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Boston College vs. Boston University: Which College is Right for You?

There’s no shortage of schools in, and around Boston, Massachusetts—the greater Boston area is home to more than 100 colleges and universities. Two top schools students often find themselves considering are Boston College and Boston University. While these institutions essentially share a city, you’ll discover numerous differences when comparing Boston College vs. Boston University. In this post, we’ll go over their similarities and differences, so you can decide which one is best for you.


Learn more about Boston College and Boston University and see your chances of acceptance.


Boston College vs. Boston University: A Quick Overview


Boston College Boston University 
Location Chestnut Hill, MA Boston, MA
Campus Type Suburban  Urban 
Undergraduate Enrollment 9,927 18,515
Acceptance Rate 27% 22%
US News Ranking 37 (tie) 40 (tie)
Middle 50% SAT 1340-1480 (2018) 1420-1540 (2020)
Middle 50% ACT 31-34 (2018) 32-35 (2020)
Sticker Price $78,617 $77,662
Need-blind, no-loan, or meets 100% demonstrated need? Need-blind

100% demonstrated need


100% demonstrated need


Boston College vs. Boston University: A Closer Look


Location and Weather


Boston College vs. Boston University Location: Both BC and BU share the city of Boston as a home, but they each offer unique perspectives of living in the city. BC is technically located in Chestnut Hill, a village six miles outside of downtown and a short train ride (or T ride to locals) from the city proper. Conversely, BU is located in the heart of the city.  


About Boston: With a population of 710,195, Boston is the 21st largest city in the U.S. Because of this, students attending both BC and BU are afforded all the luxuries of attending school in a big city. Boston has teams in the four major sports leagues (NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL), and hosts world-class events such as the Boston Marathon. For students seeking culture, Boston has an abundance of renowned museums, including the Boston Museum of Art, the Museum of Science, and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Other attractions include Symphony Hall—home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra—and the New England Aquarium. For students wanting to explore elsewhere, the Boston Logan Airport has flights around the world, including direct flights to cities like Paris and London.


In addition to being a major metropolis, Boston is also a college town. In addition to BU and BC, other noteworthy colleges in, or in close proximity to, the city are: 


  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
  • Harvard University 
  • Northeastern University 
  • Tufts University 
  • Emerson College 
  • Brandeis University 
  • Babson College 
  • Wellesley College
  • Bentley University 
  • Suffolk University


Boston Weather: Mark Twain famously summed up Boston’s climate when he said, “If you don’t like the weather in New England now, just wait a few minutes.” Boston experiences four seasons, has slightly fewer sunny days (200) than the average U.S. city (205), and it also gets more rain and snow than them. The average high temperature in July is approximately 82°F and the average January low is about 19°F. Winters can get extremely cold and windy, while summers can get very hot and muggy.




One of the most noticeable differences when comparing Boston University vs. Boston College is size—BU has roughly twice as many students as BC. 


Boston College: Boston College has an undergraduate enrollment of 9,377 students and a total enrollment of 14,107. The faculty-student ratio is 1:11 and 93% of BC’s 860 full-time faculty members hold doctoral degrees. In general, students at BC will have the benefit of small classes; 48.6% of its classes have fewer than 20 students in them. 


Boston University: For a large school with an undergrad enrollment of over 18,000, BU is rightly proud of its small class sizes. The faculty-student ratio is 1:10 and 62% of its classes have fewer than 20 students. With an average class size of 27, it’s easy to get facetime with one of the institution’s renowned professors—90% of which hold a Ph.D. or equivalent degree. 




Boston College: BC is split into nine undergraduate and graduate schools: 


  • Carroll School of Management
  • William F. Connell School of Nursing
  • Carolyn A. and Peter S. Lynch School of Education and Human Development
  • Robert J. Morrissey College of Arts and Sciences
  • Schiller Institute for Integrated Science and Society
  • James A. Woods, S.J. College of Advancing Studies
  • Boston College Law School
  • School of Social Work
  • School of Theology and Ministry


Economics, Finance, and Biology are the three most popular majors—of more than 60 offered at Boston College—and have been since the 2013-14 academic year. Undergraduates at BC don’t need to declare a major until the end of their sophomore year, but all undergraduates must complete the Boston College Core Curriculum to earn a degree—a 15-course exploration of the humanities, natural sciences, and social sciences.


