Boston College vs Boston University

31/01/202416 minute read
Boston College vs Boston University

Nestled within the historic and vibrant city of Boston, Boston College and Boston University are two prestigious institutions that attract the attention of many high school students. Despite sharing the same city, each school possesses its own distinctive characteristics.

As prospective students and their parents explore their college options, understanding the differences between these schools is crucial. Read on as we compare and contrast the various offerings of Boston College and Boston University!

Location and Campus Life

While both Boston College and Boston University are connected to the trolley line along Commonwealth Avenue as part of the MBTA subway system, each school provides very different campus experiences.

Boston College, nestled in the suburb of Chestnut Hill, boasts a sprawling 340-acre campus fostering a tight-knit community. With 29 residence halls and 13 dining options, 85% of students reside on campus, enjoying a serene retreat from city life while still accessing Boston's cultural gems.

In contrast, Boston University, centrally located in Boston, features two campuses divided by the Charles River. Spanning 135 acres, BU offers diverse housing options including traditional dorms, brownstones, and residential apartments in the John Hancock Student Village. With 75% of students living on campus, BU thrives amidst the bustling streets of Boston, providing an urban campus experience enriched by the city's dynamic energy and abundant cultural offerings.

Academic Distinctions

Boston College is renowned for its strong liberal arts foundation, emphasizing critical thinking and holistic education. With esteemed faculty members and rigorous academic programs, Boston College excels in disciplines such as theology, philosophy, and business and is split into nine schools and colleges. The school's most popular majors are:

  • Economics, General
  • Biology/Biological Sciences, General
  • Speech Communication and Rhetoric
  • Developmental and Child Psychology
  • Finance, General

On the other hand, Boston University prides itself on its diverse academic offerings, spanning a wide range of disciplines from engineering to fine arts. The university's emphasis on research and innovation fosters a dynamic learning environment conducive to academic exploration. Boston University offers 300+ programs through 17 schools and colleges. The school's most popular majors are:

  • Social Sciences
  • Business, Management, Marketing, and Related Support Services
  • Communication, Journalism, and Related Programs
  • Biological and Biomedical Sciences
  • Engineering

Size and Student Body

Boston College maintains a relatively smaller student body, fostering a tight-knit community and intimate class sizes conducive to personalized attention from faculty members. As of January 2024, Boston College boasts:

  • An undergraduate enrollment of 9,575
  • A total enrollment of 15,025
  • A full-time faculty of 888
  • A student/faculty ratio of 11:1

In contrast, Boston University's larger student population contributes to a more diverse and bustling campus atmosphere, offering a plethora of opportunities for collaboration and networking. As of January 2024, Boston University boasts:

  • An undergraduate enrollment of 17,744
  • A total enrollment of 37,557
  • A full-time faculty of 4,309
  • A student-faulty ratio of 11:1

The choice between a close-knit community and a bustling campus environment depends on individual preferences regarding class sizes and community dynamics.

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Admission Criteria

Both Boston College and Boston University uphold rigorous admission standards, considering factors such as academic achievements, extracurricular involvement, and personal essays.

While admission rates vary annually, prospective you can expect a competitive application process at both schools.

The Admitted Class of 2027 (Fall 2023)
Boston CollegeBoston University
Total Enrolled2,3353,145
Average GPA-3.8
Ranked Top 10% of High School Class94%86%
Average SAT15111441
Average ACT3432

Campus Facilities

Boston College and Boston University boast state-of-the-art facilities, including libraries, laboratories, and recreational spaces designed to enhance the student experience. From cutting-edge research facilities to large recreational centers, each campus offers a variety of resources tailored to support academic and extracurricular pursuits.

