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

You’ll discover a lot of similarities when comparing Boston University vs. Northeastern University. For example, the two schools are tied in the US News rankings of national universities, both possess sterling reputations, and they share a city (in fact, they’re less than five miles apart). 

 

Much like the proximity of BU and Northeastern—which to an outsider appear close, but to a native Bostonian are actually worlds apart—there are many subtle ways in which these two schools differ from one another. We’ll go over those differences in this post, to help you make a decision on which school is best for you.

 

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

 

Boston University vs. Northeastern University: A Quick Overview

 

Boston University Northeastern University 
Location Boston, MA Boston, MA
Campus Type Urban  Urban 
Undergraduate Enrollment 18,515 13,909
Acceptance Rate 22% 18.1%
US News Ranking 40 (tie) 40 (tie)
Middle 50% SAT 1420-1540   1390-1540
Middle 50% ACT 32-35   32-35
Sticker Price $55,892 $52,420
Need-blind, no-loan, or meets 100% demonstrated need? Need-blind

100% demonstrated need

Need-blind

100% demonstrated need

 

Boston University  vs. Northeastern University: A Closer Look

 

Location and Weather

 

Boston Sports: Boston is the 21st-largest city in the U.S., and with that comes all the fixtures of living in a major metropolis. Sports teams in the four major sports (NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL) play in or around the city, and Fenway Park—where the Boston Red Sox play—is just minutes from both BU and Northeastern.

 

Boston Culture: For those with interests outside of athletics, Boston is home to world-class museums such as the Museum of Fine Arts (it’s across the street from Northeastern) and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Boston Symphony Hall is home to the Boston Symphony Orchestra—one of the five major American symphony orchestras called the “Big Five”—and is easily accessible from both schools, and major musical acts pass through the city regularly. Foodies will dig the city’s North End; no one should spend four years in Boston without getting a cannoli from Mike’s Pastry. 

 

Boston as a College Town: While Boston is a big city, it’s also a college town. Boston is home to 35 colleges, universities, and community colleges. In addition to BU and Northeastern, schools like UMass Boston, Boston College, and Simmons College call the city home while world-class schools like Harvard and MIT are Boston-adjacent. 

 

Boston Weather: Boston gets four distinct seasons—experiencing cold, wet winters, and hot, humid summers. Temperatures rarely get above 91°F or lower than 9°F, with average temperatures ranging between 23°F and 82°F.

 

Boston University vs. Northeastern Campus: Although Boston University and Northeastern both call Boston home, their campuses offer different experiences. Northeastern’s campus is more contained than BU’s, giving it a more collegial vibe, while BU’s campus is more spread out, making it seem more like part of the city. 

 

Size

 

Boston University: Boston University provides students with small classes and accomplished faculty. The student-to-faculty ratio at BU is 10:1 and 62% of classes have fewer than 20 students in them. The average class size at BU is 27. All of this makes it possible to get face-to-face interaction with your professors—90% of whom possess a Ph.D. or equivalent degree. 

 

Northeastern University: Northeastern has a 14:1 student-to-faculty ratio and 67.2% of their classes have less than 20 students in them. 

 

Academics

 

Boston University: BU offers 72 majors and is divided into 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

 

Business Management, Marketing, Communication, and Journalism are among the most popular degrees pursued at BU. There’s no need to declare a major immediately, as BU students have until the end of their sophomore year to decide on a course of study. No matter what major a student chooses, every BU student will need to complete the university’s core curriculum—a group of courses designed to provide students with an intellectual foundation through the exploration of the Humanities, Social Sciences, and Natural Sciences. The core curriculum includes:

 

  • 8 four-credit foundational courses
    • 4 Humanities courses
    • 2 Natural Sciences/Mathematics courses
    • 2 Social Sciences courses
  • A two- or four-credit Digital Multimedia course
  • Co-curricular activities based at the Museum of Fine Arts or editing the Core Journal

 

Boston University is part of a group of schools called the Boston Consortium; consequently, BU undergraduates are allowed to register for one course per semester and cross-register for classes at Boston College, Brandeis University, Tufts University, Hebrew College, and MIT.

 

About half of BU students take advantage of the school’s study abroad program. One of the nation’s first study abroad programs, BU students can participate in over 100 programs held in 20 countries and 30 cities.

