How to Write the Boston University Supplemental Essays 2020-2021
Found stretched across the scenic Charles River, Boston University (BU) is a private research university found slightly west of Boston’s city center. BU boasts a robust undergraduate body of 16,000 students, but still maintains a strong 10:1 student-faculty ratio.
For the class of 2024, BU accepted only 18.5% of freshman applicants. In the latest US News national university ranking, Boston University ranked #40.
For students matriculating in the fall of 2018 and onward, BU has implemented a new general education curriculum, called the BU Hub. These requirements fall into six different categories: Philosophical, Aesthetic, and Historic Inquiry; Scientific and Social Inquiry; Quantitative Reasoning; Diversity, Civic Engagement, and Global Leadership; Intellectual Toolkit; and Communication.
There are also several programs within the larger university that you could apply for: the Accelerated Program in Liberal Arts and Medicine, a seven-year BA/MD program, and the Kilachand Honors College, an interdisciplinary liberal arts program.
Overall, as a large, but private university, BU offers a plethora of different avenues for its students to take advantage of. Many of the supplemental essay prompts may seem daunting at first, but we here at CollegeVine will help you tackle them to the best of your ability! Want to know your chances at BU? Calculate your chances for free right now.
The Boston University Supplemental Essay Prompts
For All Applicants
The key to these “Why This College?” prompts is to first lay out the specific aspects of the school that excite you and then supplementing these aspects with how your personal traits and qualities would make an excellent fit. Most importantly, you want to thoroughly research the aspects of BU that excite you and would be a good fit for you. Remember to discuss both academic and extracurricular aspects, as college is about what happens both in and outside the classroom!
Here are some possible avenues:
1. You could dote on BU’s extensive undergraduate research opportunities. Maybe you have always been interested in studying mental illness, as it is something you had to reckon with your entire life. You could talk about BU’s Approach Motivation and Participation (AMP) Lab, where you would have ample opportunity to interact with participants dealing with things like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
2. If you want to study business and are applying to the Questrom School of Business, you could talk about wanting to join the Questrom Honors Program, where you would be given unique opportunities to attend seminars on niche business topics of your interest, like green technology and intellectual property, and participate in networking events with alumni. Remember to talk about your own experiences in business, whether in DECA or starting your own business, and mention why Questrom would be a perfect continuation of your current desires.
3. Maybe you’re an aspiring English major with a love of theatre. The Shakespeare Society would be a great place to combine your passions, as the group puts on 2-4 Shakespeare productions per year.
If you have visited the campus or have attended a summer program at the university, you should definitely note that in the essay. Include sensory details and specific moments, whether it was visiting certain halls you could see yourself learning in, lying down in “BU Beach” and catching the breeze, or simply sitting down in the grassy fields and observing the great diversity on campus. That said, don’t make the focus of your essay anecdotal; you want to be sure to include details about concrete resources at BU that would help you achieve your goals.
One final piece of advice is that you should avoid mentioning aspects of BU that could apply to many other schools, such as its location in Boston or low student to faculty ratio. You want to show the admissions committee that you’ve seriously reflected on your fit with BU, and you can do that by mentioning specific, unique BU resources that support your aspirations.
Because of the sheer volume of applications college admissions officer comb through, you don’t want to burden them with even more writing unless it is absolutely necessary. Be wary of posting long school essays that might be strong in writing quality, but may not be the best for an admissions reader to dig through. Images of art should be sent through the arts portfolio section, not here.
“Additional information” usually means extreme circumstances that you may have not had the opportunity to place anywhere else. Overall, however, if you feel very strongly compelled towards a certain piece of writing that describes you in a way that cannot be described elsewhere, you should by no means limit yourself.
For Accelerated Program in Liberal Arts and Medicine Applicants
You should apply to BU’s extremely selective seven-year BA/MD program if you are certain you want to become a doctor. You also ideally want to have clinical and research experiences you could talk about in this essay. This 750-word prompt certainly asks many different questions, so you should make sure to read through the questions carefully and answer every prompt.
Chances are, if health and becoming a doctor are a big part of your identity, you probably would have at least mentioned it in your Common App. You could always modify your Common App personal statement just for BU, and then revise it for the rest of your colleges if you feel trapped.
First, to answer the “why” part of the program will require a few different parts: why the values of becoming a doctor match your current values, and how you have come to fulfill the prerequisite experiences to become a doctor.
In regards to values, talk about the basic tenets of being a doctor, which include altruism, a commitment to service, a difficult path to the profession, and an excitement for seeing the lives of others improved. Talk about how everything about yourself aligns with these aforementioned values.
You should talk about all of the important experiences you have had that concretized your desire to become a doctor, such as clinical experience (shadowing or scribing), research experience (wet lab or dry lab, authoring a journal article), volunteer experience (working in nursing homes or making gifts for kids in hospitals), etc. You want to make sure that you cite experience in both the patient interaction and the scientific research side of things, maybe one of each.