Boston College boasts:

  • Margot Connell Recreation Center** -** A 244,000 square-foot, four-story building for students to play, pursue sports, gather with friends and work out. The facility includes a fitness center, rock climbing wall, jogging track, aquatics center, wood-floor basketball courts, tennis courts, multi-activity courts, multi-purpose rooms for spin, yoga, and fitness classes, and more.
  • The Quonset Hut (Hut)** -** This rec facility features cardio and weight equipment, as well as open recreation areas for basketball and ping pong. The space also features full locker rooms, restrooms, and showers.
  • Seven libraries and one educational resource center - Composed of O'Neill Library, Bapst Library, Burns Library, Educational Resource Center, Law Library, O'Connor Library, Social Work Library, and Theology and Ministry Library

Boston University boasts:

  • FitRec - This recreational facility includes an 18,000-square-foot weight training and cardiovascular conditioning area, an aquatics center, a 30-foot-tall Barreca Climbing Wall, a 225-seat dance theater, a 1/7th-mile indoor running and walking track, ample gymnasium space with seven courts, multipurpose fitness studios, three racquetball and three international squash courts.
  • Boston University Libraries - Composed of the African Studies, Astronomy, Mugar Memorial, Music, Science & Engineering, Stone Science, Pickering Educational Resources, and Frederick S. Pardee Management libraries

Extracurricular Activities

Both Boston College and Boston University offer a diverse array of extracurricular opportunities, including clubs, sports, and cultural organizations catering to a wide range of interests. Whether students are passionate about community service, performing arts, or intramural sports, there are ample opportunities to engage and connect with like-minded peers outside the classroom.

Boston College offers more than 300 student organizations to choose from, including Art Club, Business and Law Society, Cooking Club, Dance Ensemble, Mathematics Society and more. Boston College is also home to:

  • 31 intercollegiate Division I teams
  • A variety of club sports
  • 44 intramural sports programs
  • Courses in aquatics, spin, yoga, and more
  • Visual, musical, and physical art activities on and off-campus

Boston University offers more than 450 student-led groups including Anime Club, Habitat for Humanity, Photography Club, Marine Science Association, Knitting Club, and more.

Boston University is also home to professional organizations such as honor societies recognizing high academic achievement, or others providing valuable opportunities—attending professional conferences nationwide, and networking with industry professionals.

Boston University offers lots of ways to pursue political activism including:

  • Boston University Student Government
  • School and College Student Government
  • Residence Hall Associations (RHAs)
  • College Democrats
  • College Republicans
  • The NAACP

BU is also home to 12 fraternities and 12 sororities on campus, which make up a small but active Greek community. There are also citywide Greek organizations and Greek honor societies.

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Financial Considerations

Both Boston College and Boston University provide various financial aid programs, including scholarships, grants, and work-study opportunities, to alleviate the financial burden of higher education. Understanding the cost implications and exploring available financial assistance initiatives is essential in making an informed decision.

Tuition and Fees
Boston CollegeBoston University
Tuition per semester$33,205$31,899
Housing per semester$5,235 - $6,995Approx. $5,800
Meal plan per semester$3,255$3,400
Fees$1,370$1,300 - $2,200

Boston College offers more than 500 named scholarships are awarded based on institutional need. However, BC only offers a limited number of merit scholarships. The Presidential Scholarship is the only academic merit-based scholarship offered by Boston College.

Boston University offers a wide variety of merit scholarships, some even covering full tuition. These include:

  • Trustee Scholarship
  • Presidential Scholarship
  • National Merit Scholarship
  • College of Engineering FIRST Robotics
  • Athletic Scholarships
  • College of Fine Arts Scholarships
  • ROTC Scholarships

While the two schools differ in their scholarship and grant offerings, both schools offer need-based financial aid based on a combination of demonstrated financial need and academic merit.

Campus Traditions and Events

Boston College and Boston University boast rich traditions and vibrant campus events. From spirited athletic rivalries to cultural festivals and academic celebrations, these traditions foster a sense of pride and camaraderie among students, alumni, and faculty members alike.