Boston College is part of the Boston Consortium, a group of select colleges and universities (including Boston University). BC sophomores, juniors, and seniors are allowed one elective course during each fall and spring semester at Boston University, Brandeis University, Northeastern University, Pine Manor College, Regis College, or Tufts University if a similar course is not offered by Boston College.  


Studying abroad is a popular program at Boston College. Half of all undergraduates participate in one of the school’s 200+ programs available on six continents for all majors. 


Boston University: BU offers 72 majors through its 11 undergraduate schools and colleges:  


  • College of Arts & Sciences
  • College of Communication
  • College of Engineering
  • College of Fine Arts
  • College of General Studies
  • College of Health & Rehabilitation Sciences: Sargent College
  • Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies
  • Arvind and Chandan Nandlal Kilachand Honors College
  • Questrom School of Business
  • School of Hospitality Administration
  • Wheelock College of Education & Human Development


The most popular majors at BU include Business Management, Marketing, Communication, and Journalism. Students at BU are not required to choose a major until the end of their sophomore year. BU’s core curriculum is designed to give students a solid intellectual foundation through the study of liberal arts courses in the Humanities, Social Sciences, and Natural Sciences. 


Boston University is also part of the Boston Consortium. Both full-time and part-time BU undergraduates are allowed to register for one course per semester and cross-register for certain classes at Boston College, Brandeis University, Tufts University, Hebrew College, and MIT.


Studying abroad is also part of BU’s culture—it created one of the first study abroad programs—it offers over 100 programs in 20 countries and 30 cities. 

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Boston College: Boston College guarantees most undergraduates three years of on-campus housing, with the third year to be taken off campus—90% of seniors return to live on campus their final year. First-year students are accommodated in traditional-style rooms; sophomores are allowed to select their roommates and may find themselves in either a traditional- or apartment-style room. Seniors are given priority when choosing living accommodations—the “mods” townhome-like, six-person apartments are particularly popular.    


Boston College also provides students with the opportunity to reside in a living/learning community—creating connections, collaborations, and community with peers who share a common interest. There are eight living/learning communities at BC: 


  • BC F1RST
  • Healthy Living
  • Shaw Leadership Program
  • Sustainability
  • Multicultural 
  • Perspectives
  • Kostka Women’s Experience
  • Seacole Scholars


Boston University: BU guarantees housing to undergraduates for all four years of their studies. Housing at BU is varied, including everything from singles to six-person suites and modern high rises to 19th-century brownstones. First-year students at BU are required to live on campus—overall, three-quarters of students live on campus all four years. 


Boston University is home to six faculty-guided living/learning communities:


  • Core Curriculum Floor
  • Core Curriculum House
  • Earth House
  • Global House
  • Kilachand Honors College Floors
  • Kilachand Honors College House


Additionally, numerous specialty communities—specific floors or houses for students with shared academic or cultural interests—reside on Boston University’s campus. Examples of a BU specialty house include: 


  • Classics House
  • Music House
  • Women in Science and Engineering Upper Class House
  • Writers’ Corridor


Financial aid


Boston College: Boston College is committed to meeting 100% of the financial need of its undergraduates; therefore, the vast majority of aid awarded at BC is need-based. 68% of undergraduates receive financial aid, with the average need-based scholarship/grant totaling $40,290 in the 2018-2019 academic year. 


For the 2020-2021 academic year, the sticker price at Boston College is: 


Item Cost
Undergraduate Tuition $59,050
Mandatory Fees for Resident Student (Campus Health Infirmary & Student Activity Fees)* $1,397
Room and Board $15,220
Estimated cost for books and incidental items $2,950
Total Tuition, Fees, Room, and Board $78,617


*Please note that freshmen pay a one-time required charge of $245 for First-Year Orientation and their student ID.


Boston University: Beginning in 2020, Boston University will meet the full need for all domestic students who qualify for financial aid. 41% of BU undergraduates receive some kind of need-based aid. The average need-based financial aid of a BU undergraduate is $43,571 and the average need-based grant/scholarship awarded is $38,201—before committing to meet 100% of student need, the university met around 90% of the calculated need for eligible students. 