Because you probably already listed these experiences in the activities section of your Common App, you should refrain from simply listing once again. Use the essay to illustrate specific breakthrough anecdotes that have strengthened your commitment to becoming a doctor.
As a side note, however, you should refrain from talking about the oft-cited cliché of wanting to become a doctor because of an experience seeing a close relative hospitalized. However, if this is an experience critically important to you, you should still mention it, but perhaps not make it the entirety of your essay.
In the last part of your essay, “what you hope to gain from your chosen profession,” talk about why you want to become a doctor over everything else. You could talk about how the unique combination of patient interaction and science research is something you need to thrive as a human, and something you feel like you will get only as a doctor.
For Kilachand Honors College Applicants:
The mission of Kilachand Honors College is to offer a challenging liberal arts education grounded in critical and creative thinking, interdisciplinary problem-solving, and the real-world application of knowledge. Please see https://www.bu.edu/khc/about/ for more details about our program, and then respond to one of the following questions in an essay (600 words):
In this prompt, you want to reflect on what your ideal college education looks like. The Kilachand Honors College is a rigorous, supplemental program to your already intense BU education, so if you love learning for learning’s sake and want to spend four years cross-pollinating over different disciplines to better comprehend the world, the Honors College may be the right choice for you.
Maybe you’re an anti-food waste advocate and want to work with nonprofits and engage in politics to reduce waste and improve resource distribution. You might mention Kilachand’s first-year seminar “The Ethics of Food,” where you could sit around a table with other passionate first years and mull over the greater issues surrounding global food consumption. Or, maybe you’re pre-med, and love interacting with others, but want to better understand how technology is changing the fundamental nature of both humans and human interaction. You could talk about a class like “Biomedical Enhancement and the Future of Human Nature.” Carefully sift through Kilachand’s curriculum and find what resonates with you.
You could also bring up the community aspect of the program, the third pillar of the honors college, by talking about how you never had a community of people dedicated to learning growing up, and about how you see the Kilachand community (130-150 students per class) as the perfect size to create a mini ecosystem in the greater BU campus. You could talk about how you want a small, liberal arts college-esque intellectual environment without being cloistered away in a faraway rural town. You might also want to mention some of Kilachand’s community initiatives through Kilachand in the City, where students mentor middle schoolers at Boston Latin Academic, or volunteer at Haley House Urban Farm.
Finally, you want to talk about your dreams and passions to answer the last part of the prompt. Make sure to address the “interdisciplinary” nature of these goals, and how you need to incorporate various academic disciplines in order to best carry out your intended career. Maybe this is becoming a chemist, where you want to understand not just chemistry but also the economics of the pharmaceutical industry and the politics of weapon creation. Maybe, this is becoming a visual artist, where you want to understand technology’s morbid impacts on the world, which will help you in your goal of mirroring society through art.
Take a good look at the Kilachand curriculum, especially the first-year seminars. These will give you a better sense of themes explored in the honors college courses, and also allow you to make sure you’re not suggesting something that already exists!
You should also take a look at the Kilachand “About” page, which outlines the college’s mission (I’ve highlighted the most important parts in bold):
Kilachand Honors College offers a challenging liberal education grounded in exploration, discovery, and the real-world application of knowledge. Kilachand provides its students with an integrated, four-year curriculum that includes experiential and team learning opportunities, to be completed alongside the courses required by their majors. The Kilachand curriculum, through rigorous courses and enrichment experiences, asks students to use the tools and methods of every academic discipline to understand global challenges and develop practical solutions.
Basically, your goal should be to create a interdisciplinary course on a currently relevant topic. It’s even better if you can outline potential experiential and team learning opportunities in the course. You have 600 words, so be specific as possible: include required readings, movies to be watched and discussed, potential field trips and classroom activities, etc. Remember to relate the course to your personal interests—whatever course you create should be one you’d want to take!
For example, maybe you’re a fashion enthusiast but also an environmentalist. Your course might be called “Fashion and the Environment,” which explores the realities of the fast fashion industry, over-consumption, and their effect on the environment. You might watch the documentary Riverblue, which raises awareness on the harsh chemical textile manufacturing process, and how it’s damaged our rivers and the lives of those depending on them for their livelihoods. The class would also include Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion, a book that analyzes the impact of inexpensive clothing and follows the author as she visits a garment factory, learns to resole shoes, and becomes a more sustainable shopper. Students might also visit the Garment District, a used clothing store in Cambridge, to learn how they recycle textiles from clothes they can’t sell. They could also speak with local politicians passionate about the issue to hear about concrete ways to introduce change.
Want help on your college essays to get into your dream schools? Sign up for your free CollegeVine account and get access to our essay guides and courses, as well as our Essay Manager.
Want more college essay tips?
We'll send them straight to your inbox.