Boston College traditions and events include:

  • Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony - Festive performances, games, and a chance to take a selfie with Santa
  • ALS Awareness Game - One night a year, the BC baseball team plays a home game at Fenway Park to raise money in the fight against ALS
  • Convocation - Freshmen begin their college journey with a lantern-led procession
  • Red Bandana - Honors the memory of alumnus and 9/11 hero Welles Remy Crowther ’99 with a 5k “Red Bandana Race” and a dedicated football and lacrosse game
  • ALC Showdown - Largest annual student dance competition promotes diversity and cultural awareness through dance
  • Marathon Monday - Every Patriot’s Day, cheer on runners in the Boston Marathon, including the BC Campus School team
  • Mass of the Holy Spirit - A Jesuit tradition that marks the opening of the school year

Boston University traditions and events include:

  • Tagging the BU Rock - Fraternities and sororities spray paint the BU rock to compete with each other
  • The Beanpot Tournament - Every February, the Men’s and Women’s Ice Hockey teams take on Northeastern, Harvard, and Boston College in a two-week tournament
  • Lobster Night - Since 1985, BU has hosted an annual Lobster Night in every dining hall where students get a full steamed Lobster plus all the fixings
  • Marathon Monday - Students join the whole city in cheering on the runners, or participating in the race
  • BU Pumpkin Drop - Each October, the Physics Department launches dozens of pumpkins off the roof, accompanied by science demonstrations and a costume contest
  • Conquering Rhett’s Challenge - Students compete to finish a triple bacon cheeseburger, order of fries, eight-scoop ice cream sundae, and a soda in less than 30 minutes
  • Forming a Broomball Team - BU’s most popular intramural sport – one part ice hockey, one part curling, one part golf

Student Support Services

Both Boston College and Boston University prioritize student support services, offering comprehensive resources to promote academic success and holistic well-being. From career counseling and academic advising to mental health resources and peer support networks, these services are integral to nurturing student growth and development.

Boston College supports its students through various services including:

  • Disability Services Office - Supports students with medical, physical, psychological, and temporary disabilities
  • Substance Use Prevention, Education, & Recovery Support - Provides opportunities for students to receive appropriate support, reflect on current choices, and learn about strategies for making lower-risk choices around substance use
  • CSW's Wellness Coach program - Empowers students to take the next step toward their wellness goals by administering finals relaxation, interactive tabling, passive education campaigns, and more
  • Mental Health and Wellness Campaign - Centers on mental health promotion and suicide prevention with training, workshops, and events available to students
  • Connors Family Learning Center Tutoring - Tutoring sessions offered to students to assist in a variety of subjects
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Boston University supports its students through a variety of services including:

  • Sexual Assault Response and Prevention Center (SARP) - Provides rapid, confidential, supportive and free-of-charge advocacy and assistance to BU students who have experienced a traumatic incident
  • Behavioral Medicine - Staff, psychiatrists, psychologists, clinical nurse specialists, licensed mental health clinicians and LCSWs are available to address the many psychological and adjustment issues that arise in a university community
  • Educational Resource Center (ERC) - Specializes in supplemental education, including foreign language practice, teaching good study habits and tutoring workshops
  • Center for Career Development (CCD) - Aims at preparing students for success in their studies and beyond through workshops, CV help, interview prep and assistance searching for internships, jobs and graduate programs
  • Disability and Access Services - Provides services and support to ensure that students can access and participate in the opportunities available at Boston University


In summary, Boston College and Boston University each offer distinct yet compelling educational experiences, shaped by their unique campus environments, academic offerings, and student life opportunities. As you begin planning for college, consider your individual preferences, academic goals, and personal aspirations when making your decision.

Whether you're drawn to the intimate community of Boston College or the bustling energy of Boston University, rest assured that both institutions provide exceptional opportunities for growth and success.

For assistance in crafting an application that stands out to admission officers, schedule a free consultation with one of our college admission experts.