written by
Juliana Furigay

Boston University Supplemental Essays Guide: 2021-2022

Essay Guides essay guide Admissions Tips 11 min read
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Not sure how to approach the Boston University supplemental essays? CollegeAdvisor.com’s Boston University Supplemental Essay 2021 Guide will show you exactly how to write engaging Boston University supplemental essays to maximize your chances of admission. If you need help crafting your answers to the Boston University supplemental essays, create your free account or schedule a free advising consultation by calling (844) 343-6272.

Boston University Essay Guide Quick Facts:

  • For the class of 2025, the Boston University acceptance rate was 18.3%, with over half of those admitted through Early Decision.
  • We recommend answering the required Why Boston University essay and the optional Boston University essay comprehensively and thoughtfully.

What is Boston University known for?

Boston University is known for its location, wide array of graduate programs, and small student-to-faculty ratio.

Who wouldn’t want to study in Boston? This is a city known colloquially as “America’s college town.” In Boston, you’ll also brush elbows with students from the nearby Boston University and MIT, each located less than ten minutes away. The location is ideal for those who want a fast-paced environment with new faces every day.

In the graduate school department, BU’s law school and medical school are internationally renowned. If you fall in love as an undergraduate and don’t want to leave, you’ll have plenty of options.

Finally, the student-to-faculty ratio at Boston University is 10-1. This means that seminars will be engaging, large lecture courses will be a rarity, and professors will be unusually accessible to the student body. Yet another reason to rave about BU in your Why Boston University essay.

What are three interesting facts about BU?

  1. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was not a doctor until attending graduate school at BU, where he attained a Ph.D. in systematic theology.
  2. BU has an annual lobster night in the dining halls, fitting for their New England location.
  3. Boston University has changed its name four times throughout its history and was originally located in Vermont rather than Massachusetts.

What is the Boston University acceptance rate?

As mentioned in the quick facts section, the Boston University acceptance rate hovers just below 20%. This makes BU one of the more selective universities. The Early Decision Boston University acceptance rate, by contrast, is typically 40-50% on account of the strength of ED candidates and the influence of demonstrated interest.

To maximize your admissions odds, you’ll need to distinguish yourself from the pack in your Why BU essay and additional Boston University supplemental essay. This is where our guide—or a consultation with our team—can help you.

Does Boston University require supplemental essays?

There is one required Boston University supplemental essay 2021 (in addition to your Common App Personal Statement) as well as one optional Boston University essay prompt. Given the relatively low Boston University acceptance rate, we recommend completing both Boston University supplemental essays to maximize your chances of admission.

How many essays do I have to write for Boston University?

You are required to write one Boston University supplemental essay 2021: the Why BU essay. In addition to this required Boston University essay, however, you can choose to complete an optional prompt.

Boston University Supplemental Essay 2021: Prompt 1 (Required)

The first Boston University supplemental essay 2021 prompt is as follows:

“What about being a student at Boston University most excites you?” (250 words maximum.)

This is a Why BU essay similar to the "why school" essays you might have encountered on other applications. Essentially, this Boston University essay asks you to explain why you want to go to Boston University over any other college. What are you passionate about that only BU can offer?

How do I write the Boston University Supplemental Essay?

When approaching this Boston University supplemental essay 2021, remember that you don't have much space. With a word limit of 250, your Why BU essay should revolve around a singular topic. While the prompt may be broad, it is best just to fully develop one idea in your Boston University essay. After all, the first Boston University supplemental essay prompt specifically asks what “most” excites you. What's the one thing you'd most look forward to experiencing at BU?

Make a list

To find the perfect topic for your Boston University supplemental essay 2021, construct two lists. The first list should rank aspects of college in general (not BU-specific!) that you’re most excited about, sorted from most excitement to least. Examples of things to list include academics, professional opportunities, traditions, campus life, and social events, among others. The second list should include the specific parts of the college experience that you look forward to at BU. This might include the chance to learn in small classes, watch BU’s well-known hockey team play, or visit the many museums in Boston. You can, again, sort these items in a descending manner. See this page’s “What is Boston University known for?” section for some inspiration, but do your own research as well.

After this brainstorming session, work your way down both lists. The first item that appears high on both lists should likely be the topic of your Why Boston University essay. For instance, if you listed that you were most excited about academics and also wrote about a particular professor at BU whose work you admire, you've got an essay! This strategy will ensure that: one, you’re focusing on an aspect of the college experience that genuinely excites you; and two, that this aspect is something that Boston University offers. This will form the focus of your why Boston University essay.

Develop your topic

Once you've chosen a topic for your Why Boston University essay, it's time to develop it. Visit the BU website and look for anecdotes to include in your Boston University supplemental essay. If you’re excited about BU's many clubs, then you should read the student organizations page. If you're excited about the robust liberal arts education BU offers, then you should research BU’s College of Arts and Sciences. Your Boston University supplemental essay can go in many directions, but each direction should lead you to a specific detail about the school. The prompt asks for specific information about BU; generalized statements that could apply to any school will not stand out.

The relatively low Boston University acceptance rate means that you should do all you can to make your Why Boston University essay stand out. If your Why Boston University essay seems under-researched or unoriginal, you likely won't stand out to the admissions team. To this end, your Why BU essay should be as specific as possible within your area of interest. Don’t just talk about clubs in general; mention the Allegrettos by name (if you’re musically inclined)! Don’t simply state that you’re excited about the prospects of a study in political science; instead, say you can’t wait to take Congress and its Critics. The more specific information you can include in your Why BU essay, the better. Your Why Boston University essay should show that you’ve done your research.

