Is Boston University Ivy League? Find Out Here

One of the many excellent schools in the city, Boston University is a private research university founded in 1839 by the United Methodist Church. The school has grown to one of the largest schools in the nation, with over 4,000 faculty members and nearly 34,000 students. 

Ranked as a tier-one doctoral university for its very high research activity, Boston University boasts an endowment of $2.43 billion, one of the largest in the world.

Where most universities have been experiencing a downturn in recent years, Boston University continues to grow. 

Thanks to a $1 billion fundraising campaign in 2015, the university has funded 74 new faculty positions, including 49 named full professorships and 25 Career Development Professorships. 

Boston University also makes advances in educating the community, adopting an open-access policy to make its scholarship publicly accessible online and expanding its financial aid program to provide more assistance to students. 

All of these innovations have earned Boston University inclusion on the list of “international powerhouse” institutions from Times Higher Education, alongside elite schools such as the University of Oxford, Stanford, Harvard, Yale, MIT, and Princeton.

Over its nearly 200-year history, Boston University has hired or taught some of the most influential people in the world, including eight Nobel Laureates, 23 Pulitzer Prize winners, 10 Rhodes Scholars, six Marshall Scholars, nine Academy Award winners, and several Emmy and Tony Award winners. MacArthur, Fulbright, and Truman Scholars work with Boston University, as do many members of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences. 

Some of its most famous alumni include actors Jason Alexander and Julianne Moore, authors Paul Beatty and Casey Sherman, and politicians former senator Edward Brooke and congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.  

No one will dispute the credentials of Boston University. But do they make it an Ivy League school? 

Is Boston University an Ivy League School?

Boston University
WLP, Student Village II at Boston University, CC BY-SA 3.0

Boston University is not an Ivy League school.

Let’s make sure we’re clear on the terms. Rather than an academic designation, the Ivy League is a Division I NCAA athletic conference. Founded in 1958, the Ivy League consists of eight private research schools, including Brown University, Columbia University, Cornell University, Dartmouth College, Harvard University, the University of Pennsylvania, Princeton University, and Yale University. 

That said, because it includes some of the oldest and most respected schools in the country, “Ivy League” has become shorthand for “good school.” When people ask if a particular college or university is in the Ivy League, they’re not inquiring about its upcoming football schedule; they’re asking if the school has impressive teachers and if it graduates exceptional students. 

Except for Cornell University (formed in 1865), all of the Ivy League schools were established before the founding of the United States

More importantly, the Ivy League schools boast the highest academic standards, a devotion to research, and a long line of distinguished alumni. It’s no wonder that the Ivies have some of the most selective admissions standards in the world. 

In many ways, Boston University matches the schools listed here. As we’ve already seen, the University has produced remarkable alumni and remains at the forefront of academic research. It has high selection standards and enjoys a reputation as one of the best schools in the country. 

Without question, Boston University is one of the best schools in the world, with a student body and faculty that rivals that of any other school. 

But while BU belongs to the Patriot League, the Hockey East, and the Colonial Athletic Association conferences, it is not part of the Ivy League athletic conference. The Boston University Terriers boast an excellent hockey team, and they’ve been known to play against members of the Ivy League. However, Boston University is not part of the Ivy League.  

Why Is Boston University Often Confused As an Ivy League School?

Because people use Ivy League as a shorthand description of good colleges, many assume that BU is an Ivy League School. And they’re not wrong, at least in connotation. 

No, Boston University is not in the Ivy League athletic conference. But it is, without question, one of the best schools in the country.

That said, BU tends to be less selective than most Ivy League schools. Where Harvard accepts only 4.9% of its applicants and Brown takes a mere 6.9%, Boston University accepted 11,823 of the 62,224 students who applied in 2020, giving it an acceptance rate of only 19%

While a 19% acceptance rate may be higher than the Ivies, that is still a remarkably low acceptance rate, making BU harder to enter than the large majority of American schools. 

More important than the acceptance rate, Boston University stands alongside the Ivy League schools due to its impressive endowment. In 2020, the University boasted a $2.4 billion endowment to operate its $71.0 million budget

According to, that sum puts BU among the 50 richest schools in the country, alongside all of the Ivy League schools, including Harvard and Yale. 

With such great resources, it’s no wonder that the school can devote itself to some of the most important scientific research in the world, spending over $368.9 million in these pursuits over the past years, countering the downward trend experienced by most other universities. 

So, if we’re technical, Boston University is not an Ivy League school because it does not belong to that athletic conference. 

But not only does BU have its own impressive record of athletic victories, but these statistics also demonstrate that the university has all of the prestige, history, and spending power of the Ivy League. It deserves to belong on any list of the best schools in the world. 

How to Get Into Boston University

Unsurprisingly, it isn’t easy to get into Boston University. The school demands the most from its students and therefore accepts only the best of its thousands of applicants. 

Students accepted into Boston University have an average GPA of 3.71, which means that they prefer straight-A students, many of whom take difficult AP and college-level courses in high school. 

Furthermore, while the ACT and SAT are now optional, admission counselors like to see high scores on both tests. The University expects SAT scores around 1420 and ACT scores near 32. 

While those numbers are important, admission counselors at Boston University take a holistic approach to choosing students. According to their admissions website, the University wants recommendations from teachers and school counselors. 

An applicant can strengthen their recommendations by forming connections with teachers and participating in extracurricular activities. The more you can show yourself as an engaged member of your student community, the more you can secure a strong recommendation. 

While recommendations and extracurriculars are not a replacement for bad grades, they can make the difference for those falling a bit short on their GPAs and standardized test scores. These elements allow applicants to put their studies into perspective and to give the school a chance to see the whole person beyond mere numbers. 

For some majors, Boston University also requires additional application materials. For those entering the college of fine arts, would-be students must submit a portfolio showing off their best work. The application should indicate how BU will help the student develop the skills on display in the portfolio. 

Students entering the business school will participate in an interview with faculty. As with the fine arts students, the interview gives business applicants an opportunity to stand out better beyond mere numbers. Those in interviews should explain how BU will help them build on the experiences they bring to the school and prepare them for the next stage in their careers. 

Recap: Boston University Is Not an Ivy League University. However, It Is One of the Best Universities in the Nation

If you have your heart set on an Ivy League school because you like the title, then Boston University is not the school for you. It does not belong to the Ivy League athletic conference and therefore is not an Ivy League school.

However, if you prioritize a rich learning experience, the best available facilities, and storied history, then you should certainly consider Boston University. Not only does the school rank alongside the Ivies on nearly every academic metric, but it also has attributes that not even Harvard or Yale can offer. 

As a highly selective school, Boston University features an elite student body taught by some of the most decorated teachers in the nation. 

Its unique landmarks and important research facilities, in everything from science to the humanities, give ambitious students everything that they need to meet their goals. 

It doesn’t matter if you’re going to study the fine arts, social sciences, or STEM fields, you’ll find at Boston University numerous resources and institutes to put you on the cutting edge of research. 

And if athletics are deeply important to you, then Boston University won’t disappoint in that regard. In addition to well-regarded baseball and basketball programs, the BU Terriers hockey program is the stuff of legend, bringing numerous awards back to the school and sending athletes into professional leagues like the NHL. Their athletic record even outshines those of most of the Ivy League schools. 

So, while Boston University is not an Ivy League school, it competes with those institutions in nearly every regard, and even besting them in some categories. Those who want a top-notch education in a school with a storied pedigree, then they can do no better than BU. The university stands proudly alongside any school in the country, including every institution in the Ivy League.

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