Notre Dame vs. Boston College: Which School is Right for You?

Notre Dame vs. Boston College is one of the great collegiate rivalries thanks to both schools’ ties to the Catholic Church, excellent academics, and stellar reputations. The competition is heightened thanks to an annual football game between the two esteemed institutions, sometimes called The Holy War. The winner of the game receives the Ireland Trophy—a glass trophy in the shape of Ireland—an apt prize considering Notre Dame’s nickname “The Fighting Irish” and Boston’s traditionally dense Irish-American population.  

 

If you’re deciding between Boston College and the University of Notre Dame, read on for an in-depth comparison of these two top schools.

 

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

 

Notre Dame vs. Boston College: A Quick Overview

 

Notre Dame  Boston College 
Location Notre Dame, IN  Chestnut Hill, MA
Campus Type Urban  Urban 
Undergraduate Enrollment 8,624 9,927
Acceptance Rate 18% 27%
US News Ranking 15 (tie) 37 (tie)
Middle 50% SAT 1410-1540 (2019) 1340-1480 (2018)
Middle 50% ACT 33-35  (2019) 31-34 (2018)
Sticker Price $76,883 $78,617
Need-blind, no-loan, or meets 100% demonstrated need? Need-blind

100% demonstrated need

Need-blind

100% demonstrated need

 

Notre Dame vs. Boston College: A Closer Look

 

Location and Weather

 

Notre Dame: Technically, the University of Notre Dame resides in Notre Dame—it has its own ZIP code, post office, police force, fire department, and power station—however, it’s adjacent to South Bend, Indiana. South Bend is a small city (a population of about 100,000) that is full of contrast. Part college town and part rebuilding Rust Belt City, it’s the smallest city in the U.S. to contain all of the retail outlets often associated with major metros, including Whole Foods, Lululemon, Apple, Urban Outfitters, and Pure Barre, while old industrial sites are still found around the city. 

 

Notre Dame’s 1,265-acre campus is expansive and, in 2017, the Times Higher Education ranked it one of the 10 most beautiful universities in the U.S. The most recognizable image of Notre Dame is the Golden Dome and statue of Mary atop its Main Building, which is visible from almost everywhere on campus and from much of South Bend. 

 

South Bend, Indiana has four seasons, with cold winters and warm summers. Unfortunately for students at Notre Dame, the three nicest months weather-wise in South Bend are June, July, and August. 

 

Boston College: BC is located in Chestnut Hill, a town just outside of Boston. Boston is the 21st largest city in the U.S. and has all the amenities you’d expect to find in a major metro. Boston is also somewhat of contrast—it’s a major destination for the high-tech and healthcare industries, as well as entrepreneurs. At the same time, Boston is also a college town, with more than 100 colleges in the metropolitan area. 

 

BC’s 371-acre campus is more intimate when compared to Notre Dame. And while Boston College’s campus is also beautiful, its best-known feature might be the “mods,” modular housing that was built in 1970 and intended to be temporary, but has grown to somewhat legendary status. Exclusively for seniors, there’s room for just 438 students to live there, and they’ve become the epicenter of campus culture. 

 

Boston has four seasons with often cold winters and hot, humid summers. The warm season in Boston spans from June through August with an average daily high temperature of 73°F. The cold season lasts from December to February with an average daily high of 45°F and is notably wet—expect both snow and rain. 

 

Size

 

Notre Dame: There are 8,624 undergraduates enrolled at Notre Dame along with 3,990 graduate and professional students. The student-to-faculty ratio at Notre Dame is 10:1 and 90% of Notre Dame classes have fewer than 50 students in them. 91% of Notre Dame’s faculty have doctorates or terminal degrees. 

 

Boston College: There are a great deal of similarities when comparing the size of Boston vs. Notre Dame. BC is home to 9,377 undergraduates and another 4,730 graduate and professional students. The student-to-faculty ratio at BC is 11:1 and 48.6% of classes have fewer than 20 students in them. 93% of BC’s full-time faculty hold doctoral degrees. 

 

Academics

 

Notre Dame: Notre Dame offers 75 undergraduate majors and is split into eight colleges and schools (six of which are for undergrads). The eight colleges are:

 

  • School of Architecture
  • College of Arts and Letters
  • Mendoza College of Business
  • College of Engineering
  • Keough School of Global Affairs
  • The Graduate School
  • The Law School
  • College of Science

 

It’s possible to declare a major in the spring of your first year at Notre Dame, but students are able to wait until their sophomore year. Popular majors at Notre Dame include finance, economics, and mechanical engineering. Notre Dame’s core curriculum is designed around “11 ways of knowing” courses, which allow students to explore different approaches to understanding the world. The “11 ways of knowing” are: 

 

  • Advanced Language and Culture 
  • Catholicism and the Disciplines (CAD) 
  • Fine Arts and Literature
  • History
  • Integration
  • Philosophy 
  • Quantitative Reasoning 
  • Science and Technology
  • Social Science
  • Theology 
  • Writing 

 

Study abroad plays an important role in the lives of undergraduates at Notre Dame—about 75% of them participate in one of the university’s 49 programs in 28 countries. In 2018, Notre Dame was ranked second among doctorate-granting universities for undergraduate study abroad participation by the Institute of International Education. 

 

Boston College: BC offers more than 60 fields of study and is divided 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 historically popular majors at BC—they have been the three degree programs with the highest enrollment for more than five years running. Other favorite majors include political science, communications, and psychology. BC undergraduates must declare a major by the end of their sophomore year. 

