And while that information may be reliable as well, it is not as in-depth as the data that the government provides.

Salary Table.

The table below contains the median annual income for Boston University alumni 3 years within graduation, according to the U.S. Department of Education:

ProgramMedian earnings
Anthropology $30,453
Biochemistry and Molecular Biology$41,073
Biomedical Engineering$79,422
Business Administration$71,952
Computer Engineering$97,573
Computer Science$98,399
Electrical Engineering$80,795
International Relations$48,856
Mechanical Engineering$76,023
Political Science$44,518
Median salaries three years after graduation. To see the full list visit: College Scorecard. US Department of Education.

As the table shows, Computer Science graduates are the top earners during the first stage of their career, with a median income of $98,399.

Engineers are also among the highest-payed professionals from BU. Their median salaries are $97,573 for Computer Engineering, $80,795 for Electrical Engineering, and $76,023 for Mechanical Engineering.

Other disciplines like Economics, Business Administration, and Communication, have also seen competitive annual earnings.

Another interesting fact is that Mathematics and Sociology graduates have registered median salaries above $50,000. This is especially appealing considering the fact that these majors are not so popular at Boston University.

If your program doesn’t appear on the list, you can visit BU’s page on College Scorecard to check if the information is available.


So there you have it. Needless to say, this post was meant to be strongly data-driven. Rather than relying on other people’s opinions, we took a logical approach intended to provide a more accurate picture of the school.

After analyzing the most important variables, a story emerged from the data and we managed to evaluate the school’s performance from different angles.

The following are some of our key takeaways:

  • BU has maintaned a good position in the national rankings.
  • First-year students are highly satisfied, as we could tell by tracking the retention rate over time.
  • The university keeps improving its graduation rate. Meaning that more students are finding the right environment to advance and complete their program.
  • Only 3% of the students dropped out.
  • The proportion of first-year students reveiving financial aid has slightly gone down in the last years.
  • However, the average amount of grant aid is increasing more rapidly than the cost of attendance.
  • Overall Boston University satisfied the criteria to be considered a good university. In addition it has a tendency to get better as the years go by.

Frequently Asked Questions.

What is Boston University known for?

Besides being one of the largest universities in the United States, Boston University is known for its Business Administration, Communication, and Economics programs. In addition, it’s widely recognized for its work towards equality and inclusion. Martin Luther King Jr. is the most notable graduate of BU.

Is Boston University a party school?

Boston University doesn’t fall under the definition of a party school. Students who like to party usually find the best fun off-campus. So people interested in a vibrant party scene may be better served at another institution.

What are the most popular majors at Boston University?

According to the U.S. Department of Education, the most popular majors by the number of graduates are Business Administration (638), Communication (381), Economics (252), Psychology (223), International Relations (213), Health Sciences (212), and Computer Science (203)

Is BU a research university?

Boston University is a member of the Association of American Universities. Therefore, it is recognized as a leading research institution. In addition, BU runs the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP), which allows students to participate in research projects in a variety of disciplines.

How many students does Boston University have?

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, Boston University has a population of 32,718 students, out of which 16,872 are undergrads, while 15,846 are pursuing graduate studies.

Is BU a D1 school?

BU is part of the Patriot League in the NCAA Division I. The Boston University Terriers represent the school in different sports, including basketball, soccer, tennis, swimming, and others. The ice hockey team is the most successful sports program and it competes in the Hockey East conference.