 

Northeastern University: Northeastern offers 90+ majors through its eight undergraduate and one graduate colleges. Those nine colleges are: 

 

  • Bouvé College of Health Sciences
  • College of Arts, Media and Design
  • Khoury College of Computer Sciences
  • College of Engineering
  • College of Professional Studies
  • College of Science
  • College of Social Sciences and Humanities
  • D’Amore-McKim School of Business
  • School of Law

 

Business, Economics, and Mechanical Engineering are all popular majors at Northeastern, and we ranked Northeastern ninth in the nation for Criminal Justice majors. Northeastern undergrads can declare a major any time up to the end of their sophomore year. Northeastern’s core curriculum, called NUpath, is designed to impart students with a broad base of knowledge and skills and is completed by fulfilling 11 requirements and learning goals:

 

  • Engaging with the Natural and Designed World
  • Exploring Creative Expression and Innovation
  • Interpreting Culture
  • Conducting Formal and Quantitative Reasoning
  • Understanding Societies and Institutions
  • Analyzing and Using Data
  • Engaging Differences and Diversity
  • Employing Ethical Reasoning
  • Writing Across Audiences and Genres
  • Integrating Knowledge and Skills Through Experience
  • Demonstrating Thought and Action in a Capstone 

 

Northeastern operates on a cooperational education model, which blends periods of study with periods of full-time employment. Each year, students participate in co-ops with employers in 131 countries on all seven continents That’s right, you can co-op in Antarctica! Co-ops are a powerful employment tool, and 50% of students are offered a job from their co-op employer. 

 

Northeastern students pursue their educational and career goals abroad in a few different ways, including working through the university’s global co-op program or taking part in the NU.i.n. Program—which allows select first-year students to begin their Northeastern careers by studying abroad at one of the university’s international partner locations. 

 

Housing

 

Boston University: BU undergraduates are guaranteed housing for all four years. Housing at  BU is varied, including everything from singles to six-person suites and modern high rises with sweeping city views to 19th-century brownstones on tree-lined streets. First-year students at BU are required to live on campus—overall, 75% 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

 

Northeastern University: Northeastern requires traditional first- and second-year undergraduate students to live on campus in either a residence hall or apartment complex. All Northeastern undergrads who enter as first-year students are guaranteed four years of housing, and 49% of students live on campus. 

 

There are also more than a dozen living-learning communities where students share a common interest or lifestyle available for first-year students to live in: 

 

  • Bouvé College of Health Sciences
  • Khoury College of Computer Sciences
  • Women in Khoury College of Computer Sciences
  • College of Engineering
  • Connections (Women in Engineering)
  • College of Science
  • Global Visions (D’Amore-McKim School of Business)
  • Honors
  • NU Journeys (NU Explore Program)
  • Pre-Health
  • Politics, Philosophy, and Economics
  • Community Service
  • Creative Expressions
  • Cultural Inclusion
  • Fusion
  • Healthy Living
  • Leadership (Leaders of the Pack & Sports Leadership)
  • Musical Motifs

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Financial aid

 

Boston University: BU implemented a new initiative in 2020 that will enable the university to meet the full financial needs of all qualifying domestic students. The average need-based financial aid of BU undergraduates is $43,571 and the average need-based grant/scholarship awarded is $38,201—the gap between the two numbers will close thanks to the new initiative. 41% of BU undergraduates receive some form of need-based aid. 

 

For the 2020/2021 academic year, an undergraduate at Boston University can expect to pay: 

 

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

 

Northeastern University: Northeastern is dedicated to meeting the full demonstrated financial need of every admitted student, and under their “Northeastern Promise” commits to increasing need-based grant funds annually at the same percentage rate as the increase in tuition and to reevaluate aid packages if a student’s financial circumstances negatively change. 32% percent of full-time undergraduates receive some kind of need-based financial aid, and more than 75% of new students receive some form of financial aid each year. The average need-based scholarship/grant award is $27,457.

 

Item Cost
Undergraduate Tuition $52,420 
Fees* $1,086
Room and Board $16,930
Total Tuition, Fees, Room, and Board $70,436

 

*Fees include the undergraduate student fee, student center fee, student activity fee, recreation fee, and residence hall activity fee.