For the 2020-2021 academic year, the sticker price at Boston University is: 


Item Cost
Undergraduate Tuition $56,854
Fees $1,218
Room and Board $16,640
Estimated cost for books and incidental items $2,950
Total Tuition, Fees, Room, and Board $77,662


Sports and Extracurriculars


Boston College Sports: Boston College is a Division I school and competes in sports from basketball to skiing. The football team is a major attraction on Saturdays during the fall and so is tailgating before home games. The BC hockey team is one of the most successful programs in the country, winning five national championships (one of only three schools to do so) with four coming in the 2000s. Ironically, in the battle of Boston College vs. Boston University on the ice, the two schools are tied—BU has also won five national titles.   


Boston University Sports: BU plays 23 Division I sports—12 women’s and 11 men’s—ranging from lacrosse to golf. Athletes like Mike Eruzione (captain of the 1980 “miracle on ice” U.S. hockey team) and Brett Brown (coach of the NBA’s Philadelphia 76’ers) both played at BU. Hockey is the big draw at BU; it has sent more players to the NHL than any other college or university. The BU women’s soccer team is also noteworthy, as they’ve taken three out of the last five Patriot League titles. 


Boston College Clubs: Recreational sports are popular at Boston College—the college facilitates intramural sports, where BC students compete against one and other, and club sports where BC students compete against other colleges. Outside of athletics, BC students can choose to participate in more than 300 student organizations focused on seemingly every interest, from baking to investing to retro gaming. 


Boston University Clubs: There are more than 450 student organizations at BU, covering a broad spectrum of interests ranging from anime to knitting to mock trial. Additionally, BU has a calendar packed with student activities such as attending Red Sox games and film screenings. Community service plays an important role in the lives of many BU students; BU’s Community Service Center (CSC) has a base of over 1,500 people and contributes over 75,000 hours of annual service. 


Boston College Greek Life: Boston College has no fraternities or sororities. BC is a Jesuit school—Jesuit schools traditionally find Greek life isn’t in alignment with Jesuit ideals and are not allowed. 


Boston University Greek Life: BU is home to a small but active Greek community—12 fraternities and 12 sororities call the campus home. About 10% of BU undergraduates participate in Greek life. 


Culture and Diversity


Boston College Undergraduate Diversity: 


Ethnicity Percentage of Student Body
White 59% 
Hispanic/Latino 11%
Asian 10%
Nonresident Alien 8%
Black or African American 4%
Race and Ethnicity Unknown 4%
Two or More Races 3%
Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander <1% 
American Indian or Alaska Native <1% 


Boston University’s 2019 First-Year Student Diversity: 


Ethnicity Percentage of Student Body
White  31%
International  24.4%
Asian American  20.7%
Hispanic American  10.8%
Black or African American 7.9%
Other  5.2%


How to Decide Between Boston College vs. Boston University


Boston College is an especially strong choice if:


  • You want to attend a school with easy access to city life but a more suburban feel 
  • Saturday football games are very important to you 
  • You’re seeking a Jesuit education/want to attend a Catholic College
  • You prefer a smaller, tight-knit campus community
  • Greek life isn’t essential to your college experience 
  • A powerful and large (182,736 and counting) alumni network is important to you
  • You plan on majoring in business—we ranked BC #14 on our list of best colleges for business.


Boston University is especially strong for students who:


  • Want to live in the heart of the city
  • Want a big school experience; BU is the largest college or university in Boston 
  • Are career-oriented—in 2017, the Times Higher Education (THE) ranked the employability of BU alumni 6th internationally and 5th in the United States
  • Are seeking an LGBTQ friendly community; BU is known as one of the most LGBTQ-friendly universities in the country
  • Want to attend a school with frats and sororities, but don’t want them to be an overwhelming presence on campus
  • Are interested in research opportunities—BU is categorized as a very high research activity university according to the Carnegie Classification 


Curious about your chances of acceptance to these schools? Our free chancing engine takes into account your GPA, test scores, extracurriculars, and other data to predict your odds of acceptance at over 500 colleges across the U.S. We’ll also let you know how you stack up against other applicants and how you can improve your profile. Sign up for your free CollegeVine account today to get started!

Short Bio
A graduate of Northeastern University with a degree in English, Tim Peck currently lives in Concord, New Hampshire, where he balances a freelance writing career with the needs of his two Australian Shepherds to play outside.