 

All degree programs at BC require the completion of the college’s core curriculum which consists of 15 courses exposing students to the humanities, natural sciences, and social sciences. 

 

BC is part of a group of Boston-area schools called the Boston Consortium. 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.

 

Study abroad is also a popular program at BC. Half of BC undergraduates take part in one of the college’s 200+ programs spread across six continents. While abroad, 95% of students took classes in their major/minor and 88% took at least one class not available at Boston College. 

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Housing

 

Notre Dame: 100% of first-year students and 80% of sophomores, juniors, and seniors live in Notre Dame’s 31 residence halls, and a recent rule now requires all freshmen, sophomores, and juniors to live on campus. The resident halls are the focus of campus life—each one has its own chapel, signature annual event, interhall athletic teams, service initiatives, and personality.

 

Boston College: Boston College guarantees undergraduates three years of on-campus housing—freshman, sophomore, and senior year—but students must reside off campus during their junior year. There are a variety of styles of housing at BC, ranging from traditional-style residence halls to apartment-style rooms. Seniors are given housing priority—spots in the “mods” townhome-like, six-person apartments are competitive. 

 

BC also offers students the opportunity to reside in one of eight living/learning communities

 

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

 

Financial Aid

 

Notre Dame: Notre Dame is committed to meeting the full demonstrated financial need of its undergraduates for all four years of their studies. The average need-based scholarship for freshmen enrolling in the fall of 2019 was $42,600. 

 

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

 

Item Cost
Undergraduate Tuition $57,699
Room and Meals*  $15,984
Books and Supplies $1,250
Personal Expenses $1,200
Transportation**  $750 
Total  $76,883

 

* Typical residence hall accommodations provide for housing with one or more roommates. The current cost of a single room (no roommate) is approximately $500 more annually.

 

** Because of the national student body traditionally enrolled at the University, the transportation allowance will generally range currently from a minimum of $500 to about $1,000 with $750 representing the approximate midpoint.

 

Boston College: BC meets 100% of the financial need of its undergraduate students and the overwhelming majority of aid awarded is need-based. 68% of undergraduates receive financial aid and the average need-based scholarship/grant in 2018/2019 was $40,290. 

 

For the 2020/2021 academic year, undergraduates at Boston College can expect to pay: 

 

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.

 

Sports and Extracurriculars

 

Notre Dame: Notre Dame has a storied athletic history, having won 34 national championships since 1924. The women’s basketball team has won two championships in the 2000s (2001 and 2018) and the fencing team has won 10 titles. Despite the success of other sports, football reigns supreme as the gold helmets of Notre Dame’s Fighting Irish are one of the most recognizable teams in the country. 

 

Athletics play a prominent role in the lives of many students on campus, as interhall and intramural sports are extremely popular. For those with interests outside of athletics, the school has over 400 organizations and clubs focused on a wide range of interests and experiences including entrepreneurship, mentoring, and rock climbing. 

 

Boston College: Boston College fields 31 Division I sports teams, ranging from football to skiing. The football team is a major attraction, and “super fans” arrive early to Alumni Stadium in the fall for 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—four of those in the 2000s. 

 

BC students can choose from over 300 student organizations and clubs to participate in. Catering to students of all interests, organizations range from cooking to Irish dance to real estate. There is also always something active to do on campus, whether it’s a game of frisbee, a run around the reservoir, or a spin class.

 

Notre Dame & Boston College Greek Life 

 

When comparing Notre Dame vs. Boston College there is one noticeable similarity: the absence of Greek Life. There are no fraternities or sororities on either campus. 

 

Culture and Diversity

 

Notre Dame Undergraduate Diversity

 

Ethnicity Percentage of Student Body
White 68.5%
Hispanic/Latino 10.5%
Non-Resident Alien 6.7%
Asian 4.9%
Black or African American 3.8%
American Indian or Alaska Native 0.2%
Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander 0.1%
Ethnicity Unknown 5.3%

 

Notre Dame is working to become more LGBTQ friendly and has launched a pastoral plan to make its campus more inclusive and supportive of its LGBTQ students. The reviews have been mixed as the school works to become more accepting of LGBTQ students, as one student detailed for the Huffington Post in 2017

 

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 College has also had a rocky path to becoming LGBTQ friendly—it was just five years ago that alumni issued a letter stating they wouldn’t donate to the school until they showed greater support for the LGBTQ community. Today, BC provides LGBTQ support through their office of Student Outreach and Services, and hosts events like an LGBTQ Film Series and “community dinner nights” that bring together and build community among LGBTQ members of the student body.

 

How to Decide Between Notre Dame vs. Boston College

 

Choosing between Boston College vs. Notre Dame is not easy, as both these institutions are highly rated. That being said, there are some strong reasons to choose one school over the other.

 

Notre Dame is especially strong for students who:

 

  • Are seeking a very tight-knit campus community 
  • Don’t care about living off campus
  • Have an interest in high-performing Division I sports teams 
  • Want to attend a religious school and be surrounded by religious peers—about 80% of the student population is Catholic 
  • Prefer a large, spacious campus (despite hosting about the same number of students, Notre Dame’s campus is approximately three times bigger than BC’s)
  • Want the perks of a major metro in a smaller city 
  • Pushups! 

 

Boston College is an especially strong choice if:

 

  • You want to attend a school with easy access to a major U.S. city but a more suburban feel 
  • You’re seeking a Jesuit education—teaching the whole person (mind, body, and soul) and preparing students to create a more just, humane, and sustainable world
  • You prefer a more diverse campus community 
  • You want to live on campus for the majority of college, but also experience living off campus 
  • A large, powerful (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.

 

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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.