 

Sports and Extracurriculars

 

Boston University Sports: BU plays 23 Division I sports—12 women’s and 11 men’s—and plays in the Patriot League, Hockey East, and the Eastern College Athletic Conference. BU athletics is best-known for its hockey team, which has won five national championships (1971, 1972, 1978, 1995, and 2009) and has sent more players to the NHL than any other college or university. 

 

Boston University Clubs: There are more than 450 student groups on BU’s campus, covering interests ranging from anime to belly dancing to film. The university is also home to three student-run publications, the Daily Free Press, the BU Buzz, and Off The Cuff. If you think print is dead, WTBU is the university’s radio station and BUTV10 provides programming for BU’s TV network and online, including the longest-running collegiate soap opera, Bay State.  

 

Boston University Greek Life: Greek Life plays a minor but important role on the BU campus. About 10% of undergraduates are members of one of the school’s 12 fraternities and sororities. 

 

Northeastern Sports: Northeastern competes in 18 Division I sports, fielding seven men’s teams, nine women’s teams, and one coed team (eSports). While Northeastern athletics lack the fervor found at other Boston-area colleges, 98% of Northeastern students attend a sporting event each year. 

 

Northeastern Clubs: The university is home to almost 400 clubs and organizations covering interests from acapella to Russian speaking. The Huntington News is the university’s independent, student-run newspaper. Community service is also important among Northeastern undergraduates; they’ve performed more than 2.23 million hours of community service since 2006. 

 

Northeastern Greek Life: Northeastern is home to a small but thriving Greek community. There are 30 communities on campus (18 fraternities and 12 sororities) with 2,700 active students. 

 

Culture and Diversity

 

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%

 

BU and the LGBTQ Community: Boston Univerisity has an LGBTQIA Task Force, a Queer Alliance, gender-neutral housing options, and gender-affirming healthcare resources. You can learn more about BU’s commitment to the LGBTQ community and the local resources offered.

 

Northeastern University’s Undergraduate Student Diversity

 

Ethnicity Percentage of Student Body
White  45.4%
Non-resident Alien 19.8%
Asian 13%
Hispanic/Latino 7.6%
Black or African American 3.6%
Ethnicity Unknown  10.6%

 

Northeastern and the LGBTQ Community: Northeastern earns three out of five stars on the Campus Pride Index, a national benchmarking tool that assesses LGBTQ-friendly policies, programs, and practices. It earned high marks for institutional support and commitment. The university’s LGBTQA Center is working to build a socially conscious community that welcomes difference, conflict, and intercultural engagement while hosting events including NU Queer Orientation for incoming students and Rainbow Graduation to celebrate graduates. 

 

How to Decide Between Boston University vs. Northeastern University 

 

Boston University is especially strong for students who:

 

  • Like to feel as much like they’re living in the city, as they are on campus
  • Want a big school experience; BU is the largest college/university in Boston 
  • Are interested in athletics, but not obsessed with them
  • Want to explore a variety of media including print, radio, and TV
  • Are preparing to study abroad—BU’s study abroad program is recognized as not only one of the nation’s first, but also one of the best programs 
  • Want to research—BU is one of 61 members of the Association of American Universities (AAU), an organization of leading research universities 
  • Are focused on a career after college; the Times Higher Education ranked BU graduates 18th in the US for employability
  • Have an interest in Broomball—part ice hockey, part curling, part golf—it’s the most popular intramural sport on campus with thousands of participants 

 

Northeastern University is especially strong for students who:

 

  • Want to feel like they’re living on a college campus but be in a big city
  • Are interested in exploring the city and don’t have a car—the Green Line runs right through campus 
  • Want to explore careers and academics during their collegiate experience with co-op
  • Are entrepreneurs—the Princeton Review and Entrepreneur Magazine ranked Northeastern 9th in the US for entrepreneurship studies 
  • Want to work abroad; the school’s global co-op program places students in positions around the world 
  • Want to attend a college on the cutting edge—Northeastern ranked 9th on the US News list of most innovative national universities
  • Are interested in learning outside the classroom; Poets & Quants ranks Northeastern’s D’Amore-McKim School of Business #1 in undergraduate signature experiences 

 

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Timothy Peck
Blogger at CollegeVine
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.