To summarize, find aspects of college you look forward to. Cross-reference these with specific opportunities available at Boston University. Once you find the overlap, research BU within your target area. Finally, when crafting your Why BU essay, include as many specific details as possible.

Stay focused

Let's explore an example about a hypothetical BU applicant. In high school, this student was involved with archery and marching band. They hope to pursue both these activities in college. When researching their Boston University supplemental essay 2021, they notice that BU has a prominent marching band that performs at athletic events and that archery is just a relatively small-scale club sport. This student should then focus their essay on their enthusiasm for life at BU as a student and a band member. They would incorporate classes relevant to their prospective major of applied math alongside examples of how the BU marching band would fit well with such a challenging area of study because of its balanced rehearsal and performance schedule. They may include a sentence or so on joining the archery team, but the main focus of their Why BU essay should remain on marching band.

BU Supplemental Essay Draft Key Questions:

  • Does your Why BU essay describe one (and only one) thing you're excited to pursue at BU?
  • Do you provide detailed reasons why BU is the right school for you?
  • Does your Why BU essay complement the other aspects of your application?

Boston University Supplemental Essay 2021: Prompt 2 (Optional)

The optional Boston University essay prompt reads:

“Additional Information (optional): Please use this space if you have additional information, materials, or writing samples you would like us to consider.” (2000 words maximum.)

Because the Boston University acceptance rate is low, you should complete this second Boston University supplemental essay to help your application stand out.

This will become especially important if you plan to be a part of the more prepared Early Decision pool. BU offers two rounds of Early Decision—one in November and one in January. Regardless of which ED cycle you choose, you should complete the optional Boston University essay prompt to maximize your admissions odds.

How do I write the optional Boston University supplemental essay?

The high word limit for this Boston University supplemental essay should be the first clue that this is no ordinary prompt. Instead, this optional essay allows you to show a non-academic side of yourself that the admissions team might otherwise overlook.

You might approach this prompt by attaching any piece of work you’re particularly proud of. Do you have a poem that won a competition? A speech you read to your school that inspired an increase in the vaccination rate? If so, include it. You might also offer the admissions team some context for the particular piece, perhaps as a new page inserted before the actual document. You have 2,000 words to burn, after all. Additionally, note that “materials” in this sense does not exclusively mean written work. The prompt accepts a file upload, meaning that you can also submit images, art, or other projects.

Fill in application gaps

You could also approach this Boston University supplemental essay by thinking about what's missing from your other application materials. Is there an important aspect of your identity that you haven't yet been able to highlight in your essays? For instance, maybe you go to the opening of every new gallery in your neighborhood. Or perhaps, you had a formative experience as a child that influenced your current trajectory. You could also be an athlete that wakes up before sunrise every morning to get in those extra hours of training. If you’re passionate about a topic and haven’t discussed it in your other materials (including your Why Boston University essay), this is the moment to let it shine.

Not sure whether any of your activities fit these qualifications? Try this exercise: think of the five activities that most define you. If you haven't addressed one of these activities on your application, you should describe it here. While this Boston University supplemental essay prompt allows you to structure your response however you see fit, you might find that the prompt lends itself best to a narrative format. If you struggle to find the right way to frame this essay, consider telling a story about yourself.

Explain special circumstances

Finally, you might choose to use this optional Boston University supplemental essay to explain external circumstances that have influenced your application. If any extenuating circumstances have impacted your grades, test scores, or extracurricular involvements, this Boston University essay gives you the chance to address any concerns in your own words. For instance, you may have had a family emergency that caused you to score lower on the SAT than you would have hoped. Or, maybe your senior fall grades dropped because of a bout with COVID that lined up with midterms. Whatever the case may be, you can use this Boston University supplemental essay 2021 to explain any special circumstances around your application. Due to the relatively low Boston University acceptance rate, this context can make a major difference in admissions.

BU Supplemental Essay Draft Key Questions:

  • Does your Boston University essay add important information not available in the rest of your application?
  • Do you contextualize any elements of your application that require further explanation?
  • Does your essay enrich the other aspects of your application?

Additional tips for the Boston University essay

  • Complete your Common Application Personal Statement before drafting your Boston University essay.
  • Create a checklist of what the prompt asks for. Then, check off each box as you write the respective section in your Boston University supplemental essay.
  • If you were to replace Boston University with another college’s name, would your Why BU essay still make sense? If it does, then you have not included enough details in your Why BU essay.

BU Supplemental Essays: Final Thoughts

Completing each Boston University supplemental essay 2021 can seem daunting, but don’t let them discourage you from applying. Instead, view these Boston University essays as an opportunity to introduce yourself to the admissions team. Maybe you’re applying with a lower-than-average SAT score. A well-written set of responses to the Boston University essay prompts can work in your favor.

Use this guide to help you approach each Boston University application essay with a solid strategy and a timeline that gives you a few months to draft and revise each of your answers. Good luck!


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This 2021-2022 essay guide on Boston University was written by Juliana Furigay, Columbia ‘23. If you need help crafting your BU supplemental essays, visit app.collegeadvisor.com to create your free account or schedule a no-cost advising consultation by calling (844) 719-4984.

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