With a campus spread across Commonwealth Avenue in the heart of Boston, BU combines a city-centric college experience with a sense of campus community.
BU is separated into multiple colleges and schools, and students in each have vastly different experiences depending on their chosen study field. The College of Arts and Sciences offers a core curriculum that seeks to combine all the aspects of a standard liberal arts education, but other colleges are more geared towards specific disciplines, for instance the conservatory programs in the arts are strong and competitive.
The student body is large — more than 30,000 students overall — and though most students are able to find their niche socially, many are at least initially overwhelmed by the size. Many students meet their closest friends during their freshman year in the dorms, living in the enormous West Campus dorm or the new John Hancock Student Village complex. On nice days, students take in the city of Boston, or hang out on the “BU beach,” a park behind the College of Arts and Sciences. BU’s new Agganis Arena has games and concerts for BU students almost every weekend, plus there’s never a shortage of things to do in Boston.
BU's campus blends seamlessly into the city of Boston, and most students entering BU find it's exactly what they expected.
“For me,” says an alum, “it was the perfect mix of a college experience, and a city-integrated university. Having come from a smaller town, Boston was a great place to attend school. As a city, Boston is a comfortably sized, moderately populated, entertaining city that was fun and exciting to explore during my four years there.” While some students pine
every now and then for the ivy-covered buildings and rolling hills of stereotypical
college campuses, the majority are proud to be a part of one of the liveliest, largest student populations in America.
And with constant improvements to BU’s main drag along Commonwealth
Avenue, the “campus” is only going to expand in the years to come.
Boston University constantly stresses diversity, though
many old stereotypes about its students still linger. “Even though there is a huge number of obnoxious, rich, fake-tanned, Mac-using, Starbucks-drinking, New Yorker/ New Jersey-type people here, there are also thousands of other people that you can meet. The size really allows almost anyone to find their niche.” Considering the array of academic offerings
and large, spread-out student population with a never-ending list of
interests, there seems to be a space ready for anyone. Many students end up staying close with friends they met in their freshman halls, and most form tight-knit communities within their specific
schools. The College of Fine Arts, for
instance, brings together students sharing a common interest. “There are SO many students that the BU Experience is entirely different for every person. There are people in your graduating class who you might see for the first time on the day you graduate.”
Another student discusses the different tables one might observe at a BU dining
hall: “The four tables of students: The really big, loud and diverse table comprising of a single floor of freshmen that just get along unbelievably well - making a date with 8-15 people to have a dinner at the dining hall is an every day thing to them. The second table is a group of a few students, often science majors, who always look like they are cramming for finals. The third table is a group of tall, skinny boys dressed in skin tight jeans and dark sneakers. Before entering the dining hall, they stand outside in the cold for 20 minutes, chain smoking and laughing loudly. At the last table there are usually two or more friends who live in different dorms but decide to catch up during lunch.”
BU offers 18 graduate and undergraduate schools, and most
students decide their “track” early on. Pre-med and pre-law programs are very
popular. Like any other school of BU’s
size, professors are only as accessible as students expect them to be—especially during early years in enormous intro-level classes. “Professors are all different, but going to office hours is definitely the key to good standing. It helps if they can recognize your face if the class is really big. Most of the professors have led really awesome lives; just get them to tell their stories.” The rumors of “grade deflation” haven’t been
entirely substantiated, but it seems like students are aware of it before even arriving at BU. Academic requirements differ from school to school. A junior says:
“I've liked almost every one of the
classes I've taken. There's some unusual ones, too: for example, to
fulfill my lab science requirement I took Physics 103: Cinema Physica.
It was awesome! Professor Cohen was always available to answer
questions (and as an English major, I had a lot of them) but he didn't
make me feel stupid for not understanding everything right away.
Instead, he was quite encouraging and combined physics with movies to
study concepts, like when we studied magnetics, we watched X-Men and
found out Magneto definitely shouldn't be able to control metal like he
“BU's administration is considered by many to be the most unpleasant aspect of the whole BU experience.” Though the much-maligned BU guest policy has been modified in recent years
(the policy once prevented any coed sleepovers,) students still harbor their issues with the higher-ups.
Most ill-will has more to do with money and
over-charging than with the actual members of the administration. One sophomore writes: “BU's administration seems to be solid, and I certainly am no expert by any means, but the cost to benefit ratio seems astronomical. There is a $90 fee hidden in the meal plan to account for stolen food items? Who can steal $90 worth of food?” The administration is also extremely tough on
underage drinking, with repercussions for drinking in the dorms often unexpectedly severe.
It’s difficult to get students riled up with school spirit, perhaps because of how fragmented the school's campus is. As far as sports go, a sophomore remarks that “the hockey team is the only sport that gets a lot of attention.” The whole BU community turns out in droves for hockey games
(especially when they face off against their rival, Boston College). If hockey isn’t your thing, the famed Fenway
Park is just a few short steps away.
“I'll never forget when the Red Sox won the world series in 2004 and we crowded into a corner room, shifting our attention from the news on TV to the real scene right before our eyes before deciding to venture outside and see the riot."
BU students enjoy their nightlife, and with the city of
Boston as a backdrop, there is no shortage of things to do. Students join any number of clubs,
organizations, and take on a variety of leadership positions. One student sums up the BU experience like this: “BU is not for everyone, it's hard, you don't get cut much slack, and sometimes it just pisses you off. But to live in Boston and have the whole city around you is amazing. And while you may get frustrated, there are a lot of great people and organizations within